The main problem that the project addresses is that nine years after entering the EU, Bulgaria is still one of the least-developed EU countries, with the lowest wage level among member states. Bulgaria was strongly affected by the economic and financial crisis once it had joined the EU. The crisis also had impacts on povertyrates. Last but not least, corruption is one of the main socioeconomic challenges in the country.
Today the society is facing increasingly interconnected and complex environmental, social and governance challenges.
One of the latest surveys of Bulgarian Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) experts confirms that businesses in Bulgaria are barely acquainted with the principles and practices of CSR. Engaging SMEs from peripheral regions of the country in CSR practices remains one of the major challenges. To address this problem, the project will focus on awareness-raising activities and sharing of innovative approaches and problem-solving methodologies and know-how from Switzerland. The project aims at bringing successful practices from Switzerland in order to minimize the disparities and the gaps that exist between Bulgaria and the more advanced counties from the EU.
The CSR in Bulgaria still has not reached the kind of mature state that can be observed in some Western countries. In this regard, the future of CSR in Bulgaria mainly depends on the ability of business, politics and civil society to collaborate on a strategic level. Especially important will be creating the right environment and way of thinking amongst the entrepreneurs, SMEs, NGOs and social partners and promoting CSR-related knowledge and know-how.
The project aims at strengthening their capacity through the sharing of knowledge and know-how with successful Swiss practices, to achieve the creation of a conducive environment to foster business growth and CSR practices of SMEs in Bulgaria, especially in the structurally weaker peripheral regions where they need it the most.
Bulgarian companies do not generally perceive CSR as a strategic approach or business model which is a huge gap caused by lack of information and knowledge on the topic and the project aims at addressing this by transferring the Swiss knowledge in order to minimize the gaps and to achieve a sustainable, economically and socially balanced development of Bulgaria.
The described goals are pursues through the following activities:
1. Analyzing the business needs and CSR awareness among the Bulgarian SMEs.
Before taking measures for improvement of the business environment in the country, gathering information and developing an analysis of the current situation is of high importance. CEED will conduct a survey among 50 companies with different size, from all regions in the country, to understand more about their business needs, challenges and CSR awareness and practices.
2. Kick – off meeting of the project team. Chur, Switzerland
The CEED team will travel to Switzerland to meet with SIFE team and to discuss the analysis on the needs of Bulgarian entrepreneurs and SMEs in terms of business development and CSR and to create a structure for a 2-module training program.
3. Developing and implementing CSR awareness campaign (for promoting the importance of CSR and the Swiss contribution to the project.)
Sub-activity 1: The lack of information about the importance of CSR practices is preventing the successful growth and sustainability of many Bulgarian companies. The project will address that by developing an informative and inspiring campaign part of which will be a viral video that will be elaborated and further promoted throughout the project.
Sub-activity 2: Business Code of Conduct Guidelines
Creating a business code of conduct promotes moral behavior, acts as a guideline for ethical decision making, enhances the reputation of an organization, prevents negative legal effects, encourages positive relationships, acts as a reference for solving ethical dilemmas and prevents discrimination or harassment.
4. Development of a 2-module mentorship program on business development and CSR based on the expertise of the Swiss Institute for Entrepreneurship (SIFE)
5. Train-the-trainer: Acquiring practical know-how from SIFE and other Swiss organizations on business development services and CSR practices.
6. Transfer of the Swiss know-how and experience on business development and SCR practices to Bulgaria
Sub-activity 1: Conducting a 2-module mentoring program on business development and CSR. Six 2 –days trainings in Varna, Plovdiv, Burgas, Veliko Tarnovo, Vratsa, Sofia.
Sub-activity 2: Organizing Social business best idea competitions.
After each of the six 2-day trainings, social business idea competitions will be organized. Best ideas will be long-listed to participate in a CSR Demo Day in Sofia where a jury will select the most promising ideas and the winners will travel to Switzerland on a business trip for exchange of experience.
7. Organizing a CSR Demo Day in Sofia for the long-listed ideas.
8. Business trip in Switzerland for exchange of experience for the winners
Selected and awarded Bulgarian SMEs (5-6) will have the opportunity to participate in a study tour to Switzerland.
9. Organizing a CSR and business development conference.
OBJECTIVES / OUTCOMES AND IMPACT
- Raising the awareness of Bulgarian entrepreneurs, SMEs, NGOs and social partners about business development services and CSR policies and initiatives based on Swiss good practices
- Creation of a conducive environment enabling the implementation of business development services and CSR, including business exchange in CSR, and strengthening the transparency of socially responsible practices using Swiss expertise
- Strengthening the capacity of the non-governmental organizations and social partners in Bulgaria in the sphere of business development services and CSR, including business exchange in CSR, based on Swiss experience
The expected impact of the project is defined as:
- Reduction of economic and social disparities between Bulgaria and the more advanced countries of the enlarged EU
- Reduction of economic and social disparities between the dynamic urban centеrs and the structurally weaker peripheral regions
- Enhancing the institutional partnership between CEED Bulgaria and SIFE
- Promoting the Swiss contribution to the solution of specific development challenges and strengthening the capacities and structures of the Bulgarian institutional partners
Executing agency: Center for Entrepreneurship and Executive Development - Bulgaria (CEED Bulgaria)
Address: Bulgaria, 1407 Sofia, 6 Bigla Str., fl.1, ap. 3
Tel.: +359 2 8194343
Project Manager: Nadezhda Tasheva