Today, corporate social responsibility is an essential element of strategic and operational management. When adopting CSR, a company must be aware of the complexity of internal and external conditions in which it operates. Thanks to the implementation of CSR, it can take actions that maintain the environmental balance and build lasting relationships with stakeholders based on trust.
For a long time now, the size of a company’s operations have not been assessed based on financial criteria. The basis of assessment is the value the company creates for society. The knowledge of relations with the environment serves to harmonise its economic, social and environmental goals. And by caring for sustainable development, it creates an environmental strategy focused on a value system in which the natural resources play a fundamental role and are protected.
CSR is a form of patronage which, taking into account the social good, creates new connections on the line of business – culture – society
Corporate social responsibility imposes obligations on companies to undertake social issues based on volunteering and in cooperation with stakeholders. […] Going beyond economic responsibility and legal obligations, society expects companies to additionally take ethical responsibility and engage in charity activities supporting further social goals (Prof. Stefan Schaltegger, Center for Sustainability Management, Germany)
Global trends in clients’ perception of business
To illustrate how important social responsibility has become, it is worth quoting the results of a 2017 survey conducted by Cone Communications:
- over 60% of Americans hope that in the absence of government regulations, companies will drive social and environmental change,
- almost 90% said they would buy a product if the company supported their cause,
- and 75% would refuse to buy from the company that promotes an idea that goes against their beliefs.
Another survey of Generation Y around the world shows that young people prefer products designed with the environment in mind, and also prefer to work in an organisation that protects them. The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017 shows that the involvement of business in social activities and its impact on the environment are of great importance. As many as 75% of respondents from the Y generation claim that business has a positive impact on society and should be the leading force introducing positive changes.
CSR activities in Poland
In 2020, the Responsible Business Forum yet again presented the report “Responsible Business in Poland. Good practices”, which is the most extensive overview of polish CSR activities. The 2019 edition included 1,696 practices submitted by 214 companies.
The environment turned out to be the most dynamically developing area – an increase of over 35%, against the previous edition. Among 321 examples of activities of 129 companies, there were, among others:
- limiting the consumption of plastic,
- circular economy,
- protection of biodiversity,
- environmental education,
- counteracting the climate crisis.
2019 can be considered the year of the natural environment, and the latest edition of the Report confirms this thesis. […] Companies opted for pro-environmental solutions because it has become a key topic for a wide range of stakeholders […] – says Marzena Strzelczak, director of the Responsible Business Forum.
In the report “Responsible Business in Poland. Good practices” the primary key for the division of practices is the seven areas defined by the ISO 26000 standard.
CSR activity areas according to ISO 26000 standard:
1. Organisational governance
Organisational governance is a company’s system through which it takes and implements decisions aimed at achieving its objectives, containing:
- developing a strategy,
- setting goals and target values for CSR,
- promoting equal opportunities for underrepresented groups (including women, racial and ethnic groups) in accessing senior positions;
- achieving a balance between needs of the company and its stakeholders (the needs of current and future generations).
This area presents practices in the following categories: compliance, dialogue with stakeholders, ethics, reporting and management. Ethics dominates (nearly 40% of 96 trials in this area). The report shows a trend in the “management” category, assuming the need for additional regulations and environmental policies.
2. Human rights
Human rights cover:
- threats to human rights,
- avoiding complicity/assistance in illegal activities,
- wage inequality,
- reconciling private and professional life,
- fundamental principles and rights at work,
- building an inclusive organisational culture in the company.
In Poland, it is essential to manage diversity in the workplace and prevent mobbing and discrimination. The report noted that in this and the previous edition it is the least represented area – only 74 practices. It showed that Polish companies with global supply chains should pay attention to the issue of human rights violations, e.g. with suppliers from developing countries.
3. Employee practices
Employee practices means:
- working conditions,
- health and safety,
- social protection,
- social dialogue,
- inclusion in company life,
- development and training at work
- creating conditions for those in need – e.g. pregnant women.
This area applies to both employees of a company and its subcontractors. This also includes employee volunteering – the company’s support for employees who are involved in helping those in need.
The report noted that there had been a significant decline in the field of employment. Out of 185 reported new practices (237 in the previous year) the highest was recorded in the categories of “employee health and “employee volunteering”. The class of “training and development” is noteworthy, and it is represented much more frequently.
4. Natural environment
Natural environment includes:
- pollution prevention,
- sustainable use of resources,
- climate change mitigation,
- environmental protection,
- restoration of natural habitats.
Decisions and actions of companies always have had an impact on the environment. That is regardless of their size or the industry in which they operate. This involves, among other things, the use of resources, the emission of pollutants and the generation of waste.
According to the report, this area reveals the largest increase in the number of companies and their best practices – 321 (being an increase of over 35%). They most often concern pro-environmental education among employees, children, communities and city residents. However, there are still a few initiatives related to market education. According to the report, the issues of circular economy and protection of biodiversity are becoming more and more critical. The most common examples of actions are, e.g. the abandonment of plastic.
5. Fair operating practices
Fair operating practices are:
- activities related to a company’s ethical conduct in contacts with other institutions (business partners, public administration, industry organisations),
- fair competition,
- responsible involvement in politics;
- promoting CSR in the value chain,
- respecting property rights.
An interesting idea in this area practiced by some Polish companies is including social enterprises among their suppliers. Nevertheless, in this edition of the report, this area showed a scarcity of practices, because only 73, with companies focusing on activities in the field of market education and shaping relationships with suppliers.
6. Consumer issues
Consumer issues means:
- fair marketing and contractual practices,
- truthful and objective information,
- consumer health and safety,
- sustainable consumption,
- consumer service (support in complaints and dispute resolution, protection of private user’s data).
The report showed that this area was filled in by 41 companies and their 95 practices from six categories. Consumer education is the most numerous, in sequence: availability of products and services, amenities for customers, consumer participation, responsible consumption, consumer health and safety. Unfortunately, in Poland this topic is not developing as dynamically as in other areas.
7. Social involvement and community development
Social involvement and community development includes:
- creating jobs and developing access to technology,
- social investments,
- creating health and educational projects,
- conducting philanthropic activities (e.g. cooperation with non-governmental organisations and universities).
This area filled every third practice submitted the report. This confirms a constant upward trend towards the interest of companies in the implementation of social activities and innovations. Among 17 exercises in this area, the most numerous are charity and philanthropic activities as well as education of children and the youth. The ones with worst performance – development of entrepreneurship and sustainable cities.
Examples of CSR in global business
Some global brands conduct their activities in line with CSR on a large scale, having many years of experience in this field. The most frequently mentioned companies include Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, TOMS, Pfizer, Starbucks, Lego, Google etc.
Many of them focus on reducing the impact of greenhouse gases on the environment by investing in alternative energy sources and reducing waste. Some of them focus on delivering drugs, vaccines and safe water where such are needed, and on supporting various charities around the world. Still, others introduce innovative amenities to their employees and protect their rights.
While mentioning the review of the best CSR practices in Poland in 2019 and the report “Responsible Business in Poland. Good practices”, Marzena Strzelczak emphasised that […] The crisis related to the coronavirus pandemic proved that companies could react quickly, providing help and support.
[…] There will be new challenges, but also those known earlier, such as the issue of digital exclusion or counteracting violence and homelessness, may be more urgent. They are closely related to the economic and social situation, the expected changes in the labour market and specific forms of work, such as – now widely practised – remote work.
Of course, the issue of pro-employee solutions will be significant in the context of counteracting possible job cuts. And the topic of forms of employment also returns – do we really want and, as a society, can we allow ourselves to be self-employed by a paramedic or a nurse? […].
Would you like to learn more about specific CSR instruments? Check out this article on our blog: Corporate Social Responsibility – voluntary choice or necessity?
- ISO 26000:2010z – Guidance on social responsibility
- Raport „Odpowiedzialny biznes w Polsce 2019. Dobre praktyki” | Forum Odpowiedzialnego Biznesu
- 16 Brands Doing Corporate Social Responsibility Successfully | DMI
- Corporate Social Responsibility | businessnewsdaily.com
- The Top Ten Trends in CSR Reporting in 2019 | Cone Inc
- Od społecznej odpowiedzialności biznesu do biznesu zrównoważonego | Forum Odpowiedzialnego Biznesu