The Government has recently launched its first national plan on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) supporting its objective of making Ireland recognised internationally as the best small country in which to do business.

The plan aims to increase awareness of CSR, its value to business and to society as a whole. It also aims to encourage enterprises to develop and implement CSR policies, increase transparency and reporting of CSR activity, and anchor CSR practices in public bodies.

The plan identifies five main areas where companies should aim to go beyond their statutory requirements. The plan further outlines key policy instruments and guidance which are available to assist companies wishing to take further steps in each area. The five pillar areas are:

  • Workplace
  • Environment
  • Marketplace
  • Community
  • Public Sector

The Government intends to establish a CSR Stakeholder Forum to provide a framework to monitor the progress of the plan on an on-going basis and to ensure its relevance to evolving national and international perspectives on CSR. The Stakeholder Forum will also advise on the development of potential voluntary metrics for measuring the prevalence of CSR in Ireland.

Publication of the plan coincides with a European Commission consultation seeking feedback on the Commission’s own CSR policies. The consultation closes on 15 August 2014 and is intended to inform the Commission’s CSR forum, which is due to meet to discuss the Commission’s strategy on CSR in November of this year.

Businesses should take note that customers and prospective employees are becoming more conscious than ever of the ethical record of companies, how they source their products and the contribution they make to the local or national community. As a result, good CSR practices can help to distinguish companies from their competitors.