Sector-specific corporate responsibility in the United Kingdom

Schaefer, Anja (2013). Sector-specific corporate responsibility in the United Kingdom. In: Beschorner, Thomas; Hajduk, Thomas and Simeonov, Samuil eds. Corporate Responsibility in Europe: Government Involvement in Sector-specific Initiatives. Gütersloh: Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung, pp. 241–262.



The economy of the United Kingdom (UK) is dominated by services and particularly financial services industries, and it was thus hard hit by the financial crisis. The UK has a long tradition of free trade, and its politics over at least the last 30 years have been characterised by a market orientation. UK governments have, on the whole, favoured light-touch regulation and voluntary rather than mandatory approaches to encouraging businesses to work in the public interest. The idea of corporate responsibility (CR) has a longer tradition in the UK than in other European countries. Likewise, government encouragement of CR has been on the agenda for several decades now. There are a number of initiatives aimed at specific industry sectors. These initiatives take a variety of forms and administrative arrangements. A voluntary CR approach to achieving public goods is generally favoured by industry, and such initiatives can have good industry responses. However, in the light of the financial crisis and stringent cutbacks in the public sector spending, the future of such initiatives is unclear.

The chapter gives an overview of public policy CR initiatives in the United Kingdom and discusses three sector specific initiatives in detail: The Courtauld Commitment, aimed at reducing waste in the food and drinks manufacturing and retail industries; the Strategy for Sustainable Construction, a high-level strategy aiming to bring together a range of separate sustainability initiatives for the construction sector; and Treating Customers Fairly, a regulatory initiative aimed at improving customer care in financial services.

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