45 (140) 2020
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Editorial note

The responsible rebound

by, Michael Dembinski, chief advisor and Dorota Kierbiedź, membership director, BPCC
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The pandemic's not going away at any time soon. This is an opportune moment to focus on businesses' response to social and environmental issues that have arisen as a result.

It is 50 years since Milton Friedman famously said that the one and only task facing any business is maximising profit for its shareholders. Times have changed. Businesses do not exist in a vacuum of theoretical economics, but share a planet with 7.8 billion human beings; sustainable coexistence is crucial. Business leaders who wish their company to prosper across the lifetimes of the next few generations think and act differently than those merely concerned about next quarter's earnings. Climate change has introduced an urgency around environmental concerns. Social issues, in particular rising inequality, has also prompted new thinking from business leaders.

This issue of Contact Magazine Online concentrates on corporate social responsibility and ESG – environment, social and governance – the non-financial factors that investors look at when analysing risk and opportunity. There are excellent examples from which to take inspiration, from across the entire spectrum of industry, commerce and education.

But first of all, the BPCC would like to welcome back to Warsaw Anna Clunes, this time as British Ambassador to Poland. In this interview for Contact Magazine Online, she talks about the changes she is seeing in Poland after her 20 years away, and the challengers that lie ahead.

The built environment has an enormous effect on climate change – where people live and work, and how their homes, offices, shops, factories and transport infrastructure is built and operated. Covid-19 is changing our daily routines – but to what extent will it reshape our cities? We talk to Savills Poland's Tomasz Buras and Jakub Jędrys about trends in the real-estate market that will impact the environment in a positive way.

Education opens the door to the future. The pandemic is shaking up the process of learning, accelerating online solutions and removing distance. This helps with the internationalisation of higher education; how this can benefit Poles learning English and cooperation between British and Polish universities is described by Colm McGivern, director of the British Council in Poland.

Poland is implementing Employee Capital Plans (PPK – pracownicze plany kapitałowe), which are to a great extent modelled on the UK's Auto-enrolment pension schemes. The British experience here is extremely valuable, in particular when it comes to encouraging employees in smaller businesses not to voluntarily opt out of their workplace scheme. Malcolm Goodwin, head of workplace savings & retirement, Aviva UK, enumerates the arguments employers can deploy when communicating the benefits of PPK to their workforce.

Companies are well-positioned to do good for the world and for people. President of the Castorama Foundation for Poland, Paweł Świętochowski, sets out how the Polish subsidiary of Kingfisher plc meets its obligations towards its employees, the planet, its customers and the community.

As well as the interviews above, there are many more articles from BPCC members setting out their CSR activities and strategies, some useful pointers and insights from which to gather examples of best practice.

CSR activities need a focus – one in which a company can do right by the planet and society, in a sphere which fits its business activity. Tesco's long-running campaign against food waste is an excellent example of targeted CSR. Katarzyna Bąk, CSR manager at Tesco Polska, explains how the campaign has succeeded across different dimensions.

PwC focuses some of its CSR activities on education, improving the skills – and life chances – of young citizens around the world, and in Poland too, through a series of educational initiatives centred around digital skills. Paulina Koszewska, Corporate Social Responsibility coordinator in PwC, explains. Another CSR initiative from PwC is to provide coaching for leaders of non-governmental organisations such as charities. Paulina Zieńczuk, coordinator of PwC's Two Sectors – One Vision programme, talks about its ten years of work and how it has enhanced the skills of Poland's social leaders.

Embedding sustainability into the heart of your business strategy is crucial. It is increasingly demanded by consumers and investors. Here's a practical guide as to the whys and hows of putting sustainability first, from Rafał Rudzki, partner associate, and Katarzyna Średzińska, manager, Sustainability Consulting, Deloitte.

Banks have a key role in fighting climate change, though the projects they finance – and those they decide not to finance. Santander Bank has made sustainable development one of the most important pillars in its strategy, says Michał Gajewski, CEO of the Santander in Poland.

Green banking is also a priority for BNP Paribas. Maria Krawczyńska, CSR bureau director at BNP Paribas Poland explains how the bank has made the UN's Sustainable Development Goals for the environment an essential part of its overall strategy.

Shell's business processing centre in Kraków, with its 4,200 employees, showcases how a large office campus can be an environmentally responsible partner to its host city. Cutting energy use and waste, the company is a model corporate citizen – and in doing so, it proves to be an attractive employer to Millennials for whom climate change is a major issue.

BP is reinventing itself from an oil company to an energy company, with a goal of reaching net zero by 2050. Bogdan Kucharski, head of country, BP Polska, explains how the company intends to achieve this ambition.

When raising a glass of beer, spare a thought to the sustainability of the brewing process! Kompania Piwowarska has consistently been striving to reduce the amount of water used to brew beer; it also brews exclusively using electricity generated from wind, and is reducing the amount of non-recycleable materials in packaging. And increasing its range of zero- and low-alcohol beers.

Another major player in its sector, ArcelorMittal, focuses much of its CSR activities around health and safety – both of its employees, and of the communities that surround its factories. Anna Bochenek, chief specialist, ArcelorMittal Poland, sets out the main initiatives that the firm has been involved with since the start of its activities in Poland.

Employees' health should be of utmost concern to all employers. Joanna Bensz, founder and CEO of Longevity Center, highlights aspects of long-term healthcare promotion that require the leadership role of employers – and the business and social benefits that flow from that.

Green building is in demand from corporate tenants – from the roof right down to the floor. And floors can be green too! Barbara Radziwon managing director of CPG Eastern Europe, explains how the Flowcrete brand leads the way in VOC-free flooring. Volatile organic compounds given off by floors can have a negative health impact on employees and consumers.

How do you ensure that your employees share your corporate values and reflect them – in their private lives and in particular on social media? Michal Bodziony and Bartosz Wszeborowski from PCS Paruch Chruściel Schiffter | Littler Global suggest that a clear HR policy is key.

Alicja Marcinek, senior CSR specialist, and Magdalena Owsiana, senior PR & CSR manager at Cognifide, ask how businesses can take part in social initiatives that provide win-win-win results, and conclude that investing in education is a useful direction.

When the British School of Wilanów moved its pupils to online studies during the lockdown, its kitchens kept on cooking meals – and these were sent to some of Warsaw's neediest children. Over 10,000 meals were donated, says Tom McGrath, principal of school.

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