What is Good for Children is also Good for Business
Kopaonik, 8 March 2023 – The multiple crises the world is facing will have negative consequences and will shape the lives of children this year as well. Corporate sustainability and responsibility policies with a focus on children and youth should be an important strategy for the success of businesses, it was concluded at the panel „What is Good for Children is also Good for Business“, at the 30th-anniversary edition of the Kopaonik Business Forum.
The panel was moderated by Vesna Savic-Djukic, UNICEF Serbia Private Sector Partnerships Officer, while the panellists were Sonja Cetkovic, CEO of Infostud, Dragoljub Damljanovic, Director at Schneider Electric, Darko Popovic, President of the Executive Board of Banca Intesa, Milica Popovic, Corporate Communications Manager at Delhaize Serbia and Milica Socanac, manager at Nelt Shareholder Office.
Year three of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the global energy crisis, the biggest inflation of this century, the consequences of climate change that brought devastating floods and droughts, are all crises that know no borders. We are witnessing how the effects of a crisis from one country can easily and quickly spill over to other countries. All these challenges highlight the need for much greater cooperation, public-private partnerships and consistent activities to create better, more inclusive and productive societies. The extent to which the business sector is ready to consider and include the child rights perspective in its operations has a great impact on the long-term sustainability of the very businesses, as well as the societies in which the companies operate.
Faced with a growing labour shortage, it is necessary for the business sector to pay more and more attention to family-friendly policies and work-life balance. This is shown in the study conducted last year by Infostud, in partnership with The Network and Boston Consulting Group.
“As a result of the growing deficit of candidates in the labour market and their changed expectations, the work-life balance is, for the first time, becoming one of the most important factors for candidates when choosing a job and a company. The several-decades-long burnout culture is rapidly changing and today, work is important to young people, but it is not the most important segment of the life they want to create for themselves. There are also growing expectations from employers to support the needs that employees have in their private lives, the needs to support physical and mental health, to support the family, to provide flexibility. Such changes are a challenge for employers, but it is important to emphasize that reducing burnout and improving work-life balance will lead to increased efficiency, motivation, reduced employee turnover and better company results. In addition to that, it will lead to healthier company cultures and a healthier society as a whole”, pointed out Sonja Cetkovic, CEO of Infostud.
The panellists, leaders in their industries, highlighted business practices that promote corporate sustainability through investing in children, which at the same time contributes to achieving positive business results.
Schneider Electric focuses on energy efficiency and sustainable energy management. Along with this primary goal, the company also nurtures corporate responsibility in all areas of work, and especially focuses on investing in families and children.
“The businesses we develop and the generations to come are actually a two-way street. Businesses will not be able to survive if they are not tailor-made for future generations, nor will these generations be able to improve businesses if we do not invest in them. We recognized this a long time ago in our sphere of work, so we founded the “Centre for Young Talents” foundation more than 10 years ago, in order to contribute to the development of theoretical and practical knowledge in programming and mathematics. Thousands of free classes and hundreds of children who have passed through our Foundation, but at the end of the day, the only success that will count is the extent to which we have educated and guided our children to be prepared for the challenges that await them in the future”, believes Dragoljub Damljanovic, Director at Schneider Electric.
For the banking sector, which has gone through dramatic turbulences over the past decade, the implementation of ESG initiatives is becoming increasingly important in order to secure a place in an increasingly competitive banking environment. As part of its strategic commitment to pay special attention to the well-being of its employees, Banca Intesa is the first company in Serbia to conduct a very detailed self-assessment of its business practices and HR policies, all in line with UNICEF-developed standards.
“I am very proud that we are continuing to develop our long-term successful cooperation with UNICEF through a strategic partnership aimed at continuous improvement of family-friendly work models for the employees of Banca Intesa. I believe that thanks to the further development of the benefits system and increased flexibility in work, we can make a significant contribution to achieving an even higher level of work-life balance. On the other hand, by nurturing the social component within the application of ESG principles in our operations, we are also striving to listen and encourage young people to get involved in local initiatives aimed at the socio-ecological sustainability of communities and improving the quality of life in them, and thereby encourage economic growth and long-term development of society as a whole”, said Darko Popovic, President of the Executive Board of Banca Intesa.
A leading retail chain, Delhaize Serbia employs around 13,000 people and strives to ensure an inclusive and healthy work environment.
“We try to make sure that the benefits programme we provide to employees really meets their needs. Last year, we started a large investment cycle of investing in the salaries of employees in stores and logistics, in the amount of 30 million euros, which led to an average increase in salaries of 30 per cent. This year, we have additionally increased the number of paid vacation days for all our colleagues, along with the discount percentage on the benefit card that can be used by employees in all our stores. The results of a survey conducted by UNICEF among our colleagues show that employees are satisfied with the company’s family-friendly practices and benefits, with more than 80 per cent of them believing that work leaves them enough time for their families. And this is precisely what we find the most precious”, believes Milica Popovic, Corporate Communications Manager at Delhaize Serbia.
The company Nelt, as a leading business system in the field of logistics and distribution of consumer goods, strives to foster values based on corporate responsibility, and points out the care for people as a special value of the company.
“All Nelt Group companies are cooperating with higher education institutions in the countries where they operate, in order to help university students have the best possible start in their careers. In this field, we organize guest lectures at faculties, as well as visits of students to Nelt’s companies, which include informative presentations about the Group and other educational content about business, culture, transformation. The aim of these strategic activities is to introduce students to successful, modern businesses and opportunities for professional development within the real economy sector. We want to give all interested young people the opportunity to have a good start, and to provide them with the necessary tools for the start of their careers”, pointed out Milica Socanac, a member of the Nelt Shareholder Office.
According to the latest estimates by UNICEF and the Education Commission, almost three in four young people aged 15 to 24 in 92 countries are unable to acquire the skills necessary for employment. According to this research, children and young people living in wealthier countries have better chances for employment. In addition, UNICEF’s research and poverty projections on the impact of the war in Ukraine show that absolute poverty among children in Serbia will increase in 2023 by almost 28,000 additional children who will live below the absolute poverty line. Estimates suggest that by 2030, around 30 per cent of new participants in the labour market in Serbia will be from vulnerable and minority population categories. At the same time, the shortage of qualified future employees is an increasing challenge for the growth of companies.
Responsible companies are undertaking various activities to overcome these obstacles. Thus, Schneider Electric and the “Centre for Young Talents” foundation have been organizing free programming and mathematics training for primary and secondary school students for over 10 years now. More than 6,000 participants have attended the programmes so far.
Banca Intesa is implementing initiatives that support young people in secondary schools. Through activities carried out within the education system, Banca Intesa is listening to the opinions and needs of children and young people, trying to encourage the involvement of young people in finding solutions to the problems they are facing in their communities and is rewarding such involvement.
Investing in the development of young talents through dedicated programmes contributing to professional development is one of the strategic goals of Delhaize Serbia. These programmes include children and young people from particularly vulnerable groups in order to give them the opportunity to end the intergenerational cycle of poverty.
In cooperation with higher education institutions, Nelt organizes the exchange of knowledge through mentoring programmes, which contributes to the overall success of the company.
“Investors, employees, consumers and communities are becoming increasingly aware of the unprecedented crises that the world is currently facing and are demanding that companies operate sustainably and respect the rights of children and families. I am very pleased that today we heard from leaders of the corporate sector from various industries in Serbia how important corporate sustainability and responsibility policies with a focus on children and young people are and that they can also be an important strategy for successful business operations”, concluded Vesna Savic-Djukic from UNICEF Serbia.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/serbia