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1. What is corporate social responsibility (CSR)?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become an increasingly important concept, being a change and innovation factor at European and global level. There are different terms used to describe CSR, including 'corporate community involvement', 'corporate responsibility' or 'sustainability'. The European Commission defines corporate social responsibility as "a concept whereby companies voluntarily decide to contribute to a better society and a cleaner environment." A socially responsible corporation runs a profitable business and takes account of all the positive and negative environmental, social and economic effects it has on society. For a company, implementing CSR strategies creates the foundation for solving local or global social challenges and environmental problems, promote competitiveness and innovation. The commercial rewards from these actions, the company reputation and credibility will considerably increase. At the same time, business that approach CSR integration without rigor, discipline, strategy and wisdom can find themselves at a disadvantage. Companies that raise false expectations, discount the complexities of operating in a global economy, neglect to ensure that resources are wisely deployed, or fail to act in a consistent manner may find themselves paying a price that is both great and disruptive to their business

2. What issues does CSR address?

CSR includes a wide variety of different issues. Some of the most important ones include a company's policies on:

  • Workplace issues (training, equal opportunities, etc.)
  • Human rights
  • Impact on the community
  • Reputation, branding and marketing
  • Ethical investment
  • Environment
  • Ethics and corporate governance
  • Health and safety

3. Which is the best cause to invest in as a CSR project?

There is not a best or a worse cause. Each company identifies itself with some values reflected in the cause supported. Each cause is designed for being sustained by a different type of business. We believe that a responsible company and a efficient management will always find the best cause to identify with. For example, we will always identify Avon with the fight against breast cancer.

4. What can CSR do for ordinary people?

CSR is a tool the community should use to get the companies involved in its life. The organizations representing the community should identify the most important issues on the public agenda issues and present them to the companies to get support. This is the easiest way the ordinary people will directly benefit of the companies' investment in CSR activities. The citizens will therefore benefit from a cleaner environment, better education, good quality entertainment, etc. The companies which invest in CSR should and will always correlate the community benefits with its own stated values. By understanding shareholder concerns and ideas, business strategies were better able to optimise market potential.

5. Isn't CSR just window-dressing that companies DO to keep critics happy?

CSR should never be used as "window-dressing". It is unhealthy and very dangerous. We highly recommend any company not to say one thing in public and do the contrary behind closed doors. The community and the mass media will judge them and will, sooner or later, destroy their reputation, their business. There is though a strong link between CSR activities and the strengthening of a company's reputation and it is fair to be like this. As the community gains the support of the company, the company, latter, should measure the return on investment in terms of notoriety. Critics must admit though that it would be very difficult for a company to "fake" CSR in the long run, and definitely very expensive. Unfortunately, in Romania, many companies that get involved in the community life prefer to be quiet not to be misjudged by the mass media. We believe that communicating the CSR activity to the public by means of mass media is remarkably useful. The company should set an example for the business sector, for partners and which would definitely help to increase the willingness to become more involved. Corporate social responsibility is still a young concept for the Romanian business environment but definitely one that has spread very rapidly throughout the business world. Most companies communicate their CSR practices in advertisements or social reports for the simple reason of wanting to share their values statements, show how far they have come, and also admit in which areas they are still falling short of their goals. In order to avoid accusations of window-dressing, leading companies often make sure their CSR reports meet certain criteria, such as the Global Reporting Initiative's guidelines, or have been verified by independent and external experts, who can award them with an SA8000 or AA1000S label if they have met the necessary criteria. In conclusion, we think that while it might be possible to use CSR simply as a PR tool - companies who would engage in window-dressing are ultimately setting themselves up for even more REPUTATIONAL damage by not coming clean about the true state of affairs.

6. Why should companies care about their social and environmental responsibilities?

Companies have both moral and financial reasons to practice CSR. The moral ones tend to be quite clear, while the financial ones are still more difficult to measure. They are usually referred to as the "business case for CSR". The business case for CSR argues that a responsible attitude toward society and the environment can make a business more competitive, more resilient to shocks, and more likely to attract and hold both consumers and the best employees. The increase of socially responsible investments brings about investments and the saving of important sums when dealing with regulators, bank and insurers. Some companies also feel that CSR is a significant part of their risk management and reputation strategy. In a world where brand value and reputation are increasingly seen as a company's most valuable assets, CSR can build the loyalty and trust that ensure a bright sustainable future. Many experts argue that a company's commitment to social responsibility improves its financial performance by attracting more investment. For example, 9 of the 15 largest social funds are in the top quartile of investment categories based on a three-year performance.

7. Will consumers really pay more for products produced by a socially responsible company?

70% of European consumers say that a company's commitment to social responsibility is important when buying a product or service. (Source: CSR Europe/MORI, 2000) 1 in 5 consumers would be very willing to pay more for products that are socially and environmentally responsible. (Source: CSR Europe/MORI, 2000)

8. Can CSR improve a company's reputation and brand value?

In today's marketplace, the importance of brand image and reputation are increasingly seen as a company's most valued asset. It is estimated, for example, that 96% of Coca Cola's value are intangibles - reputation, knowledge and brand. For Kellogg's this equals 97% and for American Express 84% (Interbrand 2000). Not many, but some companies have already issued figures on the contribution of CSR to their reputation. The Co-op bank was the first company to publish official figures on this issue. Analysts have calculated that Co-op's ethical and ecological positioning has made a sizeable direct contribution to the bank's profitability of around 20% British Telecom (BT) has also published official figures on the link between CSR and corporate reputation. The results of the study strongly suggest that CSR activities play a large role via image and reputation in maintaining and building market share in a competitive market. CSR accounts for over 25% of image and reputation impact on customer satisfaction.

9. Do employees really care about CSR?

CSR can also have a big effect on attracting and retaining good employees. Employees want good remuneration, good prospects - but more and more people also want to feel proud of the company they work for. Motivation is often based on values rather than cash.


If you have any unanswered questions or would like to make an input for the conference, please feel free to write us at: raluca.asanache@sbc.com.ro




Paolo Chighine

Paolo Chighine

Head of External Relations at Enel Romania

Andrew Jenkins

Andrew Jenkins

Sustainable Development Manager – Products at Aliance Boots

Andrew Marshall - Roberts

Andrew Marshall - Roberts

Head of Corporate Responsibility for Standard Life plc

Peter R. White

Peter R. White

Director for Global Sustainability at Procter and Gamble

Juan Ramon Silva Ferrada

Juan Ramon Silva Ferrada

Area General Manager of Sustainability at ACCIONA

Nikos Avlonas

Nikos Avlonas

Managing Director of the Centre for Sustainability & Excellence

Freya Williams

Freya Williams

Co-founder and global planning director of OgilvyEarth

Andreas Beckmann

Andreas Beckmann

Director at WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme   

Laura Maanavilja

Laura Maanavilja

Communication Manager at CSR Europe

Yiannis Lagos

Yiannis Lagos

Chief Operational Officer at Alexandrion Group and  Managing Partner at People First

Mircea Geoana

Mircea Geoana

Chairman of the Romanian Senate

Torsten G. Christen

Torsten G. Christen

National expert at the European Commission

Thomas Osburg

Thomas Osburg

Director Europe - Corporate Affairs for Intel Corp.

Yannis Freris

Yannis Freris

Head of Corporate Communication & Sustainable Development at Gefyra S.A.

Huzaifa Khorakiwala

Huzaifa Khorakiwala

Executive Director of Wockhardt and CEO of Wockhardt Foundation

Eli Roman

Eli Roman

Editor anchor at The Money Channel