Association of Managers: despite the crisis, Russian companies remain faithful to ESG principles

On July 7, MIA Russia Today hosted the conference “Challenges-2030. Sustainable development of regions”, dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Committee on Sustainable Development and ESG ofthe Association of Managers.

The CA “GlavSovetnik” acted as a communication partner of the event.

As a result of the conference, it became clear that, despite the crisis, Russian companies remain faithful to the ESG principles and Sustainable Development Goals.

“Twenty years ago, when creating the Corporate Responsibility Committee – the prototype of today’s Committee on Sustainable Development and ESG – we responded to the challenges of the time and wanted to be modern and relevant. We are still modern and relevant. Perhaps someone thinks that today ESG is the Western world, but it is not. We remain faithful to these principles”, Dmitry Zelenin,President of the Association of Managers, opened the plenary session.

Agreement with Dmitry Zelenin was expressed by all participants of the plenary session. According to Andrey Sharonov, CEO of the National ESG Alliance, the current situation in terms of influence on ESG isa tactic. Actually, ESG is a “long–term” strategy.

“Many companies that are members of the Alliance say that they are forced to redistribute resources tothe detriment of the ESG agenda. But they claim it as a tactic, not as a strategy. The ESG strategy is related to the quality of life, the economy in which we live, regardless of external circumstances.Ecology, climate, the quality of corporate governance, and the social agenda are absolutely important tous, and not because these indicators are evaluated by Western investors. We have our own investors,our own national agenda. In particular, last year the Government approved a Strategy for the socio-economic development of Russia with low greenhouse gas emissions until 2050”, said Andrei Sharonov.

It is noted that 20% of Russian corporations and local divisions of international companies have temporarily suspended or completely closed their social support programs in the regions of Russia —these are the data of a study conducted by the ESG and Sustainable Development Committee of the Association of Managers in April-June 2022 This means a reduction or termination of funding for projects of non-profit organizations aimed at supporting vulnerable groups of the population: people with disabilities, oncological diseases, wards of orphanages and nursing homes. At the same time, 40%of companies that have retained their own social programs in full have expressed their willingness to provide financial, methodological and consulting support to projects that have lost business support inthe current conditions.

“After studying the results of the study, RUSAL decided to announce an additional grant competition «Itis important to support!». It is designed for those NPOs with which we did not necessarily cooperate earlier, but which implement social infrastructure projects in the regions of the company’s presence. At the beginning of July, 20 finalists were determined. The total amount of grants is 35 million rubles. Even such modest (in terms of one organization), but timely assistance, is able to ensure the purchase of urgently needed medical and rehabilitation equipment, the creation of special infrastructure, payment for the services of highly qualified specialists. The contest «It is important to support!» is another (and itis good that it is not the only one) attempt by responsible Russian business to support those who need it most urgently in our regions right now, and to do it with the help of expert non–profit organizations”,said during the plenary session Irina Bakhtina, the Chairman of the ESG and Sustainable Development Committee, Director of the Department for the Sustainable Development, Member of the Executive Committee (Management Board) of the United Company RUSAL.

In total, to the attention of the participants of the conference “Challenges-2030. Sustainable development of the regions” a total of 10 events of various formats were proposed: round tables,discussions, presentations, briefings. Each of them was devoted to the problems of sustainable development in various industries and directions.

“No matter what events happen, ecology and climate are still important topics. During the discussion,the participants said that we have a single planet and everyone should be guided in any kind of activity by the principles of responsible attitude to the environment. Not only as a business, but also as citizens,we must take into account our ecological footprint. The state of the environment depends on each ofus”, Olga Sanarova, Director of the Department of External Communications, En+ Group, summed upthe track “E – Ecology”.

Speakers and participants of the track “S – social development” talked about happiness. This is how the moderator – Director of the Department for Sustainable Business Development of RUSAL Rustam Zakiev outlined the topic. Happiness is one of the fundamental goals of humanity. The United Nations General Assembly recognizes this goal and calls for “a more comprehensive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that contributes to the happiness and well-being of all peoples”. According to those present, the creation of a favorable working environment in business can significantly reduce the level of occupational injuries and even improve the company’s sales volumes. Moral and psychological support of employees, conscious social and volunteer activities help in overcoming difficult life situations for a person. In general, creating conditions for achieving happiness and well-being, in the workplace, in cities and communities, can become drivers for the fastest achievement of the SDGs.

The participants of the track “G – Corporate Governance: Modern Focus and current practices” discussed the transformation of corporate governance as a factor of the ESG agenda caused by external challenges. According to Elena Nikitchanova, Deputy General Director of the Russian Institute of Directors, the main focus was on the internal management contour of corporate governance, which becomes most in demand in crisis conditions or in a state of external uncertainty. The speakers and theaudience paid special attention to the metrics of sustainable development in the formation of regional strategies, which should be taken into account when developing sustainable development strategies for companies that operate in these territories.

“At the conference dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the ESG and Sustainable Development Committee of the Association of Managers, we summarized and highlighted the best experience of environmental and social projects, as well as corporate governance practices of system-forming companies. Time has made its own adjustments and shifted the emphasis – practices that are effective in the “rich years” do not always work in conditions of uncertainty. The latest challenges, prospects for cooperation between business and government to preserve the sustainable development of the country were discussed by the best Russian experts. The event took place for the second time, and I am sure that “Challenges-2030″ will become a platform where we will annually exchange best practices, adopt successful experience and find solutions to problems faced by companies and the state”, Vadim Kovalev,First Deputy Executive Director of the Association of Managers, summed up the conference.

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