A brand with 30 years of experience in the market, with a 100% Polish capital, which manufactures the most technologically advanced garage doors, gates, doors, and fences under the WIŚNIOWSKI brand name in the south of Poland. The last name of the founder and owner of the company not only guarantees quality, but is also a personal assurance of responsibility for over 1,700 employees, their families, and millions of users of the brand’s products around the world.
We know social issues very well. They differ depending on the given society and they are related to the level of development and sometimes to the geopolitical location. We have been hearing about the issues of climate change, environmental pollution, shortage of water and food, poverty, social exclusion, insufficient skills, education, and access to health care for years. But the awareness of these issues has been changing and thanks to the activity of non-governmental organizations and social movements for sustainable growth and corporate social responsibility (CSR), it has been growing and is reaching the peak level now. However, the effects of these actions are disproportionate to the needs, as economies of scale are missing. And this is where the theory of Michael Porter comes into play, which states that only business has sufficient funds to achieve these economies of scale. As an enterprise, we have been acting intuitively for many years, because we are well aware that only the path of synergy is effective. Let us go over this on the example of our activities in the fields of WIŚNIOWSKI’s operation.
Funding CSR activities
The term “CSR” itself is frequently used just to build a market advantage of the company in the customers’ conscience. It is quite common that companies introduce elements of CSR to promote their sales. And there is nothing wrong with that as long as there are some good deeds involved. However, the communication of holistic activities of companies or brands for the benefit of society, including local activities, has a more permanent effect and brings better results. Hand in hand with the 2015 autumn special offer, we carried out the “Make the Dream about Security Come True” campaign, which involved gathering funds to equip the care and education facilities with WIŚNIOWSKI products. “This was not just about funding gates, doors or fences for children’s homes that needed them most. It was about engaging and educating children about the safety of products and environment. We invited over 1,000 facilities to participate. In the end, we furnished 11 of them with modern, safe products with the WIŚNIOWSKI logo. We are currently carrying out another project, which supports the Schola Cordis Foundation of professor Janusz Skalski which is affiliated with the Cardiosurgery Center at the Children’s University Hospital in the Prokocim district in Kraków. This time, together with our distribution network of over 800 companies, we are supporting little hearts,” says Katarzyna Świderska.
We are raising awareness of responsibility for ourselves and our partners, shaping the foundations that our employees take home with them and continue to pass on. Care for the well-being of an employee, their safety and health – this is the common value that we have integrated with all the processes in our company. We have been managing processes not only from the angle of quality (we received our first ISO certificate back in 2000), but also in terms of OHS. We went a step further. Now, we also manage the energy efficiency of our company. And this is yet another socially responsible common value – to make responsible and rational use of energy resources, the production of which is frequently damaging to the environment, with the good of the future generations in mind.
Director for Development and IMS
An act of kindness
A number of brands do good things for others. Sometimes, we do not even know what sort of activity it involves, but when choosing a product we are at times overwhelmed with a feeling that a certain brand is “good”, because it not only meets our need, but leaves a lasting effect of feeling good, because the choice was made with good conscience.
“Every marketing specialist will recognize this feeling as well-executed positioning of the brand as a socially responsible company. The CSR movement forced every leading business to become active for the good of societies and their sustainable growth. Communicating these actions provides companies with a market advantage. Michael Porter’s idea of Creating Shared Value (CSV) is a new, more matured, and perhaps more evolved form of socially responsible activities. Chronologically speaking, CSR as an element of business strategy appeared after charitable activity and strategic philanthropy, frequently as a deliberately used marketing tool for building a positive image that makes the companies and their brands stand out – a market characteristic which gives the customers another, sometimes subconscious reason to make a purchase,” adds Katarzyna Świderska.
Funds for CSR projects
It should be remembered, though, that CSR activities are financed by sharing the generated profit. Financing takes the form of donating the allocated funds for various social purposes. In many companies, the marketing or PR departments go to no end of trouble to find methods for the most beneficial use of these funds for socially responsible activities, such as employee volunteering, eco-friendly activities, educational and sports projects, supporting non-governmental organizations and their initiatives, helping the needy. Frequently, these actions are in no way related to the primary activity of the company, they are even often misunderstood and marginalized by management boards. But the new idea of supporting and communicating the creation of shared values (CSV) ingrains the CSR activities into the DNA of the company or even extracts them from the DNA – in the processes creating the company’s product. It searches for responsible actions and values in the company’s tissue. It appears somewhat earlier in the thinking of the teams and at every stage of the production process. This is why it does not eat up the generated funds, but instead contributes to the generation of funds and, as a result, frequently decreases costs or increases work standards. It searches for a natural connection, to put all the interests and social values in line not only with the company’s mission, but also with the processes which are essential to its activity. These process-oriented roots of social responsibility allow us to make it a natural part of the manufacturing function of the company without it being at odds with the fundamental purpose of the company, which is the maximisation of profits. Moreover, this sort of activity is easier to communicate for the brand, because it is a natural effect of the company’s strategy.
Someone might be indignant over this statement, but companies are founded for one purpose only – to maximise the profit of their owners. We could call upon dozens of other functions that the companies serve, but it cannot be denied that they are founded to make profits and to maximise the company value in time. And this is why companies are able to solve social problems, just because they have sufficient funds, as Michael Porter rightly observes. Certainly, while businesses follow their path, they could, can, and even should run multiple socially responsible initiatives, and they do it.
Corporate social responsibility at WIŚNIOWSKI
“The lack of welding and machining specialists, and even cooks, in the market hit us in 2010. At that point, we decided to participate in the establishment of the Basic Vocational School in the town of Wielogłowy near Nowy Sącz, where all our plants are based. The school offers vocational training, while the company ensures top class apprenticeship and traineeship programmes supervised by the best specialists and managers, and the best apprentices and trainees are offered jobs. We had to take it upon ourselves to provide the labour market with highly qualified specialists. We are contributing to the development of society by also training future workers in other necessary professions which are missing from the local labour market. This is how we interpret corporate social responsibility,” said Krystyna Baran, President of the Board at WIŚNIOWSKI Sp. z o.o. SKA.
When back in 2012, the company worked towards the certification of the OHS system compliant with the OHSAS standard and integrated these activities with the Quality Management System, we did it voluntarily, because our regulations do not require such engagement of the employer in the protection of the employees’ health and safety. “Sure, there are requirements and certain standards that we have always met as a company. But creating an advanced health and safety system for the employees and certifying it provides so much more. It lets you shape and change attitudes. Very few managers saw something more than just a waste of time and money in it, let alone corporate social responsibility. But this is exactly what it is! Because this idea of prevention, that is avoiding possible accidents, predicting that an accident can happen, the implementation of protective and preventive measures, teaching employees to be responsible for the safety of themselves and their co-workers – this is precisely an example of creating shared, socially responsible values. Even though at first it was generally perceived as a whim, an unnecessary cost, additional documentation, and more boring training courses, it has transformed into a completely natural approach for each of our employees,” says Elżbieta Durlak, Director for Development and IMS at WIŚNIOWSKI.
Socially responsible business starts with responsibility for customers – their choices made with good conscience, not only in terms of economics, but also ethics.
Looking at CSR activity in international corporations that provide education in children nourishment, the support of growers in organic coffee farming, sewing clothes in green plants by adults only, we can only envy the scale on which they are able to change the reality of this, after all, capitalist world. When shopping, we no longer reach for the products that we need, but choose the brands that do something good for others.
CSR of the WIŚNIOWSKI brand in the region
Care for the future generations and the fate of the Nowy Sącz region was also close to the heart of Andrzej Wiśniowski, the brand’s owner and founder, who has been investing in the area of Lake Rożnów, near the location of the plant, for many years. In 2016, Andrzej Wiśniowski established the Horyzont 360 Foundation, operating for the development of the tourist area around Lake Rożnów. As part of this initiative, the “Lake Rożnów – the lake of your dreams” business cluster is being founded, aiming to integrate and promote the activities of local micro-enterprises oriented at reaching visitors to the area – for tourist purposes and to make the region more popular.
“This enables economic area development and social activation. It is a multi-dimensional initiative fuelled by local patriotism and the desire to develop the entire region where our 100% Polish company operates. It is the reason behind the construction of the beautiful Heron Live Hotel. It was erected just by Lake Rożnów, which used to be a popular destination for summer holidays. Unfortunately, after the political transformation, the region’s appeal decreased, it gradually became impoverished and many workplaces vanished. By cooperating with the local community and authorities, we are making a difference. This is also how we implement corporate social responsibility,” explains the originator of this idea.
By: Editorial Team