MEPs back debate on CSR rules

The European Parliament approved a draft resolution on corporate social responsibility (CSR) in a plenary session on 13 March, calling for the European Commission to give directors legal responsibility for minimising companies’ harmful impacts.1

The European Parliament’s rapporteur on CSR, UK Labour MEP Richard Howitt, tabled the resolution after a stand-off between environment groups, which favour a mandatory approach to CSR, and the European Commission multi-stakeholder forum (MSF) on CSR, which supports voluntary initiatives (ENDS Report 384, p 10 ).

While the resolution recognises the voluntary approach, it calls on the Commission to widen the debate to research and dialogue on binding commitments.

By voting overwhelmingly to support the resolution, MEPs are also calling for European firms to be liable for damage they cause outside the EU and for requirements for lobbyists to disclose their clients and budgets.

Mr Howitt said he hoped the vote would end the boycott by NGOs of the forum.

However, Paul de Clerck, steering group member of the NGO European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ), said this would not happen until the Commission itself clearly indicates it is prepared to look beyond voluntary proposals for corporate accountability.

"NGOs will not take part in the MSF," said Mr de Clerck. "We still don’t think that it is the right forum to achieve progress on CSR and corporate accountability."

While the ECCJ welcomed the resolution’s "pragmatic approach to CSR", it said MEPs’ amendments had made the resolution’s call for more prescriptive environmental and social reporting requirements "significantly weaker".

It also criticised the report for not pushing hard enough for better implementation of existing controls on public procurement.

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