On 14th July 2016, Conexx-Europe interviewed Mr. Ramón Jáuregui with the aim of detecting barriers, accelerators, risks and incentives in the University Social Responsibility implementation. This interview was conducted within the USR-NET: European Network of Socially Responsible Universities project framework. Mr. Jáuregui is a Member of the European Parliament, Chair of the Delegation to the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly and one international leading promoter of Corporate Social Responsibility. Conexx-Europe presented the project to Mr. Jáuregui who showed interest and support, and shared his valuable insights, expertise and recommendations.
First of all, he offered his insights about the concept of “Social Responsibility”, focusing mainly on its implementation at Universities, stating: “The Social Responsibility is an attitude and the ability of self-demandingness towards producing a good impact at social and environmental level (or at least reducing the most possible the bad effects) in the use of the resources needed to provide products and/or services”.
Mr. Jáuregui explained briefly the evolution of the Corporate Social Responsibility, since the European Commission published the Green Paper “Promoting a European Framework for CSR” in 2001 until today. He highlighted the importance of not confusing Social Responsibility with social action.
More precisely, he highlighted the importance of focusing the Social Responsibility implementation in a single sector approach such as Universities in our case and the public sector. He underlined the necessity of measuring the impacts, as well as identifying all the stakeholders in order to start or increase dialogue with them. The main objective is, from his pint of view, to find out new paths of collaboration where all parts benefit from this relation within the social responsibility framework.
Mr. Jáuregui suggested a theoretical methodology model that Universities could use to implement successfully the Social Responsibility. “The commitment of the university governing bodies is the first step and the most important key factor that will determine its successful execution”, he stated. Further, he underlined the importance of designing an executive plan by an expert in Social Responsibility, in which activities, deadlines and measurable indicators should be included. In addition, all advances achieved should be reported in an annual memory of activities. According to him, this would represent a diagnosis and accountability tool that could provide concrete information to decision-makers and stakeholders. This result will lay the foundations upon which the latter will work to introduce the desired improvements. It is convenient to create a Social Responsibility Department that promotes, monitors and assess the proper implementation.
He shared some insights about what issues could discourage USR implementation. For example, financial costs, holistic coherence, corporatism, potential inflexibility of the public function, lack of accountable culture within the structure, lack of public opinion support due to the lack of knowledge and misunderstanding about this concept, among others.
Besides, Mr. Jáuregui discussed some leverages and external incentives that could accelerate and boost its execution. For example, the University reputation, chances to increase quality performances, the opportunity that could suppose in terms of marketing and internal and external communication, the existence of structures with stakeholders (for example, Social Councils in Spain), possibility of incentives in tax, public budget distribution, public procurement or public tender.
The challenge represented by the incorporation of Social Responsibility as a transversal topic at University was judged overambitious. “In case you attempt this challenge, considering the large amount of university degrees, fields of knowledge and career opportunities, this content should be adapted to the student needs and within their own professional code of ethics”, he stated. And he suggested taking into account the student needs, expectative, rights and high quality standards.
In respect of building synergies among University communities and other societal stakeholders (the second main challenge of the USR-NET project) he suggested prioritizing the collaboration and synergies with organisations that work in territories where Universities are settled. Thus, in fact, these organisations are aware of the priorities and needs that different groups face at the local level. Also he highlighted the convenience of creating and designing indicators and methodologies of measurement inspired in the Global Report Initiative, in this case focusing on Universities.
To sum up, the interview offered very valuable information, knowledge, expertise, methodologies, and raised awareness of the potential limitations, risks and opportunities, which is the aim of the research that the USR-NET is carrying out. We thank Mr. Ramón Jáuregui for his collaboration and the meaningful insights about the subject.