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CSIopinion: CEO of CSR Europe Speaks on Social Responsibility

Originally posted on Euractive.

Since its inception in the 1990s, businesses have come a long way on Corporate Social Responsibility, says Stefan Crets, executive director of CSR Europe, a network of multinationals involved in CSR policies.

Stefan Crets is executive director of CSR Europe, the leading European business network for corporate social responsibility with around 70 multinational corporations and 31 national partner organisations as members.

CSR Europe provided answers to these questions in writing.

The debate about CSR has tended in the past to evolve around the mandatory vs. voluntary debate. How has this debate evolved since?

CSR is often defined as a voluntary initiative, this is because, whether you are responsible or not, it’s the consequence of a choice you are taking. CSR Europe, the European business network for CSR, has been at the heart of the European movement on CSR since its inception in 1995. Over the years, European businesses have indeed come a long way.

In the early and mid-1990s, CSR was still a new concept for many companies. Today, CSR is part of the corporate vocabulary, and companies are increasingly aware of the business impacts of environmental and social issues. Moreover, business leaders believe global threats are a challenge for the long-term success of their companies. Environmental concerns such as fighting climate change, reducing waste and using natural resources more sustainably have become core business issues. In addition to the financial crisis, on the socio-economic side, companies in Europe have had to deal with the challenges associated with an increasingly diverse and ageing population.

Forward-looking companies are today increasingly leveraging sustainability as a source of innovation and new business opportunities. Recent years have also seen a growing interest in how companies, policymakers and other stakeholders can work together to develop CSR as a way for business to contribute to sustainable development and societal wellbeing. Today, CSR is no longer seen as an add-on to the core business, but a way of doing business.

However, integrating CSR into global supply chains and ensuring that business contributes to sustainable development worldwide remains a major challenge for companies. For this reason, CSR Europe feels that it is time to put an end to the mandatory vs. voluntary debate and instead concentrate on placing social innovation and social and environmental considerations at the heart of the company strategy and operations.

To read the remainder of the interview, please follow the link to Euractive, where this item was originally posted.