In regular waves, for more than 60 years, the corporate social responsibility term emerges and withdraws from public debates all around the world. Currently, it resonates at the European level, touching on the sensitive issue of free movement. We acknowledge efforts to attach the corporate social responsibility to the process of interpretation of the basic legal principles, like the one of freedom of establishment, which is going to be discussed in the European Parliament.
The term corporate social responsibility refers to various definitions and practices, as they have evolved over decades. It has been used in various geopolitical contexts, stretching over all the continents. When exploring the term in one context or another, we find out there is a variety of concepts that the term represents, according also to diverging definitions. Rather, it is the variety of concepts that are connected to the term and its definitions. Apparently, it is not only an issue of translation, but also one of social science research, legal interpretation and other domains.
A corporate social responsibility respectively embraces both business and social aspects, enterprise policy and social policy. Three dimensions of corporate social responsibility are often cited: social issues, environmental level and economic sustainability, sometimes shortened to ‘people-planet-profit’. Another aspect which is not obvious, and that has been questioned lately, is a voluntariness. For long decades, it has been up to the business entity to decide what content their CSR policy will take and how it will show up in the real world. However, the aspect of voluntariness has also been criticized as a feature that undermines the efforts for sustainable growth and ecological respect in a broad sense (encompassing the social well-being). From this point of view, the concept of corporate social responsibility would have the right appeal to all companies, notably those that would need it the most.
Corporate social responsibility has been assigned an important role and strongly promoted by the European Commission, while the concept has evolved over time, too. To compare, the previous definition that the European Commission officially used since 2001, still lied upon voluntariness: ‘a concept whereby companies decide voluntarily to contribute to a better society and a cleaner environment.’ In IATE, you can find the current, considerably broader definition, set by the Commission in 2011: corporate social responsibility (alternatively corporate responsibility, CSR or CR) as ‘the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society’. In this context, CSR should improve companies’ accountability to public institutions and citizens. The aspect of voluntariness has been replaced by a more imperative statement.
General guidelines and principles that helped to construct the concept of corporate social responsibility at the EU level are listed below, the links will lead you directly to the documents:
- United Nations Global Compact
- United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (1 MB)
- ISO 26000 Guidance Standard on Social Responsibility
- International Labour Organization Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises on Social Policy
- OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
According to these principles and guidelines, CSR covers, amongst other issues, human rights, labour and employment practices (such as training, diversity, gender equality and employee health and well-being), environmental issues (such as biodiversity, climate change, resource efficiency, life-cycle assessment and pollution prevention), and combating bribery and corruption. Community involvement and development, the integration of disabled persons, and consumer interests, including privacy, are also part of the CSR agenda. The promotion of social and environmental responsibility through the supply-chain, and the disclosure of non-financial information, are recognised as important cross-cutting issues by the Commission.
Also, we invite you to look into our IATE database for further terminology:
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- Moura-Leite, R.C. & Padgett, R.C. (2011) “Historical background of corporate social responsibility”, Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 7 (4), pp. 528-539 https://doi.org/10.1108/1747111111117511. Available here. [On-line. Accessed on 15/03/2018]
- Yıldız, A., Ozerim, G. (2014) “Corporate Social Responsibility in European Context”. in Turker, D., Toker, H., Altuntaş, C. (Ed.). Contemporary Issues in Corporate Social Responsibility.
Lexington Books, USA pp.43-55. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/294428397_Corporate_Social_Responsibility_in_European_Context. Available here. [On-line. Accessed on 15/03/2018]
Dahlsrud, A. (2008), How corporate social responsibility is defined: an analysis of 37 definitions. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environment Management. Vol. 15 (1), pp. 1–13. doi:10.1002/csr.132 Available here. [On-line. Accessed on 15/03/2018]
- Frankental, P. (2001) “Corporate social responsibility – a PR invention?”, Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 6 Issue: 1, pp.18-23, https://doi.org/10.1108/13563280110381170 Available here. [On-line. Accessed on 15/03/2018]
Commission of the European Communities. (2001) GREEN PAPER. Promoting a European framework for Corporate Social Responsibility. Available here (.pdf) [On-line. Accessed on 15/03/2018]
- European Commission. (2011) Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. A renewed EU strategy 2011-14 for Corporate Social Responsibility. Available here. [On-line. Accessed on 15/03/2018]
Written by Veronika Lovritš – Communications Study Visitor at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg) and a student of the Master Program in Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts at the University of Luxembourg. She holds an MA in Law and Legal Science and a BA in Sociology from the Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. She speaks Czech, English, German, French and Luxembourgish.