Societies are today facing severe challenges to adopt a more sustainable development approach. Contributions are needed from across all sectors of society including business.

In Europe, a growing number of companies are committed to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Businesses are voluntarily going beyond legal obligations in the social and environmental spheres and are using a rapidly growing number of instruments and measures, many introduced at civil society’s instigation. For example, businesses are participating in the UN Global Compact by complying voluntarily with ten principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption. Other examples include the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the Global Reporting Initiative, socially responsible investment funds, and stakeholder dialogues.

While some CSR instruments relate to the behaviour of the enterprises and their suppliers abroad – particularly in the Global South – others are concerned with activities in all markets, whether domestic or international. Being voluntary, such initiatives build on the self-interest of companies and a business case. CSR instruments only rarely require verification of compliance and by definition are unenforceable by law.

In order to promote effective CSR, a number of European governments are pursuing public policies such as company reporting obligations or disclosure requirements for investment funds. The European Union, too, is presently considering a common CSR strategy: “CSR public policies may help shape globalisation in a positive way by promoting good company practices that complement public efforts for sustainable development”, states the European Commission in their Communication concerning Corporate Social Responsibility in Europe: “There is a role for Community action to facilitate convergence in the instruments used in the light of the need to ensure a proper functioning of the internal market and the preservation of a level playing field”.

Recognising the need to better understand the role of CSR instruments, their effect on the practices of companies and the benefits for society, the EU funds the RARE project. The RARE project addresses two key questions:

  • How effective are CSR instruments in making companies and societies more sustainable?
  • To what extent do CSR instruments really contribute to sustainable development?

Please find more information about the project’s objectives, its design, expected results and funding by clicking on the links in the left-hand navigation.