Friday, May 18, 2007

Slovakia: Just getting started

After two days here in Bratislava as the guest of Pontis Foundation and the Business Leaders Forum I can say that I think we have successfully infected the local business community with the sustainability bug!

The economy is booming - nearly 10% growth per year - yet all business people I met felt that even this rate was too slow and the country had much to do to catch up. With such rapid growth of Slovak companies, the introduction of multi-nationals (I met representatives from Orange, Daimler, HP, Tesco, etc) and urbanization on the rise, everyone is trying to ensure that all this growth doesnt happen at a cost to the future economic vitality of the country.
Yesterday's full day conference attracted over 120 participants who were engaged in sessions on everything from the business case for sustainability, the GRI, the Global Compact, community investment, cause related marketing, employee and gender issues, and philanthropy. This morning we gathered about 40 people where I walked them through a more in-depth look at the GRI Guidelines. Guests from Czech Coal and Denso Hungary who have used the Guidelines for a few years now were able to present their company's business case for reporting, along with the challenges and benefits that reporting has brought them.
The prognosis? I think we will start to see some country level reports here in Slovakia - many country units already contribute to the parent company report so putting something out for the national audience won't be a difficult first step. Important will be to engage and build capacity for smaller enterprises to start with reporting. This will happen as Slovakia is held to the same standards for environmental and social performance as its other counterparts in the European Community, and pressure will be on for greater disclosure.
All in all a great trip and a facinating first look at one of Europe's newest members and how sustainability is taking shape here.

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