Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Another year , another CSR conference

As CSR consultants working at a global level but based in a small, sluggish market from a CSR perspective (Israel) , we see our roles as much more than providing a service to clients who pay. We are on a mission to drive awareness and encourage as many Companies as possible to understand, adopt,  excel at and benefit from responsible business practices, sustainability and transparency. After all, as CSR consultants, we also have a CSR reponsibility.

Amongst the many activities we undertake in this respect, the flagship is the Beyond Business Annual Conference on CSR, Reporting and Transparency. For the past four years, we have organized a professional conference, free of charge, in the service of companies, academics, NGO's, students and professionals involved or interested in sustainability. (In 2009 there was a small nominal charge due to high costs of visiting speakers from abroad). This year, 2010, our conference took place on 19th July 2010. This year, we received support in the form of sponsorship from Bank Hapoalim and Discount Bank, two of the largest banks in Israel, each having published two CSR reports, and Ness Technologies, our clients, who hosted the conference in their impressive conferencing facilities in Tel Aviv and provided assistance with design elements and much more. We are grateful to these three Companies who helped us advance the cause.

The conference was opened by the President of Ness Israel, Mr Effi Kotek, who stressed the importance of transparency, and the steps that Ness has taken in the past year to improve its corporate citizenship and reporting through joining the UN Global Compact and publishing a first Communication on Progress. Here you can see myself and my business partner Liad Ortar photographed with Effi.  

The rest of the agenda went as follows:

Review of global trends in CSR and Sustainability by myself, highlighting  the use of social media, virtual conferences such as PR Newswire's Engage CSR 2010  at the end of last month, partnerships, Cause Marketing as the new philanthropy, CSR debates around the BP oil spill (obviously), the role of Walmart in leading change in supply change practices, the Global Reporting Intitative and strategy of partnering with the Carbon Trust, the UNGC and others for greater integration of approach to transparency and more.

Update on the status of global reporting and key messages from the GRI Reporting Conference in Amsterdam in May 2010 by myself, followed by a short panel with Israeli participants Eynat Rotfeld from ECI Telecom, and Inbal Cinman of Ness Technologies, both CSR Managers in their respective Companies.

A review of the value of SRI screening processes and the challenges of the different methods and indices which rank corporate sustainability for investors. A highly insightful lecture based on substaniated acedemic research by Dr Vered Doctori Blass, which was published in April 2010 in the Business Strategy and Environment Journal  entitled "Measuring Corporate Environmental Performance: the Trade-Offs of Sustainability Ratings"

Presentation of the Israeli Transparency Index 2010 and awards to the leading companies in the Top Ten for Transparency :

Pictured left to right are:
Avraham Bar Ilan, CSR Manager of Bank Hapoalim (first place)
Yael Leventhal Bar Ron, CSR Manager of Blue Square (tenth place)
Daniella Prusky Sion, CSR Manager of Strauss-Group (third place)
Amnon Gideon, VP for Human Resources of Bank Discount (fifth place)
Atznom Lifshitz , VP for Human Resources of Ness Technologies (ninth place)
Liad Ortar, co CEO of Beyond Business, my partner

Presentation by Avraham Bar Ilan of Bank Hapoalim and the wide range of CSR activities conducted by this leading Israeli Bank, showing how good process and good communications are critical to embedding a CSR culture in everything from managing the environment, to offering preferential credit on solar installations, to supporting positive workplace practices, employee recycling initiatives and much more.

Illuminating presentation on the implications of Israel joining the OECD and the significance of responsible business practices by Ms. Lena Zeiger, the Director of the Multilateral Agreements Department at the Israeli Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor. I am confident that this will be the catalyst that will finally awaken business leaders in Israel out of their CSR slumber.

And three presentations by more of our clients:

HP Indigo - the local digital printing arm of the global HP corporation - who has transformed digital printing processes to become significantly more environmentally friendly, presented by Yossi Rosen who heads up HP Indigo's Environmental Leadership programs.

Mehadrin Tnuport - the largest grower and exporter of citrus fruits in Israel whose famous brand name Jaffa means quality and excellence. Mehadrin have undertaken a long process of Carbon Footprinting of oranges and grapefruits and other produce which represents groundbreaking progress. Lior Shmueli , our friend and colleage, presented on behalf of Mehadrin - Lior supported Mehadrin on this specific project, whilst we are working with Mehadrin on other aspects of CSR. 

Maccabi Health Services - the second largest heath services organisation in Israel presented their IPRA award winning project on expired-drugs collection and safe disposal, which was devised and supported by my partner Liad. This was another groundbreaking project in Israel and significantly raised awareness of both the health and environmental dangers of random disposal of expired medication. Dr Nurit Friedman presented this project and demonstrated how this benefits not only society but also the organization through highly positive press and reputation value. The project research prior to launch showed that 80% of people simply throw drugs into their household garbage.

All in all, this was a short but rich program and we are grateful to our sponsors, all the speakers, and all those who participated. We believe in getting the message through and were proud to have the opportunity to showcase leading clients and busineses in Israel who are moving our local market forward.

One question from the audience was : How does a small business who is CSR-minded manage to make progress? My response was that there are many ways small businesses can make a contribution to a more sustainable world. As a small business ourselves, we are constantly engaging in activities whch advance the body of professional knowledge in our specialist areas of expertise - this conference being a prime example. It's hard, you have to devote time and energy to making things happen, but when you do, they happen!

elaine cohen is co-founder and co-CEO of Beyond Business, a leading social and environmental consulting and reporting firm. Visit our website at

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