chapter  10
18 Pages

Spain: an opportunity to improve working conditions through CSR


The driving forces behind the implementation of CSR practices in Spain are political institutions (national and regional parliaments and governments) and the policies advanced by economic actors like large (and to a much lesser extent medium-sized) companies and, especially, the two largest trade union federations — Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT, General Union of Workers) and Comisiones Obreras (CCOO, Workers’ Commissions). Agreements between governments, employers’ associations and unions are central to the Latin or mixed capitalist model that characterizes Spain, and they are also the umbrella under which certain CSR initiatives are taken. However, the voluntary nature of these initiatives, the relatively small size of firms and the economic crisis are perceived as a brake on the extension of CSR practices. Furthermore, the central role of unions in the Latin capitalist model is changing, partly as a result of the crisis and the reform policies implemented by the conservative government since its election in 2011. Spanish trade unions perceive CSR as an opportunity to improve working conditions and render companies more accountable. They participate or have set up research centres (observatorios) to help disseminate information on CSR and monitor appropriate corporate policies. CSR is perceived as a key factor in the survival of companies and in the expansion of unions’ relevance. However, unions also acknowledge that CSR provides an opportunity for companies to improve their public image, and to promote a set of principles that may not necessarily lead to genuine improvements in their business practices.