“Women Are the Ones Leading and Driving the Development of Charity”: Russian Female Leaders Discuss Changes in Corporate Social Responsibility
The Council of the Eurasian Women’s Forum (Russian Federation Council), the Roscongress Foundation, the Innosocium Foundation – the social platform of the Roscongress Foundation, and the Donors Forum held an online session titled ‘Female Leaders on Corporate Social Responsibility Priorities after Coronavirus’.
The business session was the launch point for a series of 12 programme events hosted by the Council of the Eurasian Women's Forum (EWF) and the Innosocium Foundation in the run-up to the third EWF ‘Women: A Global Mission in a New Reality’.
“The role of social institutions is growing significantly in this new reality in which the modern world finds itself. However, women are the ones who are inspiring the most socially oriented initiatives: thanks to their energy and active involvement, programmes are being implemented in culture and education to support young people and vulnerable groups of citizens. The Council of the EWF currently faces numerous significant challenges, but, most importantly, there is an understanding of how to overcome the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. All the conclusions and decisions made at the business sessions will be reflected in the programme of the third Eurasian Women’s Forum”, said Yelena Marinina, coordinator of the Global Platform of the Eurasian Women’s Forum, Deputy CEO of the Roscongress Foundation, and Director of the Innosocium Foundation.
The online conference was attended by representatives of government, business, and charity: Galina Karelova, Deputy Chairwoman of the Russian Federation Council and Chairwoman of the Council for the Development of Social Innovations of the Russian Federation under the Russian Federation Council; Natalya Komarova, Governor of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District; Fatima Mukhomejan, First Deputy Director of the ‘Art, Science, and Sport’ Charitable Foundation; Alexandra Boldyreva, Executive Director of the Donor Forum; Anna Soshinskaya, President of the Amway Charitable Foundation ‘Responsible for the Future’; Marina Rakova, Vice President of Sberbank; Alexander Glazkov, Vice President of Biocad; Yelena Pakhomova, Director of Recruiting, Selecting, and Developing Talent at Mars in Russia; and Anna Nesterova, Founder and Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the Global Rus Trade electronic platform.
During the first online meeting, the speakers considered changes in corporate social responsibility (CSR) as well as charity and social institutions in Russia.
In her welcoming speech, Galina Karelova noted the growing role that women play in CSR.
“Active preparations are already under way for the third Eurasian Women’s Forum. Its concept is coming together. In the new reality, the theme of enhancing women’s role in the development of CSR will undoubtedly occupy a special place on the forum’s agenda. CSR practices in Russia clearly affirm that women are the ones leading and driving the development of charity. They are initiating the creation of specialized departments to develop CSR at companies, insisting on the inclusion of a sustainable development agenda in their business strategy, quickly responding to new challenges, and offering effective systematic solutions. This has been vividly demonstrated in particular during the pandemic”, said Galina Karelova, Deputy Chairwoman of the Russian Federation Council and Chairwoman of the Eurasian Women’s Forum.
Many of the participants made note of the changing level of dialogue between business, government, and NGOs.
“NGOs as well as the authorities in the regions are significant partners for business, and we are seeing how many companies have shown understanding and flexibility in terms of adjusting deadlines and reporting for projects that they supported. Many NGOs and donor organizations themselves have launched additional programmes that aim to ensure sustainability in the sector”, said Alexandra Boldyreva, Executive Director of the Donors Forum.
Amendments to the Russian Tax Code have been an important step in the development of philanthropy in Russia, specifically amendments to Federal Law No. 172-FZ dated 8 June 2020 “On Amendments to Part Two of the Tax Code of the Russian Federation”, which aim to support business and allow for classifying up to 1 % of proceeds from socially oriented NGOs as non-operating expenses.
“The pandemic intensified the work of the voluntary sector and significantly consolidated civil society, while volunteering was tested with numerous difficulties. In general, this is a resource that helps get people involved in projects, which is essential for achieving the national development goals. The amendments that have been signed into law expand our opportunities for the development of the charitable and non-profit sector”, said Natalya Komarova, Governor of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District.
Fatima Mukhomejan, First Deputy Director of the ‘Art, Science, and Sport’ Charitable Foundation, spoke about the need to develop various tools to support the work of NGOs: “Positioning charity as a sector of the economy requires a more professional approach. And it is crucial in this regard to develop relations between NGOs and the state, which has already shown its openness and willingness to help. Relations must be established both within the sector and outside of it. For example, philanthropic support is crucial for art, science, and sports. These areas are in great need of support in times of crisis and quarantine, and grants enable institutions to reformat their activities online and remain in the public eye”.
The session participants stressed that, whereas healthcare has received an adequate level of support from socially oriented businesses, culture and education, which were not able to avoid the negative impact of the pandemic, either, were left without proper attention, unfortunately. In particular, it has become that education has a clear need to further develop digital skills and IT competencies among teachers as well as planning and goal-setting skills among students.
“Over three weeks, we have provided an opportunity to 2,234 schools to continue their education using the Sberbank digital platform. Over three months, we saw key problematic issues in the educational system that we need to work with. Today, children are forced to plan their day on their own. As part of updates to the Federal Educational Standards, we will place an emphasis on increasing the independence of children and the development of relevant skills among teachers”, said Marina Rakova, Vice President of Sberbank.
As the online meeting concluded, the speakers agreed that the corporate social responsibility of companies should aim to not only support social institutions that have been negatively impacted, but also to improve the working conditions of employees.
Going forward, 11 more business sessions will be held with Russian female leaders. All of them will take place as part of preparations for the third Eurasian Women’s Forum, which will be held in September 2021.