GRI welcomes new EU policy featuring sustainability disclosure
01 November 2011
​Photography: European Parliament (CC License)

​The European Commission (EC) released a new European strategy on corporate social responsibility on 25 October 2011.
A renewed EU strategy 2011 – 2014 for Corporate Social Responsibility marks an important point in the history of EU corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy.
 
GRI welcomes the strategy, in particular the section on disclosure of social and environmental information. This section will help more companies and organizations in the EU operate sustainably and transparently.
 
The last EC Communication on CSR was published in 2006. Since then the CSR landscape has evolved considerably, particularly at the international level.
 
The European Commission’s new policy on corporate social responsibility will help companies take steps to better meet their social responsibility. In this way, enterprises can help themselves, society and the planet.
 
The European Commission’s new strategy on corporate social responsibility aims to create conditions favorable to sustainable growth and employment generation in the medium and long term.
 
For the first time in 10 years the European Commission has changed its definitions of CSR. The Commission has put forward a new, simpler definition of corporate social responsibility as “the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society”. The Commission then goes on to define, in generic terms, what an enterprise should do to meet that responsibility.

Ernst Ligteringen, Chief Executive of the Global Reporting Initiative, commented: “The new strategy marks a milestone for Europe. The strategy should help companies in Europe, making sustainability reporting standard practice and contributing to the development of a sustainable global economy where organizations manage their sustainability performance and impacts responsibly and report transparently.”
 
The European Commission sets out an Agenda for Action 2011 – 2014 covering eight areas. In the section on disclosure, the Agenda states:
 
“4.5. Improving company disclosure of social and environmental information
 
Disclosure of social and environmental information, including climate-related information, can facilitate engagement with stakeholders and the identification of material sustainability risks. It is also an important element of accountability and can contribute to building public trust in enterprises.

To meet the needs of enterprises and other stakeholders, information should be material, and cost-effective to collect.

Some Member States have introduced non-financial disclosure requirements that go beyond existing EU legislation. There is a possibility that different national requirements could create additional costs for enterprises operating in more than one Member State. (…)
 
There are a number of international frameworks for the disclosure of social and environmental information, including the Global Reporting Initiative. Integrated financial and non-financial reporting represents an important goal for the medium and long term, and the Commission follows with interest the work of the International Integrated Reporting Committee.
 
In order to ensure a level playing field, as announced in the Single Market Act the Commission will present a legislative proposal on the transparency of the social and environmental information provided by companies in all sectors. (…) All organisations, including civil society organisations and public authorities, are encouraged take steps to improve disclosure of their own social and environmental performance”
 
According to the Strategy the European Commission will work together with its 27 Member States, enterprises and other stakeholders to periodically monitor progress of the Action Plan 2011-2014 and to jointly prepare a review meeting to be held in 2014. In addition, the Commission calls on business leaders “(…) to issue, before mid 2012, an open and accountable commitment to promote, in close collaboration with public authorities and their other stakeholders, the uptake of responsible business conduct by a much larger number of EU enterprises, with clear targets for 2015 and 2020.”
 
The new Strategy on CSR can be accessed here.
Find out more about government initiatives that are advancing towards the goal of mainstreaming sustainability disclosure, at GRI’s Report or Explain Campaign Forum.