Dec 04
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International CSR Conference at DEREE

The 4th International Conference on Social Responsibility, Ethics and Sustainable Business was successfully held at DEREE – The American College of Greece, on October 8—9. The conference, which was hosted in Greece for the very first time, featured renowned professors from various fields who shared their research outcomes and discussed contemporary CSR practices. Topics covered included CSR techniques implemented across major industries, the business growth aspect of CSR, innovation, and business ethics, all reflecting on the long-term outcome of adopting a socially responsible behavior.

Dr. Patrick Quinn, Dean of the School of Liberal Arts & Sciences at DEREE – The American College of Greece, welcomed the guests and introduced the conference topic. In his insightful remarks, he underlined the role higher education must play in arming students with a set of values which ensure that the corporations or businesses they work for are sensitive to the expanding responsibilities in this unstable contemporary economic situation. He then gave the floor to the distinguished professor CB Bhattacharya.

“Doing well as a company can be linked to doing good,” was the loud and clear message Dr. Bhattacharya conveyed through his keynote speech. The professor, who taught courses at DEREE – The American College of Greece 10 years ago, came back on campus for an insightful lecture on CSR research, strategy, challenges and opportunities. He presented successful examples of CSR strategy and highlighted the importance of building brands with a purpose that can create social value without lessening their business goals.

CB Bhattacharya, who holds the Pietro Ferrero Chair in Sustainability at the European School of Management and Technology in Berlin, analyzed the “3Us CSR model” that includes engagement of all stakeholders in creating a solid, socially responsible brand identity that can be briefly outlined as understanding – creating awareness of the CSR strategy followed, usefulness – exploring causes that are of real interest to the stakeholders, and unity – sharing the same values with stakeholders and letting them identify with the brand. Dr. Bhattacharya presented data on the correlation between business growth and responsible social action, explaining how CSR activities can be used to engage consumers and employees. He went on to discuss his work with the Sustainable Business Roundtable, whose aim is to create a learning network that will serve as the basis for a mindset shift in corporations’ leadership.

The second day of the conference opened with a keynote speech delivered by Nickolaos Travlos, Dean of the ALBA Graduate School at The American College of Greece. Dr. Travlos approached the CSR issue from an economist’s point of view and focused on the economic rationale behind CSR activities.

During his lecture, he analyzed the various aspects and definitions of terms such as ‘business ethics’ and ‘sustainability’, and he went on to explore the reasons why companies pursue CSR. After elaborating on the differences between the theoretical study of CSR activities and reality in contemporary societies, he reflected on business ethics and referred to cases of ethical abuse from the financial sector, such as the Lehman Brothers scandal. He also presented data supporting a positive correlation between responsible activity and business profit, highlighting findings which show that “CSR is expensive; it’s expensive to have a good reputation,” as he said.

Concluding his speech, he observed that CSR is what makes “a good company.” Drawing on Aristotelian ethics, in particular the concept of phronesis and the intrinsic motivation to lead a “good life,” Dean Travlos concluded that he anticipates, even in these dark times here in crisis strapped Greece, more companies to adopt this philosophy and engage with CSR initiatives.

After his speech, a Q&A session triggered discussion on major issues such as the fair pricing of products according to their – sustainable or not – method of production, innovation as a sustainability tool, and the need for substantial incorporation of CSR courses in business studies toward educating future generations of business leaders.

The 4th International Conference offered participants and attendants the opportunity to gain knowledge on social responsibility and review the significance of ethics on a corporate, but also on a personal level. We look forward to the conference proceedings being published soon!

For more information on ICSR, the conference, and the speakers, please visit: http://www.csrconferences.org/