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Malta CEOs Issue Two HELGA & ROBERTA

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MaltaCEOs 2020

THE ISLAND’S MOST INFLUENTIAL BUSINESS MINDS

2020:

The CSR revolution is

in full force

ALTHOUGH THE CONCEPT OF CORPORATE SOCIAL

RESPONSIBILITY IS BROADLY REGARDED AS AN INTEGRAL

COMPONENT OF BUSINESS VALUES, THE PROSPECT IS STILL AN

ALIEN ONE FOR MOST LOCAL INDUSTRIES. MALTACEOs MEETS UP

WITH TWO FEMALE FRONTRUNNERS IN THE GAME, HELGA ELLUL

AND DR ROBERTA LEPRE, TO DEBATE THE PLATFORM’S BENEFITS

AND DISCUSS PLANS FOR ITS NATIONWIDE IMPLEMENTATION.

48


MaltaCEOs 2020

THE ISLAND’S MOST INFLUENTIAL BUSINESS MINDS

Former Playmobil Malta CEO and Core

president Helga Ellul, and CSR specialist and

Weave Consulting managing consultant Dr

Roberta Lepre, are indomitable spirits in their

own rights and collectively share a massive

array of accomplishments within the field of

business. Despite originating from different

backgrounds and pursuing different angles

through their respective careers, a common

purpose unites them in initiating an awakening

within the local business sphere and directing

the community towards a more holistic

business framework.

Both agree that, as a relatively new term

in the business lexicon, Corporate Social

Responsibility (CSR) seems to prevent

local business owners from exploring the

concept out of a mixture of reluctance,

misunderstanding and feeling overwhelmed.

Dr Lepre shares the results of a recent study

carried out locally which revealed that

larger companies proved to have a better

understanding of the concept, while smaller

entities struggled by comparison.

Ms Ellul says that from a technical perspective,

there are a total of 17 goals that need to be

observed in order for a company to align

with the core values of CSR. These have been

simplified into what she affectionately calls

the 5 Ps: partnership, prosperity, peace, people

and planet. These elements all work together

to positively affect a business. CSR has a proven

track record as Ms Ellul can attest: “it truly pays

to be a good corporate citizen.”

CSR strategies are not about

imposing demands but about

working together to evolve a

company’s corporate culture.

DR ROBERTA LEPRE

49

It pays to be a good

corporate citizen.

HELGA ELLUL

Ms Ellul affirms that she is a true believer in

empowering one’s own employees, in that it

contributes directly to an overall greater sense

of loyalty and promotes a more proactive spirit.

“Employee retention is a massive problem for

business across industries of all sizes,” Dr Lepre

says, adding that, “through CSR, there are

strategies that one can implement to reduce

employee turnover and attract and retain the

best people within your company.”

Dr Lepre discloses that some businesses

in Malta do not comprehend the power of

conversing with employees and educating

them. Instead, they are more in favour of

promoting a corporate culture dominated by

fear. “This is the old-fashioned way,” Ms Ellul

concedes, adding that the dread of employees

leaving prevents most from adopting a

different stance. Drawing from personal

experience, she shares that while there is

always the chance that former employees

might return to the company, there is also a

sense of pride to be felt when she sees her

“ex-employees become CEOs and company

secretaries because they learnt it in my

company.”

Ms Ellul and Dr Lepre insist that a business

is not just an owner’s possession but a living

entity that plays a crucial role in a community’s

development. As such, for a business to thrive,

its framework must adapt to cater for society’s

demands. Ms Ellul urges those heavily involved

in the corporate world to listen to the words

of the younger generation. She elaborates by

highlighting the fact that “business relies on

the community outside, on people to become

your consumers – if you don’t adjust to the

way they want businesses to run, you will have

neither employees nor a business.”


MaltaCEOs 2020

THE ISLAND’S MOST INFLUENTIAL BUSINESS MINDS

Dr Lepre uses Ms Ellul’s premise to illustrate a

common CSR procedure. “Let’s take a look at the

environment,” she suggests. “Many businesses,

as well as us as individuals, are making a

negative impact because of the products and

services that we use.” The first step in curbing

this involves identifying the challenging areas

and following up with a commitment to take

the necessary action to reduce and transform a

negative scenario into a positive outcome. This,

coupled with education and assessment, is a

necessary step that needs to be observed before

a company can start on strategy, planning

and communication. “It is very important to

communicate to your stakeholders – whether

shareholders, employees or the general public

– the fact that you’re committed to improving

your impact and that you are actually taking

steps to do that,” Dr Lepre asserts.

Key elements of CSR are oftentimes confused

with those of philanthropy and, at times, even

charity. Dr Lepre explains that, while all three

share a common denominator through the act

of giving, CSR requires proactivity to ensure that

a business has a continuing positive impact. A

structured, purposeful and consistent input may

appear overwhelming to a business of any size,

especially when considering the whole body

of compliance issues that one must be aware

of, but Dr Lepre is confident that awareness,

adequate education, and dedication are all

necessary tools to become a good corporate

citizen.

I don’t really believe in legislating

when it comes to CSR. It would

be better to look at incentives

rather than obligations.

DR ROBERTA LEPRE

WHAT IS CSR?

“CSR means being proactive in

ensuring that, as a business, you

are having a positive impact. It’s a

combination of awareness, resources,

education, goodwill and commitment

– one may call it an investment into

one’s own business. It’s not a sectioned

department, but a movement that

slowly implements into the company

culture. Its careful implementation

has given great results, with studies

showing that companies that are

sustainable, and which endorse this

philosophy, will ultimately stand out

from competition.”

Dr Roberta Lepre

51


People need to be encouraged

and their efforts recognised.

HELGA ELLUL

Dr Lepre reveals that Malta is the only EU country

not to have a national CSR framework. Among

the missing elements of the formula are a lack of

sustainable development goals, a non-existent social

enterprise act and limited support services for social

entrepreneurs. “I don’t really believe in legislating

when it comes to CSR,” she expands, arguing that

it would be “better to look at incentives rather than

obligations.”

Tax incentives are a very viable option, but until the

groundwork is laid for them to materialise, Ms Ellul

offers a shorter-term but equally effective solution.

Together with Dr Lepre, Ms Ellul is organising the first

edition of the Malta CSR awards. “We will start on a

small scale,” Ms Ellul shares, adding that, while some

larger companies will emerge as outright winners,

efforts are being made to implement milestone

awards for smaller companies that have taken the

first steps in incorporating CSR strategies and reaped

the results. “I believe people need to be encouraged

and their efforts recognised for the concept to power

on,” Ms Ellul concludes.

Many operate under the false impression that, in

order to incorporate CSR strategies, it is necessary

to hire more manpower and set up a department

specifically targeting this area. Both swiftly trump

this premise and straighten out the facts. “It goes

right across your whole business spectrum,” Ms

Ellul explains, adding that the key lies at the top of

the company hierarchy. “If the CEO, shareholder,

or stakeholder is convinced of the concept and is

ready to cascade it to empower his people with,

then it evolves into a self-sustaining structure, which

is precisely what CSR is all about,” Ms Ellul states.

An advocate for the infinite powers of collaborative

approaches, Dr Lepre adds that, “CSR strategies are

not about imposing demands but about working

together to evolve a company’s corporate culture.”

HOW CAN CSR BENEFIT YOUR BUSINESS

AND WIDER SOCIETY?

CSR is operating a business while educating

and empowering employees. By doing so,

you allow your employees to buy into your

business, resulting in a mutually-beneficial

agreement that not only drives the company

forward but also compensates those involved

in ways that financial gain does not. Malta,

as a community, is extremely generous, yet

the younger generation does not just want to

contribute money towards social causes. Their

desire for involvement is spurring a change to

the business model and focusing on profit with

a purpose. This is a core value of CSR.

Helga Ellul

52

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