An Overview of Corporate Social Responsibility in Hungary

Publication of the report of the international fact-finding mission

FIDH releases today a report on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Hungary, on the occasion of the Conference on "Corporate Social Responsibility in the EU- 10: Expectations vs. Reality", organised under the patronage of former Czech President Václav Havel, to be hold on Friday, September 15, 2006 in Prague.

Philippe Kalfayan, Secretary General of FIDH, will present the conclusions of the report, as part of a series of country-based studies. Amongst the other speakers of the Conference, will be:

- Vladimír Špidla, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs & Equal Opportunities ;
- Richard Howitt, British MEP, European Parliament’s spokesperson on Corporate Social Responsibility; and
- Olivier De Schutter, international legal expert and Secretary General of FIDH

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is relatively new in Central and Eastern Europe but is rapidly spreading, in particular as part of their integration in the EU as well as under the influence of multinational corporations and foreign investors. However, CSR is still little understood or used for mere communication objectives.

The FIDH therefore decided to conduct a fact-finding mission in Hungary in order to document and analyse CSR implementation by national and multinational companies in the country. The mission also aimed at examining the existing regulatory framework and understanding the role of the various stakeholders involved in CSR.

Through a range of interviews with public authorities, international organisations, national and multinational corporations, unions, human rights, environmental and consumers’ groups, the mission concludes that public regulations and market incentives remain both insufficient for CSR in Hungary.

Amongst the main conclusions are the following elements:
- Although the information published on CSR policies of multinationals is clearly abundant, lack of a clear definition and misuse of the concept make it difficult to get a clear picture of the changes such policies effectively mean to how companies operate. Moreover, serious work has to be done to adapt CSR policies to specifically Hungarian CSR concerns.
- The role of civil-society organisations, including NGOs and trade unions, is unclear. They do not seem to play the role of "CSR watchdog", but rather consider CSR as suspicious, since it is mainly used for marketing purposes. Some NGOs, moreover, have become involved in the CSR business by providing paid consultancy services, thus blurring the boundaries of their social mandate.
- As a consequence of the lack of interest and of the deficit in means of action, civil society plays a marginal role in the CSR dynamic. CSR is thus defined by business players on a voluntary basis, and implemented and monitored by business without significant involvement of other independent stakeholders.
- Even if it appeared impossible to provide CSR with the appropriate legal framework, the promotion of good practices and a better understanding of the concept would be welcome. In addition, a more careful and severe implementation of basic social rights is necessary and requires direct state intervention (through its judiciary, legislative and executive branches).

This mission, and the concluding report, are part of a broader programme aimed at raising awareness on corporate social responsibility in the new member states. This programme, funded by the DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal opportunities, associates civil society organisations from seven EU countries, including FIDH and its member organisation in the Czech Republic, the Czech League of Human Rights (LLP). The closing event of the programme is the upcoming Conference on "Corporate Social Responsibility in the EU- 10: Expectations vs. Reality", organised on Friday, September 15, at the CEELI Institute, Havlickovy sady 58, Prague. A press conference will be organised during the Conference, at the CEELI Institute, at noon.

- Website for the Conference: http://new.responsibility.cz/cms/index.php?id=128

- For further information see also the paper prepared for this conference by Olivier de Schutter, Professor at the University of Louvain and at the College of Europe and Secretary General of the FIDH :
http://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/corporate_odeschutter2006a.pdf

Read more
rapport