Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) describes a company's accountability to stakeholders for its operational activities and decision-making. Stakeholders are those who are affected by the company's actions, either locally or internationally. This theme focuses on corporate social responsibility in Europe at national and at the EU level.
As social dialogue has progressed in the last few years, the importance of corporate social responsibility has been recognised by all social partners and as a result it has been included in the European Union's agenda.
Business is becoming ever more aware that fair and responsible behaviour and a commitment to improving the quality of life of stakeholders leads to economic development and is of mutual benefit for all involved. By making Social Responsibility policy companies are changing the way they affect their employees, their consumers and at another level the community and environment in which they operate.
By enhancing employment relations and respecting fundamental rights such as equal opportunities, non-discrimination and modernisation of work organisation they are improving the quality of life of the workforce, their families and the social setting. Firms are seeing the benefits of operating in the context of quality for goods and services with respect to health and the environment and profits or losses are no longer the measure of their worth.
Companies themselves must take up corporate social responsibility. The current concern is to what extent the EU will legislate corporate responsibility issues. Will compulsory regulations be imposed on business or will the EU take a less strict approach and provide incentives for voluntary compliance and codes of behaviour? The challenge facing policy makers will be to develop or adapt policy and legislation in order to support and promote awareness of corporate social responsibility and its benefits to business and find ways to involve Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) into this context.
The European Social Fund's Article 6 addresses corporate social responsibility and the Commission aims to "facilitate further development towards a framework for CSR practice at European level based on, and complementary to, already existing CSR initiatives in the business community and the Member States." The Commission will support this by raising awareness of corporate social responsibility among stakeholders through social dialogue and by creating common standards for corporate social responsibility in addition to promoting best practice. These common standards will address economic, social and environmental performance.