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European Parliament takes action to implement European CSR strategy

7 February, 2013

The European Parliament is taking steps to implement the EU strategy 2011-2014 for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The strategy, released by the European Commission in October 2011, marked a further increase in government activity around corporate transparency, and an important milestone in the history of EU CSR policy.

A key focus of the strategy is improving companies’ disclosure of social and environmental information. It also encourages public authorities to take steps to improve disclosure of their own social and environmental performance.

 

Widespread sustainability reporting practices can help markets function more efficiently, and help establish a more robust economy. They can also help drive progress by all organizations towards government-agreed sustainable development goals. Sustainability information can be used by governments to assess the transparency of businesses and the economy in general, and to understand which issues are being tackled by which players.

 

With this in mind, governments have a clear and direct interest in sustainability reporting, and an important role to play in establishing a baseline about the topics that should be reported. For this reason, it is very promising to see that progress is being made in terms of implementing a policy for CSR as part of the EU agenda.

 

“GRI welcomes the initiatives of the European Parliament,” says Pietro Bertazzi, Senior Manager - Policy and Government Affairs at GRI.

 

“The stepping stones to a more sustainable future are just being laid, and GRI will continue to work closely with the European Parliament and other EU institutions and stakeholders to help ensure the implementation of a harmonized CSR policy that leads to sustainability reporting becoming EU standard practice.”

 

Two European Parliament reports on CSR have recently been adopted by the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, and the Committee on Legal Affairs. Both reports are expected to be voted on during the February Strasbourg plenary meeting.

 

The first report, Corporate Social Responsibility: promoting society's interests and a route to sustainable and inclusive recovery, strongly recognizes that CSR should be embedded in EU policy and action, and encourages companies to demonstrate their commitment to CSR. It also aims to help the European Commission implement its CSR strategy by suggesting concrete ideas for applying CSR, and by supporting the uptake and use of the GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines.

 

The second report, Corporate Social Responsibility: accountable, transparent and responsible business behaviour and sustainable growth, welcomes the European Commission’s efforts in taking forward its CSR strategy. The report stresses that while CSR disclosure should be voluntary, it should also be accompanied, where possible, by regulatory measures. GRI believes that such measures should take reporting into account. The report endorses a CSR approach driven by business and supported by public authorities – justifying that this will strike the right balance between the interests of business and those of society as a whole.

 

“These activities complement the efforts being made by the European Commission on the EU CSR strategy,” says Bertazzi. “Most importantly, a regulation proposal to improve the transparency of non-financial disclosure by companies is expected to be launched soon. GRI looks forward to the launch of this proposal and stresses that a policy approach based on a report or explain principle for sustainability reporting would allow the EU to better pursue its 2020 strategy of ‘Smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’, and create conditions that help shape a more transparent and better functioning economy.”

 

For companies, sustainability reporting adds value in a number of areas: helping to build trust, improve processes and systems, reduce costs and gain a competitive edge. As the mainstreaming of sustainability reporting and corporate transparency picks up pace, government initiatives like those of the European Parliament’s mean that the road to a sustainable global economy appears to be well paved.

 

Original article