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Just showing posts from October 2012

CSR – Exploring Corporate ‘Social’ Conscience  

Posted by Phil Rumney | 1 comment
22Oct2012

In the beginning, there were three letters: CSR. What do they stand for? What do they mean? What is their relevance? As terminology goes, CSR has become the mot de jour and essential to business strategies, but also a fashionable edict to which some pay lip service in principle only. CSR or corporate social responsibility means many different things to different stakeholders. In some cases it is something so theoretical it is ‘a complete waste of time and money’. For the great majority, however, the idea to explore and ‘unpack’ what CSR means today to society and businesses clearly has struck a nerve, especially since there is no ‘one’ commonly accepted CSR policy or guideline. Moreover, although CSR is a central topic and increasingly on the agenda of policymakers, its focus remains on centres like London.

Launched in November 2011, the Business and Society Partnership set out to explore this with the help of those for whom these letters should have most resonance: businesses, NGOs, local and district councils, think-tanks, MPs and MEPs. The initiative, having received generous support and funding from the Faculty of Business and Law, the Centre for Legal Research, and HEIF5, aimed to bring the debate to the South West in the hope of creating a platform for communication, exchange of experiences and ideas, leadership and change.

Strong of 160 members in the South West of England and led by Dr Sabine Hassler and Dr Noëlle Quénivet, both Senior Lecturers in the Department of Law at UWE, the Business and Society Partnership organised a range of activities in 2011-2012. The agenda-setting meeting held on 21 November 2011, which was opened by Professor Ron Ritchie (Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Diversity and Civic Engagement), revealed that the 50 stakeholders present understood CSR to mean leadership, values, governance and impact. In this light, a round table was organised on 8 June 2012 to discuss the concepts of leadership and values and their application in relation to corporate social responsibility. The meeting was introduced by Duncan Hames (MP Chippenham, Liberal Democrat, PPS to Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister and Lord President of the Council) who presented his views on leadership and values, followed by a debate between 12 delegates, representing a variety of stakeholders (SMEs, large companies, advisors to the industry, think-tanks, etc.). This debate was collated in a report published in September 2012 by the Centre for Legal Research in its Working Paper Series.

Two further events, focusing on aspects relating to CSR, were held in February and September 2012. A Symposium on the Bribery Act 2010 and corporate hospitality that gathered a range of in-house lawyers, solicitors and academics examined the impact of the Act on companies that offer dinners, trips, gifts, to their customers and suppliers.The general feeling was that the introduction of the Bribery Act 2010 would have little effect on corporate policies as most companies had already compliant codes of conduct. A Networking Event held in partnership with Burges Salmon gave participants the opportunity to learn more about sustainability and energy in the South West as Cllr Paul Crossley (Leader of the Bath and North Somerset Council, Liberal Democrat) explained the Council’s green and energy policies and highlighted issues relating to fracking and its potential impact on the World Heritage city of Bath.

The Business and Society Partnership is now looking into running webinars on CSR for businesses in the South West.

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