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Green social responsibility gets creative

Romania’s recession has caused businesses to re-evaluate - but not yet dump - their green corporate social responsibility projects

February 2010 - From the Print Edition

4 Photos
Hit by the financial crisis, big businesses in Romania have become more creative and attentive to how they construct their green social responsibility projects.
Since the downturn beginning in mid-2008, companies have been publicising fewer projects such as volunteers planting trees, NGO partnerships and donations to green causes.
“Superficial feel-good PR story projects seem to have drastically decreased,” says John J Aston, managing director at green CSR consultancy AstonEco Management. “The seriousness at board, senior and middle management level, however, towards running a business responsibly, including meetings on the costs linked to a firm’s responsibility towards stakeholders, the environment and sustainable development and building a business that is long lasting, is significantly increasing.”
This has encouraged some companies to better assess how their CSR programmes not only help the environment, but also assist local communities and help generate business which can benefit the economy, the company, its staff and Romanian society in the long-term. Holistic green projects which can become an investment are on the rise. “Often a key element of this is not to spend too much money, but rather to give time to listen and build relationships,” says Aston.
Below The Diplomat analyses many of Romania’s largest companies’ green CSR projects over the last year.

BCR Erste: CO2 busting eco-business for the disabled

Planting trees is a common green initiative – but bank BCR Erste went one stage further by planting fruit trees on land owned by a disabled persons’ association, in a move which helped reduce CO2 emissions and encourage enterprise among those with special needs.
Last year the financial institution teamed up with NGO MaiMult Verde to plant 700 apple, apricot and pear trees on a land plot in Pantelimon, Ilfov county. The landowner, Association Prietenia, represents people with mental and physical disabilities who, by 2012, will either eat or sell on the fruit.
“We wanted to make a more complex project, including three good deeds: planting trees, encouraging healthy nutrition and offering an organisation the possibility to benefit from these fruits,” says Ramona Chirila, head of corporate affairs at BCR - Erste. “The orchard will be certified as ecological, as we have kept the right distance between the trees, did not mix the varieties and we will not use any chemical fertiliser.”

In 2010, this project will expand outside Bucharest and target beneficiaries including children and old-aged pensioners.
BCR - Erste also launched an internal green CSR project, called ‘Eco BCR’ which targets a reduction in water, electricity and paper use. This included articles in an internal magazine, stickers in the bank’s bathrooms encouraging the saving of water and electricity and containers for collecting the paper, which is then recycled. “In four months we recycled 30 tonnes of paper and our target for 2010 is to reduce the water consumption by 30 per cent and energy consumption by five per cent,” says Chirila.

BCR - Erste
Projects in 2009:
‘Eco BCR’, recycling and energy use awareness
‘BCR Orchard’, 700 fruit trees planted in Ilfov county
Budget for ‘BCR Orchard’: 45,000 Euro

Cosmote: greening up the office

Cosmote Romania continued last year its ‘Green Office’ project to encourage employees to recycle and reduce the consumption of office supplies and water, energy and paper.
“In the first year, Cosmote employees managed to recycle over three tonnes of paper - the equivalent of 50 cut trees,” says Ruxandra Voda, Cosmote Romania corporate affairs manager. “Our employees also recycled over 550 kilos of plastic and reduced the energy and water consumption by ten per cent.”

Last year over 500 Cosmote employees attended an environment protection training to educate them in finding easy methods to protect the environment.
In November 2009 around 100 employees of Cosmote Romania and Germanos Telecom Romania planted around 5,000 baby oak and ash trees on forest land near Bucharest, with NGO MaiMult Verde and Romanian Forestry Company Romsilva as partners.

Petrom: Green awareness from a virtual world

Oil and gas producer Petrom Romania for two years has set up an awareness campaign ‘Resources for the future’ to encourage responsible use of water, electricity and energy, using an online community.
Petrom created an imagined state, called ‘Tara lui Andrei’ [Andrei’s Country], where anyone interested in environment protection can become a citizen and join in green actions organised by Petrom.
“The character, Andrei, tells us that if we do not start today to do something to protect the environment, our future might not be very bright,” says Mona Nicolici, CSR communication manager at Petrom. “The idea was to create a responsible community, because there are people who have the feeling that their efforts have no impact on the community. The best way to gather people interested in this initiative, who are mainly young, was to create an online platform.”

‘Tara lui Andrei’ has a flag, anthem, constitution, cities, a school and a house. People can access this platform to find out information about the responsible use of water, energy, paper and electricity resources. The country’s citizens can plant virtual trees and the following spring they can plant real trees with Petrom and NGO MaiMult Verde, in Romania.
Online competitions include projects drafted by individuals and NGOs for their own communities, which are voted by platform and, each month, one winner receives 5,000 Euro financing from Petrom to implement the project. “This stimulates people to look for problems in the environment and try to solve them,” says Nicolici. The first winning project will target a village in Tulcea and consists in the selective collection and recycling of waste in the natural reservation ‘Valea Fagilor’.
Since 2008 Petrom has organised an annual environmental awareness camp for children. Last year the camp was organized in Durau (Neamt county) for 800 children, some belonging to Petrom employees, others selected online through a quiz. The camp teaches kids how to save energy, fry an egg using sunlight, put up a tent and keep the forest tidy.
Last year Petrom built a park in Constanta in its ongoing ‘Parks of the future’ project. “We wanted this project to generate a change in the cities and be a model for the city halls which can then continue building more parks,” says Nicolici. This year Petrom plans to help advise city halls how to get financing from environment funds and build the parks themselves.
Petrom will also start this year a project with Recolamp to collect light bulbs in all the headquarters and refineries of the company.

Petrom
Projects 2009:
‘Tara lui Andrei’ online community and awareness platform
‘Parks of the future’: one park in Constanta
Partners: MaiMult Verde, Constanta City Hall

URBB: the big clean up continues

Tuborg beer producer and importer United Romanian Breweries Bereprod (URBB) last year continued a comprehensive project to clean up Romania, together with the Ministry of Environment and Romanian Recycling Association RoRec.

Under the name “Green Umbrella”, the message was ‘Let’s keep Romania clean!’, while activities included cleaning beaches or forests and broadcasting video spots about the importance of protecting green areas.
“Surveyed by us, 95 per cent of Romanians consider that environment protection is very important, but asked what they are doing in this respect, most of them did not know what to answer or thought it was somebody else’s concern,” says Alina Bratu, PR manager at URBB.
In 2008 URBB helped clean-up Baneasa forest and Constanta, and has since targeted the mountainous areas. “The mountains and the seaside are the dirtiest areas, because tourists care less about keeping these clean than the areas they live in,” says Bratu.
In cities such as Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara, Brasov, Bucharest, Sinaia (Prahova county) and Mangalia (Constanta county), actions included giving out stickers with campaign messages, selective waste collection and collection of the waste electronic and electric equipment WEEE, supported by RoRec, and ended with cleaning green areas.
To support the project, URBB brought in local bands to give concerts in each of the cities, including Cargo, Directia 5 and Zdob si Zdub – while band members helped out in activities such as picking up rubbish. Last year 14 tonnes of WEEE, one tonne of paper and one tonne of plastic were collected through the ‘Green Umbrella’ programme.
URBB also went to the cleanest cities of Romania, designated by people who voted on the company’s website. The winners were Piatra Neamt, Sibiu, Brasov, Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara and Constanta.

URBB
Projects 2009:
‘Green Umbrella’ cleaning green areas around or in cities, selective waste and WEEE collection
75,000 stickers reading ‘No one throws garbage from this car’, distributed to drivers
Partners: the Ministry of Environment and RoRec
Budget: 1.5 million RON

Orange: energy reduction and local food promotion

Telecom operator Orange Romania has been promoting a reduction in resource consumption, selective waste collection and recycling, while also building up local farming enterprises in Transylvania.
Starting in December 2009, all mobile phones owners can hand in their old phone for a discount on a new one. Orange’s programme collects non-usable second-hand phones for recycling and resale in Asia. “The purpose of the “buy-back” service is to collect two per cent of all phones older than two years,” says Catalina Paslaru, CSR officer at Orange Romania.

Last September, Orange launched an electronic bill to reduce costs and save paper. “The quantity of paper used monthly to print the bills for subscribers was significant,” adds Paslaru.
Since 2005 Orange employees have been collecting and recycling paper, printing cartridges and batteries. Between July 2008 and June 2009, Orange recycled 31 tonnes of paper and collected 113 tonnes of batteries, 112 tonnes of equipment, two tonnes of cable and two tonnes of printer cartridges. Recently the number of company cars has dropped, while existing vehicles have been replaced with those using 30 per cent less CO2 emissions.
Since 2005 Orange Romania and foundation Adept Transilvania have continued a programme to protect 100,000 hectares in Tarnava Mare (Mures county). This included assisting the establishment of local producers associations, while 190 farmers benefited from consultancy and help in applying for EU funds. Since then the production of local cheese has increased and the zone has attracted funding for solar-powered driers for fruit or plants. New guest houses have opened in the region and, in May 2009, a centre was built for food processing.

Orange
Projects 2009:
Buy-back programme for mobile phones
Electronic Bills
Collection and recycling of paper, printing cartridges and batteries
Local business support in Tarnava Mare, Mures county
Tourist information centre built in Saschiz, Mures county
Partners: Adept Romania

Carpatcement: greening up city suburbs

In 2009 cement producer Carpatcement Holding supported a greening up of Bucharest’s outskirts as one of its ongoing initiatives in an investment of 150,000 Euro.
“These projects protect the environment and support the development of the local community,” said Bogdan Arnautu, communication manager at Carpatcement Holding.
The company, a large industrial manufacturer and part of Germany’s HeidelbergCement, continued its “Bucharest is breathing” programme to reconstruct the green belt of Bucharest. Carpatcement plan¬ted around 8,000 trees in villages in Ilfov county and helped build the first park in Copaceni village, Ilfov county.
“This was a reaction to the drastic de¬¬cline in the green belt of Bucharest and its purpose was to refresh the air and filter out pollution from the city,” says Arnautu.
Another project developed is “Save Bicaz Lake” which aims to protect the countryside around Romania’s largest artificial lake in Neamt county, where a Carpatcement factory is located, by collecting plastic bottles and promoting selective waste collection. Carpatcement placed collection containers in 11 villages in the region of Poiana Teiului near Bicaz lake. The company is also helping the community compact the plastic waste and turn it into energy at its Bicaz factory.

Carpatcement Holding and NGO Ecosophia Association have also been developing for five years the project “Together for nature”, where children are taught about environmental protection. Together with representatives of several national parks in Europe, the NGO and company organised quizzes to test children’s environmental awareness.

Carpatcement
Projects 2009:
‘Bucharest is breathing”, ‘Save Bicaz Lake’, ‘Together for nature’
Partners: Agency of Environment Experts, Agency for Environment Protection Ilfov, Regional Agency for Environment Protection Bucharest, Ecological Club “Green Origins” Suceava, Ecosophia Association, National Forests Agency, Romstal, Atlassib and Alka

Heineken: training up green ambassadors

Beer producer Heineken Romania and NGO MaiMult Verde last year has been training green ambassadors to further enlist volunteers in environmental projects around the country.
Joining them together for the project ‘Recycle, Raft & Race!’, the NGO and Heineken encouraged the collecting of waste plastic bottles, which volunteers then used as ballast for rafts to race on Baneasa Lake.
“Besides an aim to improve the social climate and the environment, the idea was to start not just one project for waste collection, but 100 environment projects, with the help of 100 trained volunteers which could each initiate further his or her own green project,” says Ana-Maria Muresan, corporate relations manager at Heineken Romania.
A hundred young volunteers from across Romania were trained to mobilise further volunteers in their own communities to organise events to protect the environment, such as cleaning forests or parks and planting trees. The young people went on a training camp for one month, where they took classes in leadership, communication, project development and outdoor survival.

Each week they were visited by stars including TV presenters Iulia Vantur and Amalia Enache, singer Razvan Fodor and former gymnast Andreea Raducan, who helped them clean up areas around Bucharest.
The teams collected waste from various areas of Prahova Valley and the plastic bottles were used to build rafts that volunteers raced on Baneasa lake, before dismantling the vehicles and handing over the waste to recycling firms.

Heineken Romania
Projects 2009:
‘Recycle, Raft &Race’
Purpose of the project: waste collection and recycling
Results: 30 tonnes of PETs collected
Partners: MaiMult Verde

Unicredit: bank doubles as recycling point

Financial institution Unicredit Tiriac Bank last year placed waste containers in 82 of its 250 branches to collect used light bulbs and small gadgets.
The ‘Green Corner’ [Coltul Verde] com¬ponent of the bank’s green CSR programme ‘RE Campaign’ was set-up in partnership with light bulk recycler Recolamp and electronic and electric waste (WEEE) recycler Ecotic.
“Everyone, no matter if they are the customers of the bank or not, can bring light bulbs, old mobile phones, small computers and irons in-store,” says Anca Nuta, identity and communication director, UniCredit Tiriac Bank. Customer can recycle large items such as refrigerators and washing machines by calling an in-store green line where a bank employee passes on relevant advice.
Nuta says the main purpose was not to collect large quantities of waste, but to improve the awareness of selective waste collection and information about where and how people can recycle.

RE Campaign encourages its employees to start collecting and recycling paper and save water and electric energy. The bank also placed stickers in its bathrooms and on its printers and mirrors, with messages such as ‘Turn off the light when you leave the room!’ and ‘Do not use a lot of paper when you wipe your hands’.
The bank last year changed its car fleet to cars that had a reduced the CO2 emission level and cut the number of business trips abroad by plane. Meanwhile the bank’s ongoing rent-a-bike initiative ‘Ciclotect’ last year added 50 more bikes to its park.
Unicredit Tiriac aims to focus on granting loans for green projects. It started last year with a loan worth 4.36 million Euro granted to Green WEEE International which will build in Buzau the biggest factory in south-eastern Europe, providing treatment services for WEEE.

Unicredit
Projects 2009:
‘RE Campaign’: paper recycling, water, energy and CO2 emission reduction
‘Green Corner’ collection and recycling of WEEE and light bulbs
‘Ciclotect’ city rent-a-bike initiative
Partners: Recolamp and Ecotic

Romtelecom: saving water and power at home

Last April telecom operator Romtelecom launched a campaign to promote responsible use of water and energy and highlight methods to avoid waste.
The green CSR project ‘Save for yourself! Save for tomorrow!’ was launched in partnership with the Romanian Consumer Protection Association (ANPCPPSR).
“The campaign stresses the need to rethink the priorities regarding the use of resources,” says Mihaela Paduroiu, senior PR specialist at Rometelcom, “such as water and electricity, which we consider to be an endless resource.”
Romtelecom posted on the website of the campaign a calculator which people could use to add up the energy consumption in kWh per month of their home appliances, videos, lights and PCs. This also calculated the amounts in RON each consumer has to pay for the energy use. “Completely turning off electric equipment when it is not in use can reduce the costs of an electricity bill by up to 30 per cent,” says Paduroiu.

The programme also included information about energy saving strategies on flyers, radio and TV spots and online.
The two partners in the project organised a contest with video-tapes showing people using resources rationally, giving prizes for the best practical advice and most amusing video.

Romtelecom
Projects 2009:
‘Save for yourself! Save for tomorrow!’
Power and water use awareness in the home
Partners: Romtelecom and ANPCPPSR

Mol: turning public on to green space

Hungarian petrol and gas merchandiser Mol Romania in 2009 celebrated four years of financing NGOs and schools to help rehabilitate urban green spaces and protected areas of nature.
“The purpose of the programme is to get NGOs, schools and public institutions involved in the set up of new green areas and the refurbishment of old ones, such as public parks, playgrounds and school parks,” says Felmeri Erzsebet, PR coordinator at Mol Romania.

Developed by Mol Romania in collaboration with the Foundation for Partnership, the project included the rehabilitation of 32 areas in Romania in 2009. Part of this ‘Green Spaces’ programme also promoted the existence and value of protected areas of nature in Romania. Few Romanians are well-educated about their own natural estate, although half the bears and wolves and one third of the lynx in the EU live in Romania.
Of the almost 1,000 protected areas in the country, only 28 natural and national parks and a few hundred smaller zones have coherent management structures.
Mol Romania allotted 150,000 Euro for the development of its green CSR initiatives in 2009. “Despite the fact that 2009 was a year of crisis, Mol Romania, tripled the budget of its programme on 2008,” says Erzsebet.

Mol Romania
Projects 2009:
‘Green Spaces’
Partners: Foundation for Partnership
Green urban areas rehabilitated: 32
Financing: 150,000 Euro

Metro: smartening up playgrounds

German retailer Metro Cash & Carry has helped rehabilitate and build new public play areas for children, with Real hypermarket assisting.

Between 2007 and 2008 the project targeted Targu-Mures, Galati, Craiova, Baia Mare, Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara, Oradea, Sibiu, Brasov and, in 2009, Constanta.
“We also built some new playground areas, after agreeing with the local authorities on the locations,” says Adina Tamplaru, corporate communication manager at Metro Cash & Carry. Metro and Real bought new benches, trimmed the green spaces and brought in new waste containers. Last year the cash & carry store also organised a “buy back” campaign for the collection of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

Metro
Projects 2009:
“Children’s Playground”
“Buy Back” programme for WEEE collection
Partners: Real Hypermarket

All corporate news compiled and written by Corina Ilie
Additional reporting: Michael Bird



COMMENTS
There are 2 comments:

Brian Minty: on 2010-02-15 16:46:20
|Perhaps if Petrom spent more time actually paying the overdue invoices of SME's then their CSR campaigns would be viewed in a better light.

Brian Minty: on 2010-02-15 16:46:28
|Perhaps if Petrom spent more time actually paying the overdue invoices of SME's then their CSR campaigns would be viewed in a better light.

 
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