Government policy for CSR
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Central government wants to help companies get the most out of their CSR policy, by knowingly dealing with dilemmas and actively engaging with the dialogue about CSR. The government can help companies in different ways, for example by providing practical guidance, bundling knowledge, agreeing on clear frameworks and sustainable procurement itself.
Information to companies
The government supports various organisations that assist companies with information and advice on CSR. The following three organisations have a major part to play in this regard: MVO Nederland, Agentschap NL and the Chambers of Commerce. The website Answers for Business makes entrepreneurs aware of Dutch government rules, permits and subsidies.
The government asks companies to be transparent about their CSR policy and activities. Good reporting of a company’s CSR efforts enables interested parties to engage with the company, giving the company the opportunity to strengthen itself with the constructive criticism of its interested parties. The Ministry of Economic Affairs offers an insight into the way in which Dutch companies report their CSR activities through the Transparency Benchmark (in Dutch).
Guideline 400 of the Dutch Accounting Standards Board sets out the information that the annual report of a business must contain, which includes the provision of information on CSR. The Social Reporting Manual (in Dutch) is a conceptual framework for separate social reporting for medium-sized and large companies. In contrast to Guideline 400, use of the Manual is not compulsory.
OECD guidelines for multinational companies
The government expects Dutch companies to comply with the OECD guidelines for multinational companies abroad. This is a wide-ranging international code of conduct with recommendations on matters such as child labour, industrial relations, human rights, environmental damage and corruption.
Each OECD member state has a National Contact Point (NCP) to advise companies on the application of the OECD guidelines. Where this leads to differences of opinion between companies and their stakeholders, this can be reported to the NCP by all parties. In such cases the NCP acts as an independent arbitrator in the resolution of the problem, thereby preventing escalation and reputational harm.
At the same time the government can help exporting companies with investment subsidies and export credit guarantees, for which only companies complying with the OECD guidelines are eligible.
In 2008, in its vision of chain responsibility and CSR (in Dutch) the Dutch government said that it expects every company to pursue corporate social responsibility internationally. This does not just mean the commercial operations of the Dutch branch of the company, but also the (international) chain of suppliers and buyers in which the company is active.
The parties within the Social and Economic Council (SER) drew up an International Corporate Social Responsibility Declaration in 2008. This SER ICSR Declaration calls on the business community to contribute actively to the way in which it deals with responsible chain management and offers background and basic principles for this. The SER has set up a special ICSR committee (in Dutch) that reports annually on the progress made in responsible chain management.
Further information about the latest progress and the ICSR plan of work of the SER can be found here (in Dutch).
The SER Declaration contains the guidelines and recommendations of the ILO, OECD and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), which the SER sees as the normative framework for international corporate social responsibility. The recommendations of the ICC in the declaration are mainly about the matter of how companies can achieve responsible chain management and in this way offer entrepreneurs and professional associations guidance for dealing with responsible chain management.