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The subject of sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) is mentioned more and more often by Latvian entrepreneurs. Social responsibility is no longer associated only with philanthropy and sponsorship. It is now seen as a wider responsibility to society and the environment, including sustainable development and preservation of resources for future generations. The responsibility of a sustainable enterprise is based on the company’s business objectives, taking into account the long-term needs of both the company as well as the society.
The Centre for Sustainable Business at SSE Riga was opened on May 17, 2012 with an expert panel discussion and presentations. The event was attended by representatives from more than 80 businesses, confirming the high interest in implementation of the principles of sustainability in the Latvian business environment.
Local expertise that integrates global patterns into the environmental context of local or regional business has always been very important for the awareness-raising and knowledge of sustainable business practices and corporate social responsibility. That is why SSE Riga, as one of the leading business schools in the Baltics, considered it necessary to establish the Centre for Sustainable Business at SSE Riga and thus provide support for businesses across the Baltics and promote the idea of sustainable business among local society through research activities and practical training.
The Vision of Organisers and Supporters
"I am happy that Latvian entrepreneurs’, government institutions’ and society’s understanding of sustainability and corporate social responsibility is becoming more profound with each year. The aim of the Centre for Sustainable Business at SSE Riga is to strengthen the idea of sustainable business,” Anders Palzovs, the Rector of SSE Riga (in the left photo), said at the opening event.
“At SEB, corporate sustainability means developing and creating your business in such a way that not only tomorrow, but also after ten and a hundred years we as an organization would be well managed and operate upon the basic principles of transparency in order that the environment, where our children and grandchildren will live, would be as green and beautiful as it is today, and in the end local society would live in a secure environment. We believe that today we are building the future and with the Opening of Business Sustainability Centre we will strengthen the sustainable business environment in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia,” said David Teare, Head of Baltic’s Division of SEB (in the right photo).
Reflections of the Participants
Dace Kavasa, Lecturer on CSR and Sustainability at SSE Riga and Riga Graduate School of Law: “The integration of corporate social responsibility and prospects of sustainability into the company’s strategy promotes both innovation and diversification, because it requires you to look at traditional things from a different point of view. Consequently, it is also possible to increase competitiveness among larger businesses. Another equally important factor is 'external' motivation – the adjustment of exporting SMEs to foreign markets and, particularly in Europe, also to the growing CSR related demands from both the public and co-operation partners.”
"Of course, those are mostly big companies that are expected to actively contribute to the field of sustainability. However, positive interaction with the environment is also highly important for a small company in order to maintain its position in the market and be competitive both in terms of attracting skilled employees and gain loyal customers and partners,” Daiga Eiduka, the Corporate Relations and Fundraising Manager of SOS Children’s Village shared her experience. “The results of a survey conducted in Latvia show that 80% of Latvian companies support different manifestations of CSR, and it is absolutely not related to size or capital of the company,” said Daiga Eiduka from SOS Children’s Village who, in cooperation with Dienas Bizness, Eiropersonals, and SSE Riga conducted a survey on implementation of human resources in charitable activities of various companies.
The initiator of the Centre and Minister of Education and Science Roberts Ķīlis: “CSR is not always something complicated, nor does it necessarily have to consume enormous resources. Companies that grant September 1st as a holiday for parents whose children are starting to go to school are a great example of socially responsible actions.”
“The positive examples should be brought to public attention more often so that other companies might be inspired. Many people are taking actions, but are reluctant to talk about it in public.” Didzis Meļķis, a journalist at Dienas Bizness, believes that Latvia has good examples of CSR, there is just not that much information available on this matter in public.
Conclusions of the International Experts
“There will be those who adapt and those who do not... and our time is no exception. Especially today, when the gravitational centre for civilisation is changing at an exponential speed that redefines 200 years of economic and financial truths, it is essential to understand the factors connected to the evolutionary growth of markets and politics,” Ola Lohman, a CSR expert, Lecturer at the Swedish Institute Management Programme, and CEO of FrontLobe (above in the photo) , formulated the strategic importance of CSR in today’s business agenda.
At the opening event, professor Thomas Donaldson from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania emphasized that: “We need to re-think the simple view that business is competition plus government. The view that government regulation should be the sole restriction on an otherwise free market and the sole pair of eyes scanning the horizon for society-level risks is obsolete.”
David Teare, Head of SEB Baltic Division:
Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility - the SEB case
Panel discussion: “CSR without HR is just PR”
Roberts Ķīlis, Minister of Education and Science
Daiga Eiduka, Corporate Relations and Fundraising, SOS Children’s Villages
Didzis Meļķis, International News Editor, Dienas Bizness
Dace Kavasa, Lecturer on CSR and Sustainability, SSE Riga and RGSL
Klāvs Sedlenieks, Anthropologist, Riga Stradins University and University of Latvia
Ola Lohman, Lecturer at the Swedish Institute Management Programme, CEO of FrontLobe delivered a presentation "Is there a strategic advantage in CSR for business?"
Prof. Thomas Donaldson, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, delivered a presentation "Sustainability from all Sides: An Impossible Dream?"