53 (148) 2022

Editorial note

Editorial Note

By Michael Dembinski, chief advisor, and Dorota Kierbiedź, membership director
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First the pandemic, now war. Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has impacted Poland and its economy in many ways. The sudden influx of three million refugees has prompted a national outpouring of support unprecedented in scale. All over the country, individuals and companies have donated their time and money to help – an amazing phenomenon noted around the world.

This issue of Contact Magazine Online is about corporate social responsibility; what it means in practice, how it squares with those other business buzzwords ‘sustainability’ and ‘ESG’ – environment, social and governance. Environmental issues will not fade from business’s attention because of the war – the war has been to a great extent financed by the West buying its fossil fuels from Russia. Weaning ourselves off fossil fuels is something we should have been doing for the good of the planet too. Companies’ ability to respond rapidly to major crises has been demonstrated by the first Covid lockdown over two years ago – a similarly quick response met the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. Companies with a strong awareness of CSR issues have proven their resilience in challenging times.

Inside this issue we have three interviews and 15 articles. Deloitte’s global lead in climate action and sustainability, Irena Pichola discusses the meaning of proper ESG strategies, and what they mean for business. Agnieszka Brzóska, vice-president of the Sue Ryder Foundation describes the challenges of running a charity in Poland at a time of crisis. A direct effect of the Russian invasion has been a sudden jump in energy prices. Ryszard Stefański, from EWE Polska, offers advice as to how businesses can cut energy costs by investing in renewable sources – which makes sense in the long term too.  

Is CSR worth the effort? Tomasz Kukulski, president of the board, Bibby Financial Services, considers the notion that businesses should not only make a profit, but also take care of the world around them.  OK – so CSR is all well and good – but how do the tax authorities treat money that companies spend on CSR projects? Paweł Wyciślik from MDDP & Partners takes a look at what is and what isn’t tax deductible.

What have BPCC member firms have been doing for Ukraine? Take a look at the scale of engagement at the corporate level within the BPCC, and you’ll see a snapshot representing a small part of Poland’s overall response. Big cash donations to humanitarian organisations make a difference, but so do the individual actions of employees working together to help.

Within 36 hours of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Lux Med’s parent company Bupa had authorised a £6 million fund to deliver healthcare to refugees who had fled the war. Shortly after, Lux Med’s hospitals and clinics across Poland were treating over 1,100 refugees daily – mainly children. This is perhaps the most spectacular and high-profile of all the responses initiated by BPCC member companies. But there were many others. Here’s a short summary of  what other BPCC member companies and their employees have been doing to support Ukrainian refugees in Poland; individually and taken together this is impressive: Castorama; BNP Paribas; Freightliner PL; Shell; UPS; Wunderman Thompson Technology. Each one represents the heartfelt response of business to the unfolding tragedy across the border and shows the spontaneous willingness to help fellow humans in difficulty. These five case studies also show that while the bottom-up desire of employees to help is essential, so is a well-organised corporate framework to channel that willingness instantaneously into practical assistance. For when catastrophes strike – and this decade so far has shown that strike they can – it’s important to be ready. If you’re already doing CSR effectively, it’s merely a case of scaling up response, quickly.

Over a million Ukrainian refugees have set up bank accounts in Poland since 24 February, suggesting a medium- to long-term stay and a willingness to take up employment. Kinga Rozbicka and Michał Bodziony from PCS Paruch Chruściel Schiffter Stępień | Littler Global look at the legal issues associated with employing Ukrainian citizens in Poland.

Environmental as well as social – CSR tackles green issues

Kraków Airport’s Zuzanna Wcisło-Wasilewska says that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are crucial to the way the airport coexists with its local community and ecosystem.

Wyborowa Pernod Ricard tackles the environmental issues concerned with wining and dining al fresco – how the hospitality sector can reduce the carbon footprint of open-air bars.

And Tom McGrath, principal, British Primary School of Wilanow, makes the essential point that CSR begins at school – teaching young hearts and minds good examples.

Finally, off-topic but important tax news for multinationals with their HQs in the UK: Poland has introduced anti-hybrid provisions into its domestic tax law as part of the EU’s Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive (ATAD 2). What this means for subsidiaries of UK firms doing business in Poland (and others) is set out by Łukasz Kupień from MDDP & Partners.

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