Stephen Timms argues that corporate social responsibility will make construction firms more successful.
THE Minister for competitiveness and e-commerce Stephen Timms this week urged construction companies to increase profitability by becoming more socially responsible.

Timms, who was speaking at the Construction Industry Environmental Forum on Wednesday, said corporate social responsibility helped to improve business performance and combat social injustice.

He said that this was an important issue for the construction industry to address if it was to make itself attractive to employees and solve the sector's skills crisis.

The DTI junior minister said: "I firmly believe that this agenda is critical to the success of organisations both in the long and short term." In this connection he referred to a Pricewaterhouse Coopers survey that found that 70% of global chief executives believe corporate social responsibility is vital to profitability.

Timms said the government could help promote responsible corporate practice in two ways.

The first was for government to ensure that regulatory and fiscal frameworks encouraged corporate social responsibility rather than stifled it.

The second was for government to work in partnership with business and community organisations as a catalyst for corporate social responsibility.

I firmly believe that this agenda is critical to success

Stephen Timms

Timms said the government had plans to require firms to disclose any significant social and environmental aspects of their projects. These proposals would be included in a review of company law, which is now taking place.

Timms said the government wanted UK companies of all kinds to take account of the economic, social and environmental impact of their activities, although he added the rider that the government had to be careful not to be too interventionist.

The government's main aims were to raise the profile of social responsibility, to assist small and medium-sized enterprises and to promote greater transparency and clearer guidance on corporate social responsibility reporting.

Support for international corporate social responsibility would be given through bodies such as the Ethical Trading Initiative.

He said the European Commission had just published a communication document on the issue. It indicated that the commission's approach would be that it should primarily be a business-driven agenda.