What Innovations in CSR Have Been Implemented in Belarus?
On October 8, 2014, representatives of business, civil society organizations and educational institutions discussed innovative approaches to corporate social responsibility in Belarus in the office of the Association of European Businesses. The event was organized under the auspices of the Swedish Institute.
“Many people still believe that corporate social responsibility equals charity. But in fact, charity is one of the areas of CSR, so you cannot put a sign of equality,” said the first speaker Dmitry Gmyza, the head of Agentstvo Socialnogo Marketinga GrandBS and a representative of the Fund Chistoe Deistvie, who told about Belarusian trends in CSR.
“There are several trends in CSR – social marketing, volunteering, sponsorship, social entrepreneurship, and social investment,” said Dmitry. Each of the areas has been somehow explored in Belarus but everything that is being done is still innovative for our country.
“It's hard to come up with something innovative in CSR in a single country. And not because one doesn’t want to but because there is no need. There are unique things which have been implemented in other countries, that we can adopt and introduce in Belarus,” explained Dmitry.
Dmitry Gmyza emphasized that corporate social responsibility needs to be systematic.
“Companies, banks and producers are investing a lot of money in charity and social needs – sometimes by orders from the government, sometimes just because the manager came across a letter asking to help a church or an orphanage. Unfortunately, Belarusian companies work without system, unlike, for example, multinational companies.”
Alexandra Loiko, PR manager in Heineken Breweries, told specifically about the systematic approach to CSR using the project Brewing a Better Future as an example.
“We came up with the idea of this project because Heineken views sustainable development as one of its global business priorities on a par with the development of the brand and improving its global presence. In 2010, the project was presented at the head office of the company. The project is planned to be implements over 10 years and we will summarize its results in 2020. The project Brewing a Better Future is the main point of reference for Heineken on the way to becoming the greenest brewing company in the world and creating values that are important for the company, the community and the whole planet.”
There are four main areas of focus in Brewing a Better Future – protecting water resources, reducing carbon dioxide emissions, responsible use of raw materials and promoting ideas of responsible consumption. Starting from 2014, there will be two more areas – supporting the local community and employees’ health and safety.
Another speaker at the seminar, Vadim Golovchits, the head of the bank cards department with Belinvestbank, told about the charity project of Belinvestbank Help a Miracle Happen!, unique for the banking sector in Belarus. The project was implemented jointly with Zhdanovichi orphanage and international payment system VISA.
“Our charity project Help a Miracle Happen! is an example of corporate social responsibility in the Belarusian business. It is important to say that the driving initiative in this project is non-cash transactions of the charity card holders. It means conscious transfer of cash from customers and the bank. Over more than three years, this project has not only maintained its relevance but has become more popular. To date, more than 6,000 participants in the project and the bank provide regular financial support to the children's orphanage in Zhdanovichi.”
According to the representative of Belinvestbank, the main originality and value of the project Help a Miracle Happen! lies in the fact that it is a long-term and systematic CSR project designed to engage the largest possible number of people in a common noble cause. And, most importantly, the main driving element that gives life to this project is namely the individual initiative of people and their personal desire to help. The bank supports every initiative to transfer the funds to the orphanage.
Elena Titova, the chairman of BelAPDIiMI, shared her experience of employing people with intellectual disabilities. Within two years of the project, 34 people have been employed, which is a very good result because it is difficult to find a job for people who hardly speak or move.
“We are not an employment agency but intermediaries between an employment agency and an employer. As a rule, if the employment agency sends a disabled person to work where people with disabilities can be employed based on the opinion of the medical commission, the disabled person either doesn’t make it to the place of work or gets rejected. Therefore, we have decided to become intermediaries. A disabled person comes to us from the employment agency, we work with him, find out as much as possible (that he can do and not only what he wants to do) and accompany him to the workplace with the help of assistants.”
Natalia Ampleeva, the head of ArtIdea, told about another project, which helps disabled people to find jobs.
“In our studio, we integrate people with disabilities in the community, create optimal working conditions, develop their skills and give professional advice. Then we employ the most skilled ones in the company ArtIdea under the program of adaptation to the workplace, which is funded by the Employment Committee of the Minsk City Executive Committee. After one year in the company, we find a job for them in the open labor market.”
In the company ArtIdea, which produces souvenirs and printed materials, people with disabilities work under the supervision of the master. “It is not very easy to organize the working process,” says Natalia Ampleeva. “People with disabilities need to be motivated to work every hour, and every morning we start with repeating the work we did yesterday.” Over ten years, the studio helped 50 people, and over 4 years, the company ArtIdea helped 15 people with the second disability group.
Natalia says that the aim of the company is to enable people with disabilities to get a job and change their financial situation. However, the products of the company can be used by other companies.
“We do not want to force others to buy our products, we want to be partners. By ordering our packaging, companies can improve the efficiency of advertising. After buying it, the customers feel a stake in the good deed.”
At the end, the participants exchanged their views on whether corporate social responsibility projects can produce more economic benefits for companies and concluded by confirming that CSR is relevant for Belarus. In the future, the events like this will have a positive impact on the development of CSR in the country. And of course, the Association of European Business is always willing to serve as an interactive platform for the discussion.