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Global CSR developments

On 22 January 2016 the ECCT's Corporate Social Responsibility committee jointly hosted a lunch with the Swedish Chamber of Commerce Taipei on the topic "Global CSR development with a special focus on China" with guest speaker Bengt Johansson, Former CSR Ambassador of Sweden; CEO of New Context & Adjunct Professor at Shanghai University. Johansson gave an overview of the EU directive on CSR reporting and negotiations about a binding international treaty on business and human rights and spoke about the CSR situation in mainland China.

The EU directive on CSR policy was the subject of much debate within the European parliament and member states. It eventually entered into force on 8 December 2014. The directive applies only to public interest companies in EU member states with over 500 employees although some member states have stricter threshold requirements than others. Both Sweden and Finland require all state-owned companies to produce CSR reports. It is up to member states as to how to implement the directive but they are required to pass legislation to implement the directive by 8 December 2016. Those failing to do so will face fines.

There are several alternatives for presenting a CSR report but the Global Reporting Initiative's (GRI) guidelines are the most common. There are also special rules for reporting on diversity, which go beyond gender to include diversity according to age, country of origin and handicaps.CSR has been a focal point in the PRC government's policy. State-owned companies and many listed companies are obliged to present full CSR reports. While many Chinese companies are merely interested in the business case for CSR, those that wish to do business outside China and need to comply with the laws in their target countries have a strong interest in learning about CSR reporting.

CASS-CSR 3.0 is the dominant domestic CSR reporting standard in mainland China. The main limitation of this standard is that it does not cover free trade unions, human rights and anti-corruption subjects, unlike the GRI, which is very specific about these subjects. Another limitation of the Chinese standard is the lack of independent third party verification. Under these conditions it is difficult for Chinese companies to reach international CSR standards. Nevertheless, awareness about CSR issues is having a benefit in China as more companies are paying attention to issues such as quality (particularly food safety) and environmental issues.