Thanks to a wonderful woman in London called Lana Narancic, I was able to arrange some very useful meetings in Zagreb. Lana works for the International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF) in London, and they play a significant role fostering the development of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Croatia. CSR is certainly an aspect of the increasing extent to which business is becoming more “social” and in this regard I was fortunate to meet with representatives of two heavyweights in the field, from Zagrebacka Banka (ZABA) and Coca Cola.
Sandra Cvetko from ZABA, Croatia’s largest bank, braved serious obstacles to meet me. First she has a severe fall from her bicycle at the weekend and there was no air conditioning despite 38 degree weather! Nevertheless, we spoke for considerable time about social business and CSR. ZABA, by virtue of its size and importance in the domestic economy (with 4500 staff and a substantial market share in the banking sector) plays an extraordinarily important role. Last year along the bank gave nearly £1 million in donations and sponsorships. In both these, its actions often catalyse others, especially in the arts and sustainable development, where it has made a clear decision to focus.
In addition to the points above, Sandra’s department plays a key role in the broader activities of the bank, four of which, in particular, have a key social dimension. On the banking and capital markets side, the bank puts extra emphasis on areas which have a social or civil dimension, and avoids others, such as weapon manufacturing. With respect to customers, they help ensure fair treatment in the products offered. In HR, they play an enormous and far-reaching role and also, obviously, in corporate communications. By being outspoken about these issues, ZABA raises awareness and encourages others.
Where I found Sandra especially helpful was in her summary of the Social Business market in Croatia. She had an intimate awareness of the players and very candid insights into how social they were and why. Sandra spoke at length about EKO Mavrovic, one of the most important social businesses in the whole region. Started by a boxer…… (that was just as a tease—more on them another time). ZABA provides a wide range of support to EKO, both as lender and customer, at the very least, and is thus developing a model for how this sort of partnership can work. I thank Sandra for her bravery, insights and cheerful demeanour (and I know it hurt each time she smiled!)
Majda Tafra-Vlahodic is the head of CSR for Coca Cola. With a background quite far afield from business, Marta would seem the least likely person to wind up in business, much less so at a huge American firm like Coca Cola. However, in a way, that background makes her especially well-suited for her position. Like she says, “I have changed them, and they have changed me—we have both come towards each other”. Under her auspices, Coca Cola has been a real trend setter. It became the first firms Croatia to publish a full and honest social report, and in fact, was the first unit within Coca Cola globally to do so. The leadership offered by the Croatian operation and Coca Cola Hellenic, of which it is a part, continues.