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"Towards a greater understanding of the changing role of business in society" European Conference

22 April 2010, 9h00 - 17h30, Brussels,
Hotel Bedford, rue du Midi 135

With the increasing activities of the European Commission aimed at promoting responsible business and advancing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) throughout the private sector, there is a growing need of robust scientific analysis of the phenomenon and its different aspects. The current financial and economic crisis increased this need further as a considerable deficiency of responsible management and accountability of financial institutions was one of the important factors that contributed to the chaos on the markets and the depth of the crisis. It is therefore important to discuss the changing role of business in society, when growing responsibility should come hand in hand with growing influence.

The aim of the conference, in particular, was to discuss the main outcomes of four research projects funded under the European Union sixth Research Framework Programme (FP6) with various stakeholders, such as enterprises, interest groups, civil society organisations, academics and policy makers in order to explore the practical implications of the research done. Moreover, the conference also served as a reflection forum on the most relevant issues that should be taken up by future research in order to better understand the evolving role of business in society and its implications.

One of the bases for discussions was a Policy Review on Corporate Social Responsibility which had been prepared by a CSR specialist Albert Schram from University of Maastricht. In this review, research conclusions were presented in the context of CSR policy at the EU level, as well as in the light of different developments and ongoing discussions related to the role of business in society. Apart from the research dimension, the conference took up a discussion on three issues crucial for understanding better the changing role of business in society, especially in the context of the financial and economic crisis.

These topics included:

  • new governance structures and relationship between enterprises and the state,
  • the crisis of trust and its implications for sustainable economic development and social and political stability, and
  • Corporate Social Responsibility in a globalised economy.

In each session the issue was introduced from a business perspective, which was put to scrutiny by academics, policy makers and stakeholder representatives during a panel discussion, as well as in an open exchange with the audience.