Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Website review: Eurocommerce’s CSR bridge

EuroCommerce, a trade association for European businesses, has launched a platform for European companies to gather virtually, learn best CSR practices, and advance the state of CSR. The effort is designed to further connect companies to their stakeholders, critics and thought leaders to advance CSR in Europe. And, most importantly, the website is to showcase successful CSR activity in an effort to preempt regulation that makes CSR activity mandatory.

This website does serve more than an innocuous, CSR promoting purpose; it was made to show European regulators how good businesses are at regulating themselves, and to inform them of the scope of initiatives voluntarily in place. Indeed, a EuroCommission press release calls on EU legislators to “safeguard voluntary nature of CSR initiatives”. So, the website is political –to keep legislators from forcing businesses into compliance- but that’s fine. A recent study showed that risk officers most fear the risk posed by the regulatory environment; CSR plays an important role in staving off regulation, to the extent that it can.

The EuroCommission’s website notes that it wants to show “tangible results” of the success of CSR initiatives in Europe. This website seems to be the first effort to do so. Unfortunately, it also cites the EuroCommissions’ most recent achievements as being in 2006, suggesting that European CSR is not as lively as the EuroCommission would like its website’s visitors to believe.

Nonetheless, the website is potentially an excellent repository for CSR data and information. It’s not there yet- but the framework indicates that it could be. The site offers brief case studies in CSR strategy, white papers and research, and pages that appear to be created by companies. These sections need to be bulked up and enhanced to include multinational players. Although the site purports to facilitate communication between firms and their stakeholders, there is not chat or forum functionality yet. So- how are they to communicate?

EuroCommission’s intention with the website is clear, and the strategy is generally admirable, but the execution is incomplete. The website would benefit from more information about CSR, as well as more deeper case briefs- real proof that CSR is working in Europe. A means of creating profiles would also help the EuroCommision site to actually become a hub for CSR information and collaboration, as would adding chat functions. In short- it will take functionality enhancement to get turn the EuroCommission CSR website into the CSR thought-emporium it aspires to be.

Author: Amelia Timbers

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