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Business Sector Gets Socially Responsible Globally

Published: May 9, 2012 | 3:42 pm
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The COMMERCIAL TIMES Companies from all around the world were recognized for their outstanding corporate social responsibility initiatives programs and services at the 4th Annual Global CSR Awards 2012, The Asia’s most prestigious recognition awards program for Corporate Social Responsibility. According to the organizers, the competition has been the most intense this year with over 80 submissions from various companies around the world. “The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility becomes increasingly popular in the world. This is a result of the raised awareness as well as the attitudes of national governments and corporate management. But this also reflects the increasing attention toward environmental issues, human centered development and social issues,” Giorgi Nanobashvili, Economic Development Team Leader, UNDP Georgia, told The COMMERCIAL TIMES. According to Nanobashvili, Public and private consensus determines development trends in the countries as well as the image of the corporations. This cooperation usually links with certain values and attitudes which are the subject of gradual or fast transformation. International forums and dialogues, such as the UN Global Compact and Rio+20 are the way to lead the transformation process. “Business has a great potential for doing good in a country. It creates wealth, provides employment and economic opportunity. However, what a company produces and how, how it buys and sells, how it affects the environment, how it recruits, trains and develops its own people, how it invests in the community and interacts with other groups in society – all of these add together to form the impact of that company on society,” noted Giorgi. “The companies are increasingly called on to manage all these impacts responsibly, and in exchange they receive tangible business benefits, including a reputation and trust from society.” As Nanobashvili said, for Georgia, who is looking to be more integrated into the Western alliances and organizations, it is important to align its practices with the ones predominant in the West. “The fact that the business community is working collectively towards the adoption of these standards, and in collaboration with other actors in society sends the message of stability and progressiveness and improves the international image of the country.” The United Nations and UNDP through their Global Compact Initiative have been promoting Corporate Social Responsibility in Georgia since 2007. By joining the Global Compact Network, the companies commit themselves to respecting ten main principles of the Global Compact, which are basically a set of core values in the areas of human rights, labour standards, environment, and anti-corruption. On the global level, a great number of leading companies are collaborating with UNDP and other UN agencies to expand economic opportunity and fight the causes and effects of poverty, protect the environment and the climate, and create preconditions for sustainable human development. “For Georgian companies in particular, the adoption of business standards facilitates integration in European value chains; it helps access to finance and collaborative opportunities. We encourage promotion of Corporate Social Responsibility because it is beneficial to the society,” said Giorgi. Bank Republic / Société Générale Group “Corporate Social Responsibility is embedded in daily business of Bank Republic. CSR is about business behaviors and earning the trust and loyalty of stakeholders. Bank Republic has established strong image of a socially responsible institution in the Georgian society,” Tinatin Nadiradze, PR Manager of Bank Republic, told The COMMERCIAL TIMES. Bank Republic is guided by Societe Generale guidelines and Corporate Governance Code, making the Bank’s governance process more transparent and showing that the Bank is committed to the best principles of corporate governance. CSR is a guiding principle in the bank’s lending activity, risk management, quality control, human resource management, environmental awareness of staff and social projects. In 2011, Bank Republic, pursuing its long-term tradition to support the Georgian cultural heritage, BR sponsored the popular festival of classic music Night Serenades, founded by the world famous violinist Liana Isakadze. The festival held in Adjara was a major cultural event for the nation, as it featured internationally recognized musicians. Bank Republic also sponsored a concert of the national dance group Erisioni. The bank continued supporting initiatives within the framework of Citizens Commitment Week, which included blood donation, collection of first necessities and cash in certain occasions and participating in the cancer awareness project Race for the Cure. During the year Bank Republic supported different educational and cultural projects. “Long-term commitment to work in the field of CSR will still remain as one of the strategic points for BR in respect to contributing to the welfare of the society where it operates. BR remains loyal to socially responsible business activities and reports about it to public, customers, shareholders and society at large, while adhering to the CSR policy of Societe Generale,” said Nadiradze. Currently Bank Republic runs a new social project- Bank Republic and Contemporary Arts, which will last till the end of the year. Bank Constanta Bank Constanta, says promoting ethnographic culture is one of the top priorities for the bank. “About a year and a half ago when we were just starting to work on this issue, we found that no other big organization was engaged actively in supporting ethnography and we did it. During last quarter we worked on promoting ethno culture cities where ethnography had gone out of fashion already and was almost forgotten. The feedback was amazing, outstandingly positive,” Lasha-Giorgi Gogua, Head of Bank Constanta’s Marketing Department, told The COMMERCIAL TIMES. “Since Responsible Financing is an important part for Bank Constanta, we’re doing our best to be responsible before our clients in all directions. As a part of this strategy, the bank operates Service Monitoring and Consumer Rights Service in oreder to privide clients with high quality services possible. Client education and awareness is one of the main priorities for our bank,“ said Gogua.   According to him, as a part of the social responsibility strategy, top management of Bank Constanta received special trainings so that to get better educated on what social responsibility is about  and make it work within the organization.   “In addition, we have worked out several new products, which will appear on the local market in close future. The main message spread with launching these new products is again providing our clients with a broader range of banking services,“ noted Gogua.   The COMMERCIAL TIMES interviewed Ketevan Sidamonidze, Focal Point of the Global Compact Network in Georgia. - What do you think could be the reason for growth global attention towards CSR issues form international companies? – Ideally, we want to be living in a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. With such severe competition out there it takes more than just providing quality goods and services to be a successful business in the long run. Almost all businesses worldwide and especially in Georgia have CSR activity at some level, although most is reactive, ad hoc or informal. And yet, if you’re doing something really good, unless you shout about it and make sure your key customers, suppliers and community know, it’s no good. Businesses should think of CSR activity as assets and any lack of targeted communication is diminishing the value of the impact the initiative could have had. The most plausible way to shout about your achievements in this field is to get an official acknowledgement from professional and credible institutions that assess CSR activities, i.e. Annual Global CSR Award or any other related trustworthy award. I am confident more and more businesses understand the importance of being responsible and they want to be acknowledged for being as such – hence, the increase of applicants for the awards. - The United Nations Global Compact is the largest corporate social responsibility initiative in the world, encompassing some 5.000 members in over 100 countries. The Global Compact is a voluntary initiative that calls for adoption and incorporation of 10 fundamental principles of ethical business into companies’ operations, and for annual disclosure of progress in this respect. How would you assess CSR development in Georgia? Does the local private sector volunteer enough? – With over 8700 corporate participants and other stakeholders from over 130 countries, it is the largest voluntary corporate responsibility initiative in the world. As I already mentioned, businesses in Georgia do have CSR activities, although most are reactive, ad hoc or informal. Local businesses do volunteer but there is room for so much more to do and in much better, consistent, original and more efficient ways. We are currently trying to promote the concept of structured and long-term CSR activities as well as corporate volunteerism. - The Global Compact initiative was launched in Georgia in December of 2006. How many members does the initiative list currently? – The Global Compact Network in Georgia was launched by UNDP Georgia in 2006 and from year 2010, the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia assumes responsibilities of the GC Network Secretariat in Georgia based on the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed between the Network, AmCham and UNDP on December 17, 2009. Since 2006 the network has seen many changes and some of the companies that joined the network initially no longer exist. Currently, the network has 30 participants. However, it was felt that a lot more could be accomplished by having a working group level committee within AmCham consisting of representatives from member companies interested in CSR; motivated to complement and implement the strategic goals of the GC Steering Committee and provide valuable feedback and recommendations for consideration and as a consequence, in January 2012, AmCham CSR Committee was established. The CSR committee is comprised of the representatives from 35 companies that either already are leaders in CSR initiatives or aspire to be responsible leaders. – What would be your recommendation to the local businessmen intending to follow CSR principles? - First of all, get a copy of the CSR manual that we have developed in Georgian and English languages and read it. The Manual is the first publication of its kind in Georgia and it provides practical instruction to companies on how to set up and improve their corporate social responsibility practices, and lists numerous examples of best practice on the part of Georgian and international companies. It is also designed to help the civil society organizations in establishing collaboration with the private sector. Electronic copies are available on AmCham and Global Compact websites free of charge! Secondly, I would advise the Georgian companies to develop policies and code of conducts and stick to them! It is important to comprehend that by regularly acting responsible in relation to employees, society and environment, companies can benefit from branding and long term sustainability in costs and product innovation. Additionally, I would encourage the companies to build CSR into recruitment, professional development and all internal communications. In other words, inspire all their employees to become CSR endorsers.

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