CSR is an undeniable must to cope with bad times

11. Januar 2009

CSR ist von zentraler Bedeutung für die Wettbewerbsfähigkeit in Europa, so der jüngst veröffentlichte European Competitiveness Report. Die UPJ-Partnerorganisation CSR Europe interviewte den Vize-Präsident der EU-Kommission und Kommissar der Generaldirektion Unternehmen und Industrie Günter Verheugen zu den Ergebnissen des Berichts.

Why did the Commission decide to include a chapter on CSR in this year’s report?

The Commission has believed for some time that CSR is an important voluntary part of the business contribution to the European Growth and Jobs Strategy and to the goal of sustainable development generally.

It seems to us natural therefore to address CSR in the competitiveness report. This is an indication of the importance the European Commission attaches to voluntary responsible business behavior.

We also see that the practice of CSR is evolving fast, and that these are already enterprises that deeply integrate CSR aspects into both operations and strategy. It has therefore been necessary to update our own analysis of how CSR can contribute to competitiveness, and to share this analysis with other stakeholders.

What are the main conclusions of the report regarding the links between CSR and competitiveness?

The single most important conclusion is that, apart from the general value of CSR to the society, the business case for CSR appears to be getting stronger.

We found the links between CSR and competitiveness to be most intense when looking at human resources, risk and reputation management, and innovation. The link between CSR and innovation is exciting and demonstrates the business potential, which is underestimated up to now.

More and more enterprises understand that CSR is in their best interest. Our analysis concludes that the biggest competitiveness gains will come to those enterprises who integrate CSR in their core strategy and purpose. Enterprises that deal with CSR as peripheral issue, mainly related to public relations, risk missing out on potential competitiveness gains.

The report also looks at how CSR influences competitiveness at the macro and sector levels. There are indications of a positive relationship, but in general there is less evidence to build on at this level of analysis.

Are these findings still relevant in the context of the financial crisis and the recession in Europe?

The short answer is a clear yes. Socially responsible enterprises will find themselves in a better position than others, since they can rely on a lot of strengths, including their dedicated workforce. Our report demonstrates that CSR is good in good times, but an undeniable must to cope with bad times.

One can also argue that CSR becomes even more significant precisely because of financial crisis and recession. CSR helps to build trust, and trust is a vital commodity in the current circumstances. This is one of the reasons why we are planning to host another European Multistakeholder Forum on CSR in February 2009.