The concept of fairness is at the heart of corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR is about decent working conditions, fair trading relations, environmentally sound production and anti-corruption. Cities have many options to support CSR initiatives, and to provide incentives and standards for responsible action, while improving their own image.
Fields in which cities can support CSR initiatives range from classic fair trade, fair and transparent procurement, international cooperation, sustainable finance and sustainable urban tourism to supporting private businesses engaging in developing countries and emerging economies within the scope of their corporate social responsibility.
Cities that have become active in these areas have developed a wide range of instruments including information events, exhibitions, shows and trade fairs, awards for businesses and managing the joint initiatives of various companies.
Sozial beschaffen in Bonn (social procurement in Bonn) is an initiative that aims not only to tackle corruption and uphold human rights, but also to respect environmental standards and the International Labour Organization's core labour standards in the public procurement of goods and services, as well as supporting PR work.
More than 1,400 fair trade towns in 24 countries, including Hamburg, London, Brussels, Rome, San Francisco and Copenhagen, have taken an idea and turned it into a worldwide movement. In Germany alone, 225 towns and rural districts have now been certified as fair trade towns. They undertake to use fairly traded products in their local authorities and public facilities such as schools, nurseries and associations, to increase the range of fair trade products available in shops, cafés and restaurants, and to conduct educational activities on fair trade.
In addition, private businesses in industrialised countries attempt, through targeted investments in developing countries, to establish fair trading and production relations - in part to meet the growing demand for these products in industrialised countries. Twinning arrangements and international relations between towns can provide a platform here. However, intercultural skills are needed on the part of both the employees of the towns and cities working in this area and on the part of the private businesses themselves.
Companies with international operations in developing countries and emerging economies are also launching CSR initiatives in order to agree on common labour, environmental and social standards, and share experience on implementation - partly to keep pace with international competitors.
In some of these countries corruption is so prevalent that it has become a serious obstacle for businesses. With the support of the GIZ-assisted Centre for Cooperation with the Private Sector, business networks have thus formed in Nairobi (Kenya), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Monrovia (Liberia). They have adopted a voluntary code of ethics with a view to stemming this corruption.
The city state of Singapore and the city of Sragen in Central Java, Indonesia are also leading the way. IT systems are helping them to significantly improve transparency and efficiency in their work. With GIZ support, Bangladesh is taking a similar path with its one-stop service centre in Jamalpur Pourashava.
As these examples clearly illustrate, CSR is ideally an integral part of the business philosophy and strategy of a company, and of the development concept of a local authority. Responsible action along the entire value chain generates advantages for businesses and cities, and benefits both society as a whole and the environment.