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The Warsaw Voice » Other » September 2, 2009
Economic Forum in Krynica
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Increasingly Responsible Business
September 2, 2009 By A.R.    
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A growing number of Polish companies are declaring a commitment to corporate social responsibility.

Most major companies in this country make references to corporate social responsibility on their websites and declare they are committed to its principles.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a concept whereby companies decide voluntarily to contribute to a better society and a cleaner environment. An annual report by the Responsible Business Forum shows that these are not just empty promises.

Published for the seventh time this year, the report is entitled Responsible Business in Poland 2008: Best Practices. It shows that a growing number of companies are adopting CSR strategies and carrying out CSR projects.

A record of more than 150 so-called best practices was submitted for the latest report. From among them, the Responsible Business Forum selected 88 examples of interesting and innovative initiatives by 77 companies, consistent with the principles of CSR.

"We hope that the best practices presented in the report will inspire other companies and show the responsible side of Polish business," Mirella Panek-Owsiańska, chairwoman of the Responsible Business Forum, wrote in an introduction to the report.

Of the best practices submitted for the report, most are focused on the community because this form of CSR is the easiest to implement and can quickly make a company's profile more visible. Many educational programs and social campaigns have already been carried out or are under way. Companies such as 3M Poland, McDonald's Polska, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Poland, Kredyt Bank and Warta Group have carried out road safety campaigns, while Avon Cosmetics Polska and Servier Polska have carried out health campaigns focused on breast cancer and depression. Bank Zachodni WBK and Euro Bank carried out educational programs last year to help young people acquire entrepreneurial skills. Citi Handlowy w Warszawie SA, GE Money Bank SA and Provident Polska SA have set out to teach the public how to manage finances.

Many of the community-oriented initiatives described in the report were aimed at equalizing opportunities for children and people facing problems on the labor market. Among the companies that carried out programs for children last year were Cadbury Wedel, GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals SA, the Institute of Media Monitoring, and Janssen-Cilag.

The best practices of two trade associations, the Polish Federation of Food Producers and the Polish Distilling Industry, are described in the report for the first time. The Polish Federation of Food Producers carried out an educational program for junior high school students to promote an active lifestyle and a healthy diet; the Polish Distilling Industry carried out a campaign to warn the public of the dangers of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Last year, the corporate sector's environmental activity increased markedly. The Responsible Business Forum's latest report contains 25 examples of environmental initiatives, compared with just eight in 2007. Many companies carry out educational programs to promote environmental protection. The Bayer company has held special contests and an ecological debate. Henkel Polska has organized an environmental competition called Green Grants. Ikea Retail, in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund, has designed a special environmental-friendly interior called Green Home. Kompania Piwowarska SA, L'Oréal Polska, Pomorska Spółka Gazownictwa and PricewaterhouseCoopers have focused on educating their own workers.

RWE Polska SA is continuing its public awareness campaign under the slogan Conscious Energy to promote energy efficiency at home and work. Vattenfall Poland is promoting energy efficiency among the residents of Warsaw and Pruszków as part of its Climate for Earth, Heat for Warsaw campaign. PGNiG, in its Safe Mazuria program, combines environmental education with the promotion of water safety and the cleanliness of lakes in the northeastern Mazuria district.

The public sector is also changing its attitude to CSR. Last year, urged by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Polish government started to work on its CSR priorities and policy. The Energy Regulatory Office (URE), in conjunction with PricewaterhouseCoopers and the responsible Business Forum, is preparing A Guidebook of Corporate Social Responsibility for Energy Companies and codes of best practices for individual sectors. The Polish Committee for Standardization has spearheaded the establishment of the Polish Technical Committee for Social Responsibility, which is supposed to work out a CSR ISO 26000 standard.

Regardless of measures taken by the public sector, Polish consumers increasingly expect businesses to follow the principles of corporate social responsibility. There is a growing interest in ethical consumption, ethical purchasing and other aspects of fair trade. As a result, experts expect that in the coming years companies will be increasingly under pressure to introduce responsible management practices, carry out innovative CSR projects, and offer "socially responsible products."
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