2014: No room for business as usual – dare to do!

By Stefan Crets, Executive Director, CSR Europe

As I reflect on the year gone by and welcome new beginnings in 2014, I see CSR practitioners and businesses across Europe increasingly faced with a dual challenge.

Firstly, the sustainability of business in Europe, job creation and living standards still remain paramount. However, considering a high proportion of jobs in Europe are created by companies operating globally, it is also incumbent on us to consider the creation of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in different regions of the world.  These twin priorities often collide, with the focus on growth in European operations often excessively driven by faster growth potential opportunities outside of Europe.

2014 is not time for business as usual or complacency in Europe. Over the past years, visionary thinkers have outlined an image of what is needed for a sustainable future in Europe and beyond.  For instance, John Elkington’s Breakthrough Capitalism, Gunter Pauli’s Zero Emissions Initiative ZERI or Ellen MacArthur’s Circular Economy have all challenged mainstream thinking and practice. Although CSR and sustainability thinking is no longer on the periphery of business, success in 2014 will very much depend on our own personal responsibility to lead from within companies.

2014 will be about the level of intrapreneurship and social innovation that we can nurture within our companies, step-by-step to make sustainability breakthroughs. As CSR practitioners, we have to ask – what can we contribute to sustainable growth of our company and to the European economy and society? To adequately respond to this challenge, we need to bring together different business functions, influencers and stakeholders both inside and outside our companies. This will require creativity and perseverance. Critically, this is where CSR Europe seeks to support its members in 2014.

In this vein, a recent Accenture CEO Survey indicates that 33% of the CEOs believe we are doing enough to tackle future sustainability issues. 84% believe business should lead the effort but most CEOs struggle to see the business value of doing so. CSR managers must redefine their role, it is not only about reporting, relations with NGOs, specific projects like diversity and supply chain management. It is about influencing strategy, planning and performance at corporate level, in each company division and affiliate and even along the value chain.

I see pioneering social innovation within companies as a valuable way to create new business opportunities and tackle societal challenges such as emissions, poverty, education, demographic change and urban congestion. Through social innovation, Europe can maintain its lead in the world and find new prospects for smart, sustainable growth both in the domestic and international markets.

Over the past year we already witnessed important shifts in the way CSR Europe member companies operate, be it in the transition to electric mobility, sustainable consumption, new business models, developing IT infrastructure for smarter cities, etc. Encouragingly, in line with CSR Europe’s Enterprise 2020 European Business Campaigns, almost all CSR Europe member companies have ventures in place to develop STEM or entrepreneurial skills, collaborate with formal education, support vocational training, reach out to citizens for more sustainable consumption or proactively bring sustainability solutions to regional and city governments.

In 2014, CSR Europe will build on the business case to speed up the implementation of innovative and scalable business solutions. Specifically, to meet these demands, we have shifted gear with our European Business Campaigns.  The Skills for Jobs campaign embodies this approach by targeting Europe as the ‘’best place for work’’ for both for industry, entrepreneurs and employees.

The Sustainable Living in Cities campaign to be launched in March 2014 will bring together the local and regional level with business stakeholders to develop implementable solutions.  Our 2014 work programme provides opportunities to engage your company and urge different divisions to look beyond their own borders to leverage collaboration in Europe, and break through issues such as intrapreneurship, city collaborations and innovation.

A recent Boston Consulting Group report on addressing sustainability concerns describes companies that ‘’walk the talk’’ by putting sustainability strategy at the top of the management agenda, developing a business case and measuring performance to adapt business models. CSR Europe will provide opportunities for “walkers” to make strides in 2014! Without doubt, our leading member companies and all of our national partners are well placed to take up the challenge to make CSR/sustainability issues a core strategic imperative to mitigate threats and identify new opportunities throughout 2014.


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Intrapreneurship is about attitude: Become an entrepreneur – inside your company!


By Ville Peltola, Innovation Director at IBM Finland

Have you ever envied entrepreneurs? Are you currently bored in your job? Have you considered becoming an entrepreneur – inside your own company?

Entrepreneurs inside companies are called intrapreneurs. Increasingly, intrapreneurship is extremely valuable for channelling and releasing the energy of over-enthusiastic employees’ energy in creative innovation. Intrapreneurship is not a new thing, some companies also have internal startup companies. Sony Playstation, Google Gmail and many other successful innovations have actually been started by fearless intrapreneurs, who did not take ‘no’ for an answer.

There is change in the air in Finland [1] and I suspect so across other countries. IBM continues to expand the boundaries of technology and invest in creating an environment that strengthens innovation and encourages employees to generate new ideas – “innovation that matters, for our company and for the world”. As Innovation Director at IBM Finland, I have developed a model for releasing resources for such intrapreneurial actions.

IBM’s innovation processes are designed to contribute to idea generation, incubation and validation.  Though, in my experience intrapreneurship is ultimately about the attitude.  Among the ‘ten commandments of an intrapreneur’, my personal favourites are numbers six and eight. In my experience all large organisations have developed an ‘immune system’ which triggers and attacks bold new ideas. It is often better to develop your idea ‘under the radar’ into for example a prototype and then sell your idea with something concrete to back it up.

IBM has invested in encouraging and implementing intrapreneurship through systematic methods. Specifically, at IBM Finland, we were dealing with the challenge of creating fast pilots and prototypes. The functionality of the idea must be supported with evidence, but building prototypes requires time and resources.

To overcome this problem, I established the internal startup ‘Kasvuhuone’ (Finnish word-play between ‘Growth Room’ and Greenhouse) with the purpose of releasing resources for testing new ideas. It consists of a team that scouts new opportunities through high-speed experiments that typically last one or two weeks. During its existence, the Kasvuhuone has worked on for example data visualisation, smarter cities and other emerging technologies and trends. Even if the projects do not end up as commercial engagements, they are considered valuable.

IBM’s general attitude uses failure as a learning experience. Adopting an entrepreneurial spirit and attitude has enabled me to push ideas through. Why don’t you do the same and act as a real intrapreneur? Start intrapreneurial activities inside your company without asking for any permission. If you fail, just say you are sorry. Then try again!

Ville Peltola, Innovation Director at IBM Finland will speak at the launch of CSR Europe’s Skills for Jobs Social Intraprenuership programme which will be formally launched on 11 December at a free pre-event Open Day of the Intrapreneurshop conference 2013 which will take place on 12 and 13 December at Barcelona Activa.

For more information and registration. 

[1] See more company case examples of intrapreneurship in Finland at Kone, Valio, SRV and IBM Finland in a publication by Aalto University students here.

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CEOs and CSR Managers – A United Front?

By Stefan Crets, Executive Director CSR Europe 

A united front on corporate sustainability will be essential in the coming months, not the least because of proposed EU legislative proposal [1] on the table to boost corporate reporting on Economic, Social and Governance and increase the number of companies reporting  to enhance overall business transparency.

Beyond the debate on the usefulness and impact of obligatory reporting, there is an even bigger challenge: do we have the capability inside our companies to manage the impact of business operations and to turn global and local sustainability challenges into business growth opportunities? Are we ready? Are we providing the management, innovation and solutions needed for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth?

Sustainability – glass half empty or half full?

The answer to such questions is a typically a “glass half empty or half full” response. Especially in times of economic crisis in Europe, the capability to manage sustainability is a key issue. In CSR Europe’s own work with leading companies on Valuing Non-Financial Performance, we see that the maturity of sustainability management in companies, including their supply chains reaches a level of 46% while the level of integration of sustainability into business stands at 61 %. As a CSR practitioner myself, I see this as a ‘glass half full” situation.

The recently published UN Global Compact Accenture CEO Study on Sustainability 2013 for the UN Global Compact Leaders’ Summit, shows that CEOs have their doubts and frustrations about progress and results. They are looking at the glass half empty.

The survey of 1,000 CEOs across 103 countries and 27 industries gives an insight into business leaders’ views on the pathway towards a sustainable economy. Only 32% of the CEOs in the survey believe that the global economy is on track to meet the targets of sustainable growth, and only the same proportion believes that business is doing enough.  On the other hand, 63% of these business leaders believe that sustainability will transform their industry within the next five years.  If the company leadership is unable to locate and quantify the business value of sustainability, especially in a short term, sustainability gets caught in what the report calls a “pilot paralysis”.

CSR Europe’s first summary report of collaborative projects under Enterprise 2020, The Power of Collaboration emphasises the need for collaboration and innovation to enhance impact. The challenge of showing the direct business value of sustainability is not helped by the fact that the consumer specifically, and the markets in general, are giving mixed signals about the premium they are willing to pay. The fact is that, individual businesses are not able to forge systemic changes in the market on their own.

The Accenture/UNGC report concludes that active intervention by government will be required in order to align public policy, and to step up efforts to provide an enabling environment for the private sector to advance sustainability.  To this end, CSR Europe is focused on actively working with the EU to link European public policy to the sustainability agenda. The real CSR debate in the EU is not about mandatory reporting as such, it is about how reporting can help to improve business performance and how smart public policies in different areas can create the right framework conditions and eco-systems for sustainable business growth.

Central to this effort is CSR Europe’s joint appeal with GRI, IIRC and WBCSD to the European Union to improve sustainable performance of European business with the establishment of a European Centre of Excellence to accelerate the awareness and capacity building of companies, sectors, investors and governments on integrated value creation and reporting.

The energy and commitment of middle management in multinational companies is evident from our daily work in CSR Europe. However, this dynamism is also coupled with the struggle faced by many to move the CSR agenda upward inside their companies. As their CEO’s (and CFO’s) are doubtful about the link between sustainability and traditional metrics like revenue growth and shareholder value, they express a strong need for tools and instruments to be able to benchmark and to assess business processes with the ones of their peers. If the direct causality between non-financial and financial performance cannot be easily established, the benchmark and process language is probably the most compelling language inside a company.

What gets measured gets managed – assessment tools for better performance

Luckily, the CEO survey also confirms that “what gets measured gets managed” and determining the value of more sustainable business models is indicated as a key element to the agenda for action. That is why over the past three years CSR Europe invested a lot of resources in the development and testing of benchmark and assessment tools and the creation of joint learning networks. Strengthening the focus on assessment and benchmarking with CSR Europe members and our CSR partners is best approach to bring together the shared frustration of middle management and their CEOs to enable the creation of transformational change.

[1] CSR Europe has interpreted what the proposal means for members in an EU Issue Insight (accessible to members only).


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Skills for Jobs: Creating More Resilient Businesses for Growth and Jobs in Europe

Author: Stefan Crets, Executive Director, CSR Europe

CSR Europe made strides to move from conversation and debate to collaborative action at the launch of our European Business Campaign ‘Skills for Jobs’ on April 18th 2013. As Microsoft’s Lori Harnick and Intel’s Dr. Thomas Osburg explained in recent posts, we want to enhance corporate efforts on the skills and employment agenda in Europe through workplace innovation, entrepreneurship support, and boosting skills for employability and social inclusion.

Amongst the broad support for Skills for Jobs at the launch, a number of key speakers struck a chord with me related to the objectives at the very core of the CSR Europe’s campaign.

Europe is losing economic ground quickly with almost six million jobs shed since 2008. José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs from the International Labour Organisation called the campaign a “game changer” acknowledging that only in very few areas, can one find a stronger convergence between public policy, business, and the citizens of Europe for investing in human capital.

Companies throughout Europe are faced with similar issues to overcome, Celia Moore, Chair of CSR Europe board reiterated the pressing need to collaborate and work in partnership in order to address these issues to create more resilient businesses in Europe.

Ingredients for Successful Partnerships

Participants at the event explored their understanding of what makes successful partnerships. Some of the key ingredients required for achieving impact and scale that came up included mainstreaming good practice in business thinking and operations, social dialogue, coherence and alignment with public policy, and the power of leveraging large companies in a world of change.

Businesses can initiate run initiatives by themselves – and sometimes successfully as well – but attendees agreed that impact is most powerful when business, public policymakers and stakeholders collaborate to bring out the best in each other.

Part of CSR Europe’s contribution is to document and catalogue good practices as they emerge offering other companies the opportunity to replicate and scale the impact.

For example, GDF Suez, a leading multinational electric utility company is working on workplace innovation by rethinking careers as lifespans increase from the point of view of human resource processes and health and wellbeing. Intel is empowering entrepreneurship through projects such as LIFE e-Learning for entrepreneurs. At the national level, CSR Europe’s partner organization Jobs and Society Sweden is showing how business is already making a real impact with “Mentor your business,” the second largest mentoring program for entrepreneurs in the world. This model, driven primarily by business, has already inspired 10,000 businesses to start within one year in Sweden.

Improving Skills Matching

In a world where over 95 percent of all jobs now have a digital component, Constantijn van Oranje-Nassau, Head of Cabinet of the European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes,  spoke on the need for engagement for tackling the mismatch between skills and jobs. Specifically, in the area of technology, ICT and the supply of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) graduates, not only to generate employment but also to improve Europe’s attractiveness for entrepreneurship, research and innovation.

Under the campaign, in the Skills for Employability focus area, companies will work on the ‘Deploy your talents’ project to step up the stem agenda for Europe. In addition the ‘Early career levers for European youth’ project will work on internships and apprenticeships to involve more and better trained people through qualitative apprentice and internships.

The Future

At the end of the day, while the mood was boisterous and support unanimous, it is true that Europe has a number of macroeconomic and structural issues to resolve in coming years. I believe that restoring confidence and aggregate demand by itself will not be enough to bring back pre-recession employment levels and will not prepare the workforce for jobs of the future. The Skills for Jobs campaign demonstrates how with collaboration, Europe can adapt and move beyond the crisis.

We aim to publish intermediate results in Spring 2014 with the campaign culminating with final results at a CSR Europe Enterprise 2020 Summit in 2015. Watch this space!

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Effective Career Levers For Youth: Putting More Europeans Into Jobs

Author: Lori Harnick, Citizenship and Public Affairs, Microsoft

Europe is at risk of being left behind by countries such as India, which is reshaping its future with new entrepreneurial creativity and social policy innovation. Currently the EU member states lose €153 billion every year by not being able to reconcile a quality transition and easier access to the labour market for the 14 million out-of-work, disengaged young Europeans. The issue is closely interlinked with the capacity of European organizations and businesses to bridge the skills gap through innovating in the workplace, attracting and deploying new and developing existing talents. The way how to tackle the issue lies in a more creative business-to-business dialogue and public/private solutions deployed.

In this context the European Commission published a recommendation package for member states ‘to establish strong partnerships with stakeholders, ensure early intervention by employment services and other partners supporting young people, take supportive measures to enable labour integration, make full use of the European Social Fund and other structural funds to that end, assess and continuously improve the Youth Guarantee schemes and implement the schemes rapidly.[1] Clearly, the Youth Employment Package, which CSR Europe helped to broker, steers us on the road to action which will be furthered by the launch of CSR Europe’s European Business Campaign on Skills for Jobs in April 2013. Success of the initiative depends on a new and forward looking, employer participatory-approach to skills, starting from the classroom through to job placement.

Example of an existing business initiative in this arena is the experience of YouthSpark, with which Microsoft has decided to significantly contribute to the success of this European campaign.  As a company-wide global program, it aspires to create opportunities for 300 million youth globally over the next three years. Through a range of programs that empower young people with access to technology, better education and help young people find a job or start their own business, it will scale up the impact of the Campaign on Skills for Jobs through:

1.      Sharing some of the models for youth education, employability and entrepreneurship that have been deployed in Europe with our partner ecosystem.

We recognise that we can only offer certain pieces of this complex puzzle hence the need for a scaled & efficient public/private approach. Despite fewer jobs, there are four million unfilled vacancies in Europe and the skills in demand to perform these jobs are not being addressed. We see this as a call to action to provide early-stage career levers for youth that are essential for the school to work transition, assisting in the “Fill the Gap” imperative that Neelie Kroes the European Comm­­issioner for the Digital Agenda, has rightly asserted, and that drive youth to find their way onto the right training or employment path.

2.      Through a willingness to build out business-to-business and multi-stakeholder partnerships    that have a long-standing contribution to youth opportunity. 

Already at the launch of the Grand Coalition on Digital Jobs by the European Commission, Microsoft together with other stakeholders such as the European Schoolnet, the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies, extended existing commitments to empower young Europeans for the flux of digital jobs across industries e.g in gaming, e-health or cloud computing, by scaling on-the-job training for career starters through our high-quality apprenticeships and internship offering.

3.      Through making young people realise the shift in demand for skills

We consider the importance to make the shift in the labour market demand evident to youth across educational tracks and professional development courses to understand the changing labour market trends and demands from manufacturing to knowledge services and with the transformative impact of new technologies on the way in which we work and interact.

In order to strengthen the network of companies engaged in equipping youth with the right skills and tools through leveraging the power of cross-sectoral collaboration for more efficiency and towards systemic change for sustainable growth in Europe, CSR Europe will kick of the European Business Campaign on Skills for Jobs together with its members to demonstrate what companies already do and are able to do.  To learn more about the initiative, tune-in to the pre-launch webinar of the European Business Campaign on Skills for Jobs here or get information on the launch event here. We hope that many more businesses and stakeholders will join the Campaign to explore these challenges further join us in this quest to be the spark of change for European Youth!


About our Guest Writer:

Lori is the General Manager of Microsoft Citizenship and Public Affairs. She leads Microsoft’s global work on corporate social responsibility and service to communities as well as the company’s public relations of all legal and public policy issues. Her work includes leading Microsoft YouthSpark, a company-wide initiative designed to create opportunities for hundreds of millions of youth around the world. Through partnerships with governments, nonprofits and businesses, Microsoft aims to empower youth to imagine and realize their full potential by connecting them with greater education, employment, and entrepreneurship opportunities.

In its most recent fiscal year, Microsoft also donated over $1 billion in cash and software to non-profit organizations around the world. It also advanced its policies and practices in the areas of supply chain management and environmental sustainability and took principled stances on critical legal topics, such as IP rights and immigration. Prior to joining Microsoft, Lori was a managing director at Burson-Marsteller and a Global Public Affairs director with the Business Software Alliance.

[1] European Commission – Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion: Youth employment: Commission proposes package of measures, 23 December 2012,  http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=en&catId=1036&newsId=1731&furtherNews=yes

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How CSR Europe can drive Corporate Sustainability through Social Innovation

Author: Dr. Thomas Osburg, Director Europe Corporate Affairs, Intel Corp. and Board Director of CSR Europe

Looking at current issues we are facing in Europe, we might be a little misled by day to day news. Undoubtedly, the ongoing financial instability in the Eurozone remains a serious issue for most European countries. However, the real long-term burning problems are in two areas which are ultimately more interlinked than what one might think and which CSR Europe aims to tackle in its new work programme 2013-2015:

First, the unemployment rate in Europe has hit record levels. In particular the unemployment rate of people under the age of 25 is alarming and unacceptable. In countries like Greece or Spain more than 50 % of the young people fail to find a job. At the same time, however, we witness an increasing drop-out rate in schools and a declining interest among youth in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). This is particularly worrying because Europe is missing more than 100,000 engineers and IT specialists; jobs, which could be filled if people had the appropriate qualification. A second area of major concern is the challenge of sustainable living in cities. This is driven by a growing population in various parts of the world and at the same time a trend of leaving the countryside to live in urban areas. This poses a significant challenge for housing, social welfare, energy consumption and other related issues. It is no surprise that businesses are being asked more and more to make a contribution to solving these problems.

The new Work program for CSR Europe that will be officially kicked off in April this year will address these sustainability problems in a much more focused way than before. CSR Europe’s Board of Directors, which is composed of representatives coming from world major companies, was very clear that we need to support the EU and national governments in helping them to find and implement solutions to long term challenges. One of the most promising approaches to do so can be seen in the concept of Social Innovation. It is broadly understood as a new form of cross-sectorial collaboration between governments, NGOs and private companies who strive to create shared value for all stakeholders. The concept builds on the belief that the potential to tackle the sustainability issues lies in the power of collaboration between these actors. In this sense, Social Innovation is not a next generation of CSR; it takes a very different approach from the very beginning. Social Innovation focuses on finding a joint, innovative solution to a societal problem and its subsequent implementation. A lot of companies have already embarked on this endeavour.

Yet, taking a path of Social Innovation is not a mission with a guaranteed result; a number of companies aiming at delivering good results fails to do so. Mainly, they do not generate a targeted impact or they lack long term viability. This can be partially related to the fact that Social Innovations often get started with an enthusiastic but narrow focus on the problem itself. Such an Invention-centred approach, without long term perspective planning fails to deliver a scalable Innovation.

To overcome this shortfall and to advance Social Innovation concepts, it seems more promising to first investigate companies’ Innovation concepts. The traditional Innovation Process predominantly focuses on economic sustainability for the firm, which means it should help the company to stay in business. For many years, this was sufficient enough and doing good was an add-on to gain reputation or secure the license to operate. Today, a true Social Innovation is supplemented with a societal component or a solution driven approach. Basically every successful enterprise has established a well thought-through Innovation process. This is a key component to remain competitive in the future.

This is changing now. Following requests to companies for Triple Bottom Line reporting, that requires communication of economic, ecological and social sustainability, a pure economic focus of the Innovation process is not sufficient anymore. In order to achieve the necessary ecological and societal sustainability, the Innovation process needs to change to allow for solutions contributing to the Triple Bottom Line and thus bearing potential for shared value creation, both for companies and society.

European Business Campaign on Skills for Jobs and its reference initiative Enterprise 2020 strategy aim at including Social Innovation into the Innovation process to help companies increase their own sustainability or – in other words – their capacity to endure. It is the dedication to Social Innovation, and Shared value creation that made Enterprise 2020 become the leading European movement for companies committed to developing innovative business practices and working together with their stakeholders to provide solutions to existing and emerging societal needs.

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The need for a European Business Campaign on “Skills for jobs”

Author: Stefan Crets, Executive Director, CSR Europe 

 We have all heard the dramatic figures surrounding Europe’s employment situation, but few are aware of the countless initiatives being carried out by corporate companies to deliver impactful solutions to society. For example, Coca Cola Enterprises Passport to Employment’ initiative helps to prepare around 2,700 young people into the world of work, a further 29,000 people have gained access to paid employment through L’Oréal’s Solidarity Sourcing Programme and Telefónica’s Think Big Youth Programme has already seen 3,500 projects launched by young social entrepreneurs to the benefit of more than 65,000 young people, encouraging innovative thinking, entrepreneurship and new young business across Europe. At National level, The Swedish Jobs and Society Foundation, is setting an example by using the resources of corporate companies to help more than 10,000 people every year to start-up successful and viable enterprises. This is what makes me enthusiastic about Europe; the results clearly show what a difference business can make to our society by taking entrepreneurship and innovative initiatives to make life better and more meaningful for its citizens.

 For companies, the business case for combating unemployment is clear: a cohesive society and a thriving economy go hand in hand. What does this mean in practice? To take an example, in Europe, demographic change is a pressing issue for both the public and the private sector. Over the next decade, many European regions will face major challenges associated with an ageing and stagnating or in some cases declining population. Compared to other continents, Europe already has the oldest population: 19 of the world’s 20 “oldest” countries are in Europe[1]. In terms of CSR, companies have to take into account the characteristics of an ageing workforce, for example in areas such as enabling lifelong learning and promoting health and wellbeing in the workplace. IBM, for example, is running a partnership with Age Action Ireland, ‘Getting Started,’ which focuses on teaching fundamental computer and internet skills, enabling older people to take advantage of ICT to gain independence and play a full role in society. In 2011, the Getting Started Programme trained 2,430 older people across Ireland.

 Similarly, demographic change is also a challenge for human resources management; with a lack of younger employees and an older generation ready for retirement, a potential skills gap emerges. To combat this, many organisations have set up programmes whereby older employees are able to transfer knowledge and know how to younger employees. Business & Society Belgium’s Active Ageing Awards celebrated some of these initiatives.

 For the European economy to grow and to be competitive, businesses operating in Europe need more effective investments in human capital, in skills, in new ways of working and in career development. This is true for the current (ageing) workforce but also for the future workforce and the ones currently not able to enter the job market. Engineering and technical skills, more knowledge of mathematics and science, entrepreneurial skills and workplace attitudes are only some of the areas were companies are all investing in but where more can be done through enhanced collaboration.

 The Commission’s Europe 2020 strategy puts forward a target to have 75% of the 20-64 year-olds to be employed by 2020. If Europe wants to achieve this target, business must join forces to create the conditions for a different type of growth that is smarter, more sustainable and more inclusive to deliver higher levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion.

 Building on the above examples and other work of CSR Europe’s 70 corporate members and 36 national partners, Enterprise 2020 will shortly launch a joint European Business Campaign on “Skills for Jobs” to innovate skills development, job creation and new options for career development. In this context, CSR Europe will lead best practice learning workshops and engage in enhanced dialogue with the European Commission on the subject. Beyond this, the network of CSR Europe will develop a series of business innovation projects, bringing together companies, thought leaders, educational NGOs and policy makers to drastically improve the efforts and their successes towards Europe’s employment situation.

 I therefore call on each of you to join us in our efforts to really help shape this Campaign and jointly help to turn one of Europe’s most pressing sustainability challenges into a new era of opportunity for its entrepreneurs and citizens.

 To find out more about CSR Europe’s forthcoming Skills for Jobs Campaign, join our webinar on Monday the 28th of January at 15:00-16:00: http://www.csreurope.org/events.php?action=show_event&event_id=864

For some more ideas on building skills programmes, visit CSR Europe’s online solutions database:


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The Power of Business-led Corporate Responsibility Coalitions

Author: Professor David Grayson, CBE, Director of the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility, UK

This year, Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) celebrated their 20th anniversary. CSR Europe reaches that milestone in 2015. These organisations and more than one hundred other, international and national, business-led corporate responsibility coalitions – and many hundred more sector and issue-specific coalitions have played a major role in raising awareness of the responsibilities of business, developing the business case for corporate responsibility, and providing platforms for collective business action on major societal problems in recent decades.

Without these business-led corporate responsibility coalitions, the world would be the poorer. Corporate responsibility today is much more widely discussed and practised; however, there are great disparities in how it is interpreted and implemented. The global financial crisis has led to renewed questioning of the legitimacy of business and the global social contract is widely seen to have broken down: there is a trust deficit. There is growing concern about a global sustainability crisis alongside the global trust crisis and the global financial crisis, and intense debate about what the business response to this sustainability crisis needs to be. There is also a global governance deficit. In the face of criticisms, competitors and the sheer complexity of the issues now confronting business, the business-led corporate responsibility coalitions now face a number of hard questions such as:

  • How do coalitions transform themselves as the agenda and territory becomes much more complex and sophisticated, and demands much deeper knowledge to stay relevant?
  • How do coalitions retain ‘air-time’ with top business leaders when competition and pressures for CEOs’ attention both within and outside their companies is increasing?
  • How do coalitions respond to the increasing competition from think-tanks, business schools, consultancies and NGOs working with business, and from rival coalitions, in what is increasingly an international marketplace for air-time with companies?
  • Will business-led coalitions become more or less influential versus multi-stakeholder alliances and single-issue initiatives (which are either business-only or multi-stakeholder, e.g. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative or Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil)? Or can they complement each other?

Properly organised and resourced, the coalitions and the coalitions model could play a significantly expanded role in the coming decade in responding to the multiple crises which the world faces. This might include:

  • Supporting individual companies to overcome the ‘performance gap’ and to embed responsible business policies and practices into the core of their corporate strategy, operations and value chains
  • Promoting pre-competitive collective action within specific industry sectors, geographies and value chains to drive scale and systemic impact
  • Convening companies to be part of more systemic and large scale-multi-sector collaboration between business, government and civil-society organisations
  • Spreading innovation from key emerging markets
  • Engaging with small and medium enterprises
  • Working with governments and advocating for progressive public policies and regulation
  • Improving the financial enabling environment
  • Partnering with business schools and universities
  • Raising public awareness and spreading the practice of sustainable consumption
  • Promoting a new vision for sustainable capitalism more broadly.

Interestingly, CSR Europe, especially through the Enterprise 2020 Strategy is seeking to contribute to a number of these important tasks. How can greater collaboration with corporate members, national partners, other coalitions and multi-stakeholder initiatives on corporate responsibility greatly increase positive impacts?

For more information:

Click here to read more information on the Enterprise 2020 Strategy and the priority topics.

About our Guest Writer

DAVID GRAYSON is co-author with Jane Nelson of the CSR Initiative of the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard of  “Corporate Responsibility Coalitions: The Past, Present, and Future of Alliances for Sustainable Capitalism” which will be published by Greenleaf-Publishing and Stanford University Press in Feb 2013, from which the ideas for this blog come.

David Grayson currently holds the position of director at the new Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility after a thirty year career as a social entrepreneur and campaigner for responsible business, diversity, and small business development. Professor Grayson has served on various charity and public sector boards over the past 20 plus years. These have included the boards of the National Co-operative Development Agency, The Prince of Wales’ Innovation Trust and the Strategic Rail Authority.  Before assuming his role as director of the new Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility, Prof Grayson has worked with many  leading global businesses including BP, Shell, Microsoft and Diageo. He has worked with international institutions such as the OECD, the European Union, and the World Bank. He is a regular key-note speaker for business conferences internationally.

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Enterprise 2020 in Spain – Towards a Responsible Recovery

Author: Tomás Sercovich, Director of Communication & Public Affairs, Forética, CSR Europe Board Director

In the current economic climate it seems only fair to reward the efforts of companies and their commitment to CSR in order to foster a sustainable business network. With this in mind, Forética, together with HRH Prince Felipe of Spain, launched Enterprise 2020 at a national level in September 2011.

The closing date for the second wave of proposed initiatives passed this October and now means that the Spanish platform comprises of over 600 organisations, positioning Forética as a leader in the practical implementation of Enterprise 2020. The selection of a record-breaking 36 high-impact projects makes it possible to connect with a large number of partners and create a truly multistakeholder platform. This is further reflected by the projects’ engagement of 15 different industry sectors, including the chemical industry, banking and public companies, across ten regions of the country. Among these, nine local governments are engaged as active partners in these projects thereby offering clear examples of collaboration within public administrations.

The projects cover a broad spectrum of sustainability topics such as: job creation and employability; health and wellbeing; environmental performance; competitiveness; disclosure and transparency and mainstreaming CSR among others. For a detailed insight into all 36 initiatives please refer to the complete list available here (in Spanish).

Each individual project is set to continue implementing its own action plan, with regular support and monitoring from Forética, up until carrying out an impact assessment by May 2013 to measure the outcomes of the platform as a whole.

From the perspective of both companies and National Partner Organisations, a platform such as Enterprise 2020 can help provide visibility for national initiatives at a European level and enhance the recognition given to positive work already taking place. In addition, this shared consensus and support from high profile figures can help encourage national governments’ commitment to CSR. In these times of austerity and the changing expectations of the public towards companies, playing a part in high-impact cross-border projects, such as Enterprise 2020, can help demonstrate that an organisation is taking a proactive approach to some of the biggest challenges of the day.

With the social and environmental concerns growing ever more challenging they can only be tackled effectively through collaborative efforts. There is a need for companies, policy-makers and social entities to work closer to innovate and share solutions to given challenges. Businesses, in particular, have strong motivation to take an active role in fostering smart, sustainable and inclusive growth that addresses current challenges and encourages long-term wellbeing.

For more information:

Click here to access the press release about the second call for initiatives’ results, or, visit foretica.org (Spanish language content).

For more information on more of our national partner initiatives under the umbrella of Enterprise 2020, click here.

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In the presence of Kings: The Practicality of Ethics Management

Author: ANTHONY SMITH-MEYER, Editor-in-Chief of a new Journal of Business Compliance

The setting was worthy of the topic. Surrounded by portraits of the Kings of Belgium, the CSR Europe Workshop on “Best Practice Ethics Management in the Financial sector – Integrating Values within your Organisation” – organised together with the European Academy of Business in Society and in partnership with Business & Society Belgium – was hosted by BNP Paribas Fortis in their Hall of Kings at 20 Rue Royale in Brussels.  It was an event billed to explore the meaning, purpose and impact of Ethics Management and its relationship to the values driven agenda of Sustainability, as applied to the financial sector in particular. The gathering set about a review of questions such as:

  • Failures of  compliance systems – What is the Problem?
  • What are the solutions? – Company practices and trends in ethical management.
  • How to improve management control and implement values?

One might wonder how the assembly of previous generations of royalty would have perceived this debate between a gathering of bankers, academics, regulatory practitioners and advisors, and representatives of civil society on the nature and practicality of Ethics in business. Would they perhaps have been struck by how, after all these years and generations of debate, the nature of ethics; its relationship to business conduct and the social good, continues to fascinate, develop and shift over time without any manifest, definitive formula for success.

Against the backdrop of cries for ever more regulation and governance, the participants reflected on the sobering thought that the financial industry had governance aplenty during the years leading up to the crisis. The conclusion therefore is that it was the human factor that was the differentiating factor, emphasising the need to promote a different approach to business and the manner in which decisions are made. The projection of authentic corporate values, mirrored or led by a sustainability agenda, aimed at a greater engagement of employees and increased levels of trust between the firm and its customers; was this not the way forward?

The workshop gamely discussed the proposition and set out a picture of “ethics management” in industry and commerce that can only be described as “work-in-progress”. KPMG presented their conclusions of a CSR Europe commissioned study of ethics management within the financial industry, confirming with only very few exceptions, a relatively low degree of maturity of conscious ethical management initiatives within the majority of firms included in their research. The Workshop was quick to conclude that the development of an ethics management approach requires an understanding of, and focus on the positive drivers of integrity, going beyond current attempts to place obstacles in the way of misconduct through endless additional regulation.

Catch words such as the promotion of integrity, transparency, accountability, clarity of roles, and stewardship are only a small sample of concepts raised and discussed as KPMG toured the range of varied contributors to the debate drawn from stakeholders such as the public policy-making and regulatory worlds, shareholders, industry groups, shareholders and civil society in particular, noting a relative silence from employee and consumer organisations on this difficult topic.

The Dutch financial sector supervisor, the DnB made a commendable presentation of their expectations and methodology when evaluating firms in respect their culture of ethics; all information being readily available from their web-site. This admirable leadership in regulatory transparency was applauded by the workshop participants, leading to a lively discussion of:

  • The importance of employee freedom to speak up in organisations.
  • Active promotion of organisational justice within the firm.
  • The establishment of ethical expectations within the firm through encouraged behaviours and visible sanction.
  • The merits of rules- or value-based initiatives; or indeed a mixture of the two.

The workshop debate was rich in content and in providing the beginnings of road maps to the identification of what an Ethics Management Programme might look like, and how it might contribute to the ethical organisation. The only regret was that not all financial institutions were present taking an active interest in this topic. Perhaps a future Workshop should address “How to Influence the Decision Takers”; if we dare?  This might be a good challenge for CSR Europe to develop this as one of their upcoming work programmes.

For more information:

Click here to read more information on CSR Europe’s workshop on Ethics Management in the Financial Sector

or, visit: www.journalofbusinesscompliance.com


About our Guest Writer:

ANTHONY SMITH-MEYER has recently left mainstream banking to establish a career as a specialist within Governance and Compliance matters. He is Editor-in-Chief of a new Journal of Business Compliance together with Baltzer Science Publishers  launched in October 2012, and is an Adjunct Professor and lecturer of International Business and Management at the European Campus of the University of Miami, Ohio. Recently a member of the Group Executive Committee of Compliance and Control at BNP Paribas, Anthony has been extensively involved with Compliance matters since 2003, when he established the Compliance Department for Merchant Banking at Fortis Bank, and assumed responsibility for their Group Compliance function in October 2008.  Anthony’s career spans over three decades working for UK, N American, Scandinavian, Benelux and French institutions in a wide range of activities including relationship driven corporate and correspondent banking, as well as product area trading room activities, structured, asset and project finance. Anthony served as Chairman of the European Securitisation Forum during 2003/04.  Anthony holds the Institute of Directors Diploma in Corporate Direction and is a freelance lecturer, trainer, coach and advisor in matters relating to Corporate Governance and Compliance. For more information follow the link: smithmeyer.eu

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