Uptake of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by European SMEs and Start-ups

20 February 2022/Study

Our team completed its work on the study on the uptake of CSR by European SMEs and start-ups. The study was meant to capture and report on current levels of take-up of CSR codes of conduct and internal action plans for CSR and sustainability within European SMEs and start-ups, paying particular attention to variations between Member States, regions of Europe and specific sectors of the economy. It was commissioned by the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency, and was undertaken between December 2019 and December 2019.

Study results are based on on extensive desk research, two surveys (survey of SMEs and survey of business support organisations), and an interview programme with business representatives and policymakers at the EU and national levels. Results have shown that most SMEs (approx. 97%) perform some kind of activities that can be labelled as CSR. However, SMEs tend to under- or over-state the level of their commitments, and it remains difficult to accurately assess or compare any data based on self-reporting. The level of engagement amongst SMEs appears very diverse, with some SMEs going just beyond minimum legal requirements, while others conduct extensive activities with clear impacts. Generally, SMEs tend to pay more attention to activities that directly benefit their business, such as those related to decent work or consumer issues. In sectors where the business case for other areas, such as environmental protection or supply chains, is more clear-cut, activities are also more frequent.

Study activities also included preparing a Good Practice document, which exemplifies CSR practices in SMEs across Europe, and an SME Checklist for Responsible and Sustainable Conduct, which should help companies to undertake more extensive activities.

You can read the full report here.

The Good Practice document is available here.

The SME Checklist for Responsible and Sustainable conduct is available here.


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