EMCC European Monitoring Centre on Change

Corporate social responsibility in France, Germany, Hungary and the United Kingdom

These 12 case studies look at how European companies are developing models of best practice in the field of working and employment conditions and corporate social responsibility (CSR). The companies selected are from four countries - France, Germany, Hungary and the United Kingdom - and cover sectors as diverse as the automotive, chemical, financial services, post and telecommunications, petrochemical and steel sectors. Restructuring and subcontracting were two specific issues highlighted in all case studies.

Business ethics under growing scrutiny

In the face of the current globalisation of economies and financial markets, and in an industrial climate characterised by restructuring, relocation and subcontracting, the social and ethical role of enterprises has come under increasing scrutiny. The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) covers all 'voluntary' practices carried out by an enterprise, which can have an impact on its physical, financial and social environment. The aim behind the European Commission's 2001 Green Paper on CSR, and the July 2002 Communication on the same subject, was to set out a definition of social responsibility in a European context and to promote models of good practice in European enterprises.

The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions launched a project in 2002 to analyse the implementation and practice of CSR in enterprises in France, Germany, Hungary and the United Kingdom. The overall aim of the project was to show to what extent European companies had developed models of best practice around the issue of working and employment conditions. The enterprises were selected on the basis of their national and sectoral diversity and the case studies took into account the impact of the enterprise's activities on the physical and 'natural' environment as well as the enterprise's commitment to serving local or global communities (in particular via voluntary contributions in support of cultural and humanitarian measures, etc.). These case studies give a very thorough picture of current attitudes and approaches to corporate social responsibility in European enterprises albeit within particular sectors and limited to four countries.

Access information

All twelve case studies can be downloaded individually as pdf files by clicking on the company names below. However, the full report 'Corporate social responsibility and working conditions' is available in English and French on the Foundation's website.

CSR in France

In France the four case studies cover enterprises in the electric cables ( Acome ), iron and steel manufacturing ( Arcelor ), financial services ( Chèque-Déjeuner ) and automotive ( Continental-Teves ) sectors. The case studies reveal that the overall picture in France is one of moderate development of CSR due to the presence of a system of state regulations and agreements governing labour relations. There is, however, evidence of initiatives going beyond legal requirements in some areas. Issues of social responsibility at the four enterprises examined relate mainly to the restructuring and subcontracting activities that resulted in company redundancies following a period of economic crisis.

CSR in Germany

In Germany the four case studies cover enterprises in the chemicals ( BASF ), telecommunications ( Deutsche Telecom ), pharmaceuticals ( Roche ) and automotive ( Volkswagen ) sectors. The studies describe the good practices in operation in each company and also analyse the interplay of the actors involved in planning, implementing and evaluating the practices concerned. All four case studies reveal that CSR in Germany goes hand in hand with the national economic and social framework and is considered a fundamental part of their highly regulated and institutionalised industrial relations system.

CSR in Hungary

In Hungary the two case studies cover enterprises in the telecommunications ( Matáv ) and petrochemicals ( Mol ) sectors. Both studies reveal that CSR in Hungary is not very developed due to the recent social and political transformation and privatisation but there is evidence of a willingness and commitment to the idea. Three main fields of action in CSR practice are identified in the case studies concerning Matáv and Mol:

  1. company welfare policies (such as availability of a range of social benefits, training and career development, pension and health funds);
  2. the commitment of management to company-level social dialogue on working conditions and restructuring (setting up of works councils, agreed rationalisation measures, and outsourcing strategies);
  3. the financial engagement of companies in social, cultural, environmental or other local development activities.

CSR in the United Kingdom

In the United Kindgom (UK) the two case studies cover enterprises in the iron and steel ( Corus ) and marketing ( Tesco ) sectors. The case studies reveal that the overall picture in the UK is one of restricted development of CSR to date, but there are signs of recent activity in this area.

Good practice examples at Tesco, a major food retailer, came about as a result of a partnership agreement with the trade union in 1998, which in turn led to the creation of health and safety measures, employment initiatives for unemployed local people and, most significantly, a workplace forum for the discussion of store issues of concern to staff.

Issues of social responsibility at the steel manufacturing company Corus are mainly concerned with the environment (relating to the decommissioning of Corus sites affected by restructuring), educational projects, such as producing curriculum support materials in schools, and the health and safety of its workforce.

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