Corporate Social Responsibility - Businesses with Conscience will re-build market economy

Vipul Bhatti

Last updated 6/19/2009 4:16:07 PM

The European Commission President José Manuel Barroso called for a "new culture of ethics and responsibility" whilst also stressing the importance of re-building trust in business.

Speaking at CSR Europe's General Assembly in Brussels this week he said that it was essential to restore people's faith in the market economy not just to restore the brand image of particular enterprises, "people still want markets - but they want markets with a conscience."

Barroso added: "The crisis resulted, in part at least, from a failure by some businesses to understand their broader ethical responsibilities. Now all businesses must rise to the challenge."

Looking ahead to the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, Barroso encouraged companies to take advantage of the long-term business opportunities created by the shift to the low carbon economy in Europe.

Also this week, businesses were reminded of the importance of embracing green innovation instead of running the risk of missing out on 'green growth' by adopting a wait-and-see attitude EU officials and business leaders have warned.

Speaking at the European Policy Centre debate in Brussels on 'Innovation and creativity as the drivers for sustainable development' this week, Karl Falkenberg, director-general for environment at the European Commission, said that Europe can no longer wait to accelerate the 'greening' of its economy.

Numerous business groups have commended the Commission's strategies on green innovation, Falkenberg reported, but while these companies are saying they will follow them, they are also saying: "please, not just yet". He also stressed that this misjudgement should not be made as the markets will not wait.

In the US alone almost $100bn has been earmarked for research and development in the Obama recovery package, Falkenberg also warned, "these 100 billion dollars are going to be here on the European market [in the form of innovative products] tomorrow morning, and if we don't do the same, we'll lose the leadership we have at the moment". 

Duncan Botting, ceo of the new Scottish European Green Energy Centre (SEGEC), believes focus should be placed on using the innovative research already in existence and waiting to be deployed. 

The solution, suggested by Astrid Severin, executive manager of Greenovate! Europe, is an improved uptake of innovation results, achieved by more green public procurement, a "complete innovation support framework," and the "systematic use of ambitious eco-standards" to eliminate the worst-performing products from the market. 

Read Also: Keep quiet about your CSR activities and accept that nobody will ever really know about them, or tell the world and be tarnished with the skeptical green-washing brush? - Jo Matthews' blog on Corporate Social Responsibility