There is no Sustainable transformation Without a ComprehensiveCross-Sectoral Cooperation 

June 9, 2021

An important message from the International Conference Trends in CSR, organised by IEDC-Bled School of Management as part of the ISSUE project, held online and at the IEDC campus, is that dialogue between the corporate sector, the civil society and the state is necessary for a successful sustainable transition.

As part of the initial round table, representatives of different sectors discussed the various roles and common social responses to the challenges faced by the society and the environment. They agreed that the dialogue between different stakeholders should be strengthened and that business schools can play an important role in facilitating it. Adriana Aralica, on behalf of the SLOGA network of NGOs working in the field of development cooperation, global learning and humanitarian aid, stressed, the need for a comprehensive approach and cross-sectoral action in the field of sustainable development. The key challenges in cross-sectoral integration, she says, are dialogue as a starting point for cooperation opportunities, the need for clear strategic orientation and a clear commitment to sustainable development.

For a sustainable recovery, which is necessary in the aftermath of the corona pandemic, cross-sectoral cooperation is inevitable. Tina Cipot, head of corporate communications at Lidl Slovenia, said that without communication there can be no successful cooperation. It is important that stakeholders share similar values and that everyone is acting in the direction of sustainable development.  Environmental analyst and lecturer on Environmental Ethics Luka Omladič focused on different levels of social responsibility: responsibility for work and workers, responsible behaviour towards the environment, and the role of the state that sets the rules.

The view and experience of international corporations was presented by Nicolas Ronderos, who leads the CoLab in Paris – a business incubator and accelerator, and Michael Dickstein, the Head of the Sustainable Development and Social Strategy Group at Coca-Cola HBC Hellenic in Vienna. Nicolas Ronderos stressed the importance of dialogue and cooperation for a more sustainable world. In his words, pre-competitive cooperation enables companies to invest their resources in the sustainable development of their own organisation, market and also larger ecosystem.  Good governance and a real distribution of roles between partners is important for successful cooperation. Michael Dickstein explained how multinationals take a strategic approach to social responsibility and the involvement of different stakeholders. In addition to dialogue, as he pointed out, it is very important to understand stakeholders and to have a structured approach and respect for diversity. It is a great challenge to convince companies that the benefits of connecting with other sectors undoubtedly outweigh some additional resources needed for this.

Journalist Monika Weiss has, in concrete cases, demonstrated the problem of un-transparent operation of companies and the various pressures that NGOs are often under. Examples of companies that, under the pretext of social responsibility, fund local communities and the media to gain the affection of the local population and to carry out projects that are not sustainable were shown. Sebastijan Peterka, project manager and researcher at Transparency International Slovenia, presented the “Pakt integritete” (Covenant of Integrity) initiative and pointed to the importance of involving independent organisations in identifying systemic weaknesses and effectively preventing corruption in public procurement procedures.

Martin Rojnik, an excellent expert on food and agriculture issues, spoke of the (non)responsible food culture, (non)smart handling of natural resources, and large quantities of food that are wasted due to this. As he pointed out, the ecological and ethical stance of companies is of paramount importance.

The final part of the conference was intended to discuss how companies should integrate social economy products and services into their business. Živa Lopatič, co-founder of the Buna Cooperative and Head of Fair Trade in Slovenia, Maja Rijavec, co-founder of Smetumet NGO and social enterprise, and Markéta Vinkelhoferová, founder of the Czech Fair&Bio Roastery, which employs mentally and physically disadvantaged workers as a social enterprise, have presented their views and experience. The panellists agreed that, despite volunteering and non-profit status, social entrepreneurship strives for high-quality products and thus consumer satisfaction and that there is significant potential for stronger cooperation between social and regular enterprises.

The Conference Trends in CSR was prepared in the framework of the ISSUE project of Sustainable Solutions in Higher Education Institutions.