The FINANCIAL -- Lasha Janelidze, Partner at PwC, talked to The FINANCIAL about the inevitability of Georgian businesses getting more involved with social responsibility practices, if they are to succeed in the rapidly-changing realities of today’s world.
“PwC Georgia is part of PwC’s global network and we are completely in line with our global CSR strategy. We aim to go beyond our measures in catalyzing change in four focus areas: responsible business; diversity and inclusion; community engagement; and environmental stewardship.
PwC Georgia’s CSR strategy incorporates various executed projects benefiting business society development in Georgia through leading our client companies on the stock exchange market, supporting them in improving their risk management processes and financial reporting practices in adherence to international standards. This, we believe, eventually leads to the attraction of new investments and further business development,” said Lasha Janelidze, Partner at PwC.
“Another strategic CSR approach of our network is the PwC Georgia Academy, which supports youth and senior professionals to develop or enhance their skills in financial management, as well as introducing ‘know-how’ instruments for further application in their respective businesses. Through the Academy, we are also proud to be supporting small and medium enterprises, increasing their awareness and refining their skills in financial reporting and accounting, in order to ensure their full compliance with the laws and regulations effective in Georgia. People are the main asset for the PwC network; we invest in attracting talented people and offer them rewarding careers once they join.
PwC has recently been named a “Fortune Magazine Best Company to Work For”. We share pride in it at PwC Georgia. We are creating environments that help our people grow and develop through integrated needs-oriented programmes, planned career development, and advanced professional trainings and other motivational practices.”
Q. Do you contribute to the development of social enterprises?
A. At PwC Georgia, we would like to help increase the impact of social enterprises by offering our knowledge and expertise through pro bono consulting, master classes and workshops. Firms across the PwC network are committed to fostering and encouraging, as part of our focus on building capacity and supporting NGOs and social enterprises to maximize their potential.
In recent years, Georgian companies’ awareness of and literacy in social responsibility increased. The companies need more incentives and need to see good practice not only with long term sustainability goals but also short terms benefits. They need to see that the new generation of young people want to work for companies who don’t only care about profits.
Besides helping businesses run their errands in accordance with international standards and Georgian law, the company also uses its global experience in order to conduct CSR campaigns on the local market. PwC provides important data and analytic information for anybody who is looking to make their businesses more sustainable and in line with modern-day practices of social responsibility.
The concept of Corporate Responsibility is now on the agenda of most companies in Georgia. Businesses need to see more reliable indicators of progress in the field of CSR, more transparency, publicity of interesting projects to broader society, showcasing projects’ positive outcomes, as well as the tangible benefits they bring.
Q. What are the main challenges for PwC in terms of CSR development?
A. The challenge is to correctly assess what matters to our business and concentrate on areas where we can scale our efforts and make a difference. Some initiatives are easy to evaluate, but in most cases the payback is long-term and societal in nature. We want to be a catalyst for change.
Q. From your point of view, which companies or sectors in Georgia are expected to do more in terms of CSR than they do now?
A. Companies across all sectors should do more in terms of CSR, not only in Georgia but worldwide. There are always fields for improvement.
Q. How has PwC Georgia benefited from CSR activities?
A. The PwC purpose is to build trust and solve problems. Responsible Business Leadership is a shift in our strategy – acknowledgement that doing good for the world can be good for the business, as well. We’re creating systems where we put together different tools like charity actions, volunteering, but the main impact we have is through our business – we share knowledge through Thought Leadership and publications. Our experts are pioneers in many fields thanks to knowledge exchange in our network. We focus on assurance (audit) practices and care about ethics & transparency.
Q. Can you evaluate the financial literacy of Georgian businesses, how good are they in financial and non-financial reporting?
A. In the wake of the global financial crisis, financial literacy became more important than ever. PwC Georgia invests in a youth education programme that emphasizes personal finance, in order to improve youth’s fiscal competency. PwC Georgia Academy is a knowledge hub, where all levels of professional education are offered in the field of finance.
PwC Georgia improves companies’ reporting and complies them with International Financial Reporting Standards. Fortunately, more and more companies see compliance to international standards as important, from the perspective of transparency and risk management. Stakeholders are becoming more curious about the operational performance of business.
Q. What are your suggestions for companies and authorities in terms of environmental protection and green development?
A. Without the planet, there is no business. That is why we actively track the impact of our business and help our clients make the transition to a green economy, placing real value on natural capital.
Our firms are guided by our Network Environmental Statement. Our efforts are focused on reducing energy and paper usage from our offices. We support the new global economy, sustainable finance and are here to help you put the right strategies in place.
Q. How can the Government of Georgia contribute to CSR development?
A. In the PwC network, we serve the public sector and have extensive successful experience with central and local governments in terms of social responsibility.
The new EU Directive about non-financial reporting, effective since January 2017, requires large companies to publish reports on the policies regarding environmental protection, social responsibility, treatment of employees, respect for human rights, anti-corruption and bribery, as well as diversity on company boards in terms of age, gender, educational and professional background. This facilitates evaluation of the non-financial performance of large companies and encourages them to develop a responsible approach to business.
Q. Environmental protection is one of the main focuses of CSR globally. Air pollution in Tbilisi is critical and exceeds norms by 100 times according to WHO. Can you explain why these issues are not being well addressed and why businesses are not interfering in the situation?
A. The situation requires coordinated cooperation between businesses, local administration, NGOs etc. PwC actively works to make cities Smart and Sustainable through the PwC Smart City model – a mechanism practiced in Georgia as well.
Fundamental changes such as climate change, technological advances, increasing societal demands, demographic changes and consequences of the financial crisis are changing the playing field of cities worldwide. At PwC, we are committed to helping cities understand their challenges and design integrated solutions tailored to their needs. We assist the City Managers in creating a roadmap for city intelligence and excellence.
We assist our clients in the areas of corporate governance and business ethics, climate change and emission reductions, environmental health and safety management, corporate social responsibility, strategy and economics, responsible supply-chain management, and reporting of non-financial information. For companies looking to improve business performance and create long-term shareholder value, we can help develop a corporate responsibility / sustainability strategy that focuses on key issues for clients’ business and enhances relationships with key stakeholder groups.
Written By David Aleksidze, The FINANCIAL