About the conference

Conference aim and theme:

The adoption of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies is no longer a matter of voluntary practice on the part of the business community. In one sense, it was never voluntary, being in most cases a response to market pressure and fear of image loss. However, increasingly CSR is also subject to legal enforcement, not necessarily in the form of conventional judicial systems but rather through government intervention and the establishment of platforms for mediation and conflict settlement.

In light of such initiatives, the CSR Legal Research Network, the ReSET Research Group and Danish Mediation and Complaints-Handling Institution for Responsible Business Conduct have organized the following two-day conference with two purposes in mind:

  1. to introduce businesses and experts in specialized fields to the broad theme of CSR and law
  2. to promote an active discussion of the issues of how and to what extent CSR measures should be encouraged through law

We have assembled an international and inter-disciplinary group of key-presenters and discussants that will focus on CSR responses from a legal and a broader social science perspective.

Themes of the two days:

  • DAY ONE: Strengthening the implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises through mediation and conflict resolution
  • DAY TWO: The Danish CSR reporting and verification agenda

This year it becomes mandatory to report on climate and human rights

From 2013 and onwards, companies have to adhere to stricter regulations requiring them to declare in their annual reports whether they lack established policies on climate and human rights. At the same time, with the new Mediation and Complaints-Handling Institution for Responsible Business Conduct, companies are at greater risk of being publicly criticised. The conference will prepare the companies for this change and urge them to adhere to the new rules.

This year, 1,100 Danish companies will be forced to adhere to the new EU regulations when reporting on their CSR policies, and it is likely that the 2013 CSR reports will contain statements such as "We have no policy on environmental issues" or "We have no policy on human rights." As of 2013, out of the many issues that fall under the category of corporate social responsibility, climate considerations and human rights are mandatory points in the annual reports of Danish companies. And if a given company has no established policies regarding the two issues, this must be made evident in the report.

The purpose of the new regulations is to pressure Danish companies to assume a more responsible role and to maintain Denmark’s leading position in the area of corporate social responsibility.

From voluntary to mandatory
With the new regulations, there has been yet another shift from voluntary CSR reporting to enforcement of actual rules and regulations. According to Birgitte Egelund Olsen, Professor of Law at Aarhus University, this will pressure Danish companies into making an even greater effort in terms of climate responsibility and human rights.

“In Denmark we want to stay ahead of the game by positioning ourselves as leaders within the field of corporate social responsibility, and that is why we are now putting extra pressure on the companies through additional legislation. We assume that companies will gain a competitive edge by earning the trust of international enterprises, customers and suppliers. They should be able to trust that Danish companies are opposed to e.g. child labour,” explains Birgitte Egelund Olsen.

This conference aims to discuss and work through the matter of companies’ CSR reporting in adherence to the new regulations.

Anxiety and excitement about new complaints-handling institution
The new Mediation and Complaints-Handling Institution for Responsible Business Conduct, to which anybody can direct complaints and grievances, has the power to publicly criticise those companies that do not act responsibly. The establishment of the institution along with the increased requirements for reporting are making CSR managers a little anxious, explains professor Karsten Engsig Sørensen, who is co-organiser for the event.

“Anybody can complain to the Mediation and Complaints-Handling Institution if they find that a given company is not taking on the proper amount of global responsibility. Thus, companies are at risk of being exposed to public criticism by a qualified institution with the right amount of authority and resources that also has the law on its side,” says Karsten Engsig Sørensen.

Therefore, the aim of the CSR conference is also to identify and clarify the tightened reporting regulations and account for the role of the Mediation and Complaints-Handling Institution for Responsible Business Conduct. The conference is organised in collaboration with the new Mediation and Complaints-Handling institution, and one of the speakers is the chairman of the institution, Mads Øvlisen.