We need all members of our societies in tackling the key challenges of the 21st century. Neither politicians, nor the business or civil society communities are able to find solutions to global challenges alone – be they climate change, poverty reduction or the protection of human rights. Along with political action and efforts by civil society, it is above all responsible companies, that contribute to resolving the problems of our societies both in their own countries and abroad through their presence and clout. A case in point are situations in which they comply with internationally recognised social and environmental standards, even if the producer country lacks corresponding legislation or does not enforce it.
The Federal Government has been promoting corporate social responsibility for many years. During the economic and financial crisis the calls for more corporate responsibility became louder and louder; something which had already been witnessed at the G8 summit in Heiligendamm in 2007 under Germany's Presidency. Back then, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs became the lead ministry within the Federal Government in charge of CSR. Our ministry established the National CSR Forum of the Federal Government as a multi-stakeholder body, which provided the Federal Government with critical support in drawing up a National CSR strategy and continuously makes recommendations for developing it further.
Since then, the understanding of CSR has undergone significant changes - both nationally and internationally. One important contributing factor were tragic disasters at production sites of Western companies in emerging and developing economies. There is no doubt that societies expect more of companies than they did in the past. With the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights by the UN Human Rights Council and with the revision of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises in 2011, more attention has been given to corporate due diligence when it comes to compliance with labour, social and environmental standards. The EU's revised definition of CSR, which emphasises "the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society" (EU communication 2011) builds on theses changes in the understanding of CSR and has greatly influenced the national debate in Germany.
The goal of the Federal Government's CSR policy is to provide companies with more guidance and certainty by offering support and by clearly communicating expectations so that they can put their businesses on a sustainable path and can meet the new due diligence requirements.
This is also an important component of the "Promoting Decent Work Worldwide" initiative of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.