What is the role of Corporate Social Responsibility in European policy? Öko-Institut organized conference for 35 young academics / Ideas developed together

Over the years the European Union has committed itself to a number of core strategies aimed at actively shaping the future of Europe.

Over the years the European Union has committed itself to a number of core strategies aimed at actively shaping the future of Europe. These core strategies include the Lisbon strategy for growth and employment, the Gothenburg strategy for sustainable development and the process of EU enlargement. These strategies can only succeed if a large number of stakeholders are involved in their implementation. These stakeholders include business organizations. Private companies that exercise their responsibility in relation to wider social issues (Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR) can make an important contribution towards implementing the goals of these EU strategies.

“A lot of questions remain unanswered in relation to CSR, though”, says Katharina Schmitt from the Öko-Institut. For example, it is not clear whether CSR contributes at all to the implementation of EU strategies and, if it does, in what way exactly. There is also a lack of clarity regarding the circumstances in which such contributions are made. In cases where EU objectives run contrary to one another, does CSR help to harmonize them? If so, what supportive role can policymakers play? In order to address these questions, the Öko-Institut recently convened a conference in Berlin entitled “The Potential of Corporate Social Responsibility to Support the Integration of Core EU Strategies”.

The Öko-Institut along with the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM) and the International Center for Corporate Social Responsibility (ICCSR) at Nottingham University welcomed 35 young academics to the conference from all over Europe, North and South America and Asia. Together they developed ideas about the role CSR might play in shaping EU policy.

The participants’ contributions focused on various examples of success or failure of CSR. Some participants emphasized the need to take a critical look at the role and responsibility of companies in society before considering their contribution to EU strategies. Other presentations described the motivations that encourage companies to engage in activities on behalf of society or the environment. The role of consumers was examined especially closely, this being seen as an essential factor in enabling companies to make a successful contribution to both sustainability and economic stability.

In the closing talk, Professor Nigel Roome called upon the participants to address squarely the complex issues raised by CSR and to see these as a challenging task for research, practice and politics. Engagement with the issues must be advanced by a variety of players and disciplines.

The conference gave participants an opportunity to discuss their own research topics and empirical results with a select group of senior academics in the area of CSR. For many of the researchers the conference was a good opportunity to exchange views and to make valuable contacts. Coming from their various interdisciplinary backgrounds, they hope to contribute to debate on the key issues of CSR research in the future as well.

This conference formed the final event in a series of conferences on CSR held between 2005 und 2009 and supported by the Marie Curie Programme of the European Commission. The four-year conference series ran under the project title “CORE – The potential of Corporate Social Responsibility to Contribute to the Implementation and Integration of EU Strategies”. The individual contributions of the conference participants and further information are available to the public on the CORE website.
Further information on the CORE Project can be found on the project’s homepage at www.core-conferences.net
The conference programme can be found here >>


Katharina Schmitt
Öko-Institut, Berlin office
Environmental Law & Governance Division
E-mail contact 

Norma Schönherr
Öko-Institut, Berlin office
Environmental Law & Governance Division
E-mail contact