Posted by: Arjan Tupan | 13 January 2011

AmCham members share best practices in CSR mentoring program

The American Chamber of Commerce in Latvia (AmCham) introduces a CSR mentoring program. In this program, members with experience in implementing CSR share their best practices with interested other members. On request, an expert visits the interested company for an hour of knowledge sharing. Another option is company visits to show how CSR implementation works in practice.

Among the mentoring sessions available at the start of the program are Aris Dreimanis from Nasdaq OMX who gives tips on increasing business transparency and both Ieva Keviesena from Coca-Cola Hellenic and Laura Mikelsone from Cemex who will share their expertise on being a green company, including eco driving and green IT.

‘The suggestion to implement this program comes directly from our members,’ says Liga Smildzina-Bertulsone, managing director of AmCham. Sharing best practices is something that a membership driven organization like AmCham is best at. ‘Our members have a tremendous amount of expertise in carrying out responsible business practices, and several of them are ready to share it directly with their fellow members.’

Members of AmCham are encouraged to sign the statement of good corporate citizenship, another example of how AmCham prefers leading by example over lecturing others. The statement covers four area’s – Ethics & Transparency, Human Resources, Philanthropy, the Environment – that also form the structure for the mentoring program. Smildzina-Bertulsone: ‘I am sure many of our members have a great story to tell, hence this program. I hope it may also serve as an inspiration for other companies.’

Much like the statement of good corporate citizenship, the mentoring program is focused on AmCham members, but available as an open source tool to others. The statement, as this mentor program will also be, is offered to the Foreign Investment Council in Latvia (FICIL), other chambers of commerce and sister AmChams in Estonia and Lithuania. ‘At the same time, we recognize that raising awareness can be done in various ways, and need not be pursued by all business organizations in the same way,’ says Mrs Smildzina-Bertulsone, ‘I am sure, business organizations such as ours share the same view with respect to promoting the development of a healthy business environment in the Baltic region.

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Posted by: Arjan Tupan | 6 January 2011

How Coca-Cola HBC ranked highest in Estonian CSR index

Coca-Cola Sunday League EstoniaAt 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.
Read More…

Posted by: Arjan Tupan | 26 December 2010

Can a Pink Ribbon have impact?

Samsung Pink Ribbon Campaign Riga

Samsung Pink Ribbon Campaign Riga

Samsung Latvia has recently run one of the biggest social media campaigns in Latvia, raising awareness for breast cancer patients. A good example of CSR in practice. Baltic CSR blog talked to Gundega Piebalga of Samsung Baltics to find out more about this campaign.

What is the reason for Samsung Latvia to choose Pink Ribbon campaign as a charity to raise money for?
Samsung has always been socially responsible company and has supported different charity projects. We have been running the Pink Ribbon campaign globally for 4 years. For the first time it was initiated in 2006 in the Netherlands to join the fight against this illness. After detailed clients opinion research we saw that Pink Ribbon initiative was the one that everyone was very passionate about and we really felt that we can make a difference in society. So the decision was made to expand this charity project to raise the awareness of this illness and gather funding for patients treatment.

In 2009 Samsung donated to Pink Ribbon charity organizations all over Europe 2 million dollars. This year we already support Pink Ribbon movement in 24 countries including Latvia.

Samsung has a lot of products that are specifically oriented towards women – like La Fleur product line with mobile phones and home appliances. With supporting Pink Ribbon movement we want to go even further and take even better care of our clients by helping them to fight such a difficult illness as breast cancer.

Can you explain shortly the campaign approach: what are the activities, which channels, and why these channels?
During this campaign we work to raise awareness in society altogether by implementing wide variety of integrated communication solutions. Also we are offering different options for everyone to get involved in campaign and show support by donation or just a moral support.

Mainly funds are being raised through sales of Samsung Monte mobile phone – 1 LVL from each phone sold is donated to campaign goal. This is common practice and also in other countries where Samsung is supporting Pink Ribbon movement we use this mechanism that some part of income from sales of a specific product is being donated to charity.

Right now you can also support campaign by making donation with phone call to charity phone line, money transfer to charity bank account or buy special campaign screensavers on http://www.ribbon.lv site. You also can add Pink Ribbon twibbon to you Facebook or Twitter profile and Samsung will donate 0,50 LVL for each twibbon.

At the beginning of campaign there was also an option that you could buy a skin or Pink Ribbon symbol for your profile in social network site draugiem.lv and all money from these purchases were donated to campaign.

To spread the information about campaign and raise awareness of breast cancer problems besides advertising activities we organized PR support to widen our informational coverage. During PR campaign there was organized launch event with press conference to explain campaign goals and problems that are addressed during it. After the launch event the interviews in radio and printed press with representatives from breast cancer charity foundation Dzīvības koks were initiated to deliver a more detailed explanation about existing problems and ways how anyone can help patients.

Probably the most visible activity was Pink Ribbon light projection on one of the highest buildings in Riga. As a result – projection was seen all over the city which perfectly helped to raise awareness and make people talk about this symbol, then problem and most importantly – ways to help.

Other untraditional activities included Pink Ribbon branding in popular wardrobe stores (particularly fitting-rooms), branding in most popular cinemas and donation stands in shopping malls. All these activities helped us reach people effectively in different ways and circumstances as well as make them participate directly by donating for the project.

Traditional media channels included OOH, online and print. Online solutions helped us make traffic to the campaign site http://www.ribbon.lv which helped people find out more information on our campaign, ways to help and Samsung involvement in this issue.
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Posted by: balticcsr | 29 November 2010

A view from outside: Small Business CSR Mistakes

Sometimes, the view of an outsider, whether on the subject of CSR in general, or on the situation in the Baltic states in particular, can be very valuable. Therefore, we introduce a series called ‘A view from outside’, in which we ask a guest blogger to share his views on our blog. We kick it off with a very pragmatic post by David Connor from Coethica in the UK. His recent post about CSR mistakes that small and medium sized companies generally make in the UK, is a valuable lesson for companies in the Baltic States as well. The same misconceptions are valid here.

Here’s a quick list of CSR mistakes made by small businesses.
Some of the headings may sound a touch exaggerated, but trust me far worse happens in reality. Names have been withheld to protect the not so innocent!

Thinking CSR isn’t for smaller businesses
I had to put his first didn’t I? Think of CSR as a lens to improve your business performance. The core principles work at every level from pre-start up to multi-national. It should be about balance, innovation and unfortunately not so common sense.

Trying to hack your electricity meter won’t reduce your carbon footprint
The old days of the colourful myths surrounding tricks to stop, or slow down mechanical electricity / water / gas meters are fading fast, but not without an element of truth behind their origins, or at least in those attempting to beat the system. The point here is that either trying to manipulate the system or passing your carbon usage onto suppliers or customers is missing the point and will boomerang back and explode at a later date – not carbon offsetting. Nothing beats robust measurement, management and reporting!

Don’t claim ‘carbon neutrality’ because you planted some trees
For SMEs the term ‘carbon neutrality’ is usually a mirage. Yes it may exist but don’t waste your precious resource getting there anytime in the next 12 months. Carbon neutrality and offsetting do have a vital role to play when managed correctly but they are still abused terminology exploited by attention deficit marketeers. Spend most of your effort reducing the energy in the first place. Most small and medium-sized businesses waste about 20% of the energy anyway. What’s a fifth of your energy bill? Greenwashing is a no-no, so be careful about environmental claims you make – always ask an expert.

Being more charitable than a charity
Are you a registered charity? No, well then be careful with your resources! Think carefully and strategically about who and to what extent (financial & in-kind) you support good causes. Is it a pet project of the CEO or will it offer tangible value to both the company and those the partner charity aims to support? Most SMEs confuse the values of the owner / manager with those of the organisation. Partnering with local good causes can provide wonderful benefits and don’t be afraid to explore.  Try not to merely react to every request you get. Find a fruitful longer term relationship and look for help from the charities themselves.

Oh, and going to countless charity events isn’t ‘networking’ or marketing, unless you’re getting leads and business from it – it’s wasteful and indulgent.

Spending months creating a CSR strategy
There is nothing worse than a mighty sounding strategy that lives in a drawer. Just because somebody understands CSR and takes the time to write a formal document doesn’t mean the business is doing anything.  It’s more important to be doing (and measuring) what you know is adding value. Strategies only add value when they are alive and evolving.

This is a guest post by David Connor. David is a CSR consultant, who has spent eight years to make English Football Club Everton into a very respected pillar of the community, before setting up his own CSR consulting firm, Coethica. David is an active sharer of CSR information through his @davidcoethica twitter account and his blog. This post was originally posted there.

Posted by: Arjan Tupan | 18 November 2010

Improving energy efficiency to reduce costs (and emissions)

A powerful way of showing how CSR can help your business, is to show examples of what other companies are doing. In a new series, we present short case studies of how Baltic companies have improved their operations through CSR. The kick-off is an energy use reduction project done by BITE, the mobile telephony operator active in Lithuania and Latvia.

What did BITE do?
The project was a complete overhaul of the mobile network. Base stations, switches, transmitters, everything was replaced by new technology from Chinese manufacturer (and global market leader for this type of equipment) Huawei. Before taking this decision, scenario’s for network upgrading were calculated. Using the new Huawei technology, which was smaller, did not need air conditioning and had fewer use of cables, was not only the most efficient solution, but also meant improving the network capabilities.

How does that work exactly?
The technology that was in use was designed in a different way. Because of that design, energy was lost through heat generation, much in the same way as the electricity network. Base stations, at the foot of transmission towers, would send a signal to a transmitter in the top of that tower. Much of the energy used in this process was to get the signal from the bottom to the top, losing energy underway. The equipment has the base station next to the transmitter. On top of that, the new equipment is much smaller. Together, this makes for a much more efficient use of energy. The installation of the new technology not only brought BITE a faster mobile network, but it also provided a 33% reduction in energy use for operating the network – based on measurements on typical sites.

Read More…

Posted by: Arjan Tupan | 15 November 2010

Turning Around In A Crisis: Can CSR Help?

On November 11, the Norwegian Chamber of Commerce in Latvia (NCCL) organised their annual conference with the title New Turn in Entrepreneurship Development and Management Practices in Latvia. The conference aimed to showcase good management practices, with a focus on corporate social responsibility, and how this can help Latvian companies to use the effects of the econimic crisis to change their business for the better.

The morning session brought the academic point of view. Research from Rigas Technical University, SSE Riga and the Norwegian School of Management revealed from different perspectives the link between recovery, CSR and the positioning of Latvian business in Norway and Scandinavia. Before going into a panel debate with the Academic World, the Norwegian State Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Erik Lahnstein gave a very open and actionable presentation on how a sound business culture, that has no place for corruption, can help Latvia make a turn for the better. One of the key learnings of the morning session were that an economic crisis can be a blessing in disguise, because there are several examples of how it creates the need for better governance, both in politics and in business. Also, being trustworthy was revealed as a key ingredient for business succes, especially in the relation between Latvia and Scandinavia.

After lunch, the focus was on the more practical examples of Latvian companies and business organisations. One of the returning topics was the tax issue. For businesses to be able to compete fairly, an economy in which evading taxes is seen as a good way to reduce costs is not a good place to do business. One of the companies explicitly gave this as a reason for not doing business in Latvia anymore, but instead producing exclusively for export. Trust was also a recurring issue, especially when it comes to payment for work. To paraphrase one of the presenters: it’s better to do work and being confident about geting paid afterwards, than asking for a partial prepayment, do the work and then nothing else happens.

Another topic that got much attention is the fact that CSR is first of all difficult to define, and therefore hard to understand for Latvian companies what it can mean for them; and on the other hand the fact that there is hardly any data available on good CSR practices in the broadest sense of the word. The sustainability index gives part of the answer to this, and the presentation of some CSR examples from companies in the index was certainly helpful. Also the activities of the American Chamber of Commerce (and the NCCL) are helping in positioning CSR as good business practice and creating a fair and level playing field in Latvia. The biggest question for Latvian companies still is not only what CSR is, but more what it can do for them, apart from being a marketing term pushed on Latvia by foreign companies. This conference, and future activities by the several business organisations will definitely help with that.

At the end of October, Transparency International published the 2010 corruption perception index (CPI). Based on several surveys, countries are ranked on a 10-point scale indicating how their public sectors are perceived to be susceptible to corruption by businesses. The scale rates from highly corrupt (0) to very clean (10), with 5 being the break-off point where state institutions and the legislative system are seen as able to effectively handle corruption. As in previous years, the scores of Latvia (4.3) and Lithuania (5.0) were relatively close to each other, with Estonia (6.5) getting a significantly higher rating. Baltic CSR blog talked to Laura Mikelsone, the current CEO of Transparency International Latvia (also known as Delna) to give background to the CPI.

Looking at the CPI ratings in the last years, Latvia and Lithuania have seen a steady growth of the perception of corruption. This growth was coupled to the economic growth. So it should not be surprising to see a drop in the perception of corruption, now that the economy has crashed. Still, Lithuania seems recovering from earlier hits to the confidence in clean government, while Latvia has dropped behind. The reason for this can be found in several events taking place in the last years. The bail-out of Parex, for example, has given Latvians an insight in how the bank had grown. Also some scandals, such as the one in the Riga City Council, made clear that corruption still has its influence. A good signal that uncovering of cases sends out is that it gives the impression that state institution battling corruption are functioning as they should. However, the fact that anti-corruption agency KNAB lost its chief did not help it having the image of a strong institution. What also has influenced the lower score of Latvia in 2010 is the fact that some of the cases are still ongoing in the legal system. Being caught, but not convicted gives the impression that even though part of the system works, the judicial ethics of corruption are still undecided. The last factor is that in the last year the press was not perceived as being independent and free. Most of the bigger news outlets have given decisive signals that they are used as mouthpiece for their owners. Positively, there are some new members of the press landscape that have an independent voice, one of them being news portal Pietiek.lv.

Even though several surveys show that Latvians rate corruption as the country’s biggest problem, there still is a disconnection between own actions and government responsibility. As long as citizens and companies do not see that corruption is being addressed by the government, they might consider their own actions as being of no influence on the complete system. Or, in some cases, corruption can be seen as an evil necessary for survival in an economy severely hit by crisis.

Then, there is the issue of national identity. In cultures where power is based on the family model, a strong leader that takes care of his people is treated as royalty. Even though that often comes with untransparent governance and corruptible officials. This might also be at the base of the low ranking in the CPI of countries like Italy and Greece. On the other hand, there is the more Nordic model, of strong values and government. In this model, transparency is valued over back room decision taking, regulations are clear and the legal system efficiently takes care of activity deemed harmful.

For Latvia to go the way of Estonia – or even Denmark, the global number 1 on the CPI – three things are needed. First of all, a strong law enforcement agency (the KNAB) that uncovers cases without being confronted by political backlash. Next to that, a strong and efficient judicial system, in which cases are tried quickly and with clear convictions. And last, but not least, more transparency. With a regular declaration of assets, more clarity can be created on who owns and influences what. That should also result in a freer and more independent press. This all combined could have Latvia score above a 5 on the Corruption Perception Index of 2011.

Posted by: balticcsr | 31 October 2010

Baltic CSR events in November 2010

November is a busy month for CSR events in Latvia. Here is an overview of upcoming events. Do you also have an event that you want to us to publish, let us know through BalticCSR [at] gmail [dot] com.

Social Investment: A Win-Win Approach
November 2, 17h30, Swedish Embassy, Riga
Discuss and share experience on strategic investments in communities with regard to business goals and sustainability.
More info on the website of Dzivesprieks.

AmCham CSR Movie Night
November 9, SSE Riga Soros Auditorium, Riga, Latvia
This time the topic is equal opportunity. Introduced by a well-known speaker, the movie screened will be The Pursuit of Happiness.
More info on the website of AmCham Latvia.

Corporate Social Responsibility and Future development of the Organizational culture in Latvia
November 11, 9h00 – 19h00, Radisson Blu Hotel Latvija, Riga, Latvia
Transferring the best of Norwegian management practice, being adjusted in Latvia as input for a new Latvian Organizational culture.
More information on the NCCL website.

Posted by: Arjan Tupan | 27 October 2010

Are Baltic companies too shy to report on CSR?

Last week saw two publications that showed the benefits of running a business in a sustainable way. In Gimme Some Truth: Green washing versus Sustainability the authors mention as a sideline something very interesting – there is growing quantitative evidence that companies that embrace sustainable business practices actively outperform their passive peers. The other publication, by French institute ORSE, revealed results of a survey conducted on 125 companies in Asia, America and Europe, all part of the Global 500 (report available in French). Fully 95% of these companies consider sustainability and responsible operations in their procurement procedures. In other words, if you want to do business with companies in the Global 500, you need to have your corporate social responsibility activities in order.

With these publications in mind, it seemed time to have a quick survey on the state of CSR reporting in the Baltics as well. The basis for the survey was the Baltic Main List of Nasdaq OMX, containing 35 companies in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. On the premise that the easiest way to report on your CSR activities and policies is through your corporate websites, all 35 company website were visited to check for reports and policies.

From the 35 companies on the Baltic Main List, 22 had some sort of sustainability policy published on their website. Either in the form of a company policy, or by means of stating their intentions. Mostly, this concerned either sponsorships of sports, education and culture. Second in line are the environmental policies and certifications.

Only 6 companies had a separate CSR report: Grindex of Latvia, Tallink and Tallina Vesi from Estonia, and Siauliu Bankas, TEO LT and Ukio Bankas from Lithuania. Interestingly, Siauliu Bankas was the only company to have made it accessible under the Investors menu. Other companies mainly published their CSR reports in the ‘about us’ sections of their respective websites.

The most mature and complete report was by TEO LT, the telecommunications provider from Lithuania. Their media rich report includes all CSR related fields, has strategic goals and metrics, and reports back on tangible results, like a 16% reduction of paper use per employee.

Another interesting finding was that the only Latvian company to publish a CSR report on their website, Grindex, had no listing on the Latvian sustainability index that was launched this year. Participation on that was voluntary, so it could be that Grindex decided not to enter for the index. Also interesting: the report published on the website of Ukio Bankas is the 2006 Global Compact Progress report. Their report on 2009 is available from the UN Global Compact website in Lithuanian.

Baltic companies are apparently still shy to report on their CSR activities. Most could take an example from TEO to see what type of strategic business results can be gained from good CSR policies.

Posted by: Arjan Tupan | 20 October 2010

The Business Logic of Sustainability

Earlier on this blog I wrote about the AmCham Outlook event ‘Can CSR Kill Your Competitiveness’. One of the questions that came up during that event was whether CSR was a luxury Latvian companies can ill afford when struggling for survival. In this TED Talk Ray Anderson, founder and chairman of a globally leading, formerly petrol intensive, carpeting company, explains the ethical necessity, but maybe more convincingly, the business logic of sustainable operation and production. Cost reduction, sales increase, economic crisis survival; all achieved by managing his business according to the statement: Take nothing, do no harm.

Note: for a full text of the poem he reads at the end of his talk, see the TED blog.

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