Transparency of social and environmental information: the ETUC considers that the Commission is taking the first step in the right direction

Brussels, 18/04/2013

More than ten years after the Commission launched an initiative on ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’, (CSR), it is a fact that less than 10 per cent of Europe’s biggest businesses regularly publish environmental and social information in addition to their financial balance sheets. It is for this reason that, on 16 April, the Commission amended the accounting directives in order to oblige big companies to include a ‘non-financial’ part in their annual report.

Patrick Itschert, ETUC Deputy General Secretary, stated: “This increased transparency is not an end in itself, but a tool, a way of persuading businesses to get these social and environmental concerns fully integrated into their activities and their strategy. That is why the ETUC can only welcome the Commission’s decision, following its commitment, via a communication on 25 October 2011, to adopt a European regulatory framework, given the relative failure of the voluntary approach. This initiative also satisfies the demand from European workers and citizens, of whom Eurobarometer reports that 62% feel that they are not sufficiently informed regarding the impact of businesses’ policies on their everyday lives”.

That being so, the European trade union regrets the many weaknesses of the Commission’s initiative, in particular in terms of its implementation, something which are in danger of robbing it of its substance. Businesses may be able to evade their responsibilities. The notion of the impact of enterprises on society is not being sufficiently taken into account and there are neither controls nor sanctions planned.

Patrick Itschert added: “The ETUC will be carefully monitoring the debates on this proposal of the Commission. This is an important subject for the unions. We are also going to address the issue at the CSR conference that we are holding on 15 May”.