Posted: 5 months ago

Corporate Sustainability is the Past, the Present and the Future of Successful business in Georgia

With the joint initiative of the Corporate Social Responsibility Club and UN Global Compact Georgian Branch, the Corporate Social Responsibility Award 2019 contest was held in Georgia for the second time. 

The Corporate Social Responsibility Club and the Global Compact Network Georgia rewarded companies that took CSR actions. We had an interview with Salome Zurabishvili, Board Member of the Global Compact Network Georgia and Executive Director of CiDA.

Salome, please briefly tell us about the CSR Award which took place in Tbilisi few days ago. What is the main idea of the event?

The CSR Award Competition was launched in 2017 by the CSR Club and Global Compact Network Georgia. The first Award Ceremony was held in 2018, where 16 companies with 23 applications where competing for awards in the following three categories: human rights, environmental protection, and successful partnership for sustainable development.

In 2019 the second CSR Award Ceremony was held in Georgia focusing on Sustainable Development Agenda.

The categories of the 2019 Award included:

  • Quality Education
  • Gender Equality
  • Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • Partnerships for the Goals
  • SDG Pioneer

In 2019 the number of companies and submitted projects doubled compared to the previous year. In 2019 the evaluation committee received 53 applications from 32 companies, and 4 individual applications for the SDG Pioneer category.

CSR Award aims to promote Corporate Responsibility in Georgia. It motivates and mobilizes business action in support of sustainable development agenda in the country. The Award enables companies to:

  • Gain recognition among the peers as leaders in corporate sustainability;
  • Increase their credibility and reputation among the consumers, partners and investors;
  • Showcase that they are motivated to support economic and social development in Georgia;
  • Influence CSR development in Georgia, through sharing best practice.

The Award Ceremony was attended by more than 160 participants, the representatives from business sector, government, diplomatic corps, civil society, and academia. Mr. Karl Hartzell, Ambassador of the EU to Georgia, Ms. Ekaterine Mikabadze Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, Ms. Luisa Winton, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme in Georgia and Ms. Molly Lien, Head of Swedish International Development Agency in Georgia welcomed the guests in their opening speeches.  

The ceremony highlighted challenges Georgia faces in the implementation of Agenda 2030 and the importance and role of business sector in coping with them. 

How companies are selected? Who assesses their projects and how impartial is the selection process?

Any company that has a business presence in Georgia can apply to the CSR Award Competition. The selection is a two-stage process; first the compliance of application with the formal requirements of the competition is assessed and then the independent evaluation committee consisting of international as well as local experts, coming from international organizations, government, CSOs, business associations and academia are assessing the applications. For instance, this year’s evaluation committee included the following international experts: Executive Directors of UN Global Compact Networks in UK and Poland, who have longstanding experience and substantial knowledge in the field of corporate sustainability.

The assessment methodology is based on the best EU practice. The projects are evaluated in accordance to the following four main criteria:

  • Compliance with international standards.
  • Compliance with company’s policy, strategy, practice
  • Implementation of the project (Management, Activities, Resources, Transparency)
  • Results (Social Benefit, Business Benefit)

In general, please explain to our readers what is CSR and what benefits can each company get if they implement proper CSR policy? 

The European Commission has defined CSR as the responsibility of enterprises for their impact on society. CSR should be company led and benefit both, the company and the community.

Companies can become responsible by:

following the law;

Integrating social, environmental, ethical, consumer, and human rights concerns into their business strategy and operations.

According to the study carried out by the University of Oxford, good environmental and social performance of the company results in: 90 % lower cost of capital, 88 % better operational performance, 80 % better stock price performance and 7 % higher return in Equity.

CiDA has been working with companies for a long time. What challenges occur while working with them? 

The main challenge that we find with the companies is usually absence of long-term commitment to corporate sustainability. Business should realize that corporate sustainability is not a one-time activity, it is the way you do business. When corporate sustainability is not incorporated in the company’s DNA, the frequent changes in the management can make quite a difference and hinder the progress.

Let us make comparison with previous years, do you see progress in this regard? Please provide some successful examples of changes made following your recommendations

While in 2017 16 companies filed 23 applications for the CSR Award 2018, in 2019 the numbers doubled resulting in 53 applications from 32 companies, and 4 individual applications for the SDG Pioneer category. Not only the number of applications increased compared to the previous year, but the submitted projects were more sustainable, focused on achieving long-term goals and embedding sustainability at the core of business operations.  

What would be your one message to business companies from the perspective of CSR

Corporate sustainability is the Past, the Present and the Future of successful business in Georgia and throughout the world.