Special Report

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The EU and Corporate Social Responsibility

Published December 22, 2002

In July 2001, the Commission of the European Community issued a Green Paper on a European framework for corporate social responsibility. The Green Paper discusses issues such as (1) what is corporate social responsibility (CSR), (2) the internal dimension of CSR, including human resources management, health and safety at work, and management of environmental impacts and natural resources, (3) CSR’s external dimension, which involves stakeholders such as local communities, business partners, consumers, and activist groups, and (4) CSR-integrated management, reporting and auditing.

In July 2002, the Commission issued a Communication on the EU’s strategy to promote CSR, and on the consultation procedure following the presentation of the Green Paper. In November, 2002 the Commission launched an EU multi-stakeholder forum aimed at fostering greater use and understanding of CSR good practice. The forum, which includes around 20 EU-level representatives from business groups and civil society, is chaired by the Commission. In December 2002, the EU employment and social affairs ministers backed a Commission decision to promote CSR by voluntary, rather than mandatory means. The ministers said the strategy should extend to firms’ subsidiaries and contractors, and should address health and safety at work and human resources management issues.
This Special Report analyzes the European Commission’s ideas about CSR as set forth in a green paper on this topic. The definition and scope of CSR, the objectives and instruments proposed by the Commission, the CSR stakeholder model, and the management structure and tools required to implement CSR are discussed.
CSR is relevant to electronic products, since both the Green Paper and the Communication on CSR mention Integrated Product Policy (IPP) as a “strong existing framework for promotion of CSR” (see also Hunton & Williams’ EIA Special Report on IPP). The Commission mentions that IPP is founded on the consideration of products’ impacts throughout their life cycle, and therefore involves business and other stakeholders in dialogue. IPP, to the Commission’s opinion, allows public authorities to work with business. Social responsibility reporting and eco-labels are specifically mentioned as tools for promotion of CSR.

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