Corporate Social Responsibility in the context of Relations between the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States

The objective of this study commissioned by the EU-LAC Foundation is to report on the progress of the countries of the European Union (EU) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in the construction of their NAPs or in the integration of CSR in their public policies, and propose some guidelines for a piece of bi-regional cooperation within each zone and between the two regions studied.

The 1st CELAC-EU Summit 2013 (the 7th EU-LAC Summit) resulted in the Declaration of Santiago, its priorities were included in the Action Plan CELAC - EU 2013-2015. Chapter eight, called “Investment and Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Development” in subsection first addresses the issue of CSR. Additionally, it mentions the purpose of reporting on the “National Action Plans” (NAPs) on CSR at the next summit in June 2015 in Brussels. This study was conducted between August 2014 and March 2015 to take stock of progress made and highlights some conclusions of the process.

In the EU, there is a further development of aspects related to the regulation of the environment in which economic activities, such as government institutions that interact with businesses, incentives to the private sector, and clarity is developed within the legal framework. A demonstration of major differences in regulation between the two areas is, for example, than in Latin America can be considered a voluntary practice CSR on labour issues  for example, is the legal minimum in the EU.

Another important element to consider is the objective CSR seeks: while in Europe the focus is directed towards sustainable development in CELAC the priority, for now, is to achieve corporate legitimacy or a social license to operate whilst making a contribution to social development. This is also why CSR is often more across industries in Europe than in Latin America. However, faced with this situation, there is an element about prospects in both regions: the fact that CELAC has a clear intention of entering into the world economy, which means that the region is increasingly open to the adoption of guidelines and standards for sustainable development.

In order for CSR to progress in both regions, the perspective of different stakeholders, such as communities and workers, should be integrated to the agenda, else CSR has a high risk of not being implemented effectively, of generating conflicts and disagreements rather than improvements in the quality of life and developing of countries. Therefore, any strategy for bi-regional cooperation between the EU and the CELAC should be considered as a key objective the creation of NAPs processes and public policies and incentives should include dialogue and the search for harmony between these actors.