Saturday, July 31, 2010
Marjon van Opijnen is a Senior Consultant with the consultancy CREM. In this interview with Dr Wayne Visser, Director of CSR International, she discusses their research on CSR reporting and supply chains for the EU High Level Group on CSR. The interview was conducted in Brussels on 12 May 2010.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Thomas Dodd is a CSR Co-ordinator in the European Commission's Directorate General on Enterprise & Business and serves on the EU High Level Group on CSR. In this interview with Dr Wayne Visser, Director of CSR International, he talks about the challenges of EU policy development on CSR. The interview took place in Brussels on 12 May 2010.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Walter Kahlenborn is Managing Director of Adelphi, which undertakes research for among others the EU High Level Group on CSR. In this interview with Dr Wayne Visser, Director of CSR International, he gives his views on CSR in Europe. The interview took place on 12 May 2010.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Susan Bird is CSR Co-ordinator in the DG Employment of the European Commission and part of the EU High Level Group on CSR. In this interview with Dr Wayne Visser, Director of CSR International, she discusses CSR in Europe and the work of the High Level Group on CSR. The interview was conducted in Brussels on 12 May 2010.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
By Wayne Visser
In May, I presented to the EU High Level Group (HLG) of on CSR, comprising of 27 member state representatives. It gave me an opportunity to talk with some of the people helping to shape the EU agenda and there are number of trends I found interesting. The first is that, whereas before CSR was discussed purely as a voluntary activity by business (this was especially clear in the EU’s last policy statement on CSR in 2006), there is now increasing discussion and even demand for what one of the members of the HLG, Susan Bird, calls ‘a more active role’, which may involve ‘conditions’ being introduced in the future, although this is all up for debate.
A second insight is how the competitiveness agenda has changed. The first 10 year economic strategy of the EU – the Lisbon Agenda, which ends in 2010 – was all about competitiveness and paid very little attention to CSR issues. However, the 2008 European Competitiveness Report dedicated an entire chapter to CSR and we have countries like Denmark claiming that responsible and green growth is central to its international reputation and hence its competitiveness. This changing emphasis is also reflected in the new Lisbon Strategy for 2020, which has as its central goal ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’.
The studies being commissioned by the HLG give us some indication of where the direction of policy development is headed. In particular, there are research projects on business and human rights (integrating UN Special Representative John Ruggie’s emerging framework), supply chain integrity, CSR reporting and sustainable and responsible public procurement.
In the supply chain work, Marjon van Opijnen from CREM sees a number of trends, including water footprinting, which reveals that it takes 16,000 litres of water to produce leather products, 2,700 litres to produce a T-Shirt and 2,400 litres to make a hamburger. Palm oil is also high on the agenda, especially focused on how to get small palm oil farmers involved in the RSPO certification process in Indonesia and Malaysia. Another focus is looking at the post-consumer supply chain, such as the e-waste from Europe that ends up in Africa, especially Ghana, where it creates health hazards and environmental challenges.
One area of research that is starting to reveal interesting results is the role of socially responsible investment (SRI) in Europe. For example, Walter Kahlenborn from Adelphi talks about studies they have done in Germany that find German SRI funds with carbon footprints that are no better than non-SRI funds. Survey results also suggest that while inclusion in SRI funds of big companies give legitimacy to their CSR and climate activities, the impact of SRI is limited to those large companies that are included, rather than the broader market. And in Germany, the SRI mutual funds only make up around 0.5% of the total funds, while in companies with SRI investments, these investments only make up around 0.3% of their total investments.
Of course, the HLG faces enormous challenges, highlighted by Thomas Dodd. How can they have a consistent policy for all member states, bridging the leaders like Denmark with the laggards, which tend to be the newer EU members? Another serious challenge, and a big focus of the HLG, is how to make any EU policies on CSR relevant to SMEs, which make up the vast majority of businesses in the EU? Looking to the future, the Responsible Business 2020 project of the European Alliance is worth keeping an eye on. Among the trends that Susan Bird sees is a greater emphasis on social inclusion and more flexible ways of working, especially using ICT technologies to be create innovative workplace practices.
My conclusion is that the sleeping giant of CSR policy in Europe is awakening, so watch this space!
Monday, July 26, 2010
Rodion Kolyshko is Advisor to the Confederation of Employers in Ukraine. In this interview with Dr Wayne Visser, Director of CSR International, he talks about CSR in Ukraine. The interview took place in Kiev, Ukraine, on 28 April 2010.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Pavlenko Oleksandra is Partner for the law group Pavlenko & Poberezhnyk and private counsel of the Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine. In this interview with Dr Wayne Visser, Director of CSR International, she talks about her work in public-private partnerships in the Ukraine. The interview took place on 28 April 2010 in Kiev, Ukraine.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Volodymyr Vorobey is Partner of Community CSR Ukraine. In this interview with Dr Wayne Visser, Director of CSR International, he talks about CSR in Countries in Transition, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. The interview took place in Kiev, Ukraine, on 27 April 2010.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Victor Liakh is Executive Director of East Europe Foundation, based in the Ukraine. In this interview with Dr Wayne Visser, Director of CSR International, he talks about the findings of their research on CSR in the Ukraine and Eastern Europe. The interview took place in Kiev, Ukraine, on 27 April 2010.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Sten Anders Berge is Deputy Director General of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In this interview with Dr Wayne Visser, Director of CSR International, he discusses Norway's new White Paper on CSR. The interview was conducted on 27 April 2010 in Kiev, Ukraine.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
By Wayne VisserI spent 10 days in India in April, hosted by my friend and CSR scholar Bimal Arora. It was a jam-packed itinerary, with workshops, lectures and talks in Mumbai, Raipur, Delhi and Pune. Apart from infernal temperatures (30 degrees Celcius at night and many days over 40), it was wonderful to soak up the sights (mainly traffic) and sounds (mainly hooters) as we travelled around. I left with a number of impressions on CSR.
First, as expected, CSR is still largely philanthropic, building on long and proud traditions from family empires like the Tatas and concepts like Gandhi's trusteeship. But we see government playing a very active (and in my view sometimes misguided) role. Not only do they guarantee 100 days of work each year for each of India's 60 million rural households, which is incredible, but they also require all public companies to set aside 2% of net profits for CSR programmes.
Now there is a proposal to extend this "mandatory CSR" to private companies as well. This is essentially just an added tax and should not be called CSR. In my view, governments should focus on effective regulation of the issues that CSR is trying to address (biodiversity loss, labour conditions, climate change, transparency, etc.) rather than regulating CSR activities per se. Regulating CSR directly simply creates bureaucracy, stifles innovation and invites corruption.
A more positive trend are the social enterprises that are bubbling up. Among the most inspiring is Arurag Gupta, the Founder of A Little World, which provides hi-tech innovations for the rural poor in India, including micro-banking, lighting, media and sanitation. I had the chance to interview him and he explains how biometrics and LED technology is being used to serve the poor. (Here is a link to the interview).
Aligned to social enterprise is the power of social activism should not be underestimated. I came across a great example in the form of Karmayog.org, which has created an online platform which allows citizens to publicly report (and presumably embarrass) any instances of corruption, such as an official asking them for a bribe. It is also used to pool NGO resources during times of crisis, such as flooding, and to share CSR Ratings that they have conducted on Indian companies. (See an interview I conducted with the founder).
The other positive sign from India is "inclusive business", where the bigger companies like Tata are designing products and services to cater for poor customers at the 'Bottom of the Pyramid' (which in India is just called "the market"). The Tata Nano - a small eco-efficient car for $2,500 - is a case in point. What is even more encouraging is that these products are not being accepted without question. In one of my workshops, we had a raging debate about whether it is a good thing to have every Indian driving a car, Nano or not.
India is certainly a space to watch on CSR and its progress is far from being a foregone conclusion. Whereas there is a sense of order and control in China's great transition, India is far more chaotic and unmanaged (or unmanageable?). It is almost as if there is a Grand Experiment in CSR - democratic, messy, ad-hoc Indian style or controlled, managed, sanctioned Chinese style. Which will prevail is a question for future historians. I think it's too soon to place bets on either.
Rostyslav Kurinko is the Founder of CSR Journal, based in Kiev, Ukraine. In this interview with Dr Wayne Visser, Director of CSR International, he talks about CSR in Central and Eastern Europe, which is the region that his CSR Journal covers. The interview took place in Kiev, Ukraine, on 28 April 2010.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Dr Tan Lin Lah is Executive Director of the UN Global Compact in Malaysia. In this interview with Dr Wayne Visser, Director of CSR International, she shares her views on the progress Malaysian companies are making on CSR. The interview took place on 24 March 2010.