BELGRADE – “Corporate social responsibility is developing rapidly in Serbia, evidenced by the fact that an increasing number of companies are reporting about sustainability and there is a growing number of joint projects of companies and organizations on resolving the business challenges of contemporary society,” was one of the assessments heard during the Fifth International Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility – the CSR Forum, held in the National Bank of Serbia in the organization of the Forum for CSR and the Business Leaders Forum - Smart Collective.
Within the Forum awards for corporate volunteering were given out in the residence of the ambassador of Sweden, this year being dedicated to the mitigation and elimination of the effects of this spring’s disastrous floods.
This year the awards went to Erste Bank, Societe Generale Srbija, Coca-Cola, Philip Morris, Lafarge, GSK, Straus Adriatic, Eurobank, Delta Holding and Meris.
This year’s award was dedicated to companies which made it possible for their employees to use their time, knowledge and skills to rectify the effects of the floods.
Special awards went to all companies which satisfied the requirements of the competition, being awarded as part of the international conference on corporate social responsibility - the CSR Forum.
After the state of emergency ended, many companies continued through volunteer activities to make it possible for their employees to be employed on the mitigation of the effects of the floods, given that the work of volunteers was still very important for many activities, such as clearing debris.
The Corporate Volunteering award was established in 2011 on the occasion of the European Year of Volunteering, when it was awarded at European level in 23 countries.
Martinenko:the Business Sector Reacted in Good Time
Andrey Martinenko, a corporate social responsibility expert employed at the Embassy of Sweden, said the reaction of the business sector was timely during this May’s catastrophic floods.
“Does corporate social responsibility imply helping the victims of the floods? How can companies be more efficient in efforts to mitigate the consequences? These questions, and others about the social contribution of the corporate sector, were discussed on 16 December, when the ambassador of Sweden hosted in his residence in Belgrade the ceremony of granting awards for corporate volunteering”, Martinenko said.
“The support of companies, by way of financial grants to the areas hit by the floods, the engagement of volunteers and equipment, proved exceptionally important in efforts to mitigate the consequences of the floods,” he added.
“The contributions of the award-winning companies encompassed major donations to the government and the Red Cross, projects of reconstructing schools, the purchase of rescue boats, bottled water and baby food, and thousands of hours of volunteering in helping the victims of the floods or transporting sandbags. Most of the award-winners are well known for their general efforts in the area of corporate social responsibility. It appears from a strategic point of view inconsiderate to analyze the corporate social responsibility of companies during a disaster affecting an entire nation. Although we cannot neglect that a high-quality program of corporate social responsibility, founded in the basic activity and directed at specific problems, helps achieve results even in times of crisis,” Martinenko stressed.
“An excellent illustration of strategic corporate social responsibility can be the story of Meris, representatives in Serbia of the Swedish pump manufacturers Flugt. Although their donation was not the biggest in volume, Meris managed to provide direct help where it was needed the most. Meris’s experts reacted fast, because they were aware of the need to remove massive amounts of water from the areas affected by the floods, especially coal mines. They assumed the initiative and contacted the embassy of Sweden to seek help in the donation and installation of three drainage pumps in the areas hit by the floods,” he said.
“The company had already established business relations with organizations which needed assistance, which made it possible to join in the action rapidly. Furthermore, Meris’s experts established that a higher capacity pump was needed urgently and offered their assistance in the acquisition of one, provided additional funds were set aside. In cooperation with the mission of the OSCE, the Swedish Government managed to secure the necessary 20,000 euros in a short period of time. The result of the action was that the pumps were very beneficial in draining water from important facilities, such as the Kolubara mines,” he stressed.
“The actions of this company were an example of innovativeness of modern corporate social responsibility: doing what you know best – using the knowledge of the company about the basic sphere of activity and the needs of associates, securing not just money but also expertise and equipment. Knowing for whom you are doing it: identifying the specific problem to be solved (not part of the general charitable activities). Knowing with whom you can implement it: partnership with other organizations in order to achieve the best possible result. The embassy affords special attention to the promotion of efficient strategic corporate social responsibility, as illustrated by Meris and other recipients of the award for corporate volunteering”.
“In the spirit of Swedish orientation to sustainable business operation, the embassy of Sweden in Serbia continuously supports the development of strategic corporate social responsibility in the country. The embassy also engages the assistance of professional consultants for corporate social responsibility in partnership with the Network of Global Agreement, the Chamber of Commerce, NGOs, universities, other embassies and international organizations. Striving for performing its activity in a socially responsible manner, the embassy organizes training in this field for its employees, seminars for Swedish companies operating in Serbia, as well as workshops for university students and journalists from various media,” Martinenko concluded.
The forum for CS
The Forum for Corporate Social Responsibility and the Business Leaders Forum (Smart Collective) continue to give out the award once a year in Serbia with the aim of rewarding and promoting companies which invest in the local community through the engagement of employees, developing constructive partnerships with organizations and institutions in the local community.
Earlier, during the day, the Forum in the National Bank of Serbia was addressed by Frederic Coin, the president of the Forum for CSR and the president of the board of Societe Generale in Serbia, and Aza El-Abd, the director of the USAid mission.
At a panel debate entitled Corporate Social Responsibility from the Viewpoint of Business Leaders, it was concluded that companies’ managements play an extremely important role in spreading the concept both within their companies and outside them, as well as that only companies which have an established strategy of responsible operation can resist risks successfully and be successful.
The partnership fair held again this year within the conference enabled social enterprises and organizations to present to the corporate sector proposals for cooperation and thereby secured a favorable climate for inter-sector cooperation, which is the backbone of the development of every society.
At the panel dedicated to the development of corporate social responsibility in the region, panelists said an intensification of cooperation was necessary, given that the economies of the region were in a similar position, as well as that in the EU corporate social responsibility was the basis of the development of a healthy and competitive economy.
Source: House of Good News