Business in Bulgaria in a time of crisis – responsibility and solidarity

UNGC-slideThe COVID-19 epidemic is an unprecedented challenge for all: public entities, business, the NGO sector and the citizens. We will further analyse the vast effect of the crisis but in the current setting, it is essential to draw your attention to some phenomenon among which are the very first reactions of the companies in the state of emergency.

Throughout the storm, business didn’t withdraw. On the contrary, it fought to adapt to the new reality with regard to human rights.

90796579_10219076165193824_877017671709753344_n-300x150So far, a big part of CSR policies has been reoriented to donation acts. According to the statistics provided by the Bulgarian Donors Forum more than 5 million BGN have been donated for the fight against the pandemic (data up to 23th of March 2020. At the beginning of April this amount grew up to 14 mln BGN). 94% of the donations were used to provide medical equipment, including facilities and personal protective equipment, for the health care workers in the hospitals all over the country, whereas 6% were granted for educational needs, social patronage and food for children from vulnerable groups. Business represented a major portion in the sources of donation diagram (52%). Every day this figure rises as the last days of March were marked with a donation of 800,000 BGN by the largest nuclear power plant in Bulgaria – Kozloduy, to the Ministry of Health Fund fighting the pandemic. One of the most contagious campaigns in terms of good deeds was initiated by the bCause Foundation #Forthegood which succeeded in uniting more than 1500 corporate and individual contributors and gathered almost 900,000 BGN (up to 30th of March 2020). There is no doubt that this kind of contribution serves as significant proof for the fact that in cases of emergency, companies could partner not only with their customers but with the whole of society. The unpredictable COVID-19 situation forced us to accept that all stakeholders are interconnected and none of them could get by on their own: self-salvation is not a solution. The international organisations call for solidarity and interaction between states, companies and the non-governmental sector.

Donation is one of the many super capacities of the business for good

The corporate donations are the most prominent act of solidarity but are far from being the only one. Businesses, regardless of their size, attempt to deal with the chock and the challenges deriving from the current situation and related to drastic income shrink, reorganization of the production and supply, or even to an entire shutdown for an undefined period of time. Millions of companies around the world face a financial collapse but while many of them rely on the state grants, the reality in Bulgaria differs. Despite the difficulties, the Network of the responsible business has stated that many companies, including its members, are actively looking for solutions based on the sustainable development pillars.

During a crisis, business acts as a force for good

In the last few days, dozens of Bulgarian enterprises took proper precautions to limit the contagion and to guarantee people’s health. They have demonstrated prompt reactions, flexibility and willingness to carry on their duties without risking their employees’, subcontractors and customers’ health – according to the recommendations of the World Health Organisation, the Bulgarian authorities and the amended regulations. Listed below are some examples:

  • responsibility towards the customers via implementing measures for a smooth working process, effective fulfillment of tasks and ceaseless quality performance
  • responsibility towards the employees via health care and provision of means for remote work, disinfection of office and industry spaces, supply of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • responsibility towards clients and employees via strong, clear and motivational internal and external communication
  • continuous engagement with subcontractors, partners, local communities as well as solidarity acts by employees such as free-will holidays
  • innovations and transformations of products and services
  • free online resources provided by educational and cultural institutions

 

In this case and generally, the question arises: shall we praise companies with good policies and practices? In an environment with too many negative examples, mentioning the excellent ones is crucial because the responsible business, which implements them, sets a high-quality standard for leadership. To what extent are these standards relevant and whether we can consider one particular business sustainable – this is most evident in a time of crisis. In any case, the COVID-19 pandemic is a stress test for corporate sustainability and publicly stated positions. Those who manage to pass the test will prove that incorporating the Sustainable Development Goals could navigate companies and lead societies to the future.

Along with the donations and the intense process transformations meant to save peoples jobs, some companies operating in Bulgaria contribute in other ways. The list below mark several good examples:

  • Brand new useful customer service practices: the largest telecom companies offered additional services to their customers for the time they stay home. A1 in partnership with the Ministry of Interior launched the application A1 Guard, which helps customers to protect themselves and their relatives from phone frauds. Esri Bulgaria created an interactive map which visualizes the location of the infected within the country, while the parent company Esri has made a dashboard for the World Health Organisation as per Johns Hopkins University established model.
  • Immediate reaction with resources and skills: companies like Bulged and Technologica joined the campaign #Forthegood against COVID-19 in Bulgaria though their 3D printing capabilities. Together with Angel Kanchev , University of Ruse, they proceeded with the creation of “medical shields”, meant to protect health workers on the front lines from the virus. More than 1000 shields have been made so far. Angel Baby Bulgaria reorganized their manufacturing in order to produce masks for the people on the front lines.
  • Provision of products and services: the pharmaceutical company Sopharma donated 35 000 packs of Analgin Henin to the hospitals, whose export was cancelled. Shell Bulgaria donated 100 000 BGN worth of fuel for ambulances. SPARK Bulgaria, an electric car-sharing company, supported the initiative #Forthegood, as they ensured the transport of the personal protective equipment to the hospitals. Restaurants offer warm food to medical workers and vulnerable people; hotels declare their readiness to transform their premises for the purpose of medical cares. Zaharni zavodi (producer of sugar, confectionery and ethyl alcohol) in the city of Gorna Oryahovitsa donated 10 000 litres of ethyl alcohol to the public hospitals. Assistance with the logistics and coordination of campaigns are other approaches.

Nowadays, the examples of companies supporting the fight against the coronavirus are multiplying and they can be now seen on the news. The media became prone to announcing good business practices and examples and therefore to mention the corporate donors’ names. Throughout the current state of emergency, we are witnessing a mobilisation of resources and diverse solidarity actions. The virus put us into an unexpected situation of hardship and examines our social maturity and potential. It is also testing both the authorities and the business sector – the backbone of an economy, and whether they react responsibly. Social responsibility should always be displayed, regardless of the situation.