Sponsored by Societe Generale Equipment Finance
CSR as a strategic driver in uncertain economic times
Managing uncertain economic conditions for companies also requires the ability to rethink and adapt existing strategies to meet future demands and long-term objectives. For Societe Generale Equipment Finance (SGEF), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an important strategic dimension to shape the future organizational and commercial focus.
For the past 18 months, we have been facing a challenging environment with new rules and regulations impacting on both our society and economy. As a corporation, we were forced to immediately rethink and adapt existing ways of working for the safety and health protection of our staff. Likewise, together with our clients and partners, we had to continuously coordinate existing business activities in the midst of volatile market conditions and consider more flexible solutions for our customers. In addition to this, there has been a clear shift in the need to rethink our approach towards sustainability and care for our environment from both an individual and business perspective. As a corporation, we can positively integrate these necessary and important future perspectives into our corporate strategy by being pro-active in our approach to CSR.
In general, a corporation can consider different strategies for the integration of CSR in their own company processes and value chains. Following the path of ESG can be a suitable way to include the wider aspects of CSR in the company’s strategy. For SGEF, we discussed the most appropriate path for our CSR integration at the end of 2019 and together with our management team we took the decision to prioritize our focus on CSR from a business and commercial perspective. SGEF, with its well-diversified business model, operates at the heart of the real and local economy and provides best in class services and innovative finance solutions to SMEs and corporate clients together with leading partners and manufacturers. For this client and partner centric organization, we clearly figured out that the different dimensions of CSR can positively impact our future business development activities and influence our own organizational culture. Therefore, we decided to build our CSR strategy around our clients and core business activities to achieve the maximum degree of integration in our organization.
In 2020, this decision was further supported and validated by the uncertain economic times in which we operate, as the focus on sustainable business was also highlighted by local and European recovery programs. With these additional market parameters and the need for adaptability on the new challenges, we have integrated a concrete CSR ambition as a strategic driver in our organization. Therefore, SGEF has developed a five year strategic CSR roadmap to commit on building together with our clients and partners a sustainable future through meaningful and innovative finance solutions. In this process it was crucial for us, to set clear focus areas and also concrete, tangible and measureable objectives for internal and external stakeholders. We are convinced that only with a transparent CSR framework, related understanding and the commitment between all stakeholders, will a successful execution of a CSR strategy for clients, partners, employees and our own organization be possible. It is important for us as SGEF to play a leading role in CSR for Equipment Finance and to contribute to our SG Group CSR initiatives due to our close link to the real economy with our clients and partners. Together, we can proactively create sustainable financing solutions for new asset categories and technologies as an example, instead of following the market.
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An important further step in the implementation of our CSR strategy was the alignment of our CSR strategy from the corporate communication perspective.
A strategy for achieving CSR objectives has to be comprehensible and essentially reproducible by every team member. Therefore, we gave our CSR ambition 2025 a paraphrase - "Care & Dare about the Future" and we summarized our main focus areas including KPIs for the next 5 years in a clear and understandable format to be able to provide to each stakeholder a perspective and guidance about SGEF’s developments in CSR related activities.
In SGEF, we are convinced that all our initiatives around our CSR ambition “Care & Dare about the Future” will positively influence the evolution of our organization in these times. With our 4 dimensions in our CSR ambition, we focus on the future market trends and requirements:
- to be partner of choice for new and sustainable business in the B2B segment across our 4 business verticals (Technology, Industrial Equipment, Healthcare & Green Energy and Transportation) – our CSR dimension BUILD with focus on new sustainable finance solutions and programs in the segment of Energy Efficiency, Photovoltaic installations and EV-charging infrastructure – “Light as a service” for LED-installations together with a leading technology partner in this segment in another example;
- to shift and grow our existing finance portfolio to sustainable assets and finance solutions together with our clients and partners – our CSR dimension SCALE with a transversal perspective on all our 4 sectors: e.g. low emission transport solutions with LNG trucks/ eBuses for public passenger transport or dedicated finance solution for healthcare services and eduction;
- to further strengthen our asset-life-cycle management capabilities to optimize the use of resources by involving our partners in the process – our CSR dimension REUSE with a focus on servitization and the essential use of assets instead of ownership driven finance solutions – especially in Healthcare and Technology, we are already integrating Circular Economy processes together with our partners
- and to create a company culture for sustainable internal and external working practices – our CSR dimension LIVE with further explanation below.
During the implementation of our CSR ambition, it became obvious that, in addition to a clear objective setting and strategy, the involvement of our team members across the entire organization would be a key success factor. This required the establishment of an efficient CSR organizational structure, which we ensured through a supervising CSR core group involving stakeholders from different departments and the development of an international CSR country group. Together in these CSR teams, we focused on the communication of our CSR ambition and at the same time we started to develop an associated training concept. For us, it is crucial that we increasingly evolve our corporate culture and understanding of a sustainable working practices and make adjustments of internal and external processes to improve our overall sustainability. The change in our company culture to more sustainable practices and both individual and collective responsibility contributes to the successful coordination of our other CSR dimensions and objectives. In this context, we have also set ourselves the objective to contribute to global carbon neutrality and we are on our way to reaching carbon neutrality for our direct footprint in 2025 by reducing our direct emissions. This objective triggered the detailed assessment of our own processes and initiated concrete internal projects to improve our carbon footprint over the next years.
With our decision to integrate CSR as commercial driver in our SGEF strategy we were able to create additional positive momentum in our organization which is especially welcome in light of the uncertain times we are still facing. The communication around CSR initiated and strengthened our transversal projects on new business segments, our own processes and related working practices. Our CSR ambition is seen as key driver to become a market leader for CSR in Equipment Finance. From our perspective and as a leading equipment finance solution provider, we are able not just to support the transition towards more sustainability and care for our environment, we have the responsibility to pro-actively shape the future with our finance solutions together with our clients and partners. That is why we create “Care & Dare about the future”!
Thorsten Arp, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at SGEF