Building a better world / Article in Swiss Learning Magazine

Launched in 2004, the Philias CSR Award aims to raise awareness of the corporate social responsibility challenges among future managers. Considering 2007 recipient Marc Gasser’s path proves this award significant to further key social and environmental issues.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is leisurely going its own sweet way infiltrating the management echelons of SMEs to multinational companies. Naturally, it needs to be given a bit of boost as “ensuring a constant and constructive dialogue between companies and their stakeholders(i.e. customers/consumers, local authorities, unions, governments, suppliers, NGOs, media, local community, em-ployees, social investors, investors, and the supply chain) as well as contributing to the social and environmental well-being of the community in which they operate is not obvious”, explains Philias Foundation founding director Bettina Ferdman-Guerrier. It disputes traditional methods and soon-to-be outdated mentalities that today’s leaders find hard to get rid of and related costs can make them look like a luxury not every company can afford. Training the managers’ new generation is more important than ever.

The Philias CSR Award has been specially designed for students to link practice with theory. Working on dedicated case studies helps them to experience a subject ‘in the field’. They meet with volunteer companies, audit them, and make recommendations either to implement bespoke solutions in their long-term strategy, for example undertaking philanthropy projects that would increase their investment in the community, or to structure their own responsible business concept and best communicate about it. Even if companies do not have to implement these solutions the initiative is not useless and often, though slowly, bears fruits.

Bettina Ferdman points out “how important is this critical look the young generation takes at companies, by the way beneficial for both.”

Co-founder of Astina, a SME specializing in sophisticated business and web applications and customized software, Marc Gasser fully made the most of his experience. Is CSR a marketing tool camouflaging the pursuit of profit or is it an opportunity to do something right? Do meeting the goals of profit optimization and sustainability equate with utopia? These are the questions Marc’s project for Philias brought an answer to. He comprehended that “even if the chief end is but agressive performance, it is a business area compatible with increasing profit while achieving a leadership position. The London trip I was awarded offered me to step into a network teeming with ideas. The treatment of employees alone invites a wide range of possibilities to enhance team quality, from holidays to free time to the ratio hour/week, etc.

Gasser didn’t content himself with watching and listening. He’s started to provide incentives for improving Astina’s positive impact on society. At the moment, four areas are on the go:

(1) workplace: Astina has a great flexible attitude about work hours, collective lunches and aperitifs, and pays higher pension fund contributions than the required minimum; (2) environment: using renewable energy to maintain the data processing centre as well as encouraging public transportation and bicycles; (3) community: by financially supporting a bicycle race in Tibet besides supplying other causes with materials or free webpage updates; and (4) marketplace: Astina is conducting a supplier review in order to find appropriate partners to outsource some business units.

Today everything’s on schedule for success. Gasser is aware of what he owes to the award and remains a die-hard supporter because “it helps students not to miss the concept which is giving back something to the world.” &

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