ECONOMY

Fairer and friendlier firms

The globalization of trade and the advent of market liberalization in the last two decades, helped by the demise of the Soviet bloc, have highlighted the role of private enterprise in shaping social realities. The realignment of trade and investment flows, combined with changes in production imposed by the rapid pace of technological change, have had a very extensive impact on employment patterns in many countries – particularly those with labor-intensive sectors. The trend has made the role of the State in promoting social welfare appear increasingly tattered, shifting the focus of responsibility onto business. The recognition of this responsibility by the business community itself led in 1996 to the formation of the European Network for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Europe, which aims to spread the concept of CSR among firms wishing to integrate it into their basic business strategies and practices under the slogan CSR – it simply works better. CSR Europe (www.csreurope.org) today collaborates with 15 business networks and organizations in European countries. Following a proposal to the European Commission, the 15 heads of state approved the inclusion of CSR in the European Social Program at the Lisbon summit in March 2000. The challenge posed was to make the EU the world’s most competitive and dynamic economy, capable of sustainable economic development with more and better positions of work and greater social cohesion, by 2010. CSR Europe recently launched the European Campaign for Corporate Social Responsibility-2005, aiming to promote cooperation among the firms of member states over the implementation of programs highlighting their sense of social responsibility. The campaign will take the symbolic form of a marathon; a series of conferences in various European cities scheduled to culminate in the European Business Olympics in the spring of 2004. The campaign is targeting the mobilization of 500,000 members of the international business community in order to achieve the goals of CSR. Athens will have the privilege of launching this marathon with the inaugural conference at the Intercontinental Hotel on November 29 and 30. We are pleased that the first European Business Marathon for Corporate Social Responsibility begins in Athens. Since its founding in March 2000, the Hellenic CSR Network has set as its first target informing and sensitizing the Greek business community about the importance of CSR, in the context of the evolution of modern businesses in the new, globalized market environment, said Dimitris Danilatos, president of the Greek network at a press conference on Thursday. The Hellenic CSR Network had 13 founding member companies and now numbers 40 (including several blue-chips listed on the Athens Stock Exchange such as OTE Telecoms, Heracles Cement, Titan Cement, Coca-Cola HBC, EFG Eurobank Ergasias, Intracom and Panafon-Vodafone, and four employers’ organizations, the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB), the Exporters’ Association of Northern Greece, the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Association of Pharmaceutical Companies of Greece). Benefits The CSR-conscious enterprise does more than what is simply expected of it by law. This is good for the enterprise itself, its workers and society at large, said Maria Alexiou, deputy president of the Greek chapter and its representative in the European network. The possible direct benefits of CSR on a company include a better working environment, greater staff loyalty and higher productivity, adds Danilatos. The indirect benefits are a greater interest among clients and investors, the boost to the enterprise’s good name, consumer preference and – something which has begun recently – its rating on the basis of activities on issues of social responsibility, a criterion for inclusion in special stock market indices (such as the FTSE4Good, launched in July). On the evening of November 29, EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs Anna Diamantopoulou will inaugurate an exhibition of the programs and activities of members of the Hellenic Network at the Intercontinental Hotel and will then address the official dinner. The conference proper on the morning of the following day will be addressed by Labor and Social Security Minister Dimitris Reppas and prominent Greek and foreign business leaders. The afternoon program includes workshops on corporate governance, human resource management in the context of CSR, and small- and medium-sized enterprises and CSR. Staff of Panteios University will also present the findings of the first research project on CSR conducted in Greece in collaboration with Research International. There will be simultaneous translation from Greek into English and vice versa.