checking the 'nuts' and bolts of CSR
The Dutch parliament today discussed international corporate social responsibility. However, it seems the policy officers of the ministry of economic affairs have only recently been added to the team at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and are still busy in getting their acts together capturing some of the lessons learnt in the international development enterprise. At the same time the Dutch parliamentarians seemed to be pre-occupied with a new funding mechanism that is under construction with the Ministry: a revolving fund of 750 million euro's for Small and Medium Enterprises in developing countries.
Though this new instruments is somehow meant to compensate the major slaughtering of development aid undertaken by the previous cabinet, most parliamentarians were not much in favour of yet another instrument. However, Minister Ploumen promised that this new instrument would capture all lessons learnt and tentatively she indicated it would combine entrepreneurship with risk management, which as an attentive listener you could interpret as tapping productive resources in fragile states.
Capacity development in fragile states?
Whether the main clients of this revolving fund will be Small and Medium Enterprises in developing countries is still to be seen. The Minister seems to value a chain approach where bigger corporates take responsibility down the value chain taking on board SMEs. At the same time she reiterated the need for attention to creating a conducive environmment for entrepreneurship. This may imply addtional measures directed at local capacity building of important institutions that would help encourage entrepreneurship.
What does this have to do with CSR?
The only parliamentarian who made serious efforts on getting the minister to commit to CSR, linking consumer behavior to producers and other actors in the chain was Joel Voordewind. Whenever the Minister was asked about specific commitments on specific chains or sectors she refrained. Her major counterparts seem to be multinational corporations and companies like Shell featured frequently in the questions as well as the answers linked to recent court rulings on cases in Nigeria. As if change would need to come from legislation and not the other way around.
Will corporates save the world?
It is important to have corporate identities on board of a sustainable development agenda. And actors like the World Business Council on Sustainable Development may play a catalyzing role. However, corporates (like no one else) are very interested in consumer behavior and are eager to influence it to their benefit. Whether this power can be geared towards a change in behavior that would result in reduction of consumption is hard to belief. And according to another parliamentarian that is where government should come in and be more normative.
When the policy staff of economic affairs have settled down at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we will hear more of this Minister and her plans to combine aid, trade and investment.
My name is Reinier van Hoffen, founder of URAIDE.
Click here for a summary.
Also find the text of a lecture Dr. Achterhuis held at the 2012 Bilderberg conference.