EC rules against use of mandatory CSR policies

The
European Commission has decided against introducing legislation making it
mandatory for employers to introduce corporate social responsibility (CSR)
policies.

The
EC has published a communications document which rules out a regulatory
approach in the short-term and outlines plans to introduce a multi-stakeholder
CSR forum, which will include 40 representatives from businesses, trade unions
and consumer groups. The forum has been asked to put together a code of conduct
on corporate social responsibility by 2004.

Hilary
Jennings, European affairs adviser at the Engineering Employers Federation, is
pleased the EC appears to have listened to the views of the UK Government and
employers and has chosen not to impose minimum standards for corporate
behaviour through a directive.

"It
[the communications document] is more pragmatic than the Green Paper and the
commission has clearly taken into account the consultation. It is trying to
balance the business call for a voluntary approach with the call for
legislation," she said.

However,
Jennings is concerned the EC could be tempted to introduce CSR regulation from
2004 following the publication of the code of conduct.

"It
[the forum] has been asked to devise an EU-level code of conduct by 2004, but
it is difficult to see how you can make guidelines and then ask for them to de
adopted voluntarily," she said.

Jennings
also criticised the creation of the forum for adding another level of
bureaucracy to an area that is already being addressed at a global level.

Malcolm
Guy, a consultant at CSR specialists EQ management, said the framework was more
complete than many had expected but agrees it is unclear what incentive there
is for business to join any EC code.

The
EC will also be undertaking a programme of research looking at the business
value of CSR.

By
Ross Wigham

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