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Corporate Social Responsibility – interview with Ognian Donev in econ.bg

13 February 2013

Ognian Donev, member of the National Board of the Bulgarian Network of the UN Global Compact and Chairman of CEIBG

Mr. Donev, what is corporate social responsibility? How and why is it done and is there any place for it in our country?

To avoid digressing into theoretical lectures on CSR definitions, I will only say that we are striving to act in accordance with the thesis that CSR are those things which companies do for society when no one is watching. This way of thinking protects us from the misrepresentation that CSR is a marketing activity or incidental manifestation of philanthropy. An organization could engage in such activities either by convictions or because of the benefit due to the nature of these activities, or because of a healthy combination of both. In our country, one can see the complete range of, I would call them, degrees of awareness and growth with regard to CSR. However, I think that because of the globalization effect, especially the younger generation realizes more clearly the mark that we all leave on society and nature. Can every company be socially responsible? Of course it can. In western economies, management practices such as flexible work hours, working at home, encouragement of employees to use alternative transportation to their workplaces are becoming more and more popular. How much progress has Bulgaria made in regards to this? My observation is that there is some development, but it is minimal. In order for this to happen, there needs to be a more trusting relationship between an employer and its employees, which improves job security and the work environment. That companies should be more result-oriented instead of merely following the rules is not yet a common view in many Bulgarian companies, which often hinders, rather than helps, in achieving business goals. Is reporting of CSR activities important? What are the current practices in our country and in the world? I see the future of such reporting, and organizations such as the Global Compact, as a means of increasing visibility of the millions of companies now worldwide, who use a portion of their funds and time for long-term investment in socially responsible conduct. Reporting is a way to promote the various ways that companies could contribute to the well being of society and their local communities. Do CSR practices require investment of additional funds or is up to the discretion of managers and employees? In regards to investment of funds by enterprises, this is a matter of choice, but in order to achieve a meaningful result some resources should be invested. Companies seriously engaged in CSR are trying to share these investments with their employees, local communities, etc., thus involving more people and spreading good will. Whether the investment will be in the form of time and labour, or money, it is a resource that has been set aside and directed to these activities. Is corporate social responsibility marketing - if so, where do you draw the line? Definitely, it is not marketing, or at least it shouldn't be. It is an awareness of the effects of our actions in every sphere of our activity. As a CEIBG Chairman, could you tell us what the attitude of the Bulgarian employers is to this new aspect of CSR? The attitude is positive, but it still appears difficult for us to be more specific in our everyday life with regard to CSR activities. Many of my colleagues do not see clearly the direct connection between CSR and sustainable development of companies. Like in all other countries, management turnover and change often plays an important role in CSR policy of organizations too. We are trying to be more active and to assist as much as we can toward more sustainable and persistent efforts of our members in the field of CSR. What are the characteristics of a responsible corporate leader? This would be a person who considers their decisions in the context of sustainability and long-term development. This is crucial. Every action we take today will have long-term consequences and we need to consider its affect on everyone, not only us. Can a public administration be socially responsible? Public administration should serve as an example since it is the determining factor in the long-term success of a society. The values which the administration are promoting have an influence on the entire business and social climate. In a somewhat narrower aspect, can companies, through their activity, help to protect the environment? I wonder whether this idea is still Utopian and is such an initiative expensive? Companies can and do it to a great extent, at least by complying with the current legislation in this field. I would say that, though considerable, initial investments in this vein are always justifiable in the long-term as they allow companies to become less dependent on dwindling resources, which makes them more competitive in the long run. What is the point of the awards for socially responsible entities? I would repeat myself if I say that their meaning is mainly to popularize these types of activities. Of course, there is the purely human factor of recognition for people working hard to make CSR a reality. In your opinion, does Bulgaria have anything to show to the other participants from the 29 countries currently involved? Bulgaria can show that its companies are, over time, becoming more aware of their role as “citizens” of their country, of Europe and the world. In spite of the current economic crisis and difficult situation many Bulgarian businesses find themselves, they are working towards this common goal. What is the mid-term outlook for the development of socially responsible business practices in our country? It is realistic to expect a slow increase in the number of CSR engagements. I would be glad to see a more clear differentiation between marketing and philanthropy and CSR, and a more open dialogue between companies and society on these topics. Source: econ.bg