Greenwashing – Is This A Gray Area?

One of the many fancy terms that people come across in Corporate Responsibility is “greenwashing.” I suggest looking at this page on the Greenwashing Index website as a great primer, if you’re new to the topic. This part of their explanation is definitely worth remembering –

It’s greenwashing when a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact. It’s whitewashing, but with a green brush.

The topic was forced into the limelight a couple of weeks ago here in Armenia as the “Let’s Protect Armenia From Toxic Pollution” campaign on Indiegogo was drawing to a close. The initiative by the AUA Center for Responsible Mining and OneArmenia was raising money for equipment that “will enable scientists at the American University of Armenia’s Center for Responsible Mining to survey the impacts of mining in Armenia, to inform affected citizens of these impacts and to find solutions that preserve the health and quality of communities and their environment.” It was closing in on its target of $30,000 when a gentle nudge helped it across the finish line. A significant contribution of $3000 took the campaign to $30,790 (and it eventually closed on $31,316). That contribution came from Lydian International, whose mining interests in Armenia center around the Amulsar Gold Project.  I had posted a couple of sentences about this on Facebook a few weeks ago and some comments have suggested that the initiators of the campaign should have rejected that contribution as an attempt at greenwashing. Would you agree?

Lydian contributing to Responsible Mining campaign


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Aaaand, we’re back (again!)

After another long hiatus (from the blog, not CSR in Armenia), it is time to post again about everything relevant to Corporate Responsibility, especially things going on here in Armenia! New posts coming soon!

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Talk at Social Good Summit 2012

The Counterpart International team in Armenia has recently published a talk on YouTube that I gave at the Social Good Summit last year. I think it was July 2012 when I spoke about two programs we have at Orange Armenia. Both these programs are still on and the talk remains relevant, so here it is below. Feel free to leave comments here or on the YouTube page where the video is uploaded.


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Article on ISO 26000

7th-issue-CoverResponsible Business, issued by CSR Lebanon, recently published an article I had written on ISO 26000 “certification”

You can download a PDF of the article here – ISO26000 Article_Responsible Business_Issue 7


Let me know what you think in a comment below!

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AmCham Magazine Focuses on Environment

AmChamThe latest issue of the American Chamber of Commerce in Armenia (AmCham) magazine focuses on environmental issues. Besides an interview with the Ministry for Environmental Protection and some articles by their member companies, it also features a nice little section on CSR activities by some of their members, like Austrian Airlines, Coca Cola HBC Armenia, Ernst & Young, Deem Communications, HSBC Armenia, Mary Kay and others. Some of them, like the bit by Ameria Bank, focus mainly on philanthropy – I guess it would have been too much to expect all the companies to present more strategic CSR :)

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Responsible Business = Responsible Customers

I had a great experience while shopping for wine at In Vino the other day. For those who don’t know, this is a specialized wine store in Yerevan. Besides the great customer service, I got a little surprise in my bag with my bottle of wine – a little do-it-yourself alcohol test, which uses saliva to estimate the level of alcohol in your blood.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post (the one on the eco-rating of mobile phones), responsible businesses try to encourage responsible behavior in their customers as well. It’s a gesture that is beautiful in its simplicity – In Vino is asking its customers to use its products responsibly. My previous post (the Deem Cares initiative) also focused on a small business taking steps towards corporate responsibility, so this is another good example of how CSR is not limited to the big businesses.

Here’s a home-made shot of the alcohol test. In Vino will definitely be seeing more of me :)


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Deem Cares!

This is a long overdue blog post, both because the CSR Armenia Blog has not been updated in a while and also because event in question took place about a couple of weeks ago.

During Q&A sessions, I’m often asked what small businesses can do in the area of CSR and community involvement (with the ‘asker’ usually assuming that I’m going to shrug my shoulders and smile sadly). Obviously, the answer is ‘a lot’, but now I’m happy to have this specific case up my sleeve as a real-life example from Armenia (and another one as well, in a future blog post).

The Deem Communications team came up with Deem Cares, a great initiative focusing on employee volunteering and community involvement, aimed at the development of entrepreneurship in Armenia. Long story short – the Deem team volunteered as waiters at The Green Bean, another great company in Armenia (and one that, from a CSR point of view, deserves a blog post to itself  – hopefully coming soon!), providing an English breakfast to all guests on 10 February 2013 for free, in exchange for a donation from the customers. The donations were to go to Homeland Handicrafts (yet another great presence in the Armenian CSR environment).

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CSR in Tourism – Armenia is on the ball!

I had the opportunity to attend one session of the UNWTO Conference on Universal Values and Cultural Diversity in the 21st Century: How can tourism make a difference? held in Yerevan on 18 and 19 October 2012 (yes, this is fresh news from Armenia, you get some of that on this blog too :)).  The session I attended was on Friday morning and it was called Corporate Social Responsibility in Tourism (quite straightforward, no fancy subtitles to it).  Moderated by Mr. John Downes, from USAID/EDMC, it featured presentations by Mr. Lukas Negedly, Austrian Airlines Country Manager for Armenia, Mr. Mikkel Krantz, Director of Sales and Marketing, Armenia Marriott Hotel Yerevan and Mr. Alexander Nurock, Director of Liberty International Incoming Agency, Armenia.  I was interested to hear what the focus would be – strategic CSR, philanthropy, a bit of both?

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Orange Volunteering Week!

Volunteer map_Eng

For many people (especially in Armenia!) a company doing “good CSR” means that it is financially contributing to various NGOs or social/environmental initiatives.  This is only part of the story (a very small part, in many cases).

One other resource that companies have to offer is their staff – and Orange Armenia has shown an innovative way to do just that.  September 17 to 24 has been declared Orange Volunteering Week and, in the lead up to this event, the company distributed an announcement among various non-profit organizations asking them what they would need an Orange volunteer to do – help them with a marketing plan, spruce up their website, teach them some social media skills, perhaps…

There was also an internal search for Orange volunteers and, as a result, 17 organizations were matched with Orange employees who spent a few hours helping them with various issues ranging from basic computer classes and workshops on Microsoft Excel to a dance lesson!  The initiative involved employees from the company’s Customer Care, Marketing, Accounting, IT and Sales units, as described in this press release.  There is also a news report aired on Shant TV, which is on the company’s YouTube Channel, with subtitles in English.

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Sustainable Olympics: would the Games be a Responsible Business?

It’s been about a week since the end of London 2012 – the Olympics and Paralympics.  Maybe it’s just me, but wasn’t this the first Games that had so much focus on  sustainability?  Yes, it’s hosted by UK and sustainability is a big issue there… yes, it’s 2012, and we’re just a little more concerned about sustainability now than we were in 2008… yes, I’m reading more about sustainability now than 4 years ago, so maybe it’s just me [side note – I realize that the last Winter Olympics happened in between now and 2008, but those Games never seem to get much coverage, so I figured “Hey, why buck that trend here?”].

So, can we look at London 2012 as a business and see if they had a good CSR package? Well, not exactly.  I like to think that CSR/Sustainability can only truly happen if the business is focused on the long term and, obviously, London 2012 was a short-term thing – it was one, albeit HUGE, event.  So perhaps we should look at London as the long-term business, with the Games as a major product/service launched during this period.  This blog entry is a going to bring together some of the articles posted on the topics of a green, sustainable, responsible Games and the legacy of London 2012.

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