As trade associations and initiatives representing a considerable proportion of the value chain of the ICT industry, we consider that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is of the utmost importance for Europe and European companies.
November 2012. We welcome the opportunity to contribute to DG CONNECT’s assessment of the need for a specific multi-stakeholder initiative or platform in this field for the ICT sector, following the recent EC communication on the new EU policy on Corporate SocialResponsibility.
We firmly believe that CSR is a powerful tool to create value by increasing trust and confidence in the markets, and boosting competitiveness. The economic crisis has strengthened the need for companies to foster CSR. These two elements, trust and competitiveness, are essential for European companies today.
Conscious of the impact of their products and services on the overall society, our members have placed CSR at the heart of their business strategies, developments and stakeholder relations. Our continued support for innovation and growth is an example of our strong commitment to generate socioeconomic benefits for our users and society as a whole. CSR represents an opportunity of increasing Europe’s competitiveness on the global scene.
We strongly believe in the Internet as a platform for innovation, growth and creativity, supporting the full realisation of citizens’ fundamental right to freedom of expression and access to knowledge, as well as an engine of social development for society as a whole. To this end, our members are committed to the availability of electronic communications services to all, without discrimination on the grounds of age, sex, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, political, philosophical or religious beliefs, or affiliation with a trade union or other lawful association. We have therefore pledged to uphold the rule of law in the digital environment, defending the rights of users to access communications except as constrained in specific cases by a fair and properly constituted legal process, prescribed by law and subject to the fundamental principles of human rights.
At the moment, companies and other stakeholders within the ICT sector face sectorial issues that are either considered as risks (e.g. privacy and freedom of expression; relations with governments in the cases of natural disasters or other events; energy consumption; use of raw materials such as coltan), or market opportunity with a high social impact (e.g. social innovation; green ICT; promotion of entrepreneurship; youth employability).
Our commitment to corporate social responsibility further translates into engagements ranging from initiatives to empower users to protect themselves from risks to themselves and others, especially children, through educational initiatives and the provision of tools and other technical means; to initiatives to enhance digital inclusion; to a progressive reduction in the environmental footprint of products, services and operations and the provision of solutions that can help citizens and other industries to reduce their own environmental footprint.
These risks and opportunities led to the creation of well-recognised multi-stakeholder initiatives at national, European and global levels to which our respective members belong and that they are actively promoting. Examples of innovative CSR initiatives involving stakeholders from within and outside the ICT sector are contained in the appendix of this statement.
DG CONNECT’s ICT4Society platform should be seen in this global context and avoids overlaps with other multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the Internet Governance Forum.
As trade associations of the main players of the ICT industry, we believe that the proposal for a new sector-specific multi-stakeholder initiative could contribute further to industry CSR programmes as a knowledge centre, but should focus on the following objectives:
- giving greater visibility and recognition to CSR initiatives already undertaken by the ICT industry;
- providing opportunities for additional debate and exchange of best practices;
- facilitating sector-wide cooperation.
Additionally, this process should be carefully assessed in order to avoid overlaps with existing programmes, and not limit flexibility and incentives for enterprises to innovate in CSR. The new platform should not create additional burdens and costs in this period of economic crisis.
We would welcome the involvement by the Commission of all the trade associations of the ICT industry in this process in order to complete the overview of CSR initiatives in place today. We hope DG CONNECT will carefully consider our comments and look forward to further contributing to the evaluation of the need for such a multi-stakeholder platform and its possible establishment.
Signatories of this joint statement include: