Minister to fight off European CSR law

HR professionals could be forced to report how their organisation impacts on
society and the environment under new European legislation currently being
drafted.

Speaking exclusively to Personnel Today, Stephen Timms, minister responsible
for corporate social responsibility (CSR), said he is concerned the European
Commission will introduce a directive making it mandatory for employers to
introduce corporate social responsibility policies.

The EC is due to release a communications document today outlining proposals
for a European framework on the issue.

Timms attacked the legislative approach saying it would stifle creativity
and damage the good work already being done.

"It would be a real dead hand on the innovation, creativity and
imagination that is now coming out of corporates.

"Regulation by and large isn’t the way to build on what we’re seeing at
the moment," he said.

Last month the Government issued its first CSR strategy based on a voluntary
approach and ministers fear that a regulatory system would stop businesses
striving for excellence in CSR.

"Regulation would be counter productive and that’s a point we’ve made
strongly," added Timms.

A European Green Paper was published on CSR last summer inviting
consultation on the subject and the European Parliament has now asked the EC to
draw up some concrete proposals for a European framework.

Hilary Jennings, European affairs adviser at the Engineering Employers
Federation said employers might have to report on its impact on society and the
environment.

Jennings believes regulation would damage the business case for CSR
initiatives and it would enforce a one-size fits all approach.

She said: "Companies will not be competing like for like and many will
not have the resources to apply it.

www.europa.eu.int

By Ross Wigham

What HR would have to report on if the CSR legislation is introduced:

– Amount of training for staff

– Level of recruitment from groups such as the disabled

– Recruitment of the long-term unemployed

– Recycling initiatives and energy use by staff

Feedback

Steve Harvey, director of people,
profit and loyalty at Microsoft

"The challenge with this type of legislation is about
letting companies be flexible about CSR. It’s not something you can have a
tick-box approach to; CSR is different for every firm. I’ve been involved in it
and I think businesses should be allowed to develop their own approach. We need
guidelines, not restrictions or legislation."

Hilary Jennings, European affairs
adviser for the Engineering Employers Federation

"If there is legislation it will inhibit the innovative
side of these initiatives. Business feels it’s a global issue and should be
dealt with on a global scale, not at European level. There are already
substantial guidelines from the UN and the International Labour
Organisation."

Michael Littlechild, chief
executive of the GoodCorporation, a body that monitors CSR

"It’s too early to start thinking about one approach for
everybody. I think CSR is still in its infancy and if legislation is introduced
now it could spoil the whole thing. The nature of CSR is that companies are
striving for self-imposed responsibility. Make it a law and it just becomes the
standard and people pay lip service to it."

Martin Hinchliffe, HR director,
Welcome Break

"It should be voluntary. It is in the interest of business
to stay close to the community, to build links with the local recruitment
market. Everybody is a potential customer, so it makes sense to enhance your
image with that local community."

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