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THE FOUNDATION FOR CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IS A NETWORK OF 90 INTERNATIONAL CORPORATIONS ACTIVELY WORKING IN POLAND TO AFFECT POSITIVE SOCIAL CHANGE THROUGH CORPORATE PHILANTHROPY. WE FEED, EDUCATE AND EMPOWER POOR CHILDREN IN POLAND. COLLECTIVELY, WE HAVE FED OVER 5 MILLION HOT MEALS TO SOME OF POLAND’S MOST NEEDY CHILDREN. OUR MISSION IS TO LEAD THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY IN RAISING THE LEVEL AND QUALITY OF CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY.

March 26, 2012, Vol. 9, No. 11

"Why you? Because there's no one better. Why now? Because tomorrow isn't soon enough."
-- Donna Brazile

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Global supply chain forces, economic pressures, the rise of the responsible consumer and shareholder expectations are leading executives to focus on corporate social responsibility and sustainability as a lever for value creation, competitive advantage and risk management.

Jane Flannery, CSRwire 11/30/11

SHOULD LARGE COMPANIES HELP ADDRESS SOCIETAL ISSUES? By Margaret Coady, Director, COMMITTEE ENCOURAGING CORPORATE PHILANTHROPY (CECP)

Should large companies help address societal issues? It's an age-old question that even today continues to be a subject of lively debate for the private sector. A company’s investors might advocate that the company leave progress on societal issues to government and nonprofits, opting for a bare-minimum scenario in which businesses do little more than pay taxes, obey the law, and pass all profits to shareholders.

But study after study – whether it’s the Annual Cone Survey or the Edelman Trust Barometer – shows that consumers are asking companies to do significantly more than the bare minimum. After all, a healthy company depends on a healthy society, so shouldn’t business step forward and get involved in a meaningful way.

Given the tension between consumer expectations and investor pressure, whose voice should corporate CEOs listen to?

This was the central theme of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy’s (CECP) annual Board of Boards CEO conference.

Convened on the occasion of International Corporate Philanthropy Day, CECP brought together more than 50 leading global CEOs—including executive delegations from India and Brazil—to discuss the opposite tensions that a company’s consumers and investors exert on its commitment to community engagement. In this closed-door session, attendees focused on analyzing how CEOs can guide consumers and investors along the path of long-term societal wellbeing.

The CEO Perspective on Social Responsibility

The results of our live polling made it clear that we had hit upon an acute area of tension for CEOs:

  • 59% of CEOs reported that consumers are demanding greater levels of transparency regarding a company’s community engagement initiatives as compared to five years ago.
  • 69% of CEOs felt their companies’ community engagement efforts are rewarded by consumers, yet most of those CEOs cannot concretely measure those rewards.
  • 52% of CEOs indicated that shareholder demand for transparency regarding a company’s commitment to community engagement is unchanged from five years ago.

Through panels and peer-to-peer discussions, the CEOs in attendance advocated for engaging more deeply in societal issues relevant to the future of the business.

Rather than fund causes reactively and sporadically, they said, companies can begin to satisfy consumer and investor pressures if they choose societal issues that are meaningful to those two groups simultaneously—issues that affect the company directly and for which the company has an opportunity to make a unique contribution. While many companies shared this ambition, the obvious hurdle: expert coordination between picking the issues and communicating activities to different audiences in a coherent, clear way.

A resounding suggestion from the attendees: Using social media as a channel for greater transparency about their commitment to community engagement.

In the second half of the conference, the CEOs examined an underlying measurement challenge. Despite their firsthand experience of the business benefits of taking an active role in helping address societal issues, companies are often unable to quantify those benefits.

President and CEO of Bloomberg L.P. Dan Doctoroff said: “We know that good companies tend to perform better, but until there's proof of that I don't think you're going to see a whole lot of interest from investors.”

As the conversation progressed, however, there was consensus that while the financial benefits of a company’s community efforts often escapes accurate measurement, that shouldn’t be an excuse for companies to pull back or disengage.

In response to “In the marketplace, who will lead progress toward long-term societal well-being?” attending CEOs believed that the business community will be the agent for leading progress (45%) opposed to a collective call from consumers (32%), a regulatory intervention by government (18%), or investors recognizing and rewarding socially sustainable business practices (0%).

They saw a role for themselves to bring consumers and investors along on their companies' sustainability journey. They emphasized the need to be more accountable for taking action.

Western Union CEO Hikmet Ersek summed it up: “My hope is that every CEO steps up. I think we as CEOs must take greater responsibility. Leadership is the real issue and it starts at the top.”

Margaret Coady,
Director,
CECP

DREAMS COME TRUE INTERACTIVE ENGLISH TRAINING PROGRAM

Last week I asked for help in funding 250 Polish/English Dictionaries for the students in our English Training program, “Dreams Come True. We would like to give each of the 250 PromiseKids in the program a Polish/English Dictionary at their graduation on June 18th. Each dictionary costs zl. 50 ($17.00).

Our good friend and Foundation Honorary Trustee John Treuge stepped up to bat last week to fund 25 dictionaries for our kids. We still have a long way to go, and we will appreciate your help. See PayPal below for U.S. dollar contributions. Thank you for considering our request.

THE PRICE OF FUEL EFFECTS OUR HOT-MEAL PROGRAM

A special thanks goes to our good friend Craig Boothe who responded to last week’s article about how the increase in fuel prices is hurting our Hot-Meal budget. He went to PayPal and made a significant contribution to the Foundation to help cover the cost of our fuel. Thanks Craig Boothe, “you are the best.”

FOURTEEN PERCENT OF POLISH RETIREES THREATENED BY POVERTY

According to a new study by Eurostat, 14 percent of Polish retirees are threatened by poverty. This means that 14 percent of Poles over the age of 65 live on less than zł.733 a month. Compared to other EU countries, where the average percentage is 16 percent.

Poland did not perform much worse than the majority. However, while the general standard of living for EU retirees seems to be improving on an annual basis, Poland's situation seems to be more complicated. Five years ago, the percentage of Poles over 65 experiencing severe financial difficulty was half of the current percentage. However, in comparison, one-fifth of the same age group experiences such conditions in countries such as Italy, Greece and Spain. wyborcza.pl, N.K.

POLES SPEND MORE ON FOOD THAN CLOTHES AND HOME APPLICANCES

Last year households spent on average 24.2 percent of their expenses on consumption goods and services on food products, indicates an analysis by the Central Statistical Office (GUS). That's 0.2 percentage points more than in the previous year.

Apart from 2005, in all other years since the beginning of economic transformation, Poles have spent proportionately less money on food, but still more than citizens of other European countries, whose grocery purchases constitute less than 20 percent of all expenses on consumption goods. Experts opine that last year's increase in the proportion of food expenses in the households' budgets can be attributed to the fact that food prices grew faster than goods and services. According to GUS, food prices went up last year by 5.6 percent, with average inflation on the level of 4.3 percent.

DOLLAR A DAY FOR INDIVIDUALS WHO WOULD LIKE TO HELP FEED OUR HUNGRY POLISH CHILDREN

We are frequently approached by individuals who would like to help support our Foundation’s Hot-Meal Program. Our Dollar A Day program may be just what you have been looking for. Ann M. Coleman of Clifton Park, New York is feeding one PromiseKid for 6 months. Thanks Ann!

We pay just about $1.00 to feed one hungry Polish child a hot-meal per school day, $20.00 per month, $200.00 per year. Click PayPal below to contribute.

DATES TO REMEMBER

March 20-April 2, 2012 – Makro Cash & Carry Easter Collection for the PromiseKids

June 18, 2012 – Completion of the 2011-2012 Interactive English Program “Dreams Come True”

June 29, 2012 – The end of the school year

August 10-12, 2012 – InterContinental Hotel Scholars Program in Warsaw

September 28, 2012 - Foundation CEO Breakfast and Annual Meeting will be hosted by the InterContinental Hotel

February, 2013 – Ninth Annual Dinner Dance

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

"I'm not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship."

-- Louisa May Alcott

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