Posted by: Arjan Tupan | 3 February 2011

Rewarding business performance and CSR in the Baltics: 5 years of Swedish Business Awards

In 2005 the first plans were made for the Swedish Business Awards, which were launched in Lithuania in 2006. Now, it has become one of the most important events in the Baltic business world. Especially since the awards were expanded to Estonia and Latvia in 2009. From the start, the awards included the corporate social responsibility category. A good reason to learn more about this initiative.

‘The Swedish Business Awards (SBA) aims to create a platform for discussion, a forum for people to meet, in the local community, but with a Swedish touch,’ says Vidas Korsakas, country manager for the Swedish Trade Council in Lithuania. ‘We wanted to reward companies that perform well and promote international cooperation.’ Innovativeness, openness, authenticity, caring and progressiveness – Sweden’s core values – were the guiding principles when the SBA project was created. That resulted in the three categories of the awards: young entrepreneur of the year, fastest growing swedish company and corporate social responsibility, which was pushed by the Swedish ambassador. One of the challenges was to explain and show that CSR is more than just about charity or sponsorships.

Nevertheless, when looking at the lists of nominees and winners of the CSR category, the impression is that most projects are aimed at community impact or charity. With an impressive grasp on detail, Mr Korsakas refutes that: ‘In 2008, the winner, MTV networks, was awarded for their campaign to raise awareness about climate change. And the winner of 2010, Rimi Lietuva, was awarded for their effort to employ disabled persons and promote integration of disabled people in the labour market.’ The Rimi project is indeed mainly an internal diversity program. But, as Mr Korsakas explains, in the process of the SBA, applications are collected and then reviewed by a nomination committee. And the community projects are often the most visible ones. Also, these are often the examples that are easiest to explain to a larger public, which combines well with the aim to promote CSR in the Baltic business community.

This year again, the SBA will continue in all three Baltic states. Coming back to that, the expansion to Estonia and Latvia took place in an interesting period, just as the financial crisis hit the Baltics. Mr Korsakas explained that the plans for the Estonian and Latvian editions were made in 2008, before the downturn. ‘And despite the crisis, we kept our promise,’ he says. For this year, the award events are planned for autumn, but no dates are fixed yet. The first stage, the application period, will be announced probably in March. Then the process of nomination (by the nomination committee) and selection (by the decision committee) will take place during spring and summer. When the final dates are known, we will of course report on that as well.

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