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?