The FINANCIAL –By The Center of Strategic Research and Development of Georgia was one of the first local organizations that started emphasizing the importance of introducing Corporate Social Responsibility in Georgia.
The newest stage of their programme is to make the Government involved in the development of CSR in the country.
The Center of Strategic Research and Development of Georgia is a civil society organization founded in 1995. CSRDG has experienced 15 years of successful work. The Center effectively plays a significant role in development of the priority fields in the country such as civil society development, economics and social policy, environment protection, decentralization, customer’s rights, corporate social responsibility and social enterprise development.
“Since 2004 CSRDG has been actively working in supporting CSR development in Georgia,” Eka Urushadze, Executive Director of CSRDG, told The FINANCIAL. “For this purpose, the Center has been cooperating with government entities in order to ensure development of the national policy. It also cooperates with private companies to improve their awareness level and accessibility of expertise,” she added.
Q. How does your Center support CSR development in Georgia?
A. Since 2007 CSRDG has been an active member of the UN Global Compact Regional Network which is the world’s largest network of socially responsible business organizations. In 2009 the CSRDG together with 12 local and international organizations signed a Memorandum of Understanding in order to undertake joint efforts for the promotion of CSR in Georgia.
We were the first organization that started CSR promotion in Georgia. We saw that there was demand for CSR activities from companies and society as well. We started to research the experiences of other countries. Today we have a document compiled full of recommendations and advices for Georgian Government – Possible Directions of Public Policies for Promoting CSR in Georgia. We introduced this document at the event – Multi Stakeholder Forum – The Role of Government and Public Policies in Promoting CSR. We held this event in the Courtyard Marriott Hotel on April 27.
Q. What were the main purposes of this event?
A. This event was held in the framework of our programme which was supported by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. The purpose of this programme was to promote CSR activities in Georgia. Business companies and experts in Georgia agreed that our government should start supporting CSR policy.
For developing CSR it is necessary to give information to companies, to society and the government at the same time. Society should know what CSR is and should have adequate expectations of companies in terms of CSR. Society should know that CSR is not the only charity, but a standard of doing business which means to improve its impact on the social environment.
As for governments, they should help the companies to be more responsible. In EU member countries supporting CSR is one of the most important goals. Governments actually conduct propaganda for CSR. Business should be encouraged to have the desire to be involved in CSR activities and stimulated with different programmes. The EU’s experience is exemption from taxes for those companies who use CSR. Or to offer such companies preferential duties, for example. Our experience in promoting CSR showed us that cooperation only with the companies will not give us a proper result. The Government should support awareness raising of CSR in the country. And the Government should give some privileges to those companies who use CSR. The forum was meeting with the member of the government, representatives of diplomatic corp, local and international experts, international and social organizations, and media. An interesting discussion was held about the Role of CSR in Expanding Georgia’s International Relation and More Effective Implementation of Commitments Assumed by International Agreements; Possible Positive Impacts of CSR Development in Georgia for Accomplishing Strategic Objectives of the National Policy, Handling Country's Major Socio-Economic and Environmental Problems. We hope that our activities will support Georgian government to develop CSR in the country.
Q. You say that if Georgia wants to be integrated with the European Union then the Government needs to support CSR as this is the main standard of the Union. So why did the Government not start supporting CSR before?
A. Georgia is obliged to follow the priority instructions of the European integration process. From the very beginning the Georgian Government was asked to sort out the issue of Human Rights. Then another requirement was to pay attention to product safety. Soon CSR will be another important issue recommended from the EU’s side and the Georgian Government will start working on it. Before the Government starts supporting CSR, there are some other levels to reach first though.
Q. Do Georgian companies follow your advice? Is CSR a priority direction for Georgian companies?
A. Nowadays CSR is still not sufficiently a priority of an issue for Georgian companies compared to European companies for example. The reason is that we have a different history of economic development. In spite of this CSR is developing dynamically in the country.
Companies should understand that it is very profitable for them to have CSR activities in their portfolio. They do not see this profitability because this is long-term profit. In such an unstable environment the companies find it difficult to think about long-term programmes. The political and economic environment in the country is not stable. Large companies are mostly oriented on export, and therefore use CSR programmes. CSR is becoming a new possibility to enter international markets and attract investors.