The need to deliver sustainable and equitable development underscores the importance of gaining a better understanding of the role of public policy with regard to Corporate Social Responsibility and its potential to contribute to the development agenda.
The contemporary CSR agenda is relatively immature, and the term “CSR” has not yet taken hold within many public sector institutions, in both industrial and developing countries. The challenge is for government bodies to identify priorities and incentives that are meaningful in the local and national contexts and to build on existing initiatives and capacities. There is now an excellent opportunity for governments to harness current enthusiasm for CSR alongside key public policy goals and priorities to encourage delivery of promising results.
A great number of the intergovernmental agencies with an interest in CSR have tackled either the CSR/SME interface (e.g. UN Global Compact, UNIDO), the public policy/SME interface (e.g. World Bank, UNIDO, OECD) or the public policy/CSR interface (e.g. World Bank Group). Explored the crossroads between public policy, SMEs and CSR is still a relatively untouched area.
Entering this pioneering field, UNIDO disposes of valuable resources to draw on in terms of the existing knowledge base of the organization. Going forward, UNIDO’s mission provides a basis for a clear course for action: “UNIDO mobilizes knowledge, skills, information and technology to promote productive employment, a competitive economy and a sound environment.” It follows from this statement that UNIDO’s natural concern will be to spur innovation in relation to those public policy approaches that seek to mobilize CSR to deliver productive employment, a competitive economy and a sound environment.
These, however, are not the only possible outcomes of public policy engagement to promote CSR in SMEs. UNIDO will take a wider approach in which goals including education, community development, poverty reduction and human security are explicitly understood as potentially relevant outcomes of public sector engagement in CSR.