Good for Business, Good for the Community – The Irish Vision for CSR and the Economy

The Irish National Plan on Corporate Social Responsibility 2014-2016  is an extremely important step for the Irish business community both locally and globally according to the Irish Government. With this plan, they wish to ensure that Ireland “be recognized as a modern, fair, socially inclusive and equal society supported by a productive and prosperous economy” and they feel that “this objective can be supported by embedding CSR more widely in organisations.”

Ireland wishes to be “a Centre of Excellence for responsible and sustainable business practices through the adoption and implementation of best practices in CSR in enterprises and organisations.“

Corporate Social Responsibility

A Green paper from the European Commission states that “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a concept whereby enterprises integrate social and environmental concerns into their mainstream business operations on a voluntary basis”.  The Irish government provides a regulatory framework governing issues such as employment rights, environmental protection, equality and fair trading.

However, it is interesting to note that the Irish Action Plan on Corporate Social Responsibility for 2014-2016  says that “CSR goes beyond compliance with legislative requirements and creates shared value through collaboration with all stakeholders. It ensures that the interests of enterprises and interests of wider society are mutually supportive.“

Going the extra mile…very important in a globalized economy!

Business and Human Rights

According to the European Commission the fact that the world is comprised of multinational investment and global supply chains means that corporate social responsibility must also extend beyond the borders of Europe.  The Irish government states that an important dimension of corporate social responsibility is that of human rights, particularly in relation to global production activities and company supply chains.  Despite the existence of international instruments such as the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy  and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, human rights remain a very complex issue presenting political, legal and moral dilemmas for many governments and for business.

With regards to this important topic the work of John Ruggie, UN Special Rapporteur for Business and Human Rights, needs to be mentioned.  Professor Ruggie’s work resulted in a framework: the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights that is important for corporations and governments. In June 2011, the UN Human Rights Council endorsed the framework which covers 3 pillars: 1) the State’s duty to protect human rights, 2) the Responsibility of business to respect human rights and 3) Access to remedies for those who feel their human rights have been breached.

The 2011 European Commission Communication on CSR invited EU Member States to develop national plans for the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles and this is underway in many countries. Presently, consideration is being given by the Irish government on the best formulation of a separate Government response to the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles as aspects of the Principles are broader than the issues covered by this National Plan on CSR.

An update will be given soon!

Mary Mayenfisch-Tobin, BCL, LL.M, Solicitor

marymayenfish

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