CSR in Bulgaria

The concept for Corporate Social Responsibility, namely the companies’ responsibility for the economic, social and ecological outcomes of their activities, is a relatively new concept in Bulgaria. The use of this notion has mainly been related to the processes of integration and acceptance of our country for a full-right member of EU and the established traditions and experience in this field of the international companies that have entered our market.

Despite the slow acceptance of the principles and policies of CSR in comparison with the world trends, the Bulgarian business has increased significantly its awareness of these models, because apart from the practices that the companies themselves can benefit from, these business models serve as a condition for survival and competitiveness in today’s  global economy reality.

Various initiatives held by international and national organizations help the popularization of CSR amongst the Bulgarian companies. The ones that are worth being mentioned are:

-          The inauguration of the Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum in November 1998 and the launch of the project Code of Business Ethics October 1999 when several BBLF member companies presented their codes of business ethics and shared examples of good business practices. The strategic goal of the project was to initiate the preparation of a Code of Business Ethics on a voluntary basis by companies operating in Bulgaria. The first draft of the Code was presented at a press conference on September 26, 2000, and its latest version broadly discussed with Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Deputy Prime Minister Nikolay Vassilev and the business community on September 3, 2001.

-          The creation of a national network of companies, members of the initiative Global Compact, in 2003 that aimed to make social responsible practices in Bulgaria more popular.

-          In 2007 a Bulgarian Code for Corporate Governance was adopted and later on the Association of Bulgarian Industrial Capital together with the Association of Bulgarian Investor Relation Directors presented a Handbook of Good Practices for Corporate Social Responsibility, which is applied in the activities of 130 Bulgarian companies at the moment.

-          In 2010 indicators for measurement of the effectiveness of CSR on national and company level have been developed in the frames of the regional project “Increasing of the transparency and reliability of the CSR practices through establishment of a system for evaluation and monitoring of CSR in the new EU member-states”.

Some of the most active organizations in the popularization of these initiatives are: UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization), BBLF (Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum), Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce, Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, CEIBG (Confederation of the Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria, American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria, BCAF (Bulgarian Charities Aid Foundation).

The state also has an active role and encourages the implementation of CSR in the country by creating an appropriate legislative environment and conditions for effective partnerships between all interested parties.

Bulgaria had ratified different UN conventions, related to respect of human rights, ecology and fight against corruption, as well as the ones related to ILO (International Labour Organization), in respect of the labour standards.

In addition to that on 25.11.2009 was adopted a National Strategy for Corporate Social Responsibility, that reflects the state attitude towards CSR matters and has as an objective the creation and reinforcement of a favorable environment for the implementation of CSR practices.

The strategy covers the 2009-2013 period and is divided in three steps: analysis of the situation; vision, goals and principles; and implementation of the CSR strategy.

As a result of all these activities and efforts CSR’s popularity amongst the Bulgarian business is increasing and more and more companies declare their social and ecological engagement. Nevertheless the fact is that in the greater number of cases the companies are doing charity, donations or restricted in their scope activities in this direction, and don’t act on the implementation of comprehensive internationally acknowledged corporate models and standards, aiming to be a part of a long-term strategy for sustainable growth.

We cannot miss the fact that in 2011 a great advance in relation to the implementation of transparent and responsible management in Bulgaria was made and two companies presented their first reports on Sustainable development and CSR (for 2010), based on G3 created by GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) - the world’s most widely used standard for measurement of the economic, social and ecological impact and achieving of sustainable development. If this example is to be followed by other companies, this will definitely set a serious base for the recognition of social responsible business models and the creation of a competitive and sustainable economy in Bulgaria.