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An agreement to make Europe the best place to live and work
Europe the best place to live and work

Brussels hosted last week (Monday 16 and Tuesday 17 November) a new edition of the Enterprise 2020 Summit organized by CSR Europe - the business association for the promotion of social responsibility at European level. This was the third edition of this biennial event. The Summit also served as an opportunity to celebrate CSR Europe's 20th anniversary and to understand the impact of its achievements in promoting CSR over the last two decades.

The context was somber. A few hours after the Paris attacks of November 13 and with the sadness and dismay present in the speeches and interventions, the opening of the meeting by the President of CSR Europe, Etienne Davignon, was clear and forceful: "The Paris events serve to reaffirm the necessary commitment of companies to young people and local communities". Along the same lines, the Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Elzbieta Bienkowska, affirmed the need to reinforce a vision of Europe and companies that create shared value for society. She also emphasized the value chain, compliance and human rights aspects of business management. Without giving too much away, she commented on the need to involve investors more and more in conversations about CSR, or as she called it, "Responsible Business Conduct".

The format of the two-day meeting included a series of plenary sessions, as well as 10 smaller-scale but more intense side events. Among the main highlights that Forética was able to perceive were a panel of business leaders from companies such as IBM, McCain, Hitachi, focused on issues of innovation and disruption, talent and intergenerational dialogue, the "radicality" and urgency of the necessary change and the need to continue collaborating in alliances, with an ambitious agenda and seeking solutions to the most relevant issues for European sustainability.

We live in a VUCA ( volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world, as Alfons Suquet, President of the Academy of Business in Society and Dean of ESADE Business School, reminded us. This is why CSR must go beyond the current parameters to other areas of the company, such as R&D, youth and entrepreneurship. To sum up, Hitachi's President for Europe, Klaus-Dieter Rennert, brought up a very apt phrase attributed to Alfred Dupont Chandler: "You can't do today's work with yesterday's tools and have a business that works tomorrow".

The parallel sessions were led by CSR Europe's national networks, with the aim of bringing trends, sharing best practices and stimulating debate on the future of sustainability. There were sessions for all tastes; from sustainable cities to employability, human rights, scientific and technological vocations (STEM), the collaborative economy or the Sustainable Development Goals. All of them with a very practical approach, in which more than 600 attendees participated.

Forética led a session on lifelong employability and another on the Sustainable Development Goals. In the first one we had the examples of Italy, Spain, France, Belgium and Czech Republic, we analyzed how they work for the inclusion of people of different ages, how to make workplaces more inclusive and promote youth employment. Companies such as BBVA, Reale Seguros, CEZ Group and Engie as well as the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions participated. In the session on the Sustainable Development Goals, we spoke with experts from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, GRI and Business in the Community.

European Youth Pact

The highlight of the Summit was the launch of the "European Pact for Youth". "European Pact for Youthan alliance between companies, European governments and diverse organizations to foster impactful partnerships between business and education to improve youth inclusion and employability. The event was attended by the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, and King Philippe of Belgium. The speeches were eloquent and emotional. A Europe that is not capable of managing the social cohesion of its young people and promoting their employability has no future. Work is hope and it is the future, added Education Commissioner Tibor Navracsis, especially on a continent with seven million unemployed young people and four million young people leaving the education system early, but with around two million job vacancies in the next five years. Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, referred to a key skills development agenda for Europe's competitiveness, especially around the digital economy.

It is a commitment for everyone, a commitment in which the company will play a key role in breaking down the barriers between business and education and in ensuring that organizations make a significant contribution. The event was also attended by young people who are working or improving their employability, making us reflect on the company's constant need to attract and retain talent, to value and recognize the contribution of people and to promote competitiveness through talent.

The Pact makes a concrete call to member states to develop national business-education linkage plans to enhance employability. It also promotes an alliance with social agents, youth associations, teachers and schools, academics to make this alliance a reality through at least 10,000 business-society links in the next two years. The fulfillment of this Pact remains to be seen, but in Spain it makes us think about the great task ahead and how much remains to be done in this area. Undoubtedly, with the involvement of companies and other key groups, it should be achieved.

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