CSR - Letters from Europe

In case you hadn't noticed, the majority of online content and conversation in the Corporate Social Responsibility space originates in the good old US of A. Maybe that is no surprise as population size alone provides robust reasoning in addition to a more communicative culture, than many more of my reserved UK based compatriots. In an effort to redress the balance, this is the first of a series of weekly blogs offering a focus on CSR related activity from the European side of the Atlantic, where we stumble into two immediate hurdles. We need to clarify what we mean by CSR, and to also define what Europe actually is - briefly. Europe first - in a few words... If you thought CSR was a tough nut to define ‘Europe’ is another playground of hyperactive cats to attempt to herd. Common usage of the term can vary between cultural, geographical and political perspectives so here are a few useful points to help understand this vague and multi-cultural beast: Europe is: •  a continent divided from Asia consisting of 50 countries. •  the second smallest continent in size but also the third most populous at approx 738 million •  home to the European Union (27 member countries - population approx 500 million) - a political and economic union born out of the European Economic Community of 1958. •  incredibly varied in component size from the largest country Russia (1.5 million square miles in Europe alone / 110,000,000 people), compared to the tiny Vatican City (0.17 square miles / 800 people). •  socio-economically diverse with GDP per capita varying from a high in Luxembourg of 271 PPS to a low in Albania of just 28 PPS. (EU average = 100 Purchasing Power Standards - PPS)* •  23 languages are officially recognised (with over 200 present). •  both sides of the previous political Iron Curtain since the fall of the Berlin wall. •  unfortunately responsible for the Eurovision Song Contest. ...and currently there is Greece as a focal point for continued economic migraines. No shortage of CSR angles to investigate, compare, discuss and share! CSR over here... Since November 2011 I've been coming to terms with the latest stab at nailing an at least Europe wide agreed description of CSR. The renewed EU strategy (2011 - 2014) for Corporate Social Responsibility offers the following welcome concise definition: "The responsibility of enterprises for their impact on society" There is also a useful additional subsequent paragraph in the document shining a little more light on the context... "to maximise the creation of shared value, enterprises are encouraged to adopt a long term, strategic approach to CSR, and to explore the opportunities for developing innovative products, services and business models that contribute to societal wellbeing and lead to higher quality and more productive jobs." I recommend reading the surprisingly short fifteen page document, especially taking note of the thirteen 'Agenda for Action' items. Click here for a direct link to the full EU CSR strategy (2011 - 2014) website and document. Over the coming weeks and months I'll be exploring CSR themes across Europe, searching for best or worst practice, innovation, the biggest challenges, highlighting the latest news and speaking to key players. I hope you stick around to share the journey. Photo credit: Rockcohen via Flickr *GDP data courtesy of Eurostat