Social capital

The Expert Eye
In the ESG activities of many organisations, the ‘E’, or environmental, initiatives usually come to the fore. Social issues (the ‘S’), however, sometimes seem to take a backseat. But we shouldn’t forget that every company operates in a wider ecosystem, which includes its employees, business partners and local communities. Hence this aspect should be an integral part of the strategy

The gap between the emphasis on these two aspects is clearly evident in the numbers. According to the ‘ESG Survey 2023’ by Deutsche Bank Wealth Management, environmental issues are considered the pillar that deserves the most attention (according to 43 pct of investors), while the social (‘S’) area is considered as the most important by only 25 pct of respondents. What could be the reason for the lower evaluation given to the social sphere? One explanation could be the mandatory climate targets that have been imposed on organisations, prompting them to make environmental concerns their given top priority; or, it could be down to the difficulty involved in measuring the effectiveness of social activities. However, this does not mean that they don’t need to be given equal weight. It would be an advantage if social initiatives took a more comprehensive form than participation in individual projects – such as, for example, being linked to International Volunteer Day.

In the beginning, recognition

Social programmes should be initiated once the needs of the local community have been identified. These needs may vary depending on the specifics of the region in which we operate, so versatility cannot be the main characteristic of projects of this type. It’s important to remember that it’s not all about helping for the sake of supporting local communities – it’s the impact of that support that matters. That’s why it’s extremely important to cooperate with properly selected partners, such as NGOs that specialise in initiatives related to the goals chosen by the company. Thanks to their extensive networks of contacts, they can reach out more quickly and effectively to other entities interested in benefiting from such projects. For example, for the Segro Academy scheme, which includes negotiation games in English for high school students, we cooperate with the Innowatorium Foundation. Thanks to their knowledge and experience, it has been easier to make contacts with schools and reach out to teachers from local educational institutions.

Together we can do more

When it comes to activities, it’s more than worth your while to take advantage of already existing relationships. Employees, customers and business partners are usually happy to participate in social projects. At the same time, the company and its stakeholders can then form links – not only over business-related issues, but also on common social goals. Thanks to working with the groups that we know, we don’t have to worry about whether the initiative will achieve the expected results and whether a sufficient number of people will get involved. Simple ideas and mechanisms work best here. For example, the Be Active with Segro sports and charity challenge, which was held for the third year in 2023, attracted a record number of over 500 participants, all of whom were business partners and employees of the company. The sheer number of participants made it possible to raise as much as PLN 60,000 for the creation of an e-learning platform for the vocational support of people with disabilities. This amount was raised thanks to the kilometres walked, run or cycled by the participants over a period of two months.

Care for the whole environment

Just because we should be paying more attention to social issues doesn’t mean we should stop caring about the environment. Many of our activities fit into both areas – and bring even greater benefits.

The Long-term Responsible Segro programme, which involves investing in local communities and the environment, combines many threads. Through the sports challenge mentioned above, the company not only provides healthy lifestyle education, but also encourages alternatives to driving (for the sake of the environment). In addition, for several years we have been installing contact-free water dispensers in schools and sports facilities in Łódź and Gliwice, thanks to which children can get into the healthy habit of drinking such water instead of buying drinks in plastic bottles. In turn, our riverbank waste collection campaign that forms part of Operation Clean River combines concern for the environment with the opportunity to spend time together and integrate. And these are just a few of many examples. Some NGOs publish information on good business practices each year to provide further inspiration for such activities.

Sharing what’s authentic for us

For the management of companies (which is increasingly engaged in ESG strategy – according to the data included in the French-Polish Chamber of Commerce Barometer 2023), if cleaning up reservoirs or organising sports challenges are too remote from their daily business, they can invest instead in educating local communities about the industry represented by the company.

One example of this are the above-mentioned simulation games for young people developed for the Segro Academy. These include a negotiation game, in which students negotiate the terms of a warehouse lease, and a board game aimed at managing warehouse space in the best way possible. At the same time, young people can improve their language skills – as the games are held in English. Participants can gain knowledge about the industrial and logistics market, and the winners receive English language courses as a reward.

Vocational training courses involving interpersonal skills, entrepreneurship and preparation for job interviews are also an excellent idea. While it is true that unemployment in Poland remains low, there are still vulnerable social groups in need of a helping hand in finding work. This is the case, for example, in Gliwice, where we are providing this type of training in cooperation with the Foundation for the Development of Świętochłowice. Another group susceptible to unemployment are people from overseas, for whom we can provide language courses, legal support, or workshops to help them find employment on the Polish labour market.

‘S’ is for strategy

Companies that have so far mainly focused on areas related to environmental protection can also successfully use their experience in initiating and implementing social schemes. Building long-term strategies centred on social topics strengthens the perception of an organisation as open, caring for the well-being of members of local communities and addressing their current needs. Through social activities consistently held and implemented over many years, companies can build and strengthen ties with local communities, authorities, customers, business partners and investors.

The great communicator

Agnieszka Zaczyńska is a communications and marketing expert with 14 years of experience in B2B marketing, including more than eight years in commercial real estate. Professionally, the areas she has been involved in include investing in local communities and the environment. Her work includes creating and implementing programmes for local communities as part of the company’s ESG strategy, as well as communicating with non-governmental organisations. Agnieszka holds a degree in journalism from the University of Warsaw and has also completed postgraduate studies in internet marketing and brand management at the Warsaw School of Economics (SGH).