CSR News Update - November 2009

Joint Statement by the Swedish and the Spanish Council

Presidency on Corporate Social Responsibility - November 2009


On the 13th November the Swedish Government, which is currently holding the presidency of the Council of the EU and  the Spanish Government, which will hold the presidency in the first half of 2010 and released a Joint Statement on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The statement was released after a high-level conference on CSR organized by the Swedish presidency in Stockholm.


The Statement affirms that "the European Union and its Member States should take a global lead and serve as a good example on Corporate Social Responsibility when building markets, combating corruption, safeguarding the environment and ensuring human dignity and human rights in the workplace. (...)The responsibility is threefold: the State duty to protect - including legislation as well as implementation of human rights obligations, in particular with regard to business; the corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and the responsibility of all parties involved to ensure access to adequate remedies to uphold and develop such human rights."


The Swedish and the Spanish declare the importance of the United Nations' Protect Respect and Remedy framework has for the work on CSR in the European Union. The framework was developed by the Special Representative of the UN for these issues, Prof. John Ruggie. The Framework rests on three pillars: the state duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business, through appropriate policies, regulation, and adjudication; the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, which in essence means to act with due diligence to avoid infringing on the rights of others; and greater access for victims to effective judicial and non-judicial remedy.


The statement also encourages the EU and its Member States to "Clarify the impact that company law can have on issues within the field of CSR, such as incorporation, directors' duties, reporting, stakeholder engagement, and corporate governance generally" to "ensure that businesses respect human rights wherever they are operating" and to "further greater access to effective remedies, both legal and non-legal".


The statement ends by affirming that"the incoming Spanish Presidency of the European Union, (...) will continue to promote and put into practice the Protect, Respect and Remedy framework".


The statement is an important step forward as it recognizes that CSR cannot only be on voluntary basis and that the EU and its Member States have to provide a legal basis, which holds companies accountable and permits access to compensation. However, it is too early to celebrate as the document remains very vague on the concrete measures to be taken. It will be therefore important that civil society maintains pressure on the EU and its Member States to make sure that the commitments are fulfilled.


Thomas Lazzeri

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