CSR Workshop & Panel Discussion

Most European Companies Adopted the Principles-Based Approach to CSR : Sune Skadegaard Thorsen, CEO, GLOBAL CSR

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INDIACSR News Network

Sune Skadegaard Thorsen is the Chief Executive Officer at GLOBAL CSR (www.global-csr.com ), Corporate Responsibility Ltd, Denmark. Sune Skadegaard, Attorney at Law, pioneered in the field of CSR and human rights, when he decided to change career path in 1996 supplementing his career as corporate lawyer and director.

Sune is internationally acknowledged for his contribution to CSR/Human Rights & Business because of his practical experience in working, both, as a consultant  and an in-house adviser.  For six years he was the expert adviser to the former Business Leaders Initiative on Human Rights and continues as expert adviser to the Global Business Initiative on Human Rights and as regional adviser for Europe to the Institute for Human Rights and Business. In addition he advises governments and multilateral organizations. Sune has written extensively on the subject. He also teaches and participates in numerous CSR initiatives internationally. He is currently chairing a number of organizations actively promoting social sustainability.  GLOBAL CSR specializes in creating sustainable solutions for private companies, public authorities and organizations. They focus particularly on the social dimension of CSR and anti-corruption. They also provide consultancy services in relation to the environmental and economic dimensions of CSR, in cooperation with our strategic partners.

In an exclusive interview with Harsha Mukherjee, Editor of INDIACSR,  Sune Skadegaard Thorsen shared his views on various aspect on CSR and developments.

Sune Skadegaard Thorsen says, “Most European companies have adopted the principles-based approach to CSR.” India has a huge potential for aligning the amazing and very rapid development of the corporate sector with the international principles for sustainable development that are already to high degree embedded in Indian culture and law. Of course India – like many other parts of the world – has to redefine CSR embracing sustainability and abandoning the connotation to donations and voluntariness only”  he added.

Below is the edited transcript of the interview.

What is the predominant CSR services & interventions that companies in EU seek?

Most European companies have adopted the principles-based approach to CSR; i.e. working to ensure that they contribute, while not becoming a barrier, to international principles for social, environmental and economic sustainability. The UN Global Compact reflect the core international principles of relevance to business. However, it is quite recent that the European definition of CSR changed to include the ‘compliance part’ of the above definition; following the endorsement of the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Business. Formerly CSR was perceived as the voluntary initiatives to improve sustainability only. Thus companies in Europe seek services and interventions that enable them to implement the UN Guiding Principles – not only in relation to the core principles for social sustainability; but all three bottom lines.

How do you link CSR and Corporate Governance?

The UNGPs represent the first ever general corporate governance expectation from the UN. If CSR is how companies ensure that they contribute, while not becoming a barrier, to international principles for social, environmental and economic sustainability; GOOD corporate governance is how the companies establish policies and systems to ensure that they are socially responsible. Today it is expected that the compliance level is established for every business enterprise in the world; i.e. a new corporate governance theory – the sustainability theory – has evolved.

Why CSR is essentials for Corporate and Sustainability?

CSR shall provide for the basic license to operate. Sustainability cannot be achieved without the active participation of business.

What is your view on India and its development?

India has a huge potential for aligning the amazing and very rapid development of the corporate sector with the international principles for sustainable development that are already to high degree embedded in Indian culture and law. Of course India – like many other parts of the world – has to redefine CSR embracing sustainability and abandoning the connotation to donations and voluntariness only.

Do you have clientele base in India?

I have family in India and have worked with Indian businesses; but I would definitely want to expand the clientele base in India. As mentioned both corporate India and the rest of the world have a huge potential to benefit from genuine CSR initiatives – also financially.

European Union ( EU)  is considered  advanced & proactive in CSR, so what sets it apart?

EU just embarked on that journey; there is a long way to go. But true EU has adopted a very mature position on CSR applying a smart mix of regulation and incentives. But also China, the USA, South Africa, Brazil and other countries are dedicated pursuing the establishment of business environments conducive for CSR.

 What are the social issues faced by EU nations which are addressed by corporate?

One of the primary challenges are the lack of understanding of the basic human rights; there is a widespread misunderstanding that human rights are not relevant for how European businesses conduct their business.

Discrimination remains a major challenge to most European businesses; but challenges occur in relation to the full range of human rights. At present, the use of forced and bonded labour by European businesses will undergo a closer review by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights.

Has recession receded CSR or progressed?

Both – in the short term it receded CSR efforts as CSR was primarily viewed as nice and not need to have. This is changing. In the longer term it has progressed CSR as the crisis made it evident that business and its interaction with states play a crucial role for economic sustainability.

 How much receptive are the MSMEs in EU to the CSR concept?

Awareness is still very limited; but most European countries direct elaborate programs towards MSMEs. Also the EU Commission is focused on enabling MSMEs to work diligently with CSR. GLOBAL CSR is, at present, developing a guide for SMEs on human rights.

 What is the action plan for CSR by the Government of Denmark?

Can be read on www.samfundsansvar.dk; in brief it is focused on applying the UNGPs,

What are Key point indicators for CSR practiced industry-wise in EU?

The GRI indicators are still wide spread; however, the application of the UNGPs to the definition of CSR in OECD and the EU will most likely require renewed changes to the GRI reporting framework. I.e. the KPIs will be aligned with the expectations form the UNGPs – policy statement, due diligence and remediation.

Most innovative sustainable & social initiatives in CSR you have come across?

Novo Nordisk’s contributions to the right to health; Ericsson’s contributions to the right to take part in technological development; and Coca Cola’s contributions to the right to clean water inspired by the challenges in Kerala.

There is a dearth of CSR professionals. What are the steps taken by present practitioners to bridge the gap and how is the response during economic downturn?

There is need for thorough capacity development with so-called CSR professionals; the ability to ensure implementation of the UNGPs by business should become a minimum competency requirement for CSR professionals.

 How do you see CSR progressing in the emerging world?

There is a huge opportunity for mutual learning between all parts of the world; all jurisdictions have challenges and the newly established global level playing field – with the UNGPs -  can form the basis for constructive collaboration over the coming years.

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Key words: European Companies, EU, CSR , Sune Skadegaard Thorsen, CEO of GLOBAL CSR, Corporate Responsibility Ltd, Global Business Initiative on Human Rights, CSR in Denmark, UN Global Compact, Interview of Sune Skadegaard Thorsen, social, environmental and economic sustainability; GOOD corporate governance, CSR in Europe, Harsha Mukherjee

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Posted by on May 22 2012. Filed under CSR Interviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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