CSR Lessons, Day 1 – My Perspective

Are you ready for a marathon of debates on (C)SR?! If not, it doesn’t matter because I am going to stress with my own perspective you any way. :) If you have a different opinion, don’t hesitate to leave your comments herein.

Let me begin by stating my expectations for today:
(1) First of all, I hope the speakers will have interesting presentations, meaning they offer us a lot of opportunities to ask questions, to learn from their best practices and, essentially, communicate.

1st Panel
Karl Resel (Denkstatt Austria, Head of the corporate sustainability team)

  • For 0.5l of Coca-Cola, the whole process involves app. 35l of water in the plant located in Netherlands. People were amazed to hear that such much water is needed to produce only 0.5l of soft drink. The whole room expressed a “wow”.
  • Ciprian (Fundatia Mereu Aproape) asked a very good question related to the quality of water in local communities and HBC Hellenic actions regarding the preservation of that water beds. Unfortunately, the answer, in my opinion, was not satisfactory.

Ingo Nissen (Sonae Sierra, Managing Director)

  • I am sad because Nissen came with a general presentation where he enumerated their financially efficient actions. If I want to be critical enough, I would say that introducing spaces for bicycles and using energy saving system for illumination are first and foremost economic measures. The motivation behind this kind of actions is purely financial: you save money. This doesn’t mean you are more responsible if you use energy saving system, it only means that you are a good businessman. :))

Aglaia Ntili (Centre for Sustainability & Excellence, Global Training and Partnerships Manager)

  • She talks about environmental sustainability, a topic overrated if you don’t relate it to other types of sustainbility and, I know I’m biased, ethical behavior. It is nice to talk about the Carbon footprint and measure it, it is totally in the trend, but I would like to know how this relates to the general behavior of the company.
  • What is the impact of Carbon footprint on the community? Can we really measure this?! In particular when the company has “great leadership” but not too many employees (i.e., small scale impact in the Greek society).
  • “Pink Press”: She said it is better to drink olive oil than Coca-Cola. =))

My question for this panel:

  • You all spoke about energy saving and used nice phrases like “sustainability”, “protect the environment” and so on, but why should I believe you that using an energy saving lightbulb represents a “social responsibility” and not only a “financially efficient management decision”? I wonder if there isn’t a logic fallacy involved here, one that works best for companies and NGOs, one that equals financially efficient management decisions with being responsible in general, which includes a lot of kinds of responsibilities like ethical responsibility.(Feedback needed: is it too critical?!)

2nd Panel
Georgiana Mincu (BCR Erste)

  • She has a pseudo-academic discourse, full of neo-marxist phrases and ideas like “the new man”, “a social revolution”, “altruistic purposes” in the business sector. I would like to know how much money they give away in Romania as microcredits and the percentage of this out of their total financial results (not only out of the total incomes, but also out of their total turnover.)/li>
  • Although I fully support social economy, for me, this type of discourse is just a way of washing their reputation. It would be interesting to see not only how they measure the sustainability of the Erste program in microcrediting, but also the impact of the program in Romania. I would suppose that these kind of results would speak better about what they do rather than how they do it. ;)
  • She said they evaluate the experience, the marketing experience not only the business experience, of those asking for microcredits. I wonder, rhetorically, if Yunus’s microcrediting business in India included such kind of evaluation
  • Two people asked difficult questions: Cristina (Fundatia Sensiblu) and a lady whose name I didn’t manage to hear clearly. Cristina asked if BCR provided any kind of consulting services to those that applied for microcredits, if they are going to change the program due to the factt they have had only 2 successful applicants, and if they do change it, are they going to involve their stakeholders in the update process. The other lady asked a simple but important question: is BCR interested in participating in the process of public consultation on the Romanian social economy strategy? The answer was not direct and I suspect they do not have a real interest in developing strong ties with local NGOs and authorities in promoting social economy.

Esther Hougee (Sustainalytics)

  • Esther delivered us a corporate services presentation…

Sebastian Marcusanu

  • The first speaker talking about the “responsibilities” of companies, not about “responsibility”.
  • This presentation makes sense. Sebastian is the first speaker that made my day because he is using the concepts in the correct way.

John Aston

  • A very good case study. A case study by the book, not a project presentation. It gave us a good topic to think of when we get home.
  • He met the expectations I have had for his presentation: unorthodox, asking the tough questions, without avoiding certain topics just because we wants to please a company or another.

The Lesson of the Economic Crisis: Can there be profit or technological progress without responsibility?

  • I have a personal remark: is this debate session about Liviu Mihaiu and how he landed in the Danube Delta?!

General Remarks (Dragos, don’t kill me! :))

  • Last night, I saw a picture of the conference room and immediately I thought it will be very uncomfortable. Unfortunately, my first impression is true. It doesn’t help initiate and maintain a direct dialogue. The speakers are forced to look up to spot their audience.


  1. The dialogue can be enforced by moderators and organizers, so we’ll strive more. The space has some difficulties, but people were eager to participate and contribute. Some had the opportunity to do it, some hadn’t. On the other hand the lobby is more generous for networking. But again, no excuse for moderators and organizers.

  2. Dragos is modest as always. I don’t think we have anything to object to the way organizers prepared the whole event. The idea of the event, the speakers and the audience are all the merit of the organizers.

    Now, if we take a step back and see how the dialogue was handled yesterday, I would reconsider my remark concerning the conference room.

  3. Thank you, Cristi, for the report, I am so sorry about not being able to be there after all.

    I want to challenge you on one point, namely when you say responsibility and financial efficiency are unrelated. While it is true there can be financial efficiency without responsibility, I don’t see how responsibility is possible without financial efficiency. For if a business decision is losing money, I would not call that responsible.

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