Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a Tool to Change the World

One of the popular measures to support social entrepreneurship in the world and in Belarus is cooperation within the framework of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Businesses implement socially significant projects, taking into account social interests and aiming to ensure that their work has a positive social impact. The Second Social Business Forum in Belarus was held in Minsk to discuss global and national CSR practices.

The Second Social Business Forum in Belarus also discussed impact investment: measuring social and environmental impact of businesses.

Organizers:  ODB Brussels, “Dobra” Foundation, the Support Program of Belarus of the Federal Government of Germany, UNDP in Belarus. Visits of foreign experts were organized with financial support from the European union as part of the "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator" project.

CSR motivating employees to change the world

Ole Kassow, an expert from Denmark, spoke about Cycling Without Age,  a cycling movement, and methods it employs to encourage large businesses to establish cooperation. In Denmark, 65% of people use bicycles every day as their main mode of transport. Six years ago, Ole was riding his bike when he saw an elderly man sitting on a bench. The man smiled at him, and the entrepreneur had a feeling that this man used to ride his bike often but now no longer could do that because of his age. Then Ole built a three-wheel bike for three people — a driver and two passengers — and began offering rides to elderly people from care homes. This had a big social impact, and care home staff members testified that the elderly people changed after these rides: they required less medication, and their general health improved.  

Read more about Cycling Without Age and way to support here: How Can a Rickshaw Change Lives of Elderly People?

Ole Kassow, expert from Denmark, Cycling Without Age, at the Second Social Business Forum in Belarus. 28.06.2018, Minsk

Today, Cycling Without Age exists in more than forty countries of the world. It offers the young and the elderly an opportunity to spend some time together. “When we search for business partners, we offer them information about ways they can help our organization. Many company managers imagine that all their employees are pursuing just one goal: to make money. I believe, however, that money is just a tool to achieve noble goals. Businesses need to focus on achieving specific goals and thinking about the positive impact they can have over the society. When employees already have a big enough salary, money cannot motivate them anymore, so they need some other goals. I don’t want businesses and companies to be strictly money-making ventures for us, I want people to actually see the purpose in what we do”.

Ole cited the example of Zendesk, an IT company based in San Francisco where all the employees joined Cycling Without Age. The company bought a couple of bikes and made an arrangement with a care home for elderly people so that each of the 150 employees could come and spend some time with people living there. “Their employees can also become corporate volunteers within the programme and in addition to putting in their time they can also give some cash to help the business grow, all the while making elderly people smile and have fun. The employees have an opportunity to feel like they are changing the world around them for the better, which makes them more involved in the affairs of the company and motivates them to work better”.

SAPUp competition for social start-ups

Pavel Yankelevich, who represents SAP CIS in Belarus, spoke about their corporate social responsibility programmes and about the SAPUp competition, which this year is going to be held in our country for the second time. “We are a multinational corporation with an annual turnover of more than 25 billion euros, and we help other enterprises grow. We are an IT company, so we understand that the driving force that is changing the world today is technological innovation. We have an opportunity to invest in it, and SAP seeks to improve the lives of their employees and customers all over the world via various corporate social responsibility programmes”.

Pavel Yankelevich, representing SAP CIS in Belarus, at the Second Social Business Forum in Belarus. 28.06.2018, Minsk

Pavel described the first SAPUp competition, which was held in Belarus last year. This year, the competition is going to be held in our country again, as well as in Russia and Kazakstan, and Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan might join. In 2017, the organizers received more than 1,500 applications, choosing 27 winners who received either a cash prize or an opportunity to go on a visit to Europe to learn about social entrepreneurship. “We did a little survey following the competition and noted that most projects came from the capital, focused on equal opportunities and education. This is a common trend”.

One of the SAPUp finalists last year was Stuurman social project, which allows visually impaired people to use the help of a sighted assistant (“navigator”, or “stuurman” in Russian/Belarusian) who they access online from any distance. The project was developed by High-Tech Park residents. Another one was Koska, adaptive children’s clothing. The Hrodna team, which produces the clothes, also became a finalist of Biz4all-2 social entrepreneurship training school organized by ODB Brussels.

Second Life of Books social project

“Belgips Eco”, a Belarusian enterprise, has been producing gypsum and dry construction mixtures since 1948. After the company was modernized in 2016, it began selling environmentally friendly and competitive products. A good example of CSR is the “Second Life of Books” project, which was presented at the Second Social Business Forum by Vadim Zubritski, project manager and environmental engineer.

Vadim Zubritski, manager at “Second Life of Books” and environmental engineer, “Belgips-Eco" presented the project at the Second Social Business Forum,

Over the three years, the campaign installed many special containers to collect books and paper around the city. The main goal of the project is to collect good books that people no longer need and send them to institutions that need these books (children’s orphanages, penitentiary institutions, etc.). They also collect waste paper, offering small companies that do not have enough capacity to pick up their paper in small batches. This helps reduce the burden on the environment.

“Over the three years of the project we have collected more than 35,000 books. Another important element of our campaign is returning cultural heritage. In 2015, we found a book in one of our containers dating back to 1700, it was a textbook of the Jesuit collegium with students’ notes on the margins. We donated the book to the National Library”.

This year the project involved young active specialists who organized a campaign to collect children’s books. “We found that there was a demand for children’s books, so we organized a campaign “Give a Book to a Child”. We contacted a number of companies, and almost all of them supported us. We collected a lot of good children’s books which we then took to orphanages around the country. The project was also educational, as it helped participants learn about environmentally friendly practices. We came to gymnasium No.33 in Minsk and organized a festival dedicated to this topic, placing one of our containers in the school. We asked children to not just donate books but also put in a bookmark with good wishes to the child who was going to receive it. Then we tried to deliver return mail to every participant. This was our way of showing that books you no longer need may still be useful to others and may bring them a lot of joy”.

There are no small actions

Natallia Zhuk, manager of sustainable projects at Alivaria Brewery, spoke to participants of the Forum about the meaning of CSR for such large businesses. “A developing business that wants to go forward impacts the society around it, whether they have the intention to do so or not. By developing corporate social responsibility projects, businesses can make up for the damage they do to the society. Alivaria Brewery is convinced that businesses have to be socially responsible".

In 2009, the brewery joined the UN Global Compact and became part of Denmark’s Carlsberg Group.  Since then, Alivaria has viewed CSR as a way to ensure responsible consumption, and all their programmes are about minimizing the damage to the environment, as well as achieving positive impact over the economy and the society as a whole. The plant implements Together Towards Zero programme, which has a number of objectives:

•    Zero carbon footprint. The campaign started in 2017, and it is planned to end it in 2030. The goal of the programme is to bring environmental carbon emissions to zero. This year, the carbon footprint has already been reduced by 30%.

•    Zero water waste. The production lines have developed and introduced special technologies to monitor water usage and ensure nothing is wasted.

•    Zero irresponsible consumption. Responsible consumption of alcohol, including 100% availability of alcohol-free beer.

•    Zero workplace accidents because of health and safety regulations and standards.

Together Towards Zero programme is a great incentive to build new cases every year. An example here is a campaign to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed behind the wheel to zero. Since 2014, company employees have taken part in an annual environmental initiative “Chistaya Plyn” (“Clean Wave”), where they clean the river of Svislotch. In 2013 they introduced “Green Thirst” – a waste collection and recycling system. “At the moment we are actively developing an environmental initiative to collect and recycle beer bottles. Alivaria is the only company in Belarus recycling bottles. However, at the moment we are searching for partners to increase the number of our collection points all over the country”.

Text by: Valeriya Nikalaichyk

Photo by: Anzhelika Hrakovich

The forum was organized with financial support from the European union as part of the "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator" project.