Final conclusions of the conference:|
Competing for a sustainable future, the theme of this Conference, lies at the core of the objectives and strategy set by the EU in 2000 at Lisbon. The importance of achieving a balance between economic growth, social cohesion and sustainable development as a basis for competitiveness and higher productivity is eminent. Europe's economic, social and environmental goals will only be achieved if business, governments, employees and their representatives and civil society, recognise their role jn a shared future and subsequently pull together. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) proves to be an effective channel for concerted action. On the basis of results obtained, its potential can even be realized more fully.
The conference provides a valuable opportunity to take stock of the development of CSR, at the halfway mark in the Lisbon process. Following meetings organised by Belgium, Denmark, and Italy, it is clear that CSR has become a firm feature of both the European and the global corporate landscape. The outcome of the European Multi-Stakeholder Forum on CSR, created on an initiative of the European Commission, will act as a milestone for present and future work in this area. The suggestion to convene an initial shared review in 2006 is welcomed as a good initiative.
The growing understanding that sustainable practices contribute to long-term business prospects for companies, is underscored. Responsible behaviour by companies and individuals, from Boardroom to shop floor, has a positive impact on business, for companies large and small. It is acknowledged that small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are increasingly creative and active in the field and may face particular challenges in implementing CSR.
CSR contributes to competitiveness by enhancing the long-term sustainability of business. At the same time it fosters relationships between companies, trade unions and non governmental organisations as well as with those directly involved in the company, customers and the public in general. International instruments such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the UN Global Compact and the ILO Tripartite Declaration act as key points of reference. Further work to increase the dissemination and application of these instruments is needed.
The Conference has been a success in deepening the business case by addressing the following subjects.
The business case:
Delegates addressed a large number of issues, some of them for the first time at such an occasion. Among those issues, some of which will have to be defined more closely in future work, featured:
Implementation in different regions:
Fostering competences, attitudes and skills:
The Host of the Conference aims at taking the following action:
Progress on CSR should be addressed at the European Council's March 2005 meeting in the context of the mid-term review of the Lisbon strategy. CSR as a cross-cutting issue should be addressed in a coherent manner in all relevant European Councils of Ministers. As the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade I aim at raising this issue regularly in the Council on Competitiveness of the European Union. I invite the European Commission to present to both Council and Parliament at the latest by summer 2005, a comprehensive set of concrete proposals on promotion of CSR practices both in Europe and globally.
Karien van Gennip, Minister for Foreign Trade, Maastricht, 9 November 2004