In 2010, SOMO published a series of memos which focus on the relationship between corporate social responsibility (CSR) and trade. SOMO’s intention with this is to build a bridge between these two fields, which too often are approached by different methods, but which are in fact closely connected to one another. In the various publications, SOMO discusses the behaviour and effect of individual companies – including multinationals – and business sectors, as well as the system of which they form a part: international trade. The first memo, which has just appeared in this series, examines the CSR aspects of trade missions.
It is by now generally accepted that companies should observe CSR standards and rules in their business operations. However, such standards are still barely being effectively integrated into agreements on liberalisation of trade or investments between countries. With regard to the relationship between CSR regulations and CSR policy for businesses and international rules of trade, there is therefore still a great deal to be achieved. The individual memos in this series show that a wide range of subjects – including trade treaties, export credit insurance and trade missions – contain both a clear CSR aspect and a trade and investment component.
The first publication examines CSR aspects of trade missions. The Dutch government sees CSR as an ‘export article’, and its ambition is to integrate CSR into all government activities to promote trade, with specific attention to trade missions. But are these intentions actually converted into policy, and to what extent does compliance take place? Experience in recent years has shown that CSR is still not given a sufficiently structural and integrated place on the agenda of trade missions. The memo discusses the limitations which are blocking adequate realisation of the proposed policy. At the end of this memo, SOMO makes a number of recommendations which contribute to a more coherent government policy, in which sufficient account is taken of CSR aspects in activities to promote trade, in this case trade missions.