How Socially Responsible is Your Business?

Think about the company you work for or the business you run. Look around your office and take a moment to think about the everyday workings of it. Now look at the checklist at the bottom of this page. How many points can you tick? Would you say you’re part of a Truly Responsible Business (TRB)? Do you have a policy of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?

On July 1st-3rd 2016, The Center for Strategic Research and Development of Georgia (CSRDG), Pontis Foundation and International Visegrad Fund ran a summer school for selected company representatives to open them to the complex world of CSR, related aspects of the newly ‘in force’ EU-Georgia Association Agreement (AA), and the skills needed to create a Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) report.

When asked what CSR is before the training began, the majority answer was “helping others- the poor, disabled, children or elderly,” and “recycling our waste office paper.”

Three days later and the answers from the same people to the same question were so detailed, it would fill this column just listing them.

Teaching them were local representatives of the CSRDG, Lia Todua (Consumer Rights) and Mariam Shotadze (Environment); from Slovakia, Michal Kissa from Pontis and the Business Leaders’ Forum, talking on responsible consumer relations, and Slavomíra Urbanová, Pontis Foundation, talking on the concept of CSR. From Poland was Mirella Panek-Owsianska, Responsible Business Forum, discussing labor standard integration and the GRI; and from Hungary, Gergely Tóth, from environmental NGO KÖVET who spoke broadly on the environmental impact of businesses and how to reduce that impact. The trainings were co-ordinated by Lela Khoperia, CSRDG CSR Program Coordinator and Tatiana Zilkova, PONTIS Foundation, External Relations Program Manager.

The majority of those present represented large multi-national or foreign-owned businesses (Wissol, Pasha Bank, Geocell…) for whom the concept of CSR was already familiar and a part of their regular operations.

“It’s about more than doing good deeds for your clients and employees, it’s about making them safe,”Anano Korkia, Head of PR & Marketing Department of Pasha Bank, Georgia, told GEORGIA TODAY. “Although Pasha is a corporate bank, if you follow the line down, you do eventually end up at a physical person using your services. We have a responsibility to that person, as we do our own staff members. Pasha offers its staff many health and development prospects and is very attentive to its clients.”

Rusudan Kbilashvili, PR & CSR Manager, Wissol Group, has been working comfortably with a CSR and reporting strategy since around 2010. “International partners decide to partner with us because of our sustainable development plans. We have six main directions: Marketplace, Employees, Customers, Health, Safety & Environment, Finances and Partners. We often pioneer customer service standards in Georgia which are then taken on by our competitors.”

But also present at the School were some younger members of society for whom CSR was, like it is for many Georgians, something of a foreign or “European” ideal which seems inapplicable to Georgia’s current reality and insignificant due to the size of the country.

“This is totally new for us. My company is being forced by our European investors to adopt a CSR policy,” Kote Chachanidze, Project Manager and CSR Manager of the 3-week-old SME ‘Georgian Herbs,’ told GEORGIA TODAY.

And so it is and so it increasingly will be.

Georgia is not a big country and does not have much of a carbon footprint when compared to its European neighbours (Georgia-1.6 hectares [133rd place], Luxembourg 15.8 ha [1st place]). Yet, on signing the AA, Georgia committed to a bettering of its work environment, and that, in a very large part, includes CSR.

What is CSR?

It is people- the ones who work around you, who supply you, who deliver those supplies and who use your services.

It is place- your office, the streets you drive and park in, the fields, forests and rivers from which you draw your raw resources.

It is time- what is used now and how resources are preserved for the future.

It is said that by 1st August the world will have consumed its entire annual allowance for 2016. This means that anything consumed after that will cut into the resources meant for future generations. Now, if you believe the over-population fears, or the “three Earth” concept, then this means that we’re heading for a bifurcation point where over-population and insufficient resources to sustain us means we need the equivalent of three planet earths’ worth of resources if we are to survive. However, some scientists believe that instead of an imminent crash, the graph of future population-to-resources is more of an ‘S’ curve, with the world’s population expected to level off naturally and some kind of balance to be found. Humans are, after all, the smartest species and we should be able to find a way out of the crash-course we currently seem to be on, right?

What can you, the employee, employer, or business owner do? It all starts with awareness-raising of course. Of highlighting and demonstrating that CSR is the responsibility of us all.

Turn off those extra unnecessary lights- open up the window blinds and let the natural light in- for a start it will activate your circadian rhythm and keep you alert longer. Use both sides of the paper when you write or print; recycle waste paper. Don’t leave machines on standby- switch them off. Opt for environmentally-friendly furniture, stationary and décor. Choose to work only with socially and ecologically responsible partners and clients. Award those who follow your responsible policies closely. Encourage your employees to drink tap water rather than bottled. Check out local and international Eco certification to show your clients your environmentally friendly policies. When it comes to the times of year when you would normally send out gifts to clients or partners, give a percentage of the money you would spend to a charitable cause instead, as Pasha Bank did last year when it bought a Rusudan Petviashvili painting, had signed printed copies sent to its partners, and then donated the original to a charity for its own use. Set up a fixed Pro Bono system whereby you and your employees offer your skills, knowledge and services to NGOs or other needy organizations free of charge, helping them to develop. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…

All of these suggestions are realistic and are just the tip of the iceberg to what can be done. Most are money-savers in the short or even long term. But for them to work, the staff in your company needs to be informed, educated and shown the impact they can have and should have. Take the fear route and show them how disastrous the path ahead looks right now. Or show them the positive possibilities of changing before it’s too late. Ideally, do both, because your customers will care. Even as far back as 2006, when the CSRDG ran a sociological survey, 60 % of their Georgian participants said they would choose a CSR company (or to buy the products of a CSR company) over the alternative.

“The CSRDG training was notable for the foreign speakers, able to show best practises that we can relate to from Eastern European countries who have already been where Georgia is,” said Korkia of Pasha Bank. “The training has given me some ideas for a better recycling process we could implement and how we could partner with other organizations to make a difference.”

“Now I have some tools to use and the contacts I need to start in the right direction to make us a more socially responsible company,” Chachanidze of Georgian Herbs said.

Georgia is at the beginnings of the kind of development processes that many big Western countries are struggling to get control of and clean up. It is in the perfect position to make the right choices and implement the sensible business policies that will affect positively on the health, safety and lifestyle of our future generations. You can be a part of that change.

And when you lock up the office and head home, keep living it, keep being Socially Responsible.


Safety at work

Employee Health

Employee Support

Counteracting Abuse


Training & Development

Corporate Volunteering (Pro Bono work)

Dialogue with Employees

Work-Life Balance

Employee Participation

Katie Ruth Davies

04 July 2016 18:00