In October 2010, the German government adopted the national strategy on corporate social responsibility. In this context the government presented the so-called CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) action plan. The action plan is based on the recommendations of the national CSR Forum. This is an expert body to which the German Council for Sustainable Development, among others, also contributed its expertise.
At the presentation of the action plan, Federal Minister of Labor Ursula von der Leyen said that CSR should “become a genuine location factor for Germany”. The slogan “CSR – Made in Germany” should make the sense of responsibility more visible . The starting point for the program is an already broadly differentiated landscape of CSR initiatives, networks and competitions in Germany. They are primarily supported by business and civil society.
Systematizing existing standards
At the beginning of the decade, the German business community still approached CSR with caution. This is due to its origins the Anglo-American economic area. There, existing statutory social and environmental standards were already aligned with commitments that went beyond these standards to form a fixed component of many corporate strategies. Many companies therefore found it easy to combine their social commitment with their sustainability program.
This action plan thus builds on the high level of existing initiatives and networks of the German government, business and civil society. It also serves to implement the national sustainability strategy.
Improved implementation of CSR in companies and public administration
The action plan initially aims to encourage even more companies to recognize their social responsibility. Also businesses could shape their business strategy in a sustainable way. After large-scale companies in particular had initially led the way with CSR, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are now also to be mobilized and supported with advice and events.
Furthermore, the experiences of large-scale companies (“CSR lighthouses”) are to be incorporated into the expansion of CSR in Germany. This offers companies new opportunities to make their best practices visible. In addition to existing honors, such as the special “Social Entrepreneur of Sustainability” award or the “Ranking Sustainability Reports”, public recognition of CSR activities is to be promoted by awarding a CSR prize from the German government.
Increasing the credibility and visibility of CSR
In order for key stakeholders – consumers, applicants, investors – to appreciate corporate social responsibility, CSR activities must be communicated more effectively. Consumers are increasingly interested in learning about the sustainability and social responsibility of product suppliers. An information portal planned by the German government is intended to provide the interested public with reliable, transparent and comparable information about companies’ CSR activities. Companies should keep a close eye on this development so that they can get involved if necessary. In addition, the German government will provide consumers with more information in the form of publications for consumers, sustainable management, environmental management systems, DIN ISO 14000 (environmental balance sheets), DIN ISO 26000 (governance) and ILO principles (core labor standards). As part of a communication concept, “CSR – Made in Germany” is to be more strongly associated internationally with product quality and the sense of responsibility of German industry.
Integration of CSR in education, qualification, science and research
The German government wants to improve economic competencies and knowledge about CSR in all fields of education and create incentives to anchor CSR more firmly in research and teaching. This should offer new opportunities to incorporate not only one’s own CSR experience, but also more far-reaching business practice, into the educational programs offered by universities. Networking between schools and business should be actively promoted via associations and chambers of commerce.
Strengthening CSR in international and development policy contexts.
The existing regulatory framework for sustainable corporate governance is to be consolidated internationally and further CSR instruments expanded. At the same time, CSR is to be given greater weight in development cooperation. With this, global challenges such as climate change, energy and raw material shortages, poverty and migration can be addressed more efficiently. As part of these efforts, the German government intends to step up its education and information activities. In particular around the internationally recognized CSR instruments (OECD, Global Compact, Global Reporting Initiative, ILO, etc.). Planned activities include an international event and guides on the application of these instruments in companies.
Contribution of CSR to addressing societal challenges
The German government wants to encourage companies to take advantage of the opportunities and benefits of economic and ecological trends. Also social challenges should be faced with commitment. For example, sustainable human resources management is to be promoted. On top of that diversity concepts are to be used to enable the design of demography- and future-proof work structures. Companies are also to be supported in coping with global challenges of the future through improved innovative capability. A series of measures are designed to support companies in their life course and demography-oriented practices. This offers companies new opportunities to place their CSR policy in the context of human capital programs.
Further development of an environment conducive to CSR
The German government intends to continue providing incentives for the economy to assume social responsibility. Public tenders and procurement are to be geared to ecological and social criteria wherever possible. This would place the large volume of government procurement more at the service of sustainability and technological innovation. To this end, the specific know-how in public agencies is initially to be expanded via Internet offerings, guides and coaching. Individual federal ministries will produce CSR reports in order to live up to their exemplary role.
Conclusion: The CSR action plan offers companies a wide range of opportunities to place their CSR activities in the context of government action: both in terms content and communication. The consumer-oriented measures in particular will present companies with the challenge of combining classic marketing and product communication with the trust potential of CSR commitment. For the numerous export-oriented companies, the program around the trademark “CSR – Made in Germany” opens up interesting new potential for their product and corporate communications.
Dive deeper into the topic of CSR on our topic page on the blog.