Addressing these issues requires implementing a public-private partnership by engaging multinational corporations to deliver capacity building, noted Peter Illig of International Society of Doctors for the Environment (now at Association Internationale pour l’Osteosynthese Dynamique). He noted that, for the developing country, the occupational setting is a healthier setting than the local community setting. The way to address many of the problems is to rebuild the linkages of health and the environment. The need to do this holds true for corporations as well as governments. There has been a defined separation between environment and health, and often environment officials and the health officials do not communicate with each other. There are significant cost benefits to be realized and improvements in efficiencies from recognizing those environmental sources of ill health that are often not only easy to identify but are cost-effective to address, noted Illig.
During the workshop, CSR was defined many ways, but in essence, according to Illig, the role of CSR is to balance and integrate the economic, social, and environmental responsibilities in order to minimize harm, optimize societal benefits, and provide or generate wealth. Webb suggested that CSR might be similar to a Trojan horse—it has been wheeled into the corporate and societal arena, and we are now trying to understand better what encompasses and what is inside it. He suggested that CSR is a concept about breaking down boundaries between governments, the private sector, and civil society organizations by recognizing there is a role for all three in addressing today’s societal problems. CSR can break down traditional boundaries, including the barriers between health and the environment.
Governments need to examine ways that CSR can be used as a competitive advantage for companies, but also as a way of addressing the problems of the 21st century.
Not all segments of industry are embracing CSR with equal vigor, noted Webb. However, currently, forestry, metal and mining sectors, and the chemistry industry have begun to deliver on CSR. Further, Webb suggested that governments, for the most part, have failed to recognize the importance of CSR for their region or its global implications. According to Webb, governments need to examine ways that CSR can be used as a competitive advantage for companies, but also as a way of addressing the problems of the 21st century.