The FINANCIAL — Nelson Petrosyan, the Director of Grant Thornton LLC believes that many businesses in Georgia have socially responsible practices but do not necessarily qualify them under the definition of CSR.
“I think though that a very positive shift is taking place and businesses are beginning to recognize the impact of CSR activity on their financial and commercial success,” he told The FINANCIAL.
Grant Thornton International is one of the world’s leading organizations of independently owned and managed accounting and consulting firms. Grant Thornton offers partner-led and personalized services, in conformity with high professional standards, dedicated to the needs of the public sector and growth-oriented businesses.
Grant Thornton Georgia is a multi-professional group of public accountants and auditors, specialist advisers in finance, business and management, as well as tax and legal advisers.
Q. What are the main driving incentives for businesses to implement CSR policies? What are some factors that drive Georgian businesses to be socially responsible?
A. Let’s look at this question from the overall perspective. Businesses are very much in the public eye as regards the ethics of their business practice. It may take years, if not decades, to build a solid organizational reputation. Now, this year, 89 percent of businesses surveyed in Georgia cited public attitudes and building brand as the key driver towards more ethical business practices. This is one key driver.
The second most important driver is the recruitment and retention of staff. This indicates the importance to 86 percent of Georgian business in attracting the right staff and keeping them happy.
Whilst saving the planet is considered to be one of the least important drivers of corporate social responsibility globally, this issue remains a great matter of concern for business in Georgia (81 percent), who are most concerned with this factor.
Q. What is the role of CSR in the life of Grant Thornton?
A. Again, let’s take a step back. First of all, it is important to understand the difference between CSR and philanthropy. Just recently, in October 2011 the European Commission published a new policy on CSR, where this concept is defined as The Responsibility of Enterprises for their Impacts on Society.
This policy suggests that in order to fully meet their corporate social responsibility, enterprises should have in place a process to integrate social, environmental, ethical, human rights and consumer concerns into their business operations and core strategy in close collaboration with their stakeholders. Naturally, this process is closely connected to several factors, such as the size of the enterprise and the nature of its operations.
In our business, in the area of professional audit and advisory services, the impacts we have on our stakeholders lies in the very core of our activity.
One of the main features of CSR within Grant Thornton is the firm’s genuine commitment to encourage and sustain professional development of the staff, assist them in attaining professional qualification. Within our offices we have a multicultural and diverse working environment, with full respect for the rights of our people.
Q. What CSR activities do you implement?
A. When CSR becomes an integral part of the organization all activities are planned and implemented in this light. I would like to highlight one. In Georgia Grant Thornton facilitates the implementation of International Business Report (IBP) providing insight into the views and expectations of over 11,000 businesses each year across 39 economies. Throughout the year we provide the public with up to date information on such industries as cleantech, food and beverage, construction and real estate, hospitality, transport, manufacturing, retail, financial services, health care and technology. Grant Thornton donates 5 USD to UNICEF for every completed IBR questionnaire and the total donation for the period of 4 years has amounted to 188,400 USD. For the past three years already, for the purposes of reducing paper consumption Grant Thornton has shifted from the printing of hard copy greeting cards to electronic ones. We hope that this initiative will also promote similar practices among our clients and partners.
Q. Do you feel that CSR practices are improving in Georgia?
A. Within the frame of IBR mentioned above, we survey 100 business in Georgia, also including questions on their CSR activity and have this year issued a special report on CSR practices across the globe. In our part of the world CSR is becoming more and more widespread.
In an increasingly crowded and dynamic marketplace, businesses globally are becoming more aware that adopting a proactive approach to wider corporate social responsibility issues can help them to stand out in the minds of employees, consumers and potential partners.
Q. What plans does Grant Thornton have in respect to CSR for the next year?
A. We are very keen to integrate CSR into all levels of our activity. We plan on joining the United Nations Global Compact in Georgia and commit ourselves to respect the ten principles of the Compact and publicly report on their implantation. Grant Thornton will continue to run the IBR survey and donate to UNICEF next year as well. High on our agenda will continue to be education and professional development of our employees as well as young professionals within our sphere.
Q. What would you advise to Georgian businesses?
A. It is difficult to advise since we believe CSR is a value and comes from within the organization. When it truly becomes a value, it is impossible to continue without it. So going forward in the Georgian business community, socially responsible behaviour should not be an act, it has to be a habit.
At Grant Thornton we see ourselves as part of a community and have committed to be a socially responsible employer, partner and organization. We also realize the potential commercial benefits of reporting on CSR activity and encourage Georgian businesses to pay close attention to CSR in this light also. A competitive advantage exists for those businesses which can demonstrate leadership in implementing socially responsible and transparent practices and seize the opportunity to attract and retain skilled workers, build brand value and secure future contracts with multinationals who interestingly and more and more these days, adopt strict CSR guidelines in selecting their suppliers and business partners.