37 (132) 2018
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Corporate Social Responsibility

Business vs smog – fighting for clean air together

By Dorota Franczukowska, programme coordinator, manager in PwC
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Smog – we all know that it is harmful to both the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.

We are also aware of the fact that it is really destructive to the health of our children and elderly people. But have you ever thought that it can be unfavourable to companies and business?

Companies might sometimes have problems with recruiting the best employees in the market from abroad, because such sought-after candidates don’t want to live in an unhealthy environment. It might also happen that key employees would give up their jobs and move with their families to safer areas. There are just two factors that the Business vs smog programme originates from. Simple fear combined with care for families as well as current and future employees.

We have initiated the programme at PwC because we felt that there are more and more companies like us, willing to help the bad situation and fight the smog that surrounds us for over 130 days a year! Being a member of ASPIRE – the Association of Technology and Business Services Companies and having an excellent local organisation that has already undertaken successful actions to combat smog – the Krakow Smog Alert – we decided to take matters into our own hands and invite companies and their best resource – employees – to improve air quality together.

The Business vs smog project aims to implement an employee volunteer programme to educate children and young people about smog and air quality. Cooperation between 11 companies: Akamai, Amway, Aon, CANPACK Group, Cisco, Hitachi Vantara, Herbalife Nutrition, Jacobs (Ch2M), PwC, Wilson HCG and Zurich Insurance Company LTD. and two associations, ASPIRE - The Association of Technology and Business Services Companies and the Krakow Smog Alert, will make it possible to run workshops for more than 5,000 pupils from schools and kindergartens mainly in the Małopolskie and Śląskie province. There are also volunteers active in Warsaw and its surroundings.

The workshops for children within the programme are to take place during the winter months and shall finish in March 2019. The classes are conducted by employee volunteers from companies involved in the project, who have been previously trained by the Krakow Smog Alert members. The programme has been adapted to fit different age groups. Workshop participants will learn what smog is, why it forms, what dangers it presents to human life and health and what we can do to be able to breathe cleaner air. All of the workshops are free – the educational facilities do not bear any costs associated with running them.

The Business vs smog project is the first in the Polish market presenting such a broad agreement in the area of community involvement. It is important to note that the list of companies who can join the action is not closed yet. What makes the project so unique in terms of the model of cooperation of the companies involved, is that at the beginning each of them committed to the accomplishment of several tasks at the level of project management. Individual responsibilities are dispersed among the coordinators – volunteers coming from each company. We need to plan the actions and communicate really smoothly to make the programme happen. It is challenging as we come from different businesses and have different corporate policies – but when there’s a joint purpose, everything is possible.

Statement of companies involved in the Business vs smog programme

“In response to one of the most important challenges facing our society, which is poor quality of the air and the natural environment in Poland, we declare our full involvement in the Business vs smog programme, acting to increase the environmental awareness of Poles”.

The declaration is already being fulfilled – volunteers have started their classes. After the official launch of the programme in the media, there is growing interest from schools, kindergartens and companies willing to join in. This shows that our project truly meets our local society’s needs.

For me, personally, it is a unique experience to have the pleasure of encouraging so many people to take the chance of changing the world that is closest to us – for our kids and for our joint future.

To learn more about the project, please visit facebook.com/BiznesKontraSmog

Different companies, one goal. Partners of the programme on the initiative:

As Europe’s No 1 location for tech and business services, Krakow’s demand for young, skilled professionals is insatiable. Over 75,000 young people already work in the sector and upwards of 18 new jobs, requiring ever higher skills, are being created daily. Attracting and retaining talent is therefore our top priority and the key to attracting and retaining young talent is often the quality of life we are able to offer. This also means quality of air. Moreover, young people working in our member companies want to contribute to making the world a better place and a programme such as Business vs smog gives them a direct opportunity to do just that.

Andrew Hallam, general secretary, ASPIRE - The Association of Technology and Business Services Companies

Our involvement in the “Business vs Smog” initiative is a natural consequence of our sustainable business philosophy. On top of investing in modern, environmentally friendly technologies at our factories located across the world, we actively participate in programmes focusing on local communities’ well-being, with clean air being one of our key priorities in Poland. Only two weeks after the programme’s official kick-off, we can already observe significant growth of interest in it among our employees. Our Sustainability Office runs additional recruitment and training for those who want to sign up and we do hope that the number of Canpack’s volunteers will double by the end of the year.

Małgorzata Podrecka, vice president at CANPACK Group  

We held our workshop just after new air purifiers had been delivered to the school that welcomed us, so it was perfect timing to discuss air problems. Kids were genuinely interested in the air topic, especially when theoretical knowledge was supported with experiments, one that showed how bad air changes our environment and another that proved how badly smog smells. We were positively surprised by how much the kids know about air pollution, even the youngest ones. The younger generation understands that they have a great impact on the condition of the environment – there was no doubt about that. We’re proud to be part of this initiative and happy to teach young people what they can do to make our city better.

Anna Krupińska and Paulina Kaprzyk, volunteers from Amway Business Center Europe

At our company, the subject of air quality first appeared in the winter of 2017, when an extremely high concentration of pollutants in the air was noted. Then the employees took the AirPollution initiative and began to think of ways of fighting smog. We carried out three months of research on air quality to confirm that the poorer the outside air, the worse the air we breathe in the office. The Business vs smog programme fits perfectly into this concept. We want to educate children and young people so that even at their youngest age they already know how smog affects the quality of life and so that they counteract the causes of smog. We hope that the topics presented to children during the workshops will contribute to discussions about smog in family circles and among friends. We also count on the growing interest in the business sector and the spread of the initiative throughout the region. The high attendance at the press conference proves that the topic is important. We hope that the number of volunteers and the support of companies will allow for intensification of activities.

Jakub Ciura, director, Global Business Services Centre at Herbalife

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