27. 05. 2016 Corporate responsibility

Companies should play an open game. Especially with their employees

CEE CSR Summit in Bratislava attracted more than 200 experts on responsible business this year . We bring you the best of what was said.

Bratislava, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and Warsaw. What do these cities have in common? In Central Europe there is an ongoing discussion about how much companies should invest in corporate social responsibility, if at all. Are investments into fair and ethical programmes only a certain “gold foil” that drains company funds? Or are companies healthier and more viable thanks to responsible business practices? We were trying to find the answers to these questions at the CEE CSR Summit in Bratislava. This year main lectures were focused on following topics: investment in sustainable innovations, Open Book Management, CSR reporting, and behavioural design. A number of local issues in the context of CSR were addressed at CSR Cafeteria (round tables discussion).

CEE CSR Summit is the largest and oldest event on Corporate Responsibility in Central and Eastern Europe. This year 215 experts on CSR, sustainability, environment, communication, and human resources took their part. The conference celebrated its 14th year and welcomed participants from 15 countries and four continents – Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. A brief summary of the main presentations is presented in this article.

Check the pictures from the Summit.

Ari Weinzweig, Zingerman´s: Every Employee is Important for Building a Successful Business

„Business is like a sport. If you do not teach everyone basic rules and principles, it will look as they were three years old children running on the field,“ explains Ari Weinzweig, co-owner of Zingerman’s – one of the most successful small companies in America. But, how can you ensure that your business operates as an integrated ecosystem? According to Ari the most obvious option is the Open Book Management. This concept is based on the idea that all employees, whether it is a cleaning lady, secretary or CEO, are involved in managing a company. Because as Ari says: „If people work in organization where they have no access to information, they cannot make the right decisions. They can’t run a business.” Why is this model such a powerful tool?
Ari believes that the biggest challenge for most companies is to create business models, which are in line with company’s values. These should be models that enable information sharing, openness, transparency as well as mutual cooperation between all parts of the company. One important feature of Open Book Management is that all employees should have information about financial performance of the business. „Many employees often think that business is earning a lot of money. In the same time, however, CEO is desperately sitting in the bathroom and he has no idea how to pay the bills. It is like football coach knows that his team is losing a game, but the rest of a team thinks that they lead by two. It simply cannot work this way,” says Ari.
Everyone in the company should learn to think like a leader and also should understand the language of business. “People are creative, intelligent, and they can get passionate about things. These are valuable resources that most of the companies waste. Employees are used to think only about partial aspects of business and are not able to get the whole picture,” explains Ari. Zingerman´s tries to include everyone into its story and shares all its accomplishments as well as failures. “It is not only about numbers. It is about stories behind them. It is about people, not just profit. Sometimes you do better, sometimes worse. The first step is to be able to share all information in all kinds of situation. When Zingerman´s is doing well I want everyone to celebrate,” concluded Ari.

Elaine Cohen, Beyond Business: The Sustainability Reporting is Actually Fun!

Reporting on Corporate Social Responsibility is not only about leadership, people in the community and their lives or transparency. It is also about having fun. As Elaine Cohen, consultant at Beyond Business, claims: „Companies nowadays should not be thinking about whether to write a report on CSR, but they should be asking how to write it.” And reporting can be really creative and also attractive for all stakeholders. Why would companies actually write reports? According to Elaine, it is particularly about involving all stakeholders and about building trust. “If you do not engage the stakeholders as part of your process, how should they know what impact do you make and where is your business going? If you have all the necessary information, why do not share it? You might actually help the others (there are even some environmental profit and loss statements issued with the methodology included). It is really about creating the momentum, about inspiring and engaging,” Elaine explains.

Despite the above factors, many companies still do not report on their non-financial indicators. They believe that no one reads those reports, it costs too much and the relevant data are often missing. However, as Elaine argues: „Reporting is not about costs, it is about creating a value. How can you talk about your performance if all relevant information is a secret?” According to this consultant, sustainability reporting is essential for any form of business, because it allows all interested parties the access to capital, to reduce costs, increase employee loyalty as well as build trust. However, according to KPMG’s survey, only 45% of Slovak companies report on CSR nowadays. “Slovakia is a country of many opportunities. It is up to companies whether they can make good use of them and gain a competitive advantage,” says Elaine.

You can find the presentation of Elaine Cohen HERE.

Sille Krukow, Krukow: It is not Enough to Know. Important is the Right Choice Architecture

The change of human behaviour always starts with ambition. Business is responsible to formulate the ambition of its customers to drive more sustainable choices. Sille Krukow, chief behavioural designer and owner of consultancy Krukow, points out that when it comes to translating those ambitions into concrete actions on an everyday basis, we often fail to succeed.“If we want to change people’s actions, it is not enough to feed them with knowledge. It is important to take into account the cognitive factors. Precisely these aspects are addressed in behavioural design that enables people to make the right decisions, which are also responsible and environmentally friendly,” explains Sille.

According to Sille, human behaviour is reflected by two systems – reflective (10%) and automatic (90%) thinking. “The first one means the conscious behaviour, when we take into account our knowledge and skills and turn them into something that makes sense. Reflective behaviour makes us intelligent beings. However, this behaviour system is very difficult and energy consuming. That´s why in 90% of our time we prefer automatic behaviour,” explains Sille. This behaviour is not driven by knowledge or motivation. Rather by habits, instincts and impulses. This is usually a challenge to companies, governments and NGO that seek to change it. One way of influencing human behaviour is the choice architecture design. Sille describes this as everything that influences our decisions and actions. It aims to predict human errors and eliminate them. We need a positive nudge to do the right decisions automatically, without special effort. The right decision is often not done because of social (we follow the behaviour of majority), physical (the bin is far away to throw out the trash) or psychical barriers (decision making process is very exhaustive, we prefer quick solutions). “Your customers want to make the world a better place. However, it is crucial to step in in their decision making process and help them to make right choices,” adds Sille.  

You can find the presentation of Sille Krukow HERE.

Stephen Mooney, Synoptica: Sustainable Innovations Can Change the World for the Better  

„Business should work as a balanced ecosystem and sustainability should be its driving force,” claims Stephen Mooney, owner of Synoptica. He says, that pressures on business to restore, sustain, and expand natural capital are mounting as human needs expand, the costs of deteriorating ecosystems rise, and the environmental awareness of consumers increases. All these pressures create business opportunity, also for companies such as Synoptica. Synoptica accelerates the corporate adoption of SME sustainable innovation and also helps the companies to find new solutions that can help their business. “Companies can use sustainable innovations to change the world for the better. However, they must look at them from the same perspective as at the financial responsibility,” explains Stephen. “Sustainability is also a great tool to eliminate corruption from the public and the business sector,” he adds.   

Stephen currently sees great opportunities in investing, for example, to so-called Smart cities. According to him, this area constitutes a global market volume of $1.5 Trillion across multiple technology sectors.

According to Stephen many environmental problems can be managed and solved by start-ups. However, many of them do not know how to properly articulate their goals, to get in touch with the right people. Another mistake start-ups often make is, in his opinion, the fact that they do not want to outsource many of their activities. “Every challenge in business is different. You can never learn everything and you can never do everything. Even start-ups need to outsource their work. You need to know what is most important for your business, and to find a suitable team for other activities. Even Facebook is not just about Zuckerberg. It’s about Zuckerberg and his team,” says Stephen.

You can find the presentation of Stephen Mooney HERE.

CSR Cafeteria – Round Tables Discussions

Summit participants also enjoyed the favourite discussion tables at CSR Cafeteria, where they debated local issues, such as electromobility, women in business, reporting, corporate culture, or employing homeless people. CSR Cafeteria came up with 12 current topics, each of which was discussed at a separate table led by experts from leading corporations in Slovakia, and from abroad. Participants also worked on case studies alongside with representatives from GSK Slovakia, Deloitte, Pivovary Topvar, Synoptica, Slovenská sporiteľňa, ZSE, and many others.

Conclusions from the discussion are available for the download HERE.

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