chapter  11
16 Pages

Sweden: CSR as a non- union arena for union issues


The Swedish case illustrates the integration of corporate social responsibility (CSR) into a national context where one particular stakeholder, the trade unions, has held a key position as the preeminent counterpart to employers for the best part of a century, and where the national welfare system is the domain of the state rather than the private sector. While considered a co-ordinated market economy, Sweden has in recent years experienced structural developments in the workforce and in the labour market, such as outsourcing, and a shift in employment from the public to the private sector and to higher education. As a result, the balance between blue-and white-collar trade unions has shifted in favour of the latter. These developments have contributed to the emergence of a foreign concept – namely CSR – appearing as potentially both a threat and an opportunity for the unions. Surprisingly, the union federation that has encountered the greatest challenges in terms of decreasing membership, LO (the Swedish Trade Union Confederation), is also the one which has allocated most resources to engage actively with CSR. At sectoral level, none of the unions interviewed for this chapter used the term CSR; instead they relied on the trade union vocabulary. They would use the term CSR only when dealing with multinational businesses or acting at the European Union (EU) level.