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CSR announcement from the EU Commission: Voluntariness vs. Regulation

With the announcement of “A new EU strategy (2011-2014) for the social responsibility of companies”, the EU Commission is adopting a new tone. The previous consensus of voluntary participation and practical orientation is being contradicted.

EU flags outside the European Commission Brussels Belgium. © Jorisvo - iStockphoto.com

On 25th October 2011, the EU Commission published its announcement of “A new EU strategy (2011-2014) for the social responsibility of companies”. The EU Commission is thereby adopting a new tone. 

Voluntariness and practical orientation as a basic principle of CSR 

It was previously the consensus that corporate social responsibility describes the social commitment of companies above and beyond their legal obligations. Responsibility can only be assumed voluntarily. This has always been the consensus and does justice to the fact that organisations act in quite different environments. Social responsibility is not subject to standardisation and regulation. On the basis of this principle, the EU Commission has in the past promoted social responsibility with great success. Accordingly, the announcement includes proposals for activities oriented to its implementation. Programmes in education and training which are already running successfully are to continue being sponsored, and orientation aids developed for small and medium-sized enterprises.

New definition of corporate social responsibility

The turn away from this proven principle of voluntary participation and practical orientation manifests itself most clearly in the new definition of CSR. The voluntary nature of the definition has been deleted without consultation. This new paradigm is highlighted by various pieces of draft legislation. The Commission intends, for example, to oblige companies to make social and ecological information public.

The ZVEI and German industry regret this paradigm shift by the Commission and sees the successes of recent years at risk.

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