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Embracing corporate social responsibility has market advantages in the forest sector

Published: 20 April 2010


“Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is being implemented in the forest sector in South-East Europe with distinct advantages for companies, trade associations, Governments and their stakeholders” according to Dr. Branko Glavonjic, Chairman of the UNECE Timber Committee. He hosted “CSR in the forest sector in South-East Europe”, a workshop held in Belgrade, Serbia on 12-13 April 2010.

While the level of consciousness of CSR within businesses and civil society in South-East Europe is currently rather low, it is growing steadily. The Dow Jones Sustainability Group Index shows that, in general, companies that embraced CSR tended to fare better during the current economic crisis than those that have yet to incorporate CSR into their business philosophy. With many wood and paper companies, not just in South-East Europe, fighting for survival in the current difficult economic conditions, it might be expected that companies would be reluctant to embark on the development of CSR in their business practices now. However, forest sector companies and their associations that embrace CSR have a market advantage.

CSR adds value not only for stakeholders outside the corporation or association, but also within, since employee satisfaction is critical for business success. Making CSR integral to a company’s business enhances motivation, productivity, labour retention and safety. To do so, Serbia and other South-Eastern European countries are implementing a new ISO 26000 CSR standard.

During lively discussion, those taking part in the workshop concluded that, if CSR is to be adopted more widely, governments need to take a supporting role. For CSR to succeed it needs a clear commitment from senior management and effective communication with employees and other stakeholders. Companies can improve their corporate image and reputation, develop customer loyalty and minimize risks. Governments should encourage wider adoption of CSR in the forest sector by developing public procurement policies favouring natural materials, such as wood and paper products from sustainable sources, over non-renewable materials.

CSR is an increasingly important channel of communication between the forest sector and its stakeholders, both within and outside the sector, about the process of sustainable development. For example, when a company uses wood and paper products from sustainably managed forests, and those forests are so certified, the company can communicate this practice internally to their employees and externally to their customers.

More than 60 participants from the forestry and wood processing sectors in South-East Europe were introduced to the concept and practice of corporate social responsibility. Speakers from Italy and Switzerland, as well as from within the region, highlighted the benefits that businesses, trade associations and Governments can achieve from adopting CSR into their philosophy and operations. The workshop was organized jointly by the UNECE/FAO Timber Section and the Faculty of Forestry of the State University of Belgrade, in cooperation with the UNIDO-supported regional project on CSR competence.

More information about the workshop, including its conclusions and recommendations, as well as the presentations can be found via www.unece.org/timber.

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Ed Pepke
Marketing Specialist
UNECE/FAO Timber Section
Palais des Nations
Geneva, Switzerland
Phone: +41 (0) 22 917 2872
Email : Ed.Pepke@unece.or

Ref: ECE/TIM/10/P05

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