Ambasador Szwecji na gali CSR
Dnia 24 kwietnia w Warszawie odbyła się Gala „VIII Rankingu Odpowiedzialnych Firm” Dziennika Gazety Prawnej. Podczas Gali przemówienie wygłosił Ambasador Szwecji Staffan Herrström.
Ambasador powiedział m.in.:
„Zagadnienia związane ze społeczną odpowiedzialnością biznesu są ważnym elementem agendy szwedzkiego rządu. Będąc krajem przedsiębiorców, innowatorów i inżynierów, w ogromnym stopniu zależnym od interakcji międzynarodowej, Szwecja pragnie promować zarówno wydajność, jak i odpowiedzialne postawy. Dotyczy to tak rynku wewnętrznego, jak i areny międzynarodowej.”
Całość przemówienia ambasadora Staffana Herrströma (w j. angielskim):
Many thanks for the invitation. I am happy to be able to share some views and experiences about CSR from a Swedish Government perspective.
That’s what it is. I am a civil servant and diplomat, not a businessman. On the other hand: My experience tells me that there is a huge consensus in my country between Government and the private sector on these issues.
Even to the degree that sustainable business has become something of a Swedish brand.
Our companies are doing quite well in different rankings in this area.
Not all of them all the time. Exceptions and shortcomings are exposed, not least by media, from time to time. As always: transparency helps.
For the Swedish Government, CSR is an important policy area. Being a nation of traders, innovators and engineers that is highly dependent on international interaction, we want to promote not only efficiency but also decency in business. At our home market as well as on other markets.
Sweden has seen its affluence increase much thanks to trade. Free trade, without unnecessary obstacles and discriminatory rules, can create important conditions for growth and development.
Ultimately, free trade is about making it easier for companies to offer their goods and services to additional consumers and businesses – to create jobs and growth leading to prosperity in our economies.
We now stand at the opportunity to closely connect the European and American markets through a comprehensive trade and investment partnership – called TTIP. A partnership estimated to create considerable number of important jobs and boost growth on both sides of the Atlantic. This is an opportunity that we must seize.
As you all know a lot has been done to define and concretize the concept of CSR. And here definitions are not only theory. They matter. It is easy to get lost in misunderstandings without a clear idea of what we are talking about.
The Swedish view on CSR is that there is no definitive, one-size-fits-all definition of CSR, but it essentially means minimising the negative impacts and maximising the positive impacts of business activities on society.
And in substance that means primarily: human rights in general, social and labour rights, environment, corruption. This according to the UN Global compact.
Hence, philanthropy – as good at it is – is not the essence of CSR. The question is not primarily what a company does with its profit but how it was earned.
In relation to developing countries companies sometimes face another dilemma. they are often asked to contribute to the local community just because the structures are weak and the local community is unable to provide health care and education of a reasonable quality. The companies can support this in order to have a healthy and well educated staff.
Additionally. Perhaps self evident or perhaps not. Companies can provide and do provide solutions to problems in society as part of their business. Might be mobile banking systems for poor people in developing countries. Or green solutions to waste management in Poland.
90% of all Polish household waste is still put on landfill, that is on the city dump. In Sweden we are down under 2% today. Landfills are problematic for the environment but burying the waste is also bad economy.
It means wasting the waste. I am told that the value of the Polish household waste – just seen as fuel – amounts to 4 billion zloty. Today buried in the ground instead of adding to the economy and growth of this country. The alternative is clear: to reuse and recycle as much as possible of the waste, that is making new products out of old ones. And the rest can be burned in order to generate heat and power in a more climate friendly way.
Green solutions can provide business opportunities both because they will eventually be needed and it is good to be out early in the market rather than late. But green solutions are also what consumers more and more often demand.
CSR is not about companies abiding by the law. They should obviously do that.
But it is about doing something over and above the law.
Why should they?
Because it is in our joint interest – in several ways.
We are not only economic men. We are all human beings living and acting in a global community and we have global norms on how to behave in that community. Exploiting children is simply bad and evil even if it would be possible in a specific country with weak legislation and corrupt judiciary. And corrupt behavior distorts markets and free trade.
If all decent behavior needs to be the subject of legislation, then we risk end up with an overregulated society. You can’t build a society only on trust but trust needs to be there as well. It is sometimes called social capital and research tells us that the presence of it contributes positively to economic development.
Additionally. If and when companies maximize the use of existing legal space they give room and energy to all those political forces trying to find arguments for closing economies and expanding protectionism.
Of course – private companies should do business. At the end of the day they must be profitable.
However, business can be performed in a variety of ways. It can be shortsighted, narrow minded, exploitative. That is by the way not unique for the private sector. It goes for Governments and public sector as well.
That kind of behavior has, however, its clear economic risks.
Exploiting staff members might be legal in some ways in some countries but it is not sustainable good business. Discriminating women is not only illegal in many countries like my own. It is also bad economics because you don’t make use of the potential of half of the population. Diversity is an asset. Not a coincidence that Lewiatan even has created a diversity council to this end.
Equally important: The Swedish experience is that customers increasingly expect private companies to behave in a responsible way. I remember well the debate in the late 80’s when producers tried to tell us that it was not possible to stop using chlorine for the whitening of paper. Very soon consumers made their voices heard in the shops – and suddenly the impossible was made possible.
The short term approach applied by some companies in this case was certainly legal at the time but it neglected important values for citizens and consumers, caring for the environment. Hence, it turned out to be bad business.
Corporate social responsibility is becoming increasingly more important for sustainable economic growth in today’s globalised world. Business is not just business anymore. Business, companies, entrepreneurs, innovators and multinationals all add essential value to society.
We are seeing that companies are taking action because they realize the need for change and a proactive agenda. But companies’ efforts to integrate CSR also bring added value and can be seen as offering a competitive advantage in today’s highly competitive, globalised world.
One way to actively work with CSR is in the supply chain. Supply chains are becoming more complex and globalised.
I have been Ambassador to two other countries before: Tanzania and Vietnam. Different from each other and both of them obviously very different from Poland.
Still they are part of the global market and the globalized community. The subsuppliers to IKEA in Vietnam employ, if I remember the figures right, 250 000 people. For IKEA CSR in Vietnam is a key issue for its credibility and hence its competitiveness. Globally.
They needed to make sure that child labor was avoided. They needed to make sure that the wood in the furniture was produced in a sustainable way.
It was not enough to abide by the local law. Their customers demand more. The same goes for companies like H&M producing clothes. They have an audit team of 70 people monitoring suppliers’ compliance with the H&M code of conduct.
Through trade and international exchange, CSR can be integrated and widespread.
In today’s society, people care about how, where and by whom products are made. Companies therefore need to be transparent about their activities in order to meet such consumer demands. And implementing CSR into the values of a business can thus be a good step towards achieving this.
Long term sustainability, that’s what’s needed.
So, what is the Swedish Government doing in all this? What is its role?
Primarily CSR should be business owned and business driven. It is not something Governments should impose. But they can promote sustainable initiatives , they can inspire companies to increase their sustainability efforts and they can lead by example.
That is what the Swedish Government tries to do.
One example: Our Government owns more than 50 companies of various sizes. In 2007, Sweden became the first country to demand sustainability reports from state-owned enterprises. The reports have to comply with the guidelines from the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).
Two years ago Sweden asked the state-owned companies to set several sustainability goals, and to report on them this year 2014. The targets are to be set by the company boards, with focus on diversity, environment issues, working conditions, anti-corruption measures, business ethics and gender equality.
On a more general level the Swedish Government expects all Swedish companies, private or state-owned, to respect human rights in all their operations. It encourages the private sector to follow the OECD’s guidelines for multinational companies, to apply the ten principles of the UN Global Compact and follow the UN Guiding Principle on Business and Human Rights.
Our development cooperation program which amounts to one percent of GDP is also engaging with private sector companies in order to use their competence in poverty alleviation and promotion of sustainable solutions to development challenges in poor countries.
Let me finally return to a policy area, briefly touched upon before, very close to my heart where I believe private companies both can gain from and contribute to a change of mindset in society at large. Gender equality.
This is a rights issue for sure. Women’s rights are human rights and they are often and systematically neglected in a huge amount of dimensions.
But gender equality is also smart economics. Let me give you one example: OECD has estimated that the GDP of EU countries could increase by 12 percent if preconditions for women’s participation on the labour market would improve. If women would work as much as men do on the labour market research tells us that the effect on GDP would be even stronger.
It goes without saying that women are needed on the labour market and among entrepreneurs. We men need to understand that we cannot afford keeping huge groups of women, on average better educated than us, fully or partially outside the labour market. Not making full use of women in the labour force is a terrible waste of human resources.
These days it’s even more important. Europe is getting older and fewer people work and contribute economically to the upkeep of our social services. If this trend continues, which it will, the active generation must become even more active. More people need to have paid work and people in work need to work more.
We are not fully there yet in my country. Women still earn only 94% on average compared to men when differences in choice of profession, sector and working time are taken into account. They work part time to a much higher degree than men, and they tend to be found in professions where salaries typically are lower.
But we have improved things during my lifetime. Women are strongly established on the labour market (76% of Swedish women work compared to 57% in Poland). That has of course contributed a lot to the economic independence of women. It has enabled women to have more adequate incomes and pensions but it has also benefitted the economy at large.
How could this happen? Partly because of the decision to introduce individual taxation, partly because of family policy.
Neither women nor men should need to choose between family life and paid work on the labour market. Most of us don’t want to choose, we shouldn’t need to choose. Government has played a significant role through day care for children and a system for parental leave that encourages fathers to stay home with their children, not only mothers. Two months of the parental leave are reserved for fathers. When that system was introduced the share of fathers taking parental leave increased from 50 to 82 percent. And the birth rate is relatively high: 1,9 compared to 1,3 in Poland.
In this context companies play a decisive role. They can promote equality by making it possible for parents to combine work and family, encouraging shared participation in childcare and giving women and men equal opportunities to rise to leadership positions.
For instance: Tell male co-workers that it is good idea to take several months of parental leave.
Such a behaviour benefits the economy at large.
But I believe it is also favourable for modern, forward-looking companies.
Why? First of all because it contributes to diversity within the companies themselves, which experience clearly shows is beneficial for creativity.
But companies also compete for competent co-workers, not least in a situation when demography is challenging and many well educated Poles are looking for work abroad rather than at home. Companies need to develop family friendly solutions simply to be competitive on the labour market.
So as a short summary.
Free trade is crucial for economic growth. TTIP with US is an essential next step.
Sustainable business is a good idea because what’s unsustainable will sooner rather than later become unprofitable. Customers won’t accept it. Being in the forefront on the other hand will create market opportunities.
And gender equality is smart economics. Women are needed on the labour market. Companies will gain from offering equal opportunities and family friendly solutions.
Źródło: materiały pochodzą ze strony Ambasady Szwecji w Warszawie (swedenabroad.com)
– Szwedzko-polskie spotkanie
– PLANETE+ DOC FILM FESTIVAL
– Szwedzka polityka
– Prawa polaków w Szwecji