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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)—What challenges does it pose for Europe?

Publié le November 28, 2019, Mis à jour le February 17, 2020

For the second year in a row, the Chamber of the European Parliament in Strasbourg welcomed more than 400 students from the Master’s Program to a conference-debate on the topic of CSR—a topic at the core of many debates within the European Union. Organized to provide a platform for fruitful exchange, the conference was held under the auspices of Herbert Castéran and Marie-Hélène Broihanne, Dean and Associate Dean for the Master's and Executive Education Programs at EM Strasbourg respectively, and moderated by Enrico Prinz, Director of Internationalization at EM.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)—What challenges does it pose for Europe?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)—What challenges does it pose for Europe?

CSR and global warming

Following a word of welcome by Luis Martínez-Guillén, Director of the European Parliament Liaison Office in Strasbourg, and an overview of the fundamentals behind the functioning of the European Parliament by Sophie Le Rue, Administrator at the European Parliament, Marie-Hélène Broihanne put forth the definition of CSR: “the way for companies to take societal, environmental, and ethical concerns into account while including stakeholders.” This issue encompasses all spheres of activity and, at a time when global warming is at the heart of concerns, the question for companies is no longer whether they should take societal and environmental action but HOW they should do so.

This viewpoint was strongly shared by Pia Imbs, Head of the Corporate Chair “CSR and Sustainable development” and Sustainable Development Advisor at EM Strasbourg, who noted that social and environmental responsibility cannot be dissociated from climate issues. To illustrate her remarks, she notably cited American economist Jeremy Rifkin and his book The Green New Deal, in which he proposes an “economic plan to save life on Earth.” In this endeavor, Pia Imbs reiterated that social challenges and the fight against poverty can under no circumstances be forgotten. The issue at hand is implementing a real ecological transition, reflected by “green growth,” by rethinking the entire production process.


What role do companies and institutions play?

While companies are to be fully involved in this process, Dita Charanzova, Vice President of the European Parliament, explained just how much institutions are also concerned before presenting a few initiatives taken by Parliament. Anne Sander, Quaestor at the European Parliament, confirmed the position of institutions, recalling that corporate social responsibility must be encouraged by public authorities and the European Parliament. Through its various bodies, the European Union has therefore put in place a certain number of measures to urge companies from around the world to adopt more environmentally friendly behavior.


Christel Kohler, President of R-GDS, outlined the company’s new orientations with respect to green gas production. This focus on energy performance demonstrates GDS’s desire to structure its CSR approach. To accomplish this, the Strasbourg-based company has set itself four out of the seventeen goals recommended by the UN: produce affordable and clean energy, promote low-carbon mobility, support local associations present in the field, and reduce the carbon footprint of its activities. GDS’s objective: to shift from biogas production currently sitting at 20% to 100% green production by 2030.

Next, Virginie Joron, member of the European Parliament’s Identity and Democracy group, spoke about measures taken by the European institutions as well as potential avenues for developing companies’ strategies so that they stay afloat while becoming more aware of this CSR approach. 


Civic engagement

Anne Sander stressed that “the climate emergency requires the joint efforts of private and public actors,” and that each and every one of us has a role to play in this global initiative. This position was fully supported by Dominique Freund, Director of Emmaüs Strasbourg, who pointed to the philosophy of his association that has, for over seventy years, aimed to implement sustainable development by combating poverty. When it comes to the very functioning of Emmaüs, everything is thought out to minimize its carbon footprint as much as possible with a view “to change, with realism and kindness, its behavior and attitude toward others, its patterns of consumption, and itself.” Dominique Freund also reminded us of our individual responsibility in this initiative since we all, at our own level and with our own means, can participate in this “alternative and mutually supportive economic chain,” by using, for starters, the greatest democratic power we have: our vote!


Act fast!

After three votes on environmental and CSR questions relating to Europe, Enrico Prinz highlighted in his summary the urgency of the situation and reiterated the role everyone plays as a consumer or a citizen. He noted with regret the immobility that we sometimes observe when concrete decisions and meaningful commitments ought to be made—even though “on paper, everyone appears to be invested and motivated.” It is with eagerness, drive, and sheer conviction that he encourages everyone to act! 
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