Corporate Social Responsibility
The European Commission in its Communication (COM (2011) 681) on 25 October 2011 defined Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as “the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society”. In order to meet this responsibility, businesses are required to adopt procedures for integrating social, environmental and ethical aspects, as well as aspects related to human rights and consumer rights into both their strategy and core business, in cooperation with stakeholders. Key requirement to this end is compliance with existing legislation as well as respect of agreements between the social partners. This approach aims to: (a) create to the maximum extent common values for owners / shareholders, other stakeholders, society and the ecosystem in which an enterprise operates; and (b) identify, prevent and mitigate the possible adverse effects of business activities.
By helping address the economic, social and environmental impact of business activities, CSR contributes to economic growth, sustainable development and social cohesion in a wider manner. At the same time, CSR is important for boosting the competitiveness of the enterprises themselves since it can be beneficial in terms of risk management, cost savings, access to capital, improved customer relations, human resources management and capacity to innovate.
International Principles for CSR
The EU Strategy for CSR does not introduce new tools but instead places particular emphasis on guidelines / fundamental principles determined by well-established International Organizations.
These are guidelines and principles that a business can build upon for promoting CSR, based on national or international frameworks such as:
· The 10 principles of the United Nations Global Compact
· The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
· The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises,
· The ISO 26000 Guidance Standard on Social Responsibility,
· The ILO Tri-partite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy
· The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)
It is noted that the Cyprus Organisation for Standardisation (CYS) has issued the Cyprus standard CYS ISO 26000:2014 – Guidance on Social Responsibility. Via this guideline, information is provided for what CSR stands for and how it can become part of the strategy of an organization and of its business practice. Interested companies may contact CYS.
Main Stakeholders in Promoting CSR
Below are the main stakeholders, in line with the roles defined in EC Communication, as well as their expected contribution to the promotion of CSR:
Public Authority: The DG EPCD has been appointed as the National Coordinator for the promotion of CSR in Cyprus. As the competent public authority, it is expected to carry out a supportive role by promoting a smart combination of voluntary policy measures and, where necessary, complementary regulations. More specifically, its responsibilities are focused on the formulation, promotion, support and / or implementation of measures that will contribute to cultivate and enhance the CSR culture in Cyprus, to the increasing adoption of CSR principles and practices by Cypriot companies, as well as to compliance with relevant legislation, both on a compulsory and voluntary basis.
Enterprises have the flexibility to innovate and develop a CSR approach that is suited to their own peculiarities and characteristics. The decision to adopt CSR policies for responsible corporate behavior is left to the businesses themselves, on the basis of the "Report or Explain" principle.
Employers and trade unions as well as civil society organizations identify problems, exert pressure for improvement and can work constructively and find solutions through cooperation with the enterprises.
Consumers and investors are in a position to reward socially responsible enterprises, through their consuming behavior and investment decisions taken, respectively.
The media can raise awareness among businesses and consumers with regards to CSR positive effects.
Through its services to its members as well as to the whole business community of Cyprus, as well as through the expected cooperation with the competent authorities, the Cypriot CSR Business.
Network is expected to significantly contribute to strengthening CSR in Cyprus.
Cooperation among all stakeholders under this joint effort to promote CSR is also expected to serve to the achievement of the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals.
National Action Plan to promote CSR in Cyprus
As of 2012, the Cyprus government has reinforced efforts to promote business responsibility and sustainability, mainly through awareness actions falling under the National Action Plan for CSR, but also through the development of various tools and initiatives that help companies adopt CSR practices.
The National Action Plan for CSR, was prepared by the DG EPCD in cooperation with all the competent Ministries / Services of the State, the social partners and organized groups, in response to the European Communication of 2011. The Action Plan, approved by the Council of Ministers on 11/02/2013, was planned to be revised on the basis of a new EU CSR strategy, which has not yet been developed although expected by 2016. Nonetheless, the government is proceeding with targeted actions to promote and strengthen CSR in Cyprus, which are integrated within the Policy Statement for Enhancing the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Cyprus for the period 2016-2020, thus highlighting the business value of CSR.
In addition, pertinent government services have developed various sectoral supporting tools, which help companies, amongst others, to improve their environmental performance (e.g. EMAS, EU Ecolabel), their energy efficiency (e.g. grant schemes for the use of RES), the implementation of human rights due diligence in line with the UN Guiding Principles (e.g. certifications of good business practices against gender discrimination, competitions for good practices as regards safety and health at work, codes of good practice, regarding disability discrimination in employment and occupation, regarding the prevention of sexual harassment and harassment in employment and regarding the combat of racism). Moving towards a more integrated approach to enhance businesses’ social responsibility, the government aims to further promote awareness and implementation of ISO26000, which has been prepared as a Guide to CSR.
Requirement for disclosure of non-financial information by certain businesses / organisations
With the adoption of Directive 2014/95/ΕU, the EU promotes as a minimum legal requirement for certain large undertakings and groups to submit a non-financial reporting, disclosing social and environmental information. The key aim is to rationalize CSR into business activities so that there is a shift towards sustainable economic growth, by combining long-term profitability with social justice and environmental protection.
Large companies and groups of companies with more than 500 employees, which are defined as public interest entities under national Law (The Auditors Law of 2017) fall within the scope of the above Directive as this has been transposed into national legislation. Public interest entities definition includes companies whose transferable securities are listed in a regulated market (of any Member State), Credit Institutions, Insurance and Reinsurance Undertakings and other entities designated as such by a Council of Ministers’ decision.
The Directive has been transposed into the National Law of Cyprus and came into force since 2/6/2017, with the publication of the Companies Amended (No.3) Law of 2017, in the Cyprus Official Government Gazette. The key terms of the new Law are outlined here. The first non-financial report have been issued on the basis of data and non-financial information for the year 2017.
The CSR Conference “Reporting Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability” of June 12th 2017 falls within the context of promoting CSR and awareness on the provisions of the new law.
In the meantime, as anticipated, the European Commission has prepared and adopted on the 26th June 2017 a Guide with Non-Binding Guidelines on the methodology to be used for Reporting
Non-Financial Information, as per Directive 2014/95/EU. In order to prepare these guidelines, a public consultation was organized by the EC Services in spring 2016. The summary results of this consultation are available here.
Information Document and self-assessment Questionnaire for enterprises/ organisations
Within the framework of its responsibilities to promote and strengthen the implementation of the principles of Corporate Social Responsibility by cypriot enterprises, DG EPCD has, in collaboration with consultants from Greece, developed an information document and a self-assessment questionnaire. The information document aims at helping the business leadership, through voluntary self-assessment, to identify its degree of maturity in CSR issues.
The information document with the self-assessment questionnaire is available here and the "spider" chart for the schematic representation of the results of your replies is available here.
European Business Network for CSR
CSR under the European Commission (DG GROW)