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Corporate social responsibility

The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) involves getting businesses to contribute to sustainable economic development, cultivate good labour relations with employees and their families, and help improve quality of life in the community.

The European Commission’s 2001 green paper "Promoting a European framework for corporate social responsibility" contains the following definition: "By stating their social responsibility and voluntarily taking on commitments which go beyond common regulatory and conventional requirements, which they would have to respect in any case, companies endeavour to raise the standards of social development, environmental protection and respect of fundamental rights and embrace an open governance, reconciling the interests of various stakeholders in an overall approach of quality and sustainability."

The CSR concept promotes responsible business practices that benefit both businesses and society and support social, economic and environmental sustainability by maximising the positive impacts of business on society and minimising its negative impacts.

The United Nations is the chief exponent of CSR-related ideas. In 1999, the UN secretary-general put forward a proposal for the Global Compact, an initiative encouraging businesses to develop greater social responsibility and to participate more actively in solving social problems. Belarus joined the Global Compact in 2006, and a local Global Compact network was established in Belarus in 2007, headed by a coordinating council.

Corporate social responsibility goes beyond purely economic aspects and may include activities related to:

  • social development, such as improving the urban environment; undertaking community-related PR activities; doing voluntary work; supporting orphans, children and elderly people; preserving the cultural heritage; improving the quality and safety of products; and providing donations and sponsorships;
  • environmental protection, such as implementing pollution control; undertaking remediation activities; managing and conserving natural resources; promoting waste management; improving energy efficiency; and improving the management of environmental impacts;
  • working conditions and the development of human capital, such as improving health and safety in the workplace; providing training and staff development; running career development programmes; organising volunteer programmes for staff; and supporting fair wages; and
  • education and development, such as providing grants to support disadvantaged people; providing learning tools and educational materials; offering stipends for paid internships; and sponsoring honours programmes for top students.

Corporate social responsibility involves observing the following business principles:

  • providing consumers with high-quality products and services;
  • creating decent working conditions, paying appropriate salaries and investing in further professional development;
  • strictly adhering to financial, labour and environmental legislation;
  • cultivating integrity and honest relationships with all partners;
  • being aware of social expectations and complying with generally accepted ethical standards and business practices; and
  • participating in the development of civil society through the implementation of partnership programmes and projects aimed at developing regions and local communities.

To date, several dozen businesses and organisations in Belarus have confirmed their willingness to follow the principles of CSR in their business practices. This means that they will voluntarily strive to run their businesses not only for themselves, but in the interests of the wider community.

Businesses and organisations that adopt a CSR strategy not only contribute to improving the business climate in Belarus, but also strengthen their corporate image and make themselves more attractive to consumers and investors, which is an effective alternative to direct advertising.

Local examples of successful CSR strategies

  • The Belarusian Metallurgical Plant developed an internal personnel motivation programme, based on the principle of "management through leadership". Within the programme, new staff members receive training from more experienced colleagues.
  • Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), the first cellular operator in Belarus, has received the quality and environmental management certificates ISO 9000, 9001, 9002 and 14000 for management systems developed according to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the state standards of the Republic of Belarus (which have the abbreviation STB). The adoption of international quality standards is one of the most important indicators of product liability.
  • Companies often include rules of liability in their business code of ethics. Coca-Cola Beverages Belarus encourages obedience to the law, punctuality, accuracy, confidentiality and conflict avoidance, and discourages bribery and gifts. Code violations are punishable by disciplinary action.
  • Some companies are developing their own social programmes:
    • Belgazprombank founded Chance, an international charitable foundation for children.
    • The joint stock company Savushkin Product launched the project "Healthy School Nutrition/School Milk".
    • The law firm Vlasova, Mikhel & Partners and the Belarusian Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers (BUEE) launched the joint project "Socially Responsible Business for the Sustainable Development of Small Towns".
    • British American Tobacco has sponsored the National Art Museum, and in 2004 donated some rare items to the National Library.
    • Priorbank supports the Belarusian Children's Hospice.
  • The Belarusian business sector is making significant contributions to environmental protection:
    • The Brest-based company Santa Bremor runs a multi-year programme to clear waste from the woods near the Mukhavets River.
    • Coca-Cola Beverages Belarus, with specialists from APB-BirdLife Belarus, runs the initiative "Let's Save Yelnya Together". Participants are building dams to prevent the drying out of the 7,000-year-old Yelnya peat bog, the largest in Belarus.

Promoting CSR in Belarus

Among the first Belarusian organisations to join the UN Global Compact in 2006 were the Centre of System Business Technologies (SATIO) and the Minsk Capital Association of Entrepreneurs and Employers (MCAEE). Their goal is to promote CSR within the territory of Belarus:

  • In 2005, SATIO and Belarusian business leaders launched the Initiative for Social Responsibility. When Belarus joined the Global Compact, SATIO became a member of the coordinating board of its local network.
  • SATIO provides consulting services in the field of strategic and operational management and sales and marketing strategy. Corporate social responsibility is seen as an essential element of business strategy and as a factor in a company's sustainable development.
  • The MCAEE recognises the need to respect the principles of CSR in pursuing its own goals. It gives due attention to establishing ethical business relationships, training, retraining and skills development within enterprises and organisations, and it offers information support to business entities.
  • The MCAEE's Committee on Corporate Ethics considers any disputes that may arise among union members in connection with violations of the general principles of corporate ethics. Disputes are solved on the basis of the Charter of Corporate and Business Ethics of the Business Community of Belarus, the Code of Honour of Minsk Entrepreneurs, and the ethical standards of MCAEE members.
  • Various exhibitions, competitions and workshops are organised to promote CSR in Belarus. The Brand of the Year contest, which was launched in 2005, includes a special category for socially responsible brands. The first charity exhibition "Corporate Social Responsibility in Belarus", organised with the support of the UN Global Compact local network, was held on October 21, 2010.

International cooperation and national projects

  • The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has worked in Belarus since 1992, where its activities are guided by the Country Programme Document for the period 2011–2015. One of the pillars of this document, Economic Development and Social Security, is consistent with the implementation of CSR principles in the context of the UN Global Compact.
  • There are organisations and foundations in Belarus that offer help to businesses and organisations to develop CSR. The Idea Fund, a socioeconomic foundation, aims to create a mechanism for constructive communication between businesses, government and civil society in Belarus. Its objectives are to develop CSR in Belarus, to support cultural, economic and ecological development, and to promote social and business projects and initiatives at local and state level.
  • The Belarus Public Policy Fund (BPPF) was launched in 2006 jointly by the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (BISS, an independent think-tank based in Lithuania) and the Slovak Pontis Foundation to support local public policy initiatives in Belarus. More than 40 projects have been supported, resulting in the formulation of proposals and policy briefs that are distributed among interest groups, as well as among Belarusian and international experts. The study "CSR: From European Reference to Belarusian Realities" was carried out by BPPF experts.
  • The research project "Corporate Volunteering in Belarus", which came to an end in 2012, was implemented by the non-profit Belarusian Center for European Studies in the framework of the initiative "Slovak Experience of Corporate Social Responsibility for Belarus". The survey showed that, while the term ‘corporate volunteering’ is not in general use in Belarus, there are several examples of it in the country.

Additional information about corporate social responsibility in Belarus can be found on the following links: