At the end of 2010, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company received the highest ranking in the Estonian CSR Index. Baltic CSR blog took the opportunity to interview Piret Jaaks, Public Affairs Manager for Estonia, to learn more about what it takes to become the most socially responsible company in Estonia.
First of all, what is the secret ingredient to becoming the most responsible enterprise in Estonia?
I have to admit, there is no secret, but just stating the obvious – being responsible can’t be a single nice project but it has to be the way you lead your business. In other words, responsibility has to be fully integrated in your business principles and day-to-day business like we have in Coca-Cola Hellenic. This is the only way you can be responsible in all areas related to your business.
How important is this recognition for CC-HBC?
As responsibility is our way of doing business, this recognition is very important to us. The recognition states that we are operating in the right direction by operating in a responsible and sustainable manner.
Can you tell a bit more about the index itself? How are companies rated?
The CSR index is organized in cooperation with the NGO CSR Forum, Ministry of Economics and Communications, Estonian Business School and the business daily newspaper Äripäev. All companies are rated against several different criteria including company strategy, integration of CSR principles, leading in the CSR fields of community, environment, workplace and marketplace, measuring and reporting. Companies are publicly ranked based on their performance and also receive a comprehensive feedback document. This year, the awards were presented by the Minister of Economics of Estonia, Mr. Juhan Parts.
What do you think being Estonia’s most responsible enterprise will bring CC-HBC in business terms?
Recognition and the title of “Estonia’s most responsible company” imposes certain obligations – it serves as a driver and motivator to improve our performance not only in the field of CSR but in all business related areas. Such recognition gives the possibility to stand out and share our CSR experience by encouraging and educating other companies to integrate CSR principles in their daily business activities and strategy.
In business terms, this recognition sends an important message to our clients, partners and stakeholders adverting that Coca-Cola Hellenic is a trustworthy company – good to do business with, a company that gets things right, adds value on every occasion and is a good supplier.
What is the CSR activity CC-HBC is most proud of?
I can’t say that there are one or two certain things we are most proud of, because it won’t give the full picture about our responsible and sustainable business. But I can give you examples from each field in our CSR strategy – marketplace, workplace, community and environment. Many of these activities are implemented in each Baltic country and have strong and continuous traditions.
Marketplace – many companies have initiated voluntary Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) labeling on their food and beverage product packaging, including Coca-Cola. GDA labels give consumers the scientifically based information they need so that they can make informed decisions about what to eat and drink. Nutritional information in food and drink products appears clearly on the front of each pack, helping consumers to make informed choices about their diet and the food and drink that they consume.
Workplace – one of Coca-Cola Hellenic’s core values is to ensure that our people achieve their full potential. We aim to offer our employees challenging career opportunities in a workplace that is safe, fair and inclusive. In the meantime knowing the importance of team spirit, we organize various activities that aren’t related directly to our daily work but focus more on recreation and employee hobbies. For example, Latvian and Estonian employees jointly took part in a cycling marathon this autumn in Tartu, Estonia. What it gives us – I would like to say it with the words of Coca-Cola Hellenic Latvia PR and communications specialist Ieva Keviešena – ‘such an investment in staff activities is essential due to the contribution to the company’s daily performance, the establishment of good relations among colleagues, as well as to the team-building process.’
Community – the aim of the Coca-Cola Sunday League is to promote an active lifestyle among youngsters by bringing together young football players to play in a tournament, meet professionals and spend plenty of time outdoors. Coca-Cola Sunday League is a football tournament for youngsters (12-17 years) held each year in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In 2010, the events were held over weekends in July. The event was launched in 2005 in Estonia and Lithuania and 2006 in Latvia, being one of the oldest youth sports traditions in the Baltic States. The aim of the event is to offer fun activities with friends and families and to enjoy football, as well as getting inactive youngsters to embrace sport and thus promote a healthy active lifestyle.
Environment – for many years Coca-Cola Hellenic has carried out projects that are related to water stewardship and environment protection. This year one hundred Coca-Cola Hellenic Baltic employees took part in environmental clean-up events, all together in three countries collecting more than 56 tonnes of waste. In Estonia, we joined forces with the national “Let’s do it!” campaign to clean up a beach area in the North Tallinn district from the Pikakari beach area, in Latvia we took part in the nationwide “Big Clean Up” organising clean-up of the banks of Juglas lake. The “Let’s do it 2010!” event also took place in Lithuania, with over 40 employees helping clean up the banks of the river Nemunas in the city of Kaunas.
Do you have a measuring and reporting system, and if so, can you explain that a bit?
We do and report in many ways both internally and externally. Internally we inform our employees by using mailing lists, monthly internal newsletters, half yearly internal magazines and our own internal television – GO-TV. Also annually we publish a full CSR report for both employees and external stakeholders named. CSR is also a chapter in our corporate website. Plus, Coca-Cola Hellenic works with many international platforms, including – GRI, LBG, Dow Jones Sustainability Index, UNESDA, CSR Europe, FTSE4Good, UN Global Compact etc.
Can you give a summary of the complete CSR program of CC-HBC?
In Coca-Cola Hellenic we track performance and set targets for each of four pillars of CSR (marketplace, workplace, environment and community), supporting our seven sustainability priorities: water stewardship, energy and climate change, packaging and recycling, consumer health, employee development, supplier engagement and community involvement.
What lessons have you learned regarding CSR in the past year that you think others can benefit from?
Each year we continue to integrate CSR into our business, making sure that the right governance structures, standards and processes are in place. This is an on-going process and not a one-off initiative. We are constantly reviewing our CSR process and looking for improvement.
How do the CSR activities of CC-HBC in Estonia relate to the operations in Latvia and Lithuania?
As you can see from the previous answers, the Coca-Cola Hellenic system in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania is run as one business unit, and so we aim to run our main CSR activities along the same lines in all three countries.
But we have also some variations in each country. For example we had in 2010 an emphasis on HIV education at the workplace in Estonia, due to the high HIV-positive incidence in the country. As a responsible employer we felt that this is our opportunity to educate more of the local community about the virus, how it spreads and how to support people who are affected.
Anything else you would like to share?
I would like to encourage more businesses to set their mind on being responsible corporate citizens. Many may ask – what are the benefits, but based on Coca-Cola’s example – this is the way, how to operate in sustainable way and ensure your business life expectancy for many more years.