Societe Generale Srbija marks a significant jubilee this year – 40 years of doing business in Serbia. During the previous decades, besides the development of its own operations, the bank has been dedicated and contributed to the community in which it operates. Speaking about the key values in terms of corporate social responsibility that are led by this bank, which is one of the leaders on the domestic financial market, is Ivana Todorović, head of external communications at Societe Generale Srbija
Responsibility, dedication, innovation and team spirit are the values with which we manage every aspect of our business. They are embedded in our business policy regarding employees, clients and the environment, and through the granting of added value to the local community. Our corporate social responsibility strategy rests on four pillars of support to the local community.
This is the support for entrepreneurship, innovations, culture and vulnerable sectors of the population.
How significant is the role of the corporate sector when it comes to developing CSR and do you see some new trends in this area?
– The development of a society is not possible without close cooperation between all stakeholders, and the role of the corporate sector is very significant, but not only due to its financial support, because socially responsible initiatives also offer added value to the local community that they target. Concepts like mentoring, training, competition, promotions among the general public and networking and expanding networks of partners will become ever more important.
Another trend is certainly networking among partners from different sectors. Just as different industries come together in business, so social responsibility concepts will develop in this direction. I consider by networking we can provide a bigger contribution to society and create greater influence.
When it comes to trends, the results of the last Annual Corporate Social Responsibility Questionnaire, conducted by the Forum for Responsible Business, are encouraging and show that in the five years that this survey has been conducted investments in CSR activities have increased 2.5-fold, while significant growth has also been recorded in the number of volunteer hours, projects dedicated to corporate volunteering and resources invested in environmental protection and employee development.
This shows that the corporate sector is advancing markedly when it comes to socially responsible practises. We are very proud that Societe Generale Srbija has been included since 2016 on the list of the Responsible Business Index – the first national platform for assessing corporate social responsibility, which enables objective comparisons of the effects and impacts companies have on society through their operations.
In the last two years, you have been turned towards stimulating entrepreneurship. Technological entrepreneurship, in particular, has been in your focus, especially start-ups that require support the most at the start of their development. What have your results in this field been like to date?
– We wanted to provide our contribution to empowering technological entrepreneurship in Serbia and we supported ICT Hub, the centre for technological entrepreneurship and innovation. We are pleased that our cooperation has exceeded the scope of purely financial support and that we have created a long-term partnership with benefits for all parties involved because we recognised that there are various ways in which we can cooperate.
As a corporation, we started developing a start-up mindset – the way and methodology that start-ups use in their work, as well as their completely different stance and view of a business.
The start-up environment encourages us to launch into a project courageously, to be flexible and agile, so the bank’s employees – through various activities, using know-how, tools, methodologies and the energy of technological start-ups – are encouraged to innovate. The result was that we recognised new market segments, created new products and improved our services and processes.
We have organised various events together, such as two fintech hackathons and the Open Innovation Challenge, which rewarded teams with the best ideas applicable in the development of the future of banking. Moreover, cooperation opened the door for the bank to new partners from the start-up ecosystem, which are developing innovative products and services for users in an increasingly developed digital environment.
Start-ups have also taught us that there is no innovation without abandoning one’s comfort zone and accepting failure as an integral part of advancing in business. We decided to work together to change awareness of this important topic, in order for us to help present and future entrepreneurs to commit and to gain additional courage and energy in their endeavours.
The Generator platform, which we launched through a competition to select 40 entrepreneurial innovations that are innovative, viable and sustainable, attracted applications from 780 projects, which we consider a great success and yet more proof that the entrepreneurial spirit certainly exists
You launched the Generator – a platform intended to support innovative entrepreneurship. How did this project originate?
– In the year when we are celebrating 40 years of doing business in Serbia, we wanted to celebrate this jubilee by looking to the future, creating a system of support for innovations that can grow and develop in the years ahead. On the other hand, a need arose for us to strategically unify everything we’ve done in the field of innovation during the last couple of years. Thus we devised the Generator platform, which we launched through a competition to select 40 entrepreneurial innovations that are innovative, viable and sustainable.
The competition was supported by our partners Vip mobile, Maxi, KupujemProdajem and ICT Hub. Some 780 projects submitted applications for the competition, which we consider great success and yet more proof that the entrepreneurial spirit certainly exists. That’s why we believe the valuable prizes in this competition for the best innovation according to the opinion of an expert jury, the public award and partner award, as well as networking among innovators and promoting their projects in public, will provide a strong “tailwind” for all 40 of the selected innovations.
What are your plans and what will be in your focus during 2018 when it comes to CSR? Are you preparing new initiatives?
– We see the Generator as a long-term platform that will exist in the future as a place where initiatives and events contributing to the development of innovation and entrepreneurship will be promoted. The slogan “Priključi se” [get involved] is an invitation for all those who want to delve into entrepreneurial waters or expand their existing business to follow our activities, whether they want to connect with us or some of our partners, to be participants in some of our events, such as hackathons and other gatherings focused on innovation, or to be part of events and conferences that promote digital operations and entrepreneurship.
We want to thereby provide our support to empowering different ecosystems and to encourage the development of innovation and entrepreneurship.