Broader horizons: Anders Collman on Cramo's corporate social responsibility

16 October 2009

Cramo is supporting an SOS Children's Village in the Ukraine.

Cramo is supporting an SOS Children's Village in the Ukraine.

Cramo is one of the leading equipment rental companies in Europe. Being a player in a very ‘masculine' industry, Anders Collman, head of corporate communications, was looking for a business-related corporate social responsibility (CSR) project that would add human values to the company's image and appeal to younger people with a social conscience. Here, he describes the charity in the Ukraine that Cramo is now supporting.

A well selected CSR project serves to create business opportunities for the company, while at the same time building a corporate culture, and pride in its employees. Personally, my involvement with SOS Children's Villages in Ukraine has given me not only insight into the enormous needs, but also the vast opportunities - and challenges - inherent in implementing a strategic CSR project.

For many years Cramo had, like many companies, donated money to different charities at Christmas. But we saw the need to take a more strategic hold on this and to develop cooperation with an organisation that had a common ground with Cramo and which could also be beneficial for Cramo's business goals.

I had personal experience of SOS Children's Villages - see the box story for some background on the organisation - and Cramo also had a strong belief in the values of the body and in its model of not only helping children and their families but the whole area where the villages are built.

The idea was to incorporate CSR in the core of the company's business strategy, instead of letting it live a life on its own. Otherwise, it would not survive in the long run. SOS Children's Villages are active in all the countries where Cramo is present and, perhaps even more important, the organisation is operating in areas where Cramo is interested to expand in the future.

One of those is the Ukraine, where SOS Children's Villages has established a village in the city of Brovary. In 2007 Cramo became one of the village's lead sponsors and this also gave access to a valuable network of influential decision makers in Ukrainian society, who are also members of the board of the local SOS organisation.

By committing to a main sponsorship we contribute to building real homes for the most destitute children. Obviously this is of great importance to the children and the local society. In a larger perspective it has a positive impact both on the industry and our own operations.

Cramo's involvement as a sponsor goes beyond simply providing financial support. For example, when we became aware that the village had problems with its power supply, it was decided that a generator should be lent out to the village until a long-term solution was found. However, a bureaucratic complication at the Russian border meant that the generator was not allowed into Ukraine. I became involved in trying to find a solution and to put pressure on the local authorities. The lobbying did not solve the issue of the generator, but did lead to another solution, with the village being supplied power from a nearby hospital until a long-term answer is found.

Being one of the main sponsors of the village, Cramo was invited to see the results of SOS's work in Ukraine last year. It was a visit that I will never forget.

I was prepared to meet a totally different reality from what I'm used to. But there is no way to completely prepare yourself for the people you will meet. The staff at SOS and their engagement overwhelmed me. And I was truly impressed by the people taken care of by the support programme. They had nothing - many of them were infected by HIV, and still they were optimistic and happy people, in their own way.

There was one woman in particular who made a strong impression. She lived in a primitive shed on a deserted field together with her two small children. The father had abandoned the family and they now have to get by without a steady income and with no electricity or drinkable water. When we arrived on her doorstep, she smiled and apologised for not having anything to offer us, but there simply was no food or drinks in the house.

Being able to see, first-hand, how our support helps change people's lives was a powerful experience that widened my horizons and filled me with new energy.

CRS should not be related to short term variations in the financial environment. To be fruitful - internally as well as externally - a CRS project needs to be both relevant to the business goals and a carefully monitored long term commitment.

I am proud to be part of an organisation which sees it this way, even in the present market downturn. Cramo will continue to support SOS Children's Villages.

SOS Children's Villages

SOS Children's Villages is a private, non-governmental child welfare organisation. Its main focus is to provide care for orphaned, abandoned and neglected children. A cornerstone of the initiative is family-based care, with orphaned children cared for by adults in newly created families based at an SOS village that provides community support.

Founded after World War II by Hermann Gmeiner - who set up the first village in Imst, Austria in 1949 - the organisation is now active in 132 countries worldwide. Approximately 73000 children and young people live in 491 SOS Children's Villages and 396 SOS Youth Facilities.


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Ollie Hodges Publisher Tel: +44 (0)1892 786253 E-mail: [email protected]
Lewis Tyler
Lewis Tyler Editor Tel: 44 (0)1892 786285 E-mail: [email protected]