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The Warsaw Voice » Society » September 17, 2008
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Double Commitment
September 17, 2008   
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Foreign companies in Poland have in recent years stepped up social responsibility initiatives. Hilary Heuler talks to officials from three organizations leading the way in this field.


Przemek Pohrybieniuk, director of external relations in Poland for multinational food company Danone and board member responsible for corporate responsibility:

What is corporate social responsibility?
Corporate social responsibility is a new way of modern management that takes into account the expectations and rights of stakeholders, including employees, consumers, local communities and the environment. It doesn't mean philanthropy; it means doing business, but it's also about the way business is conducted.

What kinds of corporate social responsibility projects does Danone have in Poland?
The most famous projects we've done are those aimed against child malnutrition. Over five years ago we came up with the idea of giving back to the community by solving an issue that is more or less connected to us, and the stakeholders here are the people of Poland. We put the Share Your Meal logo on some of our key products, and part of the proceeds of each product are donated to NGOs that deal with child malnutrition. Just the donation is between zl.700,000 to zl.1 million per year, and at the end of September we'll also have a national food collection. In nearly 3,000 stores in Poland, 30,000 volunteers will be collecting food from consumers, and this food will be donated to needy children. Last time we collected over 350 tons of food, which is 700,000 meals. We're trying to really get people into the idea of giving back. We work in close cooperation with the Polsat Foundation and with food banks, because we're experts at producing yogurts and cheeses, but until now we haven't been experts at child malnutrition. Working in partnership is key because you put together the knowledge and experience of different players.

What is the Milky Start project?
Milky Start's mission is to provide high-quality nutrition for children from three to 10 years old. The product is a milk semolina, from the tradition of Polish milk soups, and the innovation is that the commercial partners have resigned from profits. We want to get our investment back, but the objective of this is social-to provide great food to those at the bottom of the pyramid. You can only do these things if your business is healthy, but it gives a tremendous opportunity to expand into untapped markets. But this is a byproduct-the main thing is doing something for society in a way we know how.

How big is the problem of child malnutrition in Poland?
We've put quite a lot of money into conducting various research studies, and we concluded that around 30 percent of children are undernourished. Malnutrition has several aspects: nutritional, legal and social. We've been trying to combine these three to come up with a definition. A European Commission report published at the beginning of the year said that about 26 percent of Polish children are on the verge of poverty, and our data says that 27 percent of households in Poland live on no more than zl.11 per day per person. From this, we conclude that one quarter of the population cannot afford a healthy meal. The situation is getting better because children at school get additional feeding, but children are out of school 180 days a year, and this is where a new problem is emerging.

Why is Danone putting so much energy into these programs?
It's part of Danone's DNA, what we call "the double commitment," which means make good money but also look at how you do business and look at the consequences. And secondly, Danone is a primarily Polish company here, and we want to be a responsible company. Corporate social responsibility has been called a "license to operate" for multinationals, but I think the term is already passé. For us, it's an opportunity to thrive. We want to change business, and we want to be the leaders.
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