The word ‘social’ itself implies certain social significance of a project for the society. That is, the project should be applicable: it should influence, improve, modify, create, enhance. Further, speaking about business, the project must certainly meet the business demand, show its social role in life of the society. One can invest as much as he wants in one-day projects that change something here and now, but this is waste of money. An ideal social project is systemic. It changes approaches, space, attitude, thinking, opinions. It is a fishing rod, not fish. The ultimate result of an effective project is changing of consciousness, long-term benefit, raising knowledge, improving the quality of people’s life, i.e. usefulness in the long run. Take school, for example. A school always needs new windows, new furniture, new roofing, etc. The argument is that children get cold, roof is leaking, furniture is worn and broken. The easiest way is simply to give money. However, conducting an environmental, energy or heat audit, identifying the underlying problems, telling how natural resources should be used efficiently and how money can be saved – this is already a long-term social project that changes consciousness and way of thinking.
It is important that community and authorities be involved in social projects. Such team is much more effective, and results of social projects involving government and people are much more valuable. One has to agree that it is much more pleasant to walk in the park, where you have planted a tree and made a bench yourself. Then you would not want to break the fruit of your work, and the creative function is involved as well. In general, the synergy of business, government and society gives good results in the long-term.
Speaking about social projects, I would like to emphasize the importance of studying the underlying social problem. To avoid chaotic investment, one needs to focus on 2-5 directions and work with them. Of course, these directions should be in line with the business area and its development strategy. But the social problem that a business wants to resolve must be thoroughly studied, just as its role in such resolution.
Therefore, the criteria for a proper social project are as follows:
– systemic nature, i.e. systemic problem solving. Proactive work.
– synergy of business, government and society. Involvement of community.
– research, thorough study of the problem.
When it comes to trends in CSR strategy, I would like to note that the very presence of a CSR strategy in modern Ukrainian companies is already a trend. 5 years ago, only large companies with foreign capital developed their CSR strategy. It was they, who became trendsetters in Ukraine.
Business with assets in regions has taken care to create new jobs. This is an important project for development of the modern society. Recently, there have been also many projects aimed at supporting people with special needs. This is not occasional financing, but rather systemic projects: employment, training, provision of required infrastructure.
Environmental projects are also a trend. Companies have finally realized that changes in society begin with changes in consciousness. Avoid making mess instead of cleaning it. This culture needs to be instilled from childhood, kindergarten and school. The society must be environmentally literate and socially responsible. It’s good that some businesses have undertaken this function as well.
Thus, corporate social responsibility is an integral part of business reputation. Western stakeholders are primarily concerned about a company’s nature, its social function and only then – about its products. Non-financial reporting is common in the West. Therefore, Ukrainian companies with sustainable development programs have a priority. It is easier for them to adapt to the Western market and communicate with foreigners, for whom sustainable development projects are a well-established norm.
Many Ukrainian companies are already becoming aware of the importance of corporate social reporting in terms of increasing the value of business. Its introduction makes it easier to trace the dynamics of own business development on the one hand, and on the other – this is a public instrument for informing shareholders, staff, partners, customers and the entire community about the methods and rate of implementing the company’s goals of sustainable development and environmental safety. Such reporting aligns Western and Ukrainian companies, is added value and a catalyst for commercial and social reputation of businesses.