Corporate Social Responsibility in the European Union
CSR in Italy
In the last few years, the Anglo-Saxon concept of business ethics has become a subject of discussion and legislative action throughout Europe, including Italy. Sensational episodes of corruption involving large companies like Enron and Parmalat remind us of the urgent need for shared criteria in the assessment of business behaviour. In the present issue, this article is dedicated to discussing and defining Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); in Italian, Responsabilità Sociale dell’Impresa(RSI).
The EU issued two documents on CSR:
- the Green Paper “Promoting a European Framework for Corporate Social Responsibility” in 2001;
- the communication adopted by The European Commission concerning “CSR: A Business Contribution to Sustainable Development” (COM (2002) 347 final, July 2nd, 2002).
In the Green Paper, CSR is defined “a concept whereby Companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis”. Its basic features are:
- an internal dimension: human resources, work organization, integrated product policy;
- an external dimension: from local communities to suppliers and consumers.
In other words, the Green Paper outlines a holistic approach towards CSR.
In the Commission’s Communication, it is said that CSR can contribute significantly in reaching the strategic objective set by the European Council in Lisbon in March 2000, i.e. “to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion.”
The Communication suggests that CSR promotion must be based on the following guidelines:
- recognition of the voluntary nature of CSR;
- the need for credibility and transparency of CSR practices;
- a balanced and all-encompassing approach for CSR, which considers economic, social and environmental issues as well as consumers’ interests.
In order to spread these guidelines, an “EU Multi-Stakeholder Forum on CSR” has been organized.