On the eve of the IV International Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility Minsk hosted a discussion on establishing a national CSR model. Representatives of business circles, civil society and governmental agencies attended the event. Experts explained why is it beneficial for the business to be socially responsible and how the government can regulate CSR when resolving social and economic issues.
During a “round table” in Minsk, International socio-economic Fond of Ideas (FOI), organizer of the discussion on issues of corporate social responsibility development in Belarus, presented their project “Socially Active Media”. According to project coordinator Yuliya Krutova, the objective is to unite the media in order to promote information on social projects implemented by Belarusian business.
|Yuliya Krutova, Project coordinator of the Fond of Ideas|
36 Belarusian media agreed to take part in the new project of FOI. However, the participants of the discussion stressed, corporate social responsibility in Belarus cannot be widely publicized because of legal barriers: in particular, the Law on Advertising prevents the media from including names of commercial companies in their news stories. Socially responsible business is present in Belarusian mass media, but more or less “anonymously”. Participants of the meeting noted that business often has no motivation for wide media coverage – on the contrary, when profitable companies implement large-scale social projects, they are often cautious not to attract too much attention of control authorities. Such a state of affairs in general makes for an insufficiently rapid development of the corporate culture.
In the majority of European countries, social expenditure of business companies, including charity donations, targeted contributions to non-profit organizations for implementation of social projects, as well as contributions to foundations are not subject to income tax, notes Taisiya Yeletskih, a United Nations Development Programme expert on CSR. One of very important non-tax benefits for socially responsible business is when CSR track record is taken in account during tender bids for public work contracts.
|Taisiya Yeletskih, UNDP expert on CSR|
According to Taisiya Yeletskih, a UNDP expert in Belarus, socially responsible investment is one of the CSR key areas. For example, when a company enters international export markets, searches for partners in foreign countries, signs international contracts or places securities on stock markets, attracts foreign funds, social responsibility reputation of a business is no less important than financial indicators, she says.
The UNDP expert provided an example of Belarusian Metallurgical Plant (BMZ, Zhlobin city), which is the first organization that published a GRI report in 2008. Every year Belarusian Metallurgical Plant releases large-scale corporate social reports mainly aimed at disclosing information about the company’s impact on the environment and the measures undertaken by the company.
Taisiya Yeletskih, UNDP expert on CSR: "Export-oriented practice needs to receive a confirmation that the business is ethical and cares about environment. Any organization cares about its image and business reputation. That is why they would never place shares of companies that utilize child labour, do major harm to the environment, do not care about their workers and view them as “manpower” and nothing else, etc. London Stock Exchange has a special CSR index (FTSE4Good index – editor’s note). Also, when companies will have IPO (Initial Public Offering), a so-called “listing” of companies will be conducted – not just about the financial performance but also about social responsibility, i.e. business responsibility".
As noted by "Ernst & Young", FTSE indexes now exclude tobacco manufacturers and companies involved in production of weapons. The FTSE UK index series for CSR are given to businesses that have proven that they respect employment law and basic human rights, improving the efficiency of environmental management, responsible management of supply chains. Gender equality, for example, is also included in one of the corporate social responsibility principles as observing human rights both in the process of recruitment and in their career development.
Having studied international experience of government regulation of CSR, participants of Minsk “round table” discussed Belarusian national CSR mode. According to them, CSR regulations in Belarus have already reached interagency level. At the same time, in many countries the area of socially responsible business is managed by different agencies and officials: in Italy it’s the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, in the UK it’s the Trade and Investment Department and the CSR minister. In the EU newcomer countries (Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, etc.) a CSR regulatory system has not yet been established. Governments of these countries motivate businesses by organizing specialized calls for proposals and rewarding socially responsible companies, and they have systems in place that are responsible for developing CSR.
CSR promotion in Belarus hasn't become a systemic phenomenon yet. However, business companies can look forward to several key events in this sphere as soon as this spring: on February 26, Minsk will host the IV International Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility, and the annual Corporate Social Responsibility Award Ceremony.