- Faglig nyhed
- 11. juni 2012
Taking Responsibility - CSR regimes in Scandinavia
By Mette Klingsten and Morten Hove Henriksen
Published by Legal Week 1 June 2012
Much time has passed since the Vikings from the North rampaged wide areas of Europe and beyond. Nowadays, Scandinavia is known for its promotion of sustainable development, human rights and environmental protection, both in the national and international arena.
In October 2011, the European Commission introduced a new definition of corporate social responsibility (CSR) as “the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society”. This new definition is notably distinguishable from the previous CSR definition, which emphasised the voluntary nature of CSR obligations (“a concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business on a voluntary basis”). The omission of ‘voluntary’ in the new definition emphasises that compliance with the law is a fundamental imperative of CSR. In Scandinavia, voluntary principles and soft law on CSR are increasingly evolving into hard law.
A historic glance
Scandinavian countries share a historic heritage. Denmark and Norway were united from 1387 to 1814, whereas Sweden and Norway were united from 1814 to 1905. Even today, Scandinavian countries, to a large extent, form a compact cluster, sharing basic political ideologies based on social democratic ideas, strong government and stable labour relations and have a reputation for being CSR leaders. Similarly, the scarcity of philanthropic CSR in Scandinavia can be attributed to the foundation of welfare institutions in the Scandinavian countries in the 1930s, which resulted in the Nordic states being the main social service providers in Scandinavia.
The participation of the Scandinavian countries in the CSR movement has, however, different origins. The active role that the Swedish Government plays in co-ordinating CSR policies and integrating them into trade and foreign policy has been a key component in Sweden’s success in the CSR arena. Likewise, Norway has promoted sustainability globally through, for instance, Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland’s chairmanship of the United Nations (UN) World Commission on Environment and Development.
In Denmark, however, CSR first originated as a policy designed to resolve social exclusion and long-term unemployment in the mid-1990s. Despite these different backgrounds, the Scandinavian governments have set the standard for CSR high and have been at the forefront of the CSR movement.