The Hungarian Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSDH) celebrates its ten-year anniversary. On this good occasion to look back, Diplomacy&Trade talked to the President of the
organization, Attila Chikán, Jr.
“In 2007, 15 companies and one private individual decided that businesses in Hungary should act to promote sustainability. To provide a framework for that, the establishment of the Hungarian branch of the World Business Council (WBCSD) was an excellent opportunity. That was how the Hungarian Business Council for Sustainable Development Public Benefit Association was formed. In the early years, the focus was on the involvement of similarly-minded companies and a continuous dialogue. Today, the organization has 80 corporate members that produce 30% of the Hungarian GDP and employ 400,000 people,” BCSDH President Attila Chikán, Jr. tells Diplomacy&Trade.
As to what he believes the greatest achievement of BCSDH over this first decade has been, the President points out that “we can be proud of the organization not only when we look at how big it has become, but also when we see the milestones. In 2012, with the CEOs of member companies, we created a core document for corporate sustainability. This guide to business leaders called ‘The Complex Interpretation of Corporate Sustainability’ highlights seven key pillars and has been signed by over 100 companies and organizations. I can also mention the Action 2020 Hungary program, set out in 2014, with the primary purpose to call for companies to take real action through a set of business solutions in the interest of sustainability. During the four years of work since the program’s inception, we have had over 100 scientists, civil and corporate experts and nearly 70 executives participating in the process. There are dozens of business solutions on the action2020.hu website.”
The President also finds it important to mention the ‘Future Leaders’ program in which the 100th talent has been given certificate this year. “This program is unique in its own right as people delegated by our member companies, can learn firsthand – not only from science and civil experts but also from experts of other member companies – about the theory and practice of sustainability. What is more, they can do this on-site, in corporate venues.”
A value-creating community
Regarding the attractiveness of BCSDH to its 80 corporate members, Attila Chikán quotes one of the member companies by saying “we are a value-creating community for business leaders – and I can only agree with that. It is an organization in which active work is taking place with the personal involvement of senior executives. This requires a real commitment from companies and business leaders alike.”
He adds that BCSDH creates platforms where sustainability issues and their solutions can be discussed in an honest and inspirational way. “I am convinced that with the help of these events, we can achieve a real impact. What managers take home, to their companies, from an event can lead to positive changes. Membership enables companies to participate in programs such as our ‘Future Leaders’ talent program, business lunches and breakfasts. Every year, we hold our annual big event, our business lunch, where – in addition to presenting our professional work and a dialogue – we also have renowned speakers giving insight into the business aspect of sustainability. We also strive for 2-3 business breakfasts annually to provide real inspiration to business leaders. ”
When talking about sustainability, people tend to think it is just a vague idea that costs money with not much return. The BCSDH President’s reaction to that statement is that fewer and fewer people think that way. “There is growing perception and understanding that if we want to live in acceptable conditions we have to deal with these issues, and even from the point of view of the present, we can create a world that is much closer to the principles that we like to represent, that is better than the present world. I think these ideas are spreading rapidly, and there are fewer and fewer people who do not see the importance of it, so, I am absolutely optimistic about this.”
People reached through companies
In disseminating the idea of sustainability, Attila Chikán says BCSDH focuses on companies, works with companies and wants to reach wider layers of society through them. However, companies are made up of people. “When communicating through fellow workers, towards consumers and towards suppliers, we are extending the sustainability solutions we have. This is called scale-up. So, we want to achieve this goal through the companies and since our membership, with a total of 400,000 employees, is a fairly integral part of the Hungarian economy, I believe this is a pretty powerful approach.”
Attila Chikán is about half way through of his three-year presidency. “When I was elected president, I set three goals. One of these was that I would like to continue the very successful processes and activities. I think that I have managed to achieve this goal. The second thing I said was that I wanted to make BCSDH, our activities and our goals more visible in a wider circle with a more conscious communication. The communication of our events has become broader, more professional and more comprehensible, and thus, it reaches more people. Obviously, this is a continuous activity. The third goal was to build and deepen the relationship with other WBCSD affiliates and policy makers. I am satisfied with our foreign relations because we have an active presence in WBCSD. At the invitation of the German organization, we participated in a broader consultation and our ‘Future Leaders’ program is a benchmark for other member organizations.”
The issue of specific sustainability policies is somewhat more difficult. “It is where we can achieve more results in bilateral negotiations. We have yet to see politicians in charge of specific areas proactively ‘pounce’ on this issue but the process has started. The best example to date is the consultation in Parliament on June 16 with the National Council for Sustainable Development (NFFT). This is a slow and difficult process, we still have a lot of work ahead of us,” he adds.
As regards the future direction of development for BCSDH, the President says the primary focus is on moving along the three goals he mentioned. “In addition, our membership system is strong enough – which, of course, does not mean that we are closed to new entrants – and in the future, the main objective will be to work with the existing partners on as many issues as possible. And, if necessary, we can extend this partnership to new players, for example, higher education. We certainly want to continue the ‘Action 2020 Hungary’ program, now in conjunction with the 2030 SDG goals. We are also working on the further development of our ‘Future Leaders’ program. Our primary goal is to maintain the valuable programs that have been successful, so far, but to always find the new form and innovativeness that will keep us up to the standard that encourages top managers to actively participate.”
As an example, he highlights the prize ‘For a Sustainable Future’ launched at the 10th Anniversary. It is designed to acknowledge – and present in a wider circle – outstanding corporate, leadership and personal achievements in the field of sustainability. “This is the first year we award this in the ‘Change Leaders’, ‘Business Solutions’ and ‘Leading Women’ categories. This is another new initiative that we definitely wish to continue and develop,” the BCSDH President concludes.