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Antonio Tajani, IT

former Vice-president of the European Commission

In October 2011 the European Commission issued a new strategy for corporate social responsibility (CSR). What are your expectations of it?The new definition of CSR, as stated in the communication, is “the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society”. I know that many companies are already assuming responsibility that goes beyond their actual business, but I would like even more enterprises in the EU to integrate social and ecological issues in their management and core strategy. The implementation should take place in a transparent process and in cooperation with the companies’ internal and external stakeholders.Ideally the company owners as well as the creditors, employees and the whole of society should pull in the same direction. The approach of creating shared value should ultimately benefit the companies themselves. Any negative effects on the companies and their stakeholders should be exposed, prevented and cushioned. This ‘extended horizon’, as it were, should make it possible for companies and entrepreneurs to, if necessary, improve their business models and make them fit for the future. In short: as stated in the communication, it’s all about competitiveness and sustainability.How far along the line do you think Europe already is on its path towards a sustainable future?As I said before, CSR and sustainability are closely connected. There has been considerable progress since the EU Commission’s last communication about CSR in 2006: The number of EU businesses that agreed to fulfil the ten CSR principles of the UN Global Compact rose from 600 in 2006 to more than 1,900 in 2011. The number of organisations registered with the EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) increased from 3,300 in 2006 to 4,600 in 2011. The number of members of the Business Social Compliance Initiative – a Europe-based, business-driven initiative for the improvement of work conditions in the supply chains of companies – has increased tenfold. The number of European companies that publish sustainability reports in accordance with the guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative has tripled. All of this gives me hope. It shows that we are heading in the right direction and that the companies support us.What role can and should Europe play in further progressing a sustainable global economy?Despite the aforementioned advancements, there is still a lot to be done, as CSR is an ongoing process. The EU can continue to play a leading role in the future. This applies, for instance, to the topic of corporate transparency with regard to social and ecological issues and their management. The EU Commission will present a legislative proposal dealing with this issue in the course of this year. Also, it is necessary to pay more attention to human rights, which have become an increasingly significant aspect of CSR. Further, we are working on expanding our cooperation with partner countries outside of the EU and with highly influential international forums such as the OECD and the UN.What is your view on the initiative of the Sustainable Entrepreneurship Award (SEA)?In my opinion the Sustainable Entrepreneurship Award offers a good opportunity to create greater awareness for the topic of sustainable entrepreneurship. It corresponds with an initiative that was recently launched by the Directorate General Enterprise and Industry. This initiative aims to establish a European CSR prize that creates EU-wide awareness for excellent examples of CSR at national level and inspires others to follow suit. The first-ever presentation of this prize is planned for 2013.