Country focus: CSR in Germany
Our journey to discover CSR in the world continues with this second focus: we head to Germany, the fourth economic power in the world after the US, China and Japan. Here Corporate Social Responsibility is considered one of the decisive factors for sustainable development.
In January 2009, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) launched the “CSR National Forum”, composed of 44 experts from the world of business, trade unions, NGOs and local authorities, to examine a joint path with the main stakeholders.
In October 2010, when the work of the Forum ended, the German Federal Government adopted the “CSR in Germany” Action Plan that envisages measures to contain climate change, to raise social and working standards and the promotion of good labour practices, to disseminate social responsibility through the direct engagement of citizens and the development of informed citizenship for companies. And finally, to transmit informed consumption behaviour and methods to the population.
The Action Plan has enabled the Federal Government to adopt tools to promote the adoption of CSR policies in industry and in local government, and it also involves SMEs in this path. Germany has worked hard to increase the visibility and credibility of CSR so that it can be disseminated and a wider public becomes aware of the social and environmental aspects of this approach to business. The results did not take long to arrive: today in Germany CSR is spreading even wider, particularly among small and medium enterprises.
The “origins” of what has been done in recent years by the German government lie in the past: child labour was outlawed in 1869 and later decades saw the introduction of new regulations on welfare and workers’ rights. Here are some of the main milestones:
- 1883: adoption of compulsory health insurance for workers
- 1889: introduction of the first pension fund
- 1918: recognition of workers’ unions
- 1927: introduction of unemployment benefit.
Moreover, the green soul of German awareness has meant that as early as 1906, the first Environmental Agency was set up in Prussia and, in 1974, West Germany was one of the first countries to introduce strict legislation to protect the environment.
Today, Germany has well-developed environmental legislation that many other nations do not have. Various efforts have been made by the German government to move towards a “greener” world and society: mention need only be made of the phasing out of nuclear power by 2022 or the exponential development of renewable energies.
Furthermore, in recent years numerous cooperation projects have been launched among companies aimed at exchanging experiences of development, implementing and improving corporate social responsibility activities and engagement with stakeholders. These initiatives have provided a series of boosts also thanks to the opportunity to participate in platforms for working together. Some tools have also been developed for use in engaging stakeholders and spreading good CSR practices.
In conclusion, it is interesting to emphasise two elements that the German government considers as crucial for the dissemination of CSR: the role of consumers, who are considered the main driver to make firms adopt sustainable practices, and training. The Federal Government is taking steps to place sustainability education in secondary schools so that new generations are made aware of this new business model that also takes account of social and environmental aspects.