“Solve your own issues” – this was mainly an exhaustive interpretation of corporate social responsibility (CSR) until recently. But the companies of the new generation – both all over the world and in Belarus – plan their CSR programs not for an annual report or for PR, but for a systematic contribution to the sustainable development of local communities. Thus, actively demonstrating an essentially different interpretation of CSR – “Solve real problems”.
Do you know what was the most widespread service among grated CSR consultants a couple of years ago? Preparation of the annual report, which was supposedly the fundamental principle of CSR. But the paradigm is changing – thanks to new leaders and companies with a global modern vision.
In a special issue of the Journal of Management Studies (a scientific journal founded in 1963 on behalf of the Society for the Advancement of Management Research) devoted to CSR, on the global business agenda back in 2006, the key issue was the strategic interpretation of the concept of social responsibility. The whole world began to “discover” CSR for itself – to introduce it into the very DNA of business strategies.
In the 1990s, CSR began to become an investment instrument. It is believed that from this period the concept of social responsibility of business completed the stage of formation and moved on to the stage of development. And now, in our days, CSR is finally becoming an urgent tool for a successful sustainable business. And the development of CSR in Belarus, albeit to a much lesser extent, already reflects global trends. Namely, the gradual integration of CSR principles not only into communication, but also into the strategy of companies. Moreover, at the level of the business model and even product management. After all, the target audience of Generation Z consumers who have grown up on Internet values wants to buy from companies that have a social impact. Thus, business comes to the ideology of social investments that bring long-term results – sustainable development both for itself and for society. And the second is at the head of the corner.
Undoubtedly, a decent response of local business to the global CSR trend requires solving a number of issues. For example, as stated in the national report “On Social Investments in Russia – 2008: Integration of CSR into Corporate Strategy”, in Russia (which, thanks to the powerful presence of global corporations, is somewhat ahead of Belarus in the evolution of CSR) back in 2008, 60% of managers identified CSR function with the work of HR departments, although already 83% considered it a tool for achieving long-term benefits. This highlighted the still existing gap between the vision of business leaders and the structure of companies. Today, this gap is narrowing, as we see in the examples of the next generation of companies.
We asked a representative of one of these new generation companies – Yulia Leshkova, Deputy Director of Parimatch Belarus, to supplement our small excursion with our vision from the point of view of real CSR in Belarus.
– Yulia, what, in your opinion, is the main reason for the CSR practice of modern companies?
– The CSR policy of companies is, as a rule, related to the direction of their business. Even if the relationship doesn’t seem obvious. Iconic cases almost always confirm this “theory.” For example, the CSR strategy of many IT companies is related to education or science. Their ecosystem is based on educational activities, the movement of mankind forward. It is quite logical that the CSR activity of these companies is aimed at building schools and includes educational initiatives. This is a great project, and it fits perfectly into the development strategy of a global corporation.
I will not single out specific cases aimed at environmental protection, education, science or ecology – this is all, no doubt, important. The most important thing is to choose a vector and concentrate on it, since CSR is not about sharing a resource, like, for example, charity, it is about a global contribution and serious ongoing work in order to influence the improvement of the situation in the chosen area.
– What is the vision and experience of Parimatch Belarus? What are the plans?
– To address CSR to solving real problems – this is the global vision of Parimatch Belarus. At the same time, this is the biggest challenge and the biggest challenge.
Most of the charitable programs we implement are aimed at improving the well-being and health of the community through education and involvement of children in sports, providing equal opportunities for everyone.
Our main project right now is, of course, the Parimatch Foundation. As part of it, we are developing children’s sports: both adaptive and for children in a socially dangerous situation. During this year, we have already made a big step – we have involved many children, including those with disabilities, in sports, helped a number of budgetary institutions in creating a material base. We take under our wing not always “standard”, but unambiguously important projects. Thanks to the Parimatch Foundation, for example, children from orphanages will go to a sports camp in August, and children from a Mogilev sanatorium school with scoliosis will start archery in September to improve their treatment results.
Ahead is scaling, the development of these programs, the expansion of the contact base, the involvement of more children in sports. We also plan to train specialists who will work with us in this direction.
Also, a number of our initiatives are aimed at protecting the environment and conscientious consumption: we sort waste, and we have given up disposable tableware in the office. Every year we are greening the city, working on the introduction of electronic document management. We cooperate and financially help non-profit organizations. We are implementing equally important projects to help homeless animals. We build responsible relationships with company employees and customers, we participate in the development of the market.
– What is the importance of CSR for companies focused on the global market?
– CSR has a direct impact on the strategy of sustainable development, and is also closely related to the quality of corporate governance, ethical market behavior, active social position, lean production and conscious consumption. In international practice, there is even a special system for evaluating a company according to these criteria, which is taken into account by investors during an IPO or the conclusion of any transactions. And this is absolutely justified: CSR as a philosophy of company development and business achievement of commercial success in ways based on ethical standards and respect for people, the environment, is designed to improve the well-being of both the company itself and society.
Numerous studies confirm that a large percentage of consumers can refuse to buy or services a company if it ignores CSR. The same goes for the loyalty of the employees themselves. Therefore, for companies focused on the global market, CSR is an indispensable component of their development strategy.
Belarusian business is just beginning to “understand” the importance of CSR, but due to the lack of experience, companies still make mistakes.
– What practical conclusions, recommendations on CSR today can be made for the business of Belarus?
– Today, the promotion of CSR initiatives and projects often falls into the overall communication strategy of the company. And for many of them, these are really weighty news stories. However, now there are fewer and fewer business representatives who use CSR only for the purpose of PR. Companies deliberately implement CSR projects in order to maintain relationships with government authorities or stakeholders they are targeting.
In terms of recommendations, any of the directions can be beneficial to society if it solves specific problems. From participation in market development to events in support of culture, science, social initiatives, environmental protection, inclusive projects and business models.