SOME COMPANIES ONLY SEE THE COSTS RATHER THAN THE BENEFITS

Firms learn sustainability is good business

EVEN though corporate responsibility and sustainability are not completely foreign concepts in Slovakia in 2011, many companies in Slovakia are still just learning how implementing the principles of corporate responsibility can bring better business values and entrepreneurial success. Primarily it is the Slovak branches of international companies, motivated by their parent companies, that have adapted corporate strategies to local conditions and implemented corporate responsibility programmes. The Slovak Spectator spoke to Beata Hlavčáková, the programme director of the Pontis Foundation and the director of the Business Leaders Forum, about what she sees as being the current trends in these areas in Slovakia.

EVEN though corporate responsibility and sustainability are not completely foreign concepts in Slovakia in 2011, many companies in Slovakia are still just learning how implementing the principles of corporate responsibility can bring better business values and entrepreneurial success. Primarily it is the Slovak branches of international companies, motivated by their parent companies, that have adapted corporate strategies to local conditions and implemented corporate responsibility programmes. The Slovak Spectator spoke to Beata Hlavčáková, the programme director of the Pontis Foundation and the director of the Business Leaders Forum, about what she sees as being the current trends in these areas in Slovakia.



The Slovak Spectator (TSS): What are the current trends in corporate responsibility and what challenges does the concept face here in Slovakia?


Beata Hlavčáková (BH): The current change in corporate responsibility is that representatives of international companies are beginning to realise very clearly that this topic matters to them. More than 90 percent of CEOs even consider sustainability to be important or very important for the success of their company; this awareness results from a study conducted by Accenture and the UN Global Compact. A general trend is that directors of companies are starting to perceive sustainability as an opportunity for creation of values and entrepreneurial success and are beginning to implement the concept into their core business activities.



TSS: Do trends differ in Slovakia from those abroad? Did trends change under the influence of the economic crisis?


BH: The distinctness of the perception of corporate responsibility and sustainability in Slovakia lies exactly here. Since the concept is not widespread in Slovakia and is not highly demanded by clients or customers, representatives of firms in Slovakia right now see only the costs of implementation. Even though we already have companies in Slovakia which have implemented programmes of corporate responsibility or sustainability, only a few of them systematically use its potential as a tool for searching for new market opportunities. But there are some such companies.

The impacts of the crisis on corporate responsibility hit at several levels. Some companies achieved positive economic-environmental synergies by implementing saving modes and programmes with less consumption of materials and energy. A less-positive impact was on the social area where cuts in the number of employees often negatively affected the work-life balance of remaining employees who had to take over the duties of those persons who were made redundant. And not all companies managed to maintain consistency in their values during the layoff process, and that had a negative impact on employees’ motivation. On the other hand, there was a positive development in the area of community activities when strategic partnerships and programmes crystallised.



TSS: Which factors affect companies in Slovakia when they decide to apply the principles of corporate responsibility?


BH: Slovak companies that are motivated by their international parent companies and adapt the corporate strategies to local conditions are primarily the ones implementing corporate responsibility principles here. A survey conducted as part of the ReSmeS project showed that competitiveness and the requirements of the market are the main motivators for implementation of corporate responsibility among small and medium-sized companies.


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