The principle of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), or of businesses giving back to the surrounding society, is no longer a novel concept in today’s Ukraine. However, while growing numbers of Ukraine-based companies are developing their own CSR strategies, information on the subject remains limited. Viktoriia Torianyk, Head of Communications at Credit Agricole who manages the bank’s CSR activities in Ukraine, identifies a clear trend towards socially oriented business in the country. “Fewer companies now think only about themselves and more are striving to bring value to society by increasing their social activity. We are seeing this in areas like eco-projects and care for the environment, philanthropy, charity and volunteering, and employee care initiatives. By supporting different CSR initiatives and giving back to communities, companies are increasingly seeking to balance their commercial and social activities.”
Nevertheless, Ms. Torianyk says the CSR sector’s evolution in Ukraine is not fast enough. “Despite the fact that rising numbers of companies are engaging in CSR, there is clearly still a general lack of awareness about what is happening in the sector,” she explains. “A recent conference on the subject in Kyiv spoke volumes about growing Ukrainian business interest in CSR activities. At the same time, members of the conference jury expressed genuine surprise to learn of so many impressive CSR initiatives in Ukraine”.
Ms. Torianyk sees sharing best practices and serving as an example as ways of facilitating further CSR development in Ukraine. “Communicating publicly about CSR efforts is not primarily about providing your company with positive PR. The main goal of greater CSR communication needs to be creating a consensus within the Ukrainian business community that this is an important issue. It is all about serving as an inspiration for others and encouraging them to initiative their own CSR activities. Every company with a CSR program can become part of the snowball effect within Ukrainian society.”
Viktoriia sees a number of parallel factors driving the current evolution of CSR culture in Ukraine. She believes the spirit of volunteerism that has emerged in Ukraine since 2014 is very much part of this process, while the growing presence of global companies on the Ukrainian market has also led to the introduction of internationally established corporate practices such as CSR programs. This has certainly proven the case at Credit Agricole in Ukraine, where a global commitment to CSR has meshed well with an existing local trend favoring company teambuilding activities. In line with the strong CSR commitments of France-based Credit Agricole Group, the bank’s current CSR program in Ukraine was launched in 2016. The program currently consists of around 15 initiatives per year.
The Credit Agricole CSR strategy in Ukraine focuses on four areas: care for employees, charity and volunteering, care for the environment, and sponsorship of business and culture events. Of all the CSR activities undertaken by Credit Agricole in Ukraine, the most eye-catching is probably the “Trees for Car Loans” program, which reflects the leading position of the bank in the Ukrainian car loans market, while also dovetailing well with the current enthusiasm for environmentally informed initiatives. “We calculated that in 2016, we provided loans for the equivalent of 13 cars per day, while in 2017 this figure rose to over 20 cars per day,” comments Viktoriia. “As well as contributing to the increasing number of cars on the roads in Ukraine, we wanted to make a contribution to protecting the environment.” The result was “Trees for Car Loans”, which sees bank employees volunteer to plant trees in Kyiv. The first stage of the project took place in 2016 and saw 50 fir trees planted in Shevchenko Park close to the bank’s downtown Kyiv central offices. The same initiative took place in 2017. It has since grown considerably in scale, with the most recent massing planting involving 12,000 baby firs in Kyiv’s Holosiyivskiy Park in April 2018.
In 2018, the Credit Agricole budget for charity activities in Ukraine doubled for the second year in a row. This financial backing is essential in order to create an effective CSR program. Based on her own experience, Ms. Torianyk says a successful CSR strategy also depends on support from senior management and employee engagement along with CSR promotion and leadership within the company. She expects the current CSR growth trend in Ukraine to continue as more companies recognize the importance of a socially conscious approach. “Though we remain a society of consumers,” she reflects, “we are increasingly asking ourselves what value we can give back to society.”
About the interviewee: Viktoriia Torianyk is head of PR and Corporate Communications at Credit Agricole Bank in Ukraine