CSR Practices

Important steps made by Platinum Bank

Todd Esposito, the financial director, first deputy of the Director General and Member of the Board of Platinum Bank kindly agreed to answer the question of CSR-Review.

Is, in your opinion, CSR important for the company?

I think that CSR is undoubtedly important for any company. Every company, after all, must earn profit for its owners; being profitable means being a part of the society. Generally, the companies must be successful and help the society. These constituents are closely interconnected and it is impossible to decide which of them are more preferable.

What is the role of top-managers in promoting of the company CSR?

I consider that every company must decide how to implement CSR and think of its influence on the society and the whole country. A top-manager (or a team of topmanagers) must develop a strategy, to receive an approval of the stakeholders and introduce it into the organization. You are speaking about strategy.

Do you mean business-strategy?

And business-strategy too. CSR-strategy can be developed on the basis of the business-strategy. They are always interconnected.

Did you work for «GE Capital». What CSR-experience did you receive there?

I think, «GE Capital» is one of the four mostly CSRadvanced companies in the world. The company has its own workers’ union – Elfun, which is widespread throughout the world and has been functioning for almost 100 years. The main goal of Elfun – is to promote CSR in every country of their operation. As for me, CSR is actually the blood of the company pulsing together with its employees, participating in the company everyday activity and exploring how to help the society.

Do you mean that employees decide on what to do for the society?

Surely! Elfun – is an international organization divided into branches which may have many workers and managers. By the way, it’s not only the managers who do all work. Elfun managers and officers are always working jointly.

I agree with you but what must the vision of the company, of Platinum Bank, in particular?

The vision of Platinum Bank was formed taking into account the recent crisis. On the whole, it is very difficult to form the vision of the company for the next 20 years. The companies, including in particular Platinum Bank are focusing on the terms of 3-5 years. Of course, we have strategy for the nearest 3-5 years consisting of 7 articles. First of all these articles touch on the financial results, but there are 2 articles which, I am sure, every company must exploit – to be the company which employees want to work, to learn and to acquire new experience. For us to grow means to employ officials and it is one more article. Another article is to be part of the society and help it. While developing our business-strategy we understood that the financial indicator was the cornerstone of what we are striving at. But it is also very important to be a part of the society and it means to have the organization aimed at assistance to the company officials. I mean, it is important to be a part of Ukraine.

It is very interesting because when it is going about CSR some companies say that their investors are not interested in CSR. And that is why these companies do have any such programs. As far as I understood your strategy was approved by the shareholders. Are they interested in CSR?

You asked a very important and interesting question about the types of shareholders and level of their engagement in CSR. I think that shareholders have absolutely various opinions of CSR. They range from extremely negative (it is very expensive, we have no time, we must provide earnings), to absolutely opposite (when people are ready to spend 30% of their earnings on CSR). The shareholders will never agree on this issue. We are very lucky that the most part of our shareholders are foreigners who believe that CSR is a part of the business and a part of the society. We are making money in Ukraine and have around 600 terminals. We are planning to increase the number of terminals in large cities to 50 and can easily prove that we are a part of Ukraine. People are coming to us to open deposit accounts and to get loans. So it is not difficult for us to persuade our shareholders that CSR is important. Those whose shareholders are against CSR must simply change the negative attitude to neutral one. These people are hardly ever to become CSRpositive. But if you manage to change the opinion to neutral you will get an opportunity to create CSR-company. But we are lucky men because our shareholders are well disposed towards this question.

You are really lucky men! How do you combine your CSR-strategy with your clients?

I believe that clients are the beginning of CSR Platinum Bank.

But it is very common when people sometimes are not interested in CSR.

Yes, you are right. That is why your strategy is a snowball: first it is small but then it begins to grow. We have decided to focus on several key moments. They are the environment, children, help those who are in need and invalids. In addition we are helping our officials to become a part of CSR. And I have yet remembered about our clients and business-partners. You may not begin doing everything simultaneously. You must begin, as I have already mentioned, from the small snowball. Engagement of our officials in helping children and people in need is the first and very important step, and another our step is engagement of our clients and partners. Everything must be done step-by-step.

And are your official really engaged?

I am actually very lucky as the officials of the bank understand, for example, the problems of the environment. People realize that the world is ruining and the least help is of great importance. I am also glad to see how our officials are helping children through fund rising, whip-round, collection of pampers or clothes. The main task at present is to encourage our people not only to present pampers or clothes but also to put time. Personally for me it is another major step. I hope we’ll be able to make it a reality already this year.

Will you pay for these hours? American companies, Microsoft, for example, pays for the hours spent by their officials at schools or in some other places I hope we’ll also proceed to this model.

We’ll see. As for the main task is a step-by-step realization. It would be nice to carry out such programs during dinner-breaks or on holidays. It is necessary to persuade top-managers to start with small projects, to get the results and then to plan something larger. I am sure we will come to international model when our people have an opportunity to use their working time for CSR. I do not think that it will be my first step but I believe it makes sense to begin with small activities.

And what about the environmental protection; everybody is peaking about this problem but we see no results.

As you can see I have a list of the things done. It is so long that I cannot remember everything by heart. Environmental concern is the easiest thing business can do. This problem is a wide field of activity. I can give you several examples of our practical activity: we have paper-baskets; we are collecting all paper used and sell it to the local paperprocessing factory. Our printers support function of duplex printing, so we are saving 50% of paper costs. Usually people come to business meetings with hand-outs for 20 persons. We have forbidden paper presentations. Our employees are allowed only one kind of presentation – a slide presentation. So now everybody comes to business meeting carrying only a small flash-disk. And again it is a substantial economy. And as to the illumination – we use Phillips energy-saving system of illumination. Moreover, our conditioners are functioning from 7 a.m. till 7 p.m. and then are switched off automatically.

Do you mean there is nobody in the office after 7 p.m.?

Well, people have their individual illumination. But we are encouraging our employees to switch off the computers and lamps. Usually I also check as I can see the office from the windows of my apartment. The guards during the night rounds also switch off the light which is no longer required. Every company can practice such things.

Is it efficient?

Yes, it is very efficient. And these are just several example of our environmental concern and we are planning to do much more and even to find people who could help local community. We must hold a brain-storm and then to propose to do the same our business-partners: that is how we can work jointly to help to protect environment but it will be our next step.

What are your CSR-plans 2010?

As I have already mentioned we have four sphere of our activity: corporate management, employees, community and environment. As to the environment protection we have been doing much during the last years and have greatly advanced in this question. One of the basic this year tasks is to make the head-quarters comfortable for the environment – to «go green initiatives». And then, possibly, to try to implement one or two activities with our business-partners. These are our 2010 objectives. And in future we are of course planning to engage our client to participate in these programs.

We have also done a lot for children. Last year we founded Save the Children Association. But again this year I am planning to broaden regular programs. We want to show that it’s not only the employees’ money that is spent for charitable purposes but the company’s money is spent too. I suppose that for our employees it is very important: «Just have a look, it is important, and you spend your money and the company returns thanks to you». This is what concerns the community we are helping to. Every company operating in Ukraine is obliged to hire invalids. But we want to march even ahead because we are convinced that it is essential when government pays for the invalids but what is more important is that invalids want to work and to be integrated into society they live in. We are looking for the invalids to employ them for the work in our bank. We have a lot of activities to get them busy with. We have successfully employed such people and I believe it influenced their lives positively as well as lives of our officials. It helps to challenge stereotypes of what invalids are able to do. I am delighted we have managed to implement such practices and in future we are planning to widen the scope. In terms of employees we are trying to create the most comfortable working conditions to encourage them to work in our bank. It is not the place where they can be fined, but it is the place where they can develop and we are wish they could realize their skills. If our employees get into trouble (family or health problems) we are trying to help them to the maximum. We understand they give their company a lot of time and we must appreciate it. The goal we are aspiring to is the following: people want to work for our company, they want to be a part of CSR.

Is it provided by your business-strategy?

Yes, it is.

As far as I know you have a plan developed for four years, until 2012, haven’t you?

Yes, that’s true. We have taken some steps and now we want to analyze which of them were successful and where we failed. Everything is changing very quickly so there is no use of developing strategy for 5-10 years. But it is essential both for business and for CSR to have strategy for 3-4 years. Your task is to show the top-manager, shareholders and officials – «this is what we have been striving for the last several years». It’s not just collecting of money for pampers, but it’s a kind of relations you are trying to build with orphanages. You are working throughout Ukraine and very soon you are helping to 50 or 100 orphanages. People want to know and understand. So you need a strategy developed for several years.

Have you got any plan of efficiency monitoring?

Yes, we have such a plan. I am planning to assign monitoring to a group of people as it was done in «GE Capital», where we had an internal organization monitoring both success and faults. It helps studying. CSR for is a business. I am a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and I have people responsible for every task. People need to be given initiative. It works both in business and in CSR.

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