Tale

Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen’s speech at the opening of the Copenhagen Centre’s conference at Kunstakademiets Arkitektskole, Holmen

Your Majesty, Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Four years ago, I had the pleasure of opening an international conference on Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, and partnership in Copenhagen. I can already see that many of you were there.

I would like you to think back to 1997 for a moment.

At that time globalisation a very expression was a relatively newly formulated concept. Even mobile phones as our chairman indicated were much more scarce, mainly used by professionals - and definitely not a key means of communication for kids and teenagers. The Internet was still for many even for the majority a mysterious, even in the most developed countries. And ladies and gentlemen Seattle, Prague and Gothenburg were cities, not symbols of the debate on globalisation.

CSR cooperates social responsibility was discussed, mainly among a limited number of front running companies, business networks, experts and NGOs. The concept of the Triple Bottom Line was just coined that year.

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This little flashback holds two messages I think:

  • The first is that our world is changing with incredible speed, and that rapid and unpredicted changes have become a condition for all of us. For better and for worse.
  • The second is ladies and gentlemen I think we can make a difference if we will and if we decide so that, in terms of CSR and new partnerships, we’ve moved much further than any of us would have imagined.

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I believe that we are on the threshold of a development which a new economy with new information technology with new democratisation of the eastern European countries with new market access to the world economy with new recognition that the third world is our destiny also this recognition and thresholds of development would surpass the industrial revolution – both in terms of scope, of impact and, not least, of speed. Globalisation is changing societies and the generation of economic wealth.

What we are doing these years is to try to formulate political answers. Cooperate answers. Partnership answers to the global perspective. Global perspective and problems need global answers – that is what we are going for.

I am happy to see that this conference, globalisation and global governance is one of the four main themes you have chosen. To me, globalisation holds an enormous potential for wealth creation and economic growth, as well as intercultural understanding. But it is also a duple-side coin.

But I am fully aware that there is a reverse of the medal. What we see is, in many ways, a process, which is partly out of control. The benefits of globalisation are not fair distributed, to say the least. For many, it means less economic, social and political security, not more.

I feel ladies and gentlemen that for too long time the global pendulum has been swinging in the wrong direction. I feel that it is time now to swing it the right way again. We have so many opportunities and if we lay our strength together we can really formulate the future for all of us. It is time for action now. It is time for ambitions now it is time for action programmes now.

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Clearly, the relatively few violent protesters of Seattle, Prague and Gothenburg have not got it right, and clearly we are not together here today to make things worse for poor people or for poor people who need employment – we are here to do the opposite. And clearly international gatherings are not gathered to make our environmental issues worse off but better off. But still I hope and I have learned today that also in this very room right now we have representatives for NGOs and personally I welcome you – because I have always believed that dialogue is the way to come further on. And this is also an invitation from me and from the government to contribute with business to obtain dialogue with our NGOs and not the opposite.

Because there is reason for concern about some of the effects of globalisation. And there is reason for all of us, who work for globalisation with a human face, to discuss the responsibilities of business, of governments, and international agencies.

To balance the forces of globalisation and the market economy, we not only need to work for a set of basic rules of game. We must also have the courage to address the difficult issues of efficient implementation and compliance with regards to such rules. I like to stress that for me it is a fact that we do need more politics not less politics.

But ladies and gentlemen in the good sense in the sense of partnership in a sense of ambitions in a sense of a shared vision we need to create a global sustainable development in all the three dimensions: Environmentally, socially and economically. It will be a major task during the Danish Presidency of the EU to achieve this through what we have called and will call a “Global Deal” at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in September next year.

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Let me now focus on Europe.

I am convinced that Europe and the European union is in a unique position to take a major step forward in implementing and mainstreaming corporate social responsibility and public-private partnerships.

Firstly, the European business community is increasingly realizing its potential for contributing to a sustainable and socially balanced growth.

What we see is that recognizing their role as a powerful key player in our societies more and more companies have realised that practising CSR is not only beneficial for society as a whole, but also for business. It is beneficial for their long-term commercial strategies – and for their shareholders. They are no longer asking why - but how. Because they know that consumers are being more and more conscious about how you produce and when you produce and under which circumstances you produce.

I will also mention that the growing attention from consumers and community groups of course are underlining this development.

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My second point is European Governments are now beginning to see the mutual benefits of joining forces with the business community. It is a good story now ladies and gentlemen. We should welcome the contribution offered by business, we should encourage it, and provide the necessary, enabling frameworks to make it develop and grow.

It is time to join forces in a joint venture between major players of our societies, including business, to foster a dynamic, knowledge-based economy, which is both sustainable and inclusive.

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And this is what Heads of State and Government envisaged in the Lisbon strategy for Employment, Economic reform and Social Cohesion in March last year.

In the conclusions of that summit which the chairman indicated on a Danish initiative we inserted a special appeal to companies sense of social responsibility. I am so happy to say that fifteen months after the Lisbon European Council defined the strategy we can conclude that it is and has been a key reference for economic and social policies. At the first follow up meeting on the Lisbon process in Stockholm in March this year we took stock of the development.

I am very happy to also welcome the commissions representatives her today. I am happy to see that one of the Commission’s initiatives will be presented at this conference. The Commission’s green paper on CSR is a first, important step in a developing of common platform of CSR in Europe.

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For me as I think for most of your life is to make a difference and for me as a Government leader, the role of Governments is naturally of special importance. I think we need Government initiatives across Europe to parallel those of the business world.

The business-to-business dynamics should be mirrored in an equally dynamic interaction between governments and public authorities across borders.

Efforts to bridge and combine such initiatives should hold an important promise, particularly in our efforts to meet the many challenges of the knowledge-driven economy. Education, education, education and engagement.

In our conclusions from the European Council’s summit in Feira last year, I was therefore happy to help gently pushing for European governments to engage in a dialogue and exchange of experience.

To me, the informal network between four European Governments, launched last year in Copenhagen, is a timely and promising initiative. And I wish that the family can grow and grow in the coming years to cover all the governments in Europe.

CSR will certainly also have a prominent place on the agenda for the Danish Presidency of the European Union in next second half-year. For your inspiration chairman we hope during the Danish presidency to strengthen the dialogue and perhaps we could take the first steps of measuring of what we are doing without drowning in bureaucracy that is not what I am talking about. But perhaps at this time – it could be the first initiative.

Let me end by a few words on my own country where you are right now.

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At the end of the day, this is all about is to create a better life for enable people unemployed people and people who have lost their dreams for the future. At the end of the day it is about creating quality of life for about fourteen million European inhabitants who are out of work, and frightening the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. It is how to create a better life in local communities, job opportunities, and safe working environment, and access to goods and services for all of them.

In my own country here ladies and gentlemen it has always been a fundamental believe from my side that the very fundamental values is that we should believe that each and every individual can do something – can make something can make a difference. And it is up to us is to create the framework so that it can become true and realised.

In Denmark, we have worked in quite many years seriously with the object. We have reached good progress there is still must to do. I think what we can do from government side in my country and perhaps also by others is the very combination of a solid macro economic policy a ambitious active labour market policy and social services combined with education, active education and support to you – you cooperate social responsibilities and firms and create public private partnership.

The goal is to create an inclusive society with opportunities for all – not more – not less.

In this conference would gain invaluable experience from our partnership with business. And I am so thankful to Danish companies to Danish firms for what they have done up till now and I am so lucky to see so many international representatives here today.

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There is namely one fundamental central group of actors who it all bee based upon and that is individual companies social recognition.

A very important lesson we’ve learned here is that if companies are acting in a social responsible manner, they can be highly efficient in shaping an inclusive labour market.

I mentioned again and again and would like to end by stressing it. There is no contrast between achieving good results in money terms for your shareholders and practising CSR. Partnerships make us better off in all the different aspect therefore thank your for coming at this conference. You are a symbol of this new partnership. Without partnerships – no future.

I think the campaign and the conference is extremely timely well-planned – right moment. And conclusion I hope that one of the major efforts of the conference will also be a dialogue with our NGOs in a constructive and good manner. After all what we are going for is to create global answers to global perspectives European answers to European prospective. This is what we are going for.

I wish you all a very good and constructive conference and I thank you.