The CSR Minister post disappears – On the devaluation of the UK leadership in responsible business practice

A CSR minister has been part of the UK government for 10 years now right after Tony Blair’s government created the first minister responsible to promote CSR and responsible business practices in the UK. Since then there have been 7 CSR ministers doing this job.

This was always something very interesting to talk about when you are at events or conferences and it was a clear sign of the willingsness of the UK government to show leadership in this area. It always made me proud to be living in the UK for some reason.

But now the new UK coalition government has so far not appointed a new CSR minister. And I believe they will not do so in the foreseeable future.

Yes, I admit the results/impacts of a CSR minister have been a mix of of successes and failures over the years. But this position nevertheless showed the rest of the world that the UK championed responsible business practice from a governmental level. And this is unfortunately still something which not many other countries are doing.

The big questions for then are: Are they correct in doing so? Do we not need a CSR minister anymore? Here is what I think:

The role of a CSR minister is important but for it to be more relevant then it is at the moment. its responsibilities and governmental influence would also need to change. The role would need to be empowered to be a clear and distinctive voice for a change towards responsible business practice in the UK.

The purpose of the function also needs to evolve in a way to include responsibilities for the range of CSR topics companies need to deal with when they are expressing their willingness to be more responsible corporate citizen.

The person being the CSR minister would ideally be someone that has an equal amount of business and political experience. This would be crucial for this job, to be able to both perspectives, the business and political perspective. This obviously is only wishful thinking from my side and it seems that this post of a CSR Minister will never be reinstated in any case. All current developments are pointing towards this negative development.

As a consequence, is the current UK government (and the previous government has started to do that) reallocating the responsibilities of the CSR minister to a range of other ministries (one step forward three steps back!).

And this is a real shame as this clearly devalues the decisions/work already taken by the previous CSR ministers and the purpose of a person responsible to promote responsible business practice.

I believe that there is a dire need for more responsible business practice leadership in the current UK government. You might argue that this is the role of organizations such as the BITC, but having the BITC is simply not enough (But this is a topic for a complete separate post in my opinion).

The bottom line is that we need someone more senior in the UK government that knows what CSR is, champions responsible business practice and has the links to the businesses. Otherwise will the promotion of responsible business practice not be seen as important enough by the UK business sector.

I wonder what the future of CSR in the UK will bring if we continue to make 1 step forward and 3 steps back for much longer?

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  1. I believe that changing the face of UK enterprise to encourage greater social responsibility needs a strong focus in government. However, with a Tory party who wish to roll back the state, then I fear that social responsibility will simply be seen as a hinderance to that process. The Tory's have never understood that the free market does not deliver fairness and equity and that it is the role of government to ensure that the excesses of the market are controlled to deliver greater good for greater numbers. I do not see an injection of sprinkling of liberal democrats in government as a means of ensuring these objectives.

  2. Thanks for the comment Peter. Interesting that you are bringing up the Tory (conservative party) argument. This is the link for all non UK visitors: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservative_Party…..)I always thought that David Cameron (the current prime minister) was in some way pro CSR really. This clearly does not seem to be the case.

  3. The previous Labour Government was notorious for creating Ministers for Anything They Can Think Of in order to increase "the payroll vote" as Ministers are expected to vote with the Government or resign. Despite working in this space and hearing endless dreary Ministerial/Shadow Ministerial speeches, I had never heard of a Minister for CSR.So, do we need a minister for CSR? If CSR is to be mainstreamed in business, there is a good argument it should be mainstreamed in Government. I have heard the now Business Secretary Vince Cable speak on such issues many times (I'm should say I'm a Lib Dem member and councillor) and his commitment and understanding shows the lip service paid by most MPs to this agenda for what it is.I disagree with Peter. The Coalition Government has put together a very ambitious agenda for the green side of CSR in particular. David Cameron says he wants it to be the greenest Government ever and I believe he is serious. I think he feels that he can use this and the international development agendas to keep the middle ground and avoid getting dragged to the right by the neocon/eurosceptic/climate-change-denying wing of his party.


  4. Thanks for the comment Gareth. Interesting that you never heard of the CSR Minister post. Do you by any chance have a link for the 'Green side of CSR' and the intentions of the coalition?



  5. Hi Fabian – I just prepare a lecturing about CSR and wanted to put UK on top of CSR committed countries- is there still no minister since 2010? Do you have the feeling that UK was stepping back up to now what concerns CSR?

    BR

    Jens

    1. Hi Jens. As far as I know has the UK government not appointed anyone new unfortuntaely.
      I would not say that the UK is stepping back on CSR, it is just not such as fashionable and such a hot topic anymore. CSR is a lot more mainstream now. What do you think?

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