четверг, 24 марта 2011 г.

Overview of the SKOLKOVO Students’ Accountability Project

In continuation to our publication series on the students’ project work in public sector today we will touch upon the project on the development of the social (non-financial) accountability of Russian organization.

Non-financial accountability plays crusial role in the sustainable development concept definition and realization. The sustainable development concept was conceived in 1970-s and represents the development process corresponding with the present and not putting risks to the next generation needs. It involves social, economic and environmental spheres that mutually provide the required quality of people’s life if managed properly.

The project goal is to promote non-financial accountability (NFA) among Russian companies without introducing any changes into the law. That means to come up with such a tool that could prevail Russian business upon bringing non-financial reporting (which reflects the real company’s contribution to the development of the society and preservation of the environment) in their practice.

This challenging task was set to the students by the Ministry of Health and Social Development of the Russian Federation represented by the Minister, Tatiana Alexeevna Golikova – the project’s client. They had only two months to get to know the current status of the NFA system in our country, review the world’s best practices, feel and understand the positions of all the stakeholders and based on these factors to propose their recommendations of NFA development and promotion to the Ministry.

The project team consists of 5 SKOLKOVO students (from L to R in the picture):
Anna Shaykhutdinova (team leader), Anssi Jokinen, Ekaterina Dolgosheeva, Alexey Kushner and Marcus Alves

The team learned out that 90% of large companies in Russia do currently work on their corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainable development, but it was only 77 companies who published their non-financial accountability reports in 2010 (according to the data from the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs). And this fact can not be called unexpected, as there is no accepted understanding of what CSR actually is. Moreover, business corporations don’t see any value in NFA and its monetization.

Our project team proposes to approach the problem from two perspectives.

First, the students propose to create the consolidated stock index for sustainable development. Such an index, being based on socially conscious investments, may become an objective benchmark for all financial products. As an extra performance indicator for corporations it can encourage investments, enhance employees’ motivation, help bringing shareholders’ recognition, etc. On the other side, it can improve business transparancy which is known to be of great importance for foreign investors. Therefore such an index will stimulate the promotion of NFA. Such indices were successfully introduced into the business practice in Finland and in Brazil, for example. The students’ work gives a full and comprehensive analysis of possible benefits and problems of introducing such an index into the Russian business practice. Being supported by RTS and MICEX, this initiative will be discussed at the next meeting of the Stock Board of Directors.

From the other side, the students propose promoting the value of CSR in the society as well. Currently this factor is of low importance to the customers, if any, mostly because of the inavailability of the respective data and low public awareness on the issue. Thus the SKOLKOVO team has worked out several methods of raising the general literacy in that field and bringing up a consious and responsible customer paying attention to all the aspects of the company’s activity. For instance, those can be the following: creating specialized web portals containing the data on the CSR of different companies, using popular mass media sources for information propagation, etc.

Besides, there is also the third way of promoting the companies’ activities in the field – though working only in a long run – using the retirement investments for stimulating the companies’ activities in the CSR field. This idea was actively supported by Elena Topoleva, the group manager, and its entrenchment into the Russian Federation 2020 Development Strategy had been discussed during the meeting of the Civic Chamber on March 23rd.

We all aspire in the nearest future to see the results of implementing our students’ recommendations. Meanwhile the project team is now sharing their conclusions with the public: on March 9th their ideas were discussed at the RIA Novosti platform with the participation of the representatives from business, non-profit organizations, state government and financial markets. We wish our students the best of luck and look forward to hear their final report!

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