Growth is not enough – we need corporate social sustainability

Published 21 November 2017 in:

CSR is no longer an afterthought in the margins of company balance sheets. Transitioning to a sustainable society involves a sweeping transformation that is changing and will change economies and industries over the coming decades.

Economic growth is essential for generating more jobs, but it is not enough to ensure that people will live a good life. Many people feel that they are losing out due to globalisation, and we are seeing how increasing frustration takes the form of both nationalism and protectionism. This is why it is absolutely crucial that the EU is capable of understanding both the market and the individual.

Today, a company’s CSR is analysed increasingly as an indicator of its future value – how well it will cope with the challenges that we know our industries face. Research from Harvard Business School and the Brookings Institution shows that since the early 2000s, companies with clear corporate governance practices, environmental protection and social responsibility have steadily become more profitable than corresponding companies that lack systematic CSR efforts.

The EU has long focused on removing trade barriers and facilitating mobility in the single market. This is important and positive. However, too little attention has been paid to citizens’ working conditions. We need to do something about this.

In Sweden, we recognise that growth and social justice go hand in hand – good working conditions lead to better conditions for increasing productivity, and increased growth leads to greater prosperity, which can benefit more people. This lies at the heart of the Swedish model.

There need to be good jobs with fair conditions in all EU Member States. We should not compete with each other in a way that results in poorer welfare or working conditions, but rather we should mutually help each other to create fairer jobs and more growth. We must all strive to improve people’s living and working conditions. This is ultimately a decisive issue for the EU.

We will not always have the same solutions in Sweden as in Slovenia and Spain. However, action is needed. This is why Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker hosted the Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth in Gothenburg. By bringing together leaders of Member States and relevant parties to discuss and create greater consensus on how we can produce a more prosperous Europe, in which social advances, more and better jobs and inclusive growth go hand in hand.

CSR and gender equality play an increasing role for brands and are desirable in themselves. These qualities also generate economic value and competitiveness for companies in the form of better business deals, longer and more efficient supplier relationships, fewer fines and a stronger brand that attracts customers, investors and workers. CSR also makes sense from a business perspective.

Ann Linde
Minister for EU Affairs and Trade