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Corporate social responsibility (CSR)

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Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO

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Corporate social responsibility or CSR means taking responsibility for the impact of your business operation on man, the environment and society. With CSR, you address or prevent poor working conditions, environmental pollution and poverty. For example:

  • You pay extra attention to working conditions for your employees.
  • Your business is sustainable. You save energy and use raw materials smartly.
  • When buying products and services you pay attention to the whole supply chain. You mind the effects your purchasing has on people and the environment. You do not focus solely on price.
  • You reduce CO₂ emissions.
  • Your business practices are ethical. You do not abuse your power for instance through corruption (bribery or extortion).
  • You provide your customers with clear information.
  • Your company actively engages with the community you serve.

CSR activities differ from one company to the other, depending on the sector, size and culture of the company and its business strategy.

Is CSR obligatory?

Corporate social responsibility (also known as sustainable business practice or responsible business conduct) is not obligatory. It can, however, benefit your company. CSR is not regulated by legislation. There are, however, internationally recognised standards and guidelines for CSR. The OECD guidelines contain the main regulations for CSR in the Netherlands (Maatschappelijk verantwoord ondernemen, MVO, in Dutch) and abroad.

The OEC guidelines are mainly voluntary. However, the rule on corruption is mandatory. Corruption is a criminal offence in the Netherlands. This also applies in cases where corruption has been committed abroad.

CSR agreements

Many national and international customers, governments and societal organisations expect companies to respect human rights and environmental standards. The government has Sustainable Public Procurement requirements to fulfil CSR requirements when purchasing goods or services from a company.

The government also has agreements with various Dutch business sectors and with societal organisations on International Corporate Social Responsibility (ICSR). These agreements are laid down in an ICSR covenant. Examples are:

  • textile industry
  • finance sector (banks)
  • timber industry
  • gold industry
  • food industry
  • insurance sector
  • pension funds
  • sector of the natural stone
  • metal industry

Government support

Do you want to qualify for any subsidy or loan from the Dutch government when doing business abroad? Or do you want to join a trade mission? You must apply CSR in your business practices. You also have to demonstrate that you adhere to the OECD guidelines.

Proof of CSR

If you want to show that your company applies CSR rules, you can do this in the following ways, by:

  • using a label, for example a quality trademark or logo
  • providing a performance comparison to show how well your company is doing with regard to CSR in your region or sector
  • providing a declaration, in which you or your staff declare your CSR commitments
  • drafting a sustainability report on your CSR activities
  • sending out publicity about your CSR activities

National Contact Point OECD-guidelines (NCP)

The Dutch National Contact Point (NCP) offers you support to bring the OECD guidelines in practice. In addition, you can also report differences of opinion to the NCP about applying the OECD guidelines. The NCP will then act as an independent mediator.

This article is related to:

This information is provided by

Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO