CORPORATE social responsibility (CSR) and philanthropy is not something limited solely to large companies. But while in large companies or their affiliates the main strategy arrives from ‘above’, in small and medium-sized companies the main impetus to pursue CSR comes from the owners.
There is already a bunch of positive examples of CSR and philanthropic projects being implemented by small and medium-sized companies in Slovakia. These include, for example, IT company Anasoft APR, with its Anasoft Litera literary award; Toyota Motors Slovakia, with its Live Paths project, which focuses on the revitalisation and improvement of hiking paths in the Low and High Tatras; and car seller Auto Valušek, with its projects for the disabled, to mention just a few.
The experience of Anasoft is that the conditions for implementing CSR policies differ between small and medium-sized companies and large companies.
“When implementing these policies in a small or medium-sized company everything is based on communication and support from the owners,” Jana Ohrablová, Anasoft’s public relations and marketing manager, told The Slovak Spectator. “In a large company it is the parent company which defines the main direction, and affiliates adapt the defined strategy to local conditions. On the other hand, our freedom to create the strategy and implement it means learning as we go along. CSR grows along with the company itself.”
Moreover, in a small company the conditions created by contemporary politics and society itself also influence the existence of CSR activities, according to Ohrablová.
“For a company to be oriented towards CSR it is a question of philosophy,” she said. “Decisions about whether to be or not to be are, in the case of small and medium-sized companies, taken gradually. Some companies in Slovakia perhaps do not even know what they are actually doing already in terms of CSR. There is nobody there to write about it or present it. Small companies in particular are solving things as they come up. They support meaningful projects, separate waste, employ handicapped people, try to avoid corruption, and so on.”
Ohrablová sees communication within a company as the basis for successful implementation of CSR.
“Employees appreciate openness from the company and employee benefits,” she said. “Corporate culture is a significant element that helps build awareness among employees. It is demanding to introduce philanthropic projects in which employees should actively participate or contribute from their own pocket. It is precisely here that the previously mentioned communication, and the perception of such activities by the management itself, helps a lot.”
CSR has already become a natural part of Anasoft.
“Anasoft, as a medium-sized and in the past a small company, has been addressing CSR continually and over the long term,” said Ohrablová. “A few years ago we did not even have a clue what CSR was. We were active in philanthropy, invested in employees and built a strong corporate culture. Now we know what CSR is about and have gone naturally into it.”
Anasoft has specified its philanthropic activities and strategically defined the direction of its support. All its activities have a unifying idea – education via experience.
“Our support bound us to long-term cooperation,” said Ohrablová. ”Long-term is what enables the projects to survive and what also brings us visible successes. We do not participate in all the projects only financially, but perform them jointly with the owner and hand down our know-how.”
These activities include a website, www.rodinka.sk, which supports families and the raising of children; the Myšlienka foundation, which organises the First Lego League; a robot-building competition for children from 10 to 16 years; and the Anasoft Litera literary award. For its support for the creation of original Slovak literature, the company received the Via Bona award for long-term positive influence of the company on society and the community.
“We do not do CSR or our philanthropic activities for awards,” said Ohrablová. “To get Via Bona is nice praise for things which we do independently of any prizes. We are glad if good things spread and more good things happen.”
The success of Anasoft Litera, through which the company supports contemporary Slovak literature by awarding the competition laureate a €10,000 prize for new work, has already attracted media attention and helped promote the company and its core business, according to Ohrablová.
Focusing on the challenged
While at Anasoft the development towards CSR was gradual, in the case of Klaudia Valušková, the owner of Auto Valušek and the founder of the AV Mobilita protected workshop for the challenged, it was a family tragedy that exposed her to the reality of life for disabled people.
“What for us is automatic often causes them extensive problems,” Valušková told The Slovak Spectator.
In Slovakia, companies are obliged to employ physically and mentally challenged people based on their total labour force or, if they do not employ such people, to grant orders to protected workshops or make extra payments to the state. But, according to Valušková, firms often do not have work that disabled people can do and are not able to use their potential. General information available about disabled people is limited and employment of such people is often problematic.
“To make things simpler we created the AV Mobilita project,” Valušková said.
AV Mobilita is a small company within the Auto Valušek holding. As the first such company in Slovakia it focuses on providing comprehensive motor services for disabled people across Slovakia. It sells cars adjusted for the disabled, provides maintenance services, roadside assistance, legal consultancy, a call centre, education and much more. It was the first organisation to connect the private sector, the state administration and non-government organisations to provide comprehensive services for the disabled.
Large companies often do not have proper knowledge about how to employ challenged people or how to grant orders to protected workshops, so Valušková decided it was necessary to set up a network of protected workshops to offer work and products. The website of AV Mobilita enables all these.
“When we realise that one-off support, i.e. a financial gift or other support, is in fact short-term it is necessary not ‘to give fish, but teach these people to fish’,” said Valušková. “This means that at question is the long-term process of integration of challenged people. A social contribution is their establishment in the labour market and for companies this means a certain kind of philanthropy [in terms of] granting orders to protected workshops.”
7. Jun 2010 at 0:00 | Jana Liptáková