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corporate social responsibility as an answer to global challenges?

  • Every hour, several species become extinct...
  • Every day, the fossil fuel reserves diminish...
  • Every month, the abyss between the rich North and poor South grows...
  • Every year, the Earth´s average temperature increases...


This is only a brief list of threats the world faces today. And a question arises: Who should solve these problems, who is responsible for the solution? The key stakeholders in solving similar serious topics are not the national states only. Their importance has been taken over by multinational corporations, whose real economic and political influence surpasses that of the countries today.


What are the solution proposals of these big stakeholders? Among the possible answers, the idea of "corporate social responsibility"; stands out distinctly. The concept can be summarised briefly as a voluntary initiative of businesses beyond the scope of their statutory obligations, aiming at better environmental and social conditions.[1]

This concept of voluntarily assumed responsibility was presented in a more serious way on international level in 1992, on the UN World Summit. The public believed the proclamations of multinational corporations of their will to act responsibly on a voluntary basis; this was evidenced by e.g. the dissolution of the UN Centre for Transnational Corporations in the early nineties. In spite of that, doubts persist. In the clash of opinions, a concern is voiced that social responsibility may be proclaimed only as a hidden and efficient tool of PR; on the other hand, social responsibility is supported as a chance to develop the "best practice". Can we believe that the private sector feels co-responsible for resolving society-wide problems?


EU and social responsibility

A major step in the area of corporate social responsibility was the Lisbon Strategy of March 2000, in which the European Council officially appealed to European businesses to assume social responsibility. Other significant milestones in this process were the Green Book [2] of 2001 and the Committee Communication of 2002[3], which set forth the basic EU strategy in the area of social responsibility. The Communication stressed the necessity of considering the environmental and social aspects within the decision-making processes and operation of businesses, pointing out the importance of transparency as well. It laid down foundations for the establishment of the EU Multi-stakeholder Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR Forum), which was meeting for two years and in which representatives of important social groups participated. The conclusions of the meetings, reported in 2004, were to serve as a basis for further EU strategy in the Corporate Social Responsibility area.

After two years of the Multi-stakeholder Forum on CSR meetings, the European Committee published its second Communication [4] on March 22, setting-up a new EU strategy in the social responsibility area and establishing the European Alliance for Corporate Social Responsibility, which should associate  "on a voluntary basis" the European businesses which will commit to social responsibility by themselves. The Communication is considerably controversial, because the Committee has not taken into account the conclusions of the CSR Forum and has not considered the recommendations of the civil sector. This year, the Committee´s Communication will be discussed by the European Parliament who will adopt its own approach to the issue.


new member countries, in particular the visegrad four countries

Every year, more than $25,000 million [5] of direct foreign investments flow to the Central-European region, investments of big businesses - multinational corporations (who mostly promote the concept of social responsibility). On the one hand, the foreign investments ensure the fastest economical growth of this region within the European Union; on the other hand, they substantially change the landscape, the structure of the society and behavioural patterns. It seems that social responsibility could play an important role in these changes.

But is it true in reality? Do the multinational corporations really keep their own voluntary commitments? Do they voluntarily assume co-responsibility for social problems of the countries and regions they enter? Does the voluntary corporate responsibility actually have a potential to be an efficient solution for these extensive social problems? These questions are not discussed in the new member countries at all because awareness of the social corporate responsibility issues is low.

With a few exceptions, conferences dealing with social responsibility focus rather on individual aspects of this concept and are mostly organised for the purposes of the private sector, or the so-called BINGO organizations (Business orIeNted orGanizatiOn), aiming mostly at corporate philanthropy.


conference: corporate social responsibility in EU-10: expectations vs. reality

a) conference background

The forthcoming conference rounds off a yearlong international project aiming at monitoring social responsibility and increasing awareness of this issue in the civil sector. The project has been supported by the European Council. Non-governmental organizations from the Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Slovenia, Austria and France participated in it. With regard to the scope of the project, the findings cannot be considered a complete statement of the state of affairs. However, they provide a hint, establishing a platform for further mapping of the social responsibility topic.

b) conference objectives

We want to open a discussion on the corporate social responsibility, and especially on the activities of the multinational corporations in CSR in Central Europe. The conference participants will be introduced to the findings of the international project. Representatives of individual interest groups will be provided with an opportunity to openly discuss:

  • how they understand social responsibility
  • what are the real practices of businesses promoting this concept
  • whether social responsibility can be an efficient tool for involving the private