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Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Belgian Sustainable Development Minister Urges Companies to Adopt CSR

Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Steven Vanackere (who is also Finance and Sustainable Development Minister) told the eager crowd waiting to hear who had won the Best Belgian Sustainability Report Award that there is a clear business case for CSR and smart regulation and that the Belgian government considers it to be extremely important for companies to act.

Having left the Belgian Ambassador in charge of the Ecofin Council to pop out to do the honours of opening the envelopes and presenting the awards, Minister Vanackere congratulated all the participants as he said said they had understood the importance of sustainable development in their business strategy.

He likened sustainable development to politics in that they are both about working for the greater good and acting as a society rather than individuals.  Vanackere said it's not a coincidence that companies are integrating sustainability criteria into business strategy.  

He warned against using CSR as a marketing tool saying that the consumer is informed and prefers to buy from companies that are seen as ethical. They want to buy from companies they trust and who respect human rights and the environment.  The consumer also plays a role in the motivation of the people who work in these companies, he said.  

To some extent, politicians can impose CSR through regulation, for example in health and environment policy areas but Vanackere stressed that there are limits to what can be done with regulation.  

"Real CSR is an attitude", he said, "it's more than regulation."  There's authenticity behind real CSR, he said.  It's not about just conforming to the letter of the law but taking care of the social contracts which underpin it, he said.  Certainly, our approach to sustainability is about going beyond regulation and making a positive contribution.  It's reassuring to hear these messages from a politician.

Vanackere urged the Belgian sustainability community to work together with policymakers and other stakeholders.  For more on the Award winners, keep an eye on our blog.

Blog by Kathryn Sheridan

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