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Is CSR blossoming in Russian companies? By Martina Hoffhaus

November 17, 2015

„How can we discuss Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) if Russian companies do not even pay regularly taxes?“ asks Antonio Linares on the third CSR conference organised by The Moscow Times. The right answer to the CEO of Roca Russia comes from the conference with the title „Why do we engage the corporate charity? Business and media opinions“ itself: More than ever, it is vital and overdue that Russian companies discuss CSR seriously if they want to compete internationally and keep their shares in the global economy.

Is there a Russian CSR tradition? The heritage of state communism

Soviet ideology guaranteed welfare and social security. During the soviet period, companies built up social and cultural institutions like sports clubs and tourist places which belonged to the socialist combine. Corporate organisations offered housing and took care of the heating supply at subsidised prices. With the privatisation of the economy in the 1990ies, companies turned away from the welfare tradition. A result of the growing pressure on companies to compete in a globalised markets.

Why is CSR vital for the Russian economy?

While the trust in the post-soviet era sunk, international investors‘ payed growing attention to non-financial risks before spending their money in Russia expressed in ratings and rankings. They call companies to align strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption as well as taking actions that advance societal goals. Olesya Koshkina, marketing director of RD Group is the living example of CSR requirements in today’s business: „As a major player in the office and trade real estate market, we want to compete and we need to comply with international standards. CSR activities give us an added value to our business and I am happy that my CEO believes in it.“

What is CSR?

It is the best way to survive economically in the future. And it is a management concept that minimises risks, bonds customers to the brand and creates satisfied employees. A CSR commitment can open the doors of Russian companies to enter into foreign markets. But „in Russia CSR is considered as charity.“, states Natalia Lapshina from Lotte Hotel Moscow. „Sense of responsibility of companies in Russia towards the community and environment is still under development. Very few companies think about CSR strategically.“. And this is what makes the difference. The United Nations defines Corporate Social Responsibility as a strategic concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with their stakeholders. In this sense, CSR is more than reputation. And it goes beyond charity and sponsoring. Mrs. Lapshina expresses it on instinct: „I feel a mission“.

Do Russian companies use CSR for branding in the Russian media?

„We discussed with all media representatives, but I do not see their interest in bringing these topics to the readers“, sums up Natalia Seregina from Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company. Asked if the panelists use CSR projects for PR they answer: „we are still reluctant“. Natalia invests rather in lobbying than in media coverage. She — one of few Corporate Social Responsibility Manager in Russia — has to make sure that Coke gets clean, not polluted water for the drink productions. She formed a network with stakeholders like Ruspack and Russian recycling companies to work on solutions for waste recovery in a country where the topic is not on the political agenda yet. And she is right when she mentions: „It cannot be done by 15 corporations only. Still too few companies care about. But despite the fact that Russian politics does not promote the establishment of a strong civil society producing strong stakeholders, the discussion is opened. Sooner or later companies will pay their full taxes. Just because their CEOs and citizens will ask for well maintained streets, model education for their children, better pensions and appropriate production conditions for a country that depends on imports.

Martina Hoffhaus is a CSR and sustainability expert and works as Interim Manager Communications and Marketing on demand.

2. CSR-Konfernez in Moskaus mit CEOs dort international agierender Firmen.

2. CSR-Konfernez in Moskaus mit CEOs dort international agierender Firmen.

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