Spring Newsletter - European Study Tour on Corporate Social Responsibility
Ray Horton, Frank Lautenberg professor of ethics and corporate governance and director of the Social Enterprise Program with Eric Borremans ’92, head of sustainability research at BNP Paribas
During spring break, a group of students accompanied by Professor Ray Horton traveled to Paris and Brussels to learn about the roles of business, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and regulators in promoting corporate social responsibility (CSR) and corporate governance. Europe’s progressive public and corporate policies have provided fertile ground for the development of public, nonprofit and private organizations in these fields.
Students met with representatives of the European Commission, NGOs (Transparency International and the World Wildlife Fund), ratings and asset management firms in the socially responsible investing field (Vigeo, Deminor and BNP Paribas) and association groups and companies practicing CSR (Eurosif, CSR Europe and Danone).
One topic of discussion was the convergence of CSR and corporate governance. While CSR addresses the integration of social and environmental concerns with business operations and the way in which companies interact with all stakeholders, corporate governance focuses on how companies are run, and on the relationships among management, the board, shareholders and other stakeholders. Given the growing importance of intangibles to shareholder value, practitioners in these two fields are placing greater emphasis on risk management. Eric Borremans ’92, head of sustainability research at BNP Paribas, stated that “extra-financial” indicators in both areas provide a more complete picture for fund managers.
European investors and analysts are generally more willing than their American counterparts to take into account extra-financial indicators in assessing the quality of a company’s management. Matt Christensen, executive director of Eurosif, cited cultural factors, more favorable attitudes about the role of government and regulation to balance the interests of business and society, and the higher prominence of charities, pension funds and trade unions in policy making and in the investment field.
Many thanks to the speakers and organizations visited and the Paris alumni club. This trip was coorganized by Ben Mandell '05, and sponsored by the Chazen Institute of International Business and the Social Enterprise Program.
The group is shown with Oliver Rapf (second from right), senior policy officer at the World Wildlife Fund
Group dinner in Paris with Professor Ray Horton