Expert volunteering, increased transparency in the chocolate production process and the creation of a system that collects real data about waste in households: These are just some projects organised by Slovak companies that have been awarded for their responsible and fair business.
A total of 38 small, medium-sized and large companies submitted nominations for the 20th year of the Via Bona awards, handed out by the Pontis Foundation.
“Companies emphasise responsibility much more now than in the past and are aware of their impact,” said Michal Kišša, one of two executive directors of the Pontis Foundation.
At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, various companies showed they feel a responsibility towards society. They organised hackathons to find quick and effective solutions, shifted resources to the purchase of medical devices and sent expert and managerial capacities to help the country.
At the same time, to secure funding for their own activities beneficial to the public, the civic organisations are using business plans and tools more.
“Our worlds are getting closer,” said Martina Kolesárová, another executive director of the Pontis Foundation. “If ‘solidarity’ is not the word of the year, then it should be ‘cooperation’.”
This trend has been confirmed by the 52 projects competing for the Via Bona awards, of which 17 finalists were shortlisted in six categories. These are this year’s laureates.
Responsible Large Corporation
Responsible Small/Middle-Sized Company
Good Community Partner
Employer Friendly to Family, Gender Equality and Equal Opportunities
Public Choice Award
Volunteering does not simply mean painting benches or collecting waste in nature. Some firms are engaged in expert volunteering that brings a higher value to those who need it.
Software developer Eset is training primary school informatics teachers in various parts of Slovakia to teach pupils how to manage computer programming and cyber security in an entertaining way within the Digital Skills programme. The courses are for free and the company’s employees hold them while on the clock, so they are paid the same as if they were sitting behind their desk.
Education in IT, particularly in internet safety, is an important part of Eset’s pro bono activities.
“We consider expert corporate volunteering a higher level of engagement among our employees – volunteers,” said Lucia Marková, Eset’s CSR manager.
Although they support other forms of volunteering too, expert volunteering is not a one-off activity. Instead, it runs over a longer period and has a bigger impact. A total of 18 Eset employees have participated in the Digital Skills programme since February 2019. Thanks to their collaboration with other companies that are members of the Business Leaders Forum, they have organised trainings for more than 1,000 teachers in 275 municipalities.
The company’s IT experts can also be seen at universities and research institutes, and they hold trainings for non-governmental organisations focused on PR, marketing and GDPR. Moreover, the company supports the development of civic society by providing transparent financial support to non-profit organisations.
The Profesia recruitment company applies an inclusive approach and values diversity within the company. It employs an equal number of men and women, and offers jobs to minorities, mothers with children and disabled people. Every person is chosen based on their skills, experience and work performance.
“Every company, as well as every individual, can change the world,” said Ivana Molnárová, executive director of Profesia. “But we need to start with ourselves. It’s necessary to start behaving responsibly towards employees, suppliers, clients and everybody else. Then we’ll create business that’s sustainable in every way.”
The company’s employees share their experience by organising various workshops and training for non-governmental organisations. They also educate school headmasters in HR and are involved in various volunteering activities. Profesia prepared Christmas gifts and a book collection for socially disadvantaged families, and donated clothes to selected organisations. They are also trying to come up more eco-friendly solutions.
At the same time, the services offered by the Profesia.sk website try to adapt to the needs of people with visual and hearing impairments. Moreover, offers in the education sector are published for free on the Edujobs.sk website.
The company tries to promote less popular topics as well.
“We’d like to popularise the employment of handicapped people, effective education and the fight against corruption,” said Molnárová. “We’d like to show that a small company has the ability to increase social awareness.”
When creating technologies, security software company Eset focuses on innovations and a safe digital world for all. This has been proven, for example, by an app for the responsible approach to protect children on the internet and the support of software for visually impaired people. It also focuses on educating children and adults about internet safety. At the same time, it supports starting leaders and runs development programmes for its employees.
Eset also launched the Eset Science Award in 2019 to recognise excellent scientists and improve their status as well as the status of science and research in society. The project aims to facilitate a discussion about science.
Whirlpool Slovakia actively supports diversity and inclusion in the workplace through several internal HR programmes.
About 40 percent of its employees are women, 18 percent are Roma and 7 percent are disabled.
Thanks to its adapting process for new hires and the requalification of its current staff in its requalification and training centre, the company helps reduce the unemployment rate in the region as well as the fluctuation of employees.
The company plans to offer the services of its requalification and training centre to production plants in the region, labour offices, schools and other organisations.
When the Slovenské Elektrárne (SE) company, Slovakia’s dominant energy generator, conducted a survey on the company’s atmosphere back in December 2018, the results were unflattering. A high number of respondents criticised the management for its approach towards employees, the lack of politeness, openness or competency, and the lack of communication.
The survey encouraged the company to create a completely new programme. The SE University is a week-long internal educational programme for all of its managing employees, i.e. more than 600 people. The aim is to discuss topics that have not been debated in the past and make the participants understand how the company works.
The programme is SE’s flagship in education, but there are also other activities for specific groups of staff.
The Letmo company provides aid and counselling to handicapped people. Since it began its operation, it has been dealing with the same problem: there was no interactive map that would monitor barrier-free spaces for the handicapped.
The company decided to create a unique mobile app called VozickarMAP which helps its users find the nearest barrier-free places, comment on their condition and address the community of wheelchair users.
JRK Slovensko focuses on improving waste management by reducing the amounts of mixed municipal waste and increasing waste separation. To achieve this, it developed an innovative and educational solution, the fair system of waste registration called ELWIS. It informs municipalities about the real amounts of waste generated by Slovak households and other subjects by monitoring the collection of containers and waste bags.
By analysing the data, municipalities can adopt necessary measures and create a fairer system of waste fees and rules for better waste separation.
When producing its chocolates, Lyra Group uses energy saving technologies and ecological waste disposal. It enables the public to observe the chocolate production process through visits to secondary schools and various other events. Its Blockchain chocolate project makes the production and distribution process more transparent by revealing which ingredients are used and what the time traceability of products is.
Lyra is active in Columbia, from which it gets most of the ingredients for its products, supporting local farmers and young people taping into their potential while learning to become good leaders. In addition, Lyra Group supports various organisations working with mentally disabled people.