During the European Economic Congress, representatives of companies from the energy, finance, insurance, and trade sectors discussed the role of ESG criteria - environmental, social responsibility, and corporate governance - in relations with stakeholders and in building company value.

 

Experts agreed that having an ESG strategy is now a "must-have" for any company that wants to count on the market. In their opinion, investing in ESG builds the long-term value of the company in the eyes of customers and investors, who more and more often require entrepreneurs to act following the principles of sustainable development.

 

Michał Mrożek, Vice-President of the Management Board of ING Bank Śląski SA, pointed out that the issues of implementing sustainable development goals and defining them in the strategies of companies are no longer just a scientific theory and fashion, but a process "which takes place in various aspects and on various levels in our stakeholders".

 

The Vice President cited, among other things, the results of research showing that nearly 80 per cent of individual retail banking customers worldwide indicate that sustainability issues are very important to them. Also, financial advisors declared that when recommending investments, they take into account the extent to which the company's strategy includes issues related to sustainable development, perceiving these investments as more stable and secure. In turn, as many as two-thirds of the managers of 1,400 companies surveyed worldwide indicated that the topic of including sustainability goals in strategy is important to them.

 

According to Grabowska, a good ESG strategy must be balanced, comprehensive, and, above all, integrated with operations, because only then is it authentic.

 

"On the one hand, we have communicated that we will double the sales of healthy products, and on the other hand they have to sell and generate EBITDA. On the one hand, we have specified that we want to be plastic neutral, which means to collect as much packaging as we bring in, and on the other hand, customers must want to bring us the packaging and franchisees must want to return it to us. We have communicated our desire for climate neutrality, but it is up to us as entrepreneurs to take action and switch to RES and change our energy sources or electrify our car fleet," explained Vice-President Grabowska.

 

In turn, Wojciech Hann, President of Bank Ochrony Środowiska S.A., compared the need to implement the ESG strategy to the situation from 25 years ago, when companies wondered whether they needed a website to be present on the Internet.

 

 "With ESG, we're not asking if, but how, when and how effectively," Hann emphasized.

 

He pointed out that the bank is trying to achieve in practice the objectives of sustainable development arising from the ESG strategy, stressing among others that BOŚ is currently the greenest bank in Poland, because as much as 36% of its loan portfolio are green loans, i.e. with a positive impact on the environment. Hann also added that the bank's aspiration is for this result to be 50 per cent in 2023.

 

According to Jarosław Romanowski, Member of the Management Board of CIECH SA, what matters now is not only the price at which a company can sell a product or buy raw material but also its attitude towards ESG. As he pointed out, customers and contractors are asking about it.

 

"So, we decided to sort out the goals we set for ourselves. These are mutually agreed upon with our customers. In many ESG-related areas, they are more ambitious than the regulator requires today," Romanowski stressed.

 

The Vice President of CIECH S.A. indicated that currently, it is important for his company how much energy and water it consumes, how it manages waste, and how much gas it emits - "this is the key area for us as far as the E component is concerned".

 

"As far as social responsibility is concerned, here we focus primarily on employee safety, employee development, and corporate culture.  In turn, in the S component, we attach great importance to transparent cooperation within the entire value chain with our suppliers and customers," Romanowski explained.

 

Mario Zamarripa, Director of Sustainability at ERGO Hestia pointed out that ESG is a necessary process.

 

 "ESG is becoming a tool to achieve the goals we need to achieve by the end of 2030, or 2050 depending on the continent. (...) ESG is becoming a fascinating business phenomenon that is already changing the way we approach many things," Zamarripa argued.

 

"For us, ESG decisions impact our insurance portfolio, investment portfolio, and internal operations. Clients themselves demand that we are prepared and provide them with appropriate knowledge" - said the director from ERGO Hestia.

 

According to Stanisław Barański, Director of Strategy and Analysis Department at PKN ORLEN, there is no other way than sustainable development. He noted that in addition to the regulatory issue, the business dimension plays an important role in this regard.

 

"To talk about sustainability solely in terms of regulation is simplistic. We feel this pressure among our customers. (...) Investors also ask a lot about sustainable development," Barański pointed out.