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International Corporate Social Responsibility (ICSR)

This information is provided by

Netherlands Enterprise Agency RVO

When doing international business, the government expects larger companies to act in an internationally responsible manner. Applying international corporate social responsibility (ICSR) principles means taking the impact of your business on man, the environment and society into account. ICSR affects areas such as working conditions, the environment, human rights and corruption. Not only in the Netherlands but especially in your international chain.

Get ready for ICSR

The Dutch government expects larger companies to implement an ICSR policy. Of course, SMEs can implement ICSR as well. To do so, you must follow the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Companies. The OECD is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. In 2023, European laws are expected to make CSR less informal.

Get started with ICSR

With ICSR you do everything with 'due care'. This way you prevent as many risks as possible in your company and international chain. This is called 'due diligence'. When you want to start with ICSR, or take a more serious approach, draw up a plan. Use the OECD's step-by-step plan to apply due diligence in your company. Describe an ICSR policy for your company and management. Organise, for example, workshops or training courses in ICSR for your employees. Then involve them in the development and implementation of ICSR in their daily work. Use the OECD guidelines for ICSR to formulate your policy.

Report on ICSR

You are obliged to report on your company’s ICSR. That means you have to include the OECD guidelines in your social and annual reports or other publicly available documents. For instance, you may publish an ICSR declaration on your website.

Taking responsibility

You are responsible for the entire chain of your product or service. From raw materials to finished product. So, check if there are risks within your company or in your chain, for example to the environment or employees. Use the RVO's CSR Risk Checker to do this check.

This responsibility means you take action in the event of complaints. For example, in the event of a complaint from a customer or your employee. Make sure your company has a complaints desk. Include in your ICSR policy how you prevent or end any risks. For example, what you do if a supplier does not respond to your complaints. Make it clear that you expect your suppliers, customers and other business relations to comply with ICSR.

The 5 benefits of CSR

Implementing corporate social responsibility in your business practices is not just good for man, the environment and society. It can hugely benefit your company, as a result of:

  1. A strong reputation. And therefore a greater reason to be.
  2. Loyal customers. As a 'green' company, you increase the chance of customers wanting to work with you and to keep working with you.
  3. Motivated and proud employees.
  4. Savings in costs. For instance by reducing energy use.
  5. Innovation and market opportunities. Demand for sustainable products and services is on the increase.

Target: 90% endorsement by large companies in the Netherlands

The Dutch government wants 90% of its large companies to explicitly endorse the OECD guidelines by 2023. If your company is considered to be a large company, you will have received a letter to this effect. This applies to companies with more than 500 employees and:

  • total assets of more than €20 million; or
  • a net turnover of more than €40 million.

Every other year, the government carries out checks to measure which companies explicitly endorse the OECD guidelines. For some companies, this will be clear from the results of the Transparency Benchmark. Others already report on the steps they are taking to apply the OECD guidelines. The government will also check whether companies which are not participating in the Transparency Benchmark are implementing the OECD guidelines. If your company has not yet explicitly endorsed the OECD guidelines, the government will discuss this with you and offer extra support, if required.

CSR as a condition for government funding

If you want to be eligible for government subsidies and loans for international enterprise or take part in trade missions, then you have to demonstrate that your company explicitly endorses the OECD guidelines. If it comes to light that there are abuses in your production chain, and you could have addressed or prevented these abuses, then you risk damage to the reputation of your company. In some cases, your company may be legally liable. Read the Netherlands Enterprise Agency's CSR page to discover the role CSR plays in their international projects.

Find out more about government subsidies

Check which subsidies are available by using the Netherlands Enterprise Agency online Subsidies and Programmes tool, or for a full list use the Dutch-language subsidy tool.

Join one of the ICSR covenants

To tackle risks that companies cannot resolve on their own, company sectors together with societal organisations and the Dutch government make agreements to prevent abuses in an ICSR covenant.

In the clothing, textile, banking, food and metal sectors, for instance, agreements have already been laid down in covenants. If you belong to one of these sectors, you can join your sector's ICSR covenant.

Use these international CSR tools

In addition to the OECD guidelines, these tools can help you implement international corporate social responsibility when doing business abroad:

  • CSR Risk Check by MVO Nederland. An online due diligence check for your international supply chain. This tool shows you the risks you are exposed to in the supply chain in a specific country.
  • OECD Due Diligence Guidance: gives you tips on how to implement international corporate social responsibility.
  • On the National Contact point website for the OECD guidelines, you can find additional information on due diligence and guidance in several areas.
  • European Partnership for Responsible Minerals Due Diligence Check - find out if your mineral imports are in line with OECD guidelines.
  • CSR Risk Checker: in just 3 minutes the risk checker establishes where the CSR risks for your enterprise lie concerning procurement, exporting and your production activities abroad.
  • ISO 26000 guidelines: practical advice for international CSR.

This information is provided by

Netherlands Enterprise Agency RVO
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