chapter  3
18 Pages

Finland: positive union engagement with CSR

ByANNA - MAIJA LÄMSÄ AND SOILIKKI VILJANEN

The institutional system of Finland is an example of the Nordic welfare model. The government and public sector have an important role in social and, to some extent, business activities. The trade unions have been key players in the Finnish system for a long time, with institutionalized patterns of interaction as well as mandatory and codified rights. In addition to collective agreements between employees and employers, the labour market organizations have concluded various other agreements that establish consistent procedures for dealing with general questions about working conditions, such as earnings-related social security insurance. Since the government and the public sector play a crucial role in social activities, the incentive for companies to engage in philanthropy has been traditionally rather low. In recent years, CSR has grown in importance in the eyes of Finnish companies, which have started to make their attachment to it explicit. Increasing globalization of the business environment and deregulation of the business system are important reasons for this phenomenon. Despite certain reservations, the Finnish trade unions mostly have a positive attitude towards CSR. The unions, which are currently taking steps to make CSR explicit in their policies, have engaged in a number of responsibility initiatives in practice, but have seldom defined the concept precisely. It is commonly accepted amongst the Finnish unions that CSR does not mean a replacement of formal agreements between employers and employees and legally codified employee rights – hence, it is not seen as contrary to their aims but rather as supportive of them. The unions have experienced increasing pressure to engage in CSR as a result of the

institutional changes in the business environment that have come with globalized markets. However, they view themselves as having a strong legitimate status in the Finnish institutional system, and do not appear to be experiencing any sense of threat from CSR.