5 Questions for Dr. Boleslaw Rok from Kozminski University in Warsaw, Poland

Students working on a waste assessment, courtesy of The Center for Industrial Productivity and Sustainability (CIPS)

I recently had the chance to speak with Dr. Boleslaw Rok from the Business Ethics Centre at Kozminski University Business School in Warsaw, Poland. The Business Ethics Centre was established in 1999 and is the first and only such unit operating in Poland. Dr. Rok has been working with businesses for more than 25 years as an entrepreneur and one of the co-founders of both the first environmental NGO in Poland 20 years ago and also its first CSR organisation 12 years ago. His team at the Centre and the Business School are working on some very interesting projects, in particular around students working with Polish businesses to advance sustainability in the country.

1. How are students exposed to these issues in their classes?

Sustainability and responsibility issues are not yet well integrated into different areas (like accounting, strategic management, marketing, etc.). We have separate courses on corporate responsibility and sustainability, and currently very few faculty members try to incorporate them into their courses here.  However, things are slowly changing, especially with the younger generation of professors.

For example Professor Jonathan Scott, who leads the sustainability class, has students working with local businesses. Students have to locate a business and conduct an energy assessment, which includes providing written recommendations for reducing energy consumption and the total amount of cost savings that can be expected over one year.  To date, over 200 businesses in a dozen or so countries have been evaluated. Since the program started in 2005, it has never failed to produce savings for the companies. Just as important, the students acquire a great deal of confidence from the hands on experience of saving a business money while also lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

2. Can you tell us about other work that you do with the Polish business sector?

We now have some 50 mature CSR companies in Poland. The Polish market is special, because we have mostly big multinationals operating here, a few state-owned Polish companies from the oil and energy sector and a lot of private Polish SMEs. The main driver for sustainability is coming from the multinational companies. For example, Coca Cola is doing work around water and sustainability, which is spreading through the supply chain and influencing Polish business partners to improve their standards.

We have been producing a CSR Ranking of companies for six years now, with PwC as the auditor. We also have an award for the best CSR reports in Poland. To date, some 20 Polish companies produce CSR reports using the GRI format. We also organised the Polish Congress on Business Ethics and Corporate Responsibility in 2009. Things are progressing, but we still have a ways to go here.

3. Are you working with other organisations?

We are involved in several research projects with organisations, such as the European Union, UNDP, European Academy of Business in Society, European Business Ethics Network and the Caux Round Table. We have been working on a range of CSR case studies from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) in cooperation with the Center for Business and Society CEU Business School, the Graduate School of Management St Petersburg State University and CSR Ukraine. (see previous blog)

Kozminski also has an interesting partnership with Nyenrode University that raises awareness by bringing students to 25 companies across Poland to discuss management approaches to CSR, sustainability and entrepreneurship.

Associate professor, Iwona Kuraszko, is the inaugural scholar of the Jepson School’s Zuzana Simoniova Cmelikova Visiting Scholar Program in Leadership in Ethics. She is off to the University of Richmond to research leadership and ethics in the context of Poland and Central and Eastern Europe.

4. What programme are you most proud of?

The programme that I like most is our postgraduate certificate “CSR: The Strategy of Responsible Business”.  This 180 hour programme, run in cooperation with PwC, introduces students to the basics of corporate sustainability issues and focuses on how managers can implement effective strategies. Now in its third year, the programmed is the only one of this kind in Poland. It’s aimed at people already working in business – some of them are “almost” CSR/ sustainability managers or ethics officers, while others would like to work in this function. There are a group of some 30 instructors working with me, some of them are academics (business ethics, corporate governance, marketing), some are CSR consultants (including PwC, but also from smaller consultancies), social innovators and changemakers (from NGOs, like Ashoka), and some are mature CSR managers. The programme has reached nearly 100 students and is constantly evolving.

5. So what’s next for Kozminski?

The short answer is to work more on sustainability integration. In the next year, I would like to organise a short course or workshop for CEOs on “leadership in sustainability”. At the moment, I am busy preparing for the ISBEE World Congress at Kozminski in July 2012, which expects 300+ people for 4 days.

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