'Local biz falls short on global responsibility'

Zvi Ziv, CEO of Bank Hapoalim, said that although Israel was not in a bad place in international comparison, much more needed to be done.

By SHARON WROBEL
October 16, 2007 08:35
2 minute read.
intel building 88  224

intel building 88 224. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Israeli managers are beginning to invest in building a record of social corporate responsibility as a critical component of the company's brand value but a new study finds that their investment still encompasses mainly traditional corporate philanthropy and limited community involvement when compared with global peers. "Israeli managers today are starting to place much more importance on corporate social responsibility but it still encompasses more philanthropy than business strategy to invest into the environment, ethics, employee benefits, security or health issues at the work place," said Avi Berger, managing director of PricewaterhouseCoopers at the Maala Corporate Social Responsibility Conference in Tel Aviv on Monday, presenting the findings of a survey of Israeli managers on corporate social responsibility issues in comparison to their overseas peers. "Furthermore, the survey shows that in international comparison, the directorate of Israeli companies is much less involved in formulating corporate social responsibility." According to the findings of the survey conducted by Maala, Kesselman & Kesselman and PwC, the directorate of only 10 percent of the 300 largest Israeli companies questioned played an important part in shaping corporate social responsibility policy compared with 22% for their global peers. "It seems that Israeli managers have not yet grasped the importance of creating the dialog with stakeholders, consumers, customers, suppliers and employees as the basis for the implementation of social corporate behavior," said Berger. Zvi Ziv, the incoming Chairman of Maala and CEO of Bank Hapoalim, said that although Israel was not in a bad place in international comparison, much more needed to be done. "We want more companies to join the Maala social responsibility ranking, while on the other hand local government in Israel needs to be more active in cooperating with the private sector." On the subject of the role of the government, Galia Maor, CEO of Bank Leumi, said the government must clearly define its budget priorities to create successful partnerships with the private sector and secure an efficient allocation of resources. Also speaking at the conference, President Shimon Peres said businesses should contribute more to the community than philanthropic donations to help close the widening social gaps, in particular for the orthodox and Arabic communities - the poorest sections of the population. "We need to enable those communities to enter the working world by, for example, bringing hi-tech into the Arabic community," Peres said. Today, the building of solid corporate citizenship through, for example, environmental practices and investment into quality education, is understood by the majority of global companies to be of material benefit to the company and its shareholders. As such, it is viewed as essential to business success. IBM, for instance, was one of the first companies to prepare an annual environmental impact report, an annual report on diversity, provide paid vacations, health insurance, sick leave, job sharing, and domestic partner benefits. "Corporate Responsibility, though practiced at IBM since the inception of the company nearly 100 years ago, is still a relatively new concept globally and it is still much misunderstood," said Stanley Litow, president of the global IBM Foundation and vice president for Global Community Relations at IBM. "For example, Enron and MCI, before their fall from grace, both showed up on a list of 100 top companies compiled by Business Ethics Magazine, demonstrating how little we know and how much we have to learn about true corporate social responsibility. The real measure is the holistic approach of a company, a change of culture from inside and not necessarily the ranking."

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