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Large companies and their commitment to society

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Howard R. Bowen’s book “Social Responsibilities of the Businessman,” published in 1953, laid the foundations for what would become Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR. Bowen proposed, even at that time, that companies should voluntarily pursue corporate policies that go beyond merely making a profit, addressing the goals and values needed by the community.

In the more than sixty years that have passed since then, CSR has developed as an idea, it has been criticized, adopted, and changed, but it hasn’t disappeared. On the contrary, it has evolved into a commitment that companies make to work proactively for the good of the communities they operate in.

Day by day, more companies are aware of the importance of taking action in light of the urgent environmental and social context we live in. For almost 90 years, we at MAPFRE have worked on our commitment to people and the planet with the intention of leaving a positive footprint on our surroundings as we deal with global challenges. In fact, just a few years after Bowen’s book was published, MAPFRE had already included Corporate Social Responsibility in its 1965 founding Statutes, “so, sustainability is something that MAPFRE has in its DNA and all employees work hand in hand with the Foundation, and so it would be inconceivable to do things any other way,” said José Manuel Inchausti, vice president of MAPFRE and CEO at MAPFRE Iberia, at the recent 3rd MAPFRE Forum on Sustainable Finance.

What is a company’s social commitment?

This responsibility, this voluntary commitment companies make, is a form of leadership based on positive management of the impact the company’s activity may have, not just on its clients, shareholders, and employees, but on the community in which it is based, the environment and society at large.

It involves not just avoiding possible negative effects, but ensuring that its activity has a positive effect in areas such as human rights, diversity, employment, protecting health, environmental issues, business transparency and ethics, the fight against fraud and corruption, and other areas of social and community interest.

How is this social commitment made real?

The way of articulating the business actions and policies that shape this commitment to society is through strategies and criteria known as ESG (environmental, social and governance). Let’s look at what each of these letters stands for.

E – Environmental criteria, pacts, and policies

These are all the actions the company takes to produce a positive impact on the environment – reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, promoting the circular economy, sustainable mobility, green procurement, energy-efficient buildings and other projects that can be linked to natural capital, such as reforestation.

S – Social actions

Putting people at the center of all activity involves developing employment policies that encourage accessibility and ensure inclusion and diversity, understood as aspects such as origin, beliefs, or sexual freedom. But it also means going far beyond the labor world, promoting actions in defense of human rights, solidarity and volunteering that work to support those least fortunate among us. 

G – Governance commitments

Finally, the ESG criteria include commitments of transparency and ethics in managing the company, as well as SRI (Socially Responsible Investment) principles to ensure that the company’s activity, inside and out, responds to the community with positive values.

These criteria, pacts, policies, and commitments have an impact on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda, established by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. These 17 SDGs pursue 169 goals based on action plans for people, the planet, and prosperity, which we as companies, organizations, and citizens in general pursue with our activities.

Dialog as a form of progress

It’s not just a matter of committing to certain criteria, but of maintaining a constant and open dialog with the community and the different stakeholders, to evolve and advance, adapting each of the actions to the needs of the community where the company is based and, beyond that, the entire world.

This dialog begins with the company’s different stakeholders (clients, shareholders, employees) but extends, through transparency and ethics commitments, to all citizens.

Social commitment and business

In 2021, Fundación Seres conducted a study that estimated €1.486 billion in investments by 71 companies in social responsibility and commitment and, according to the Hays Guide, 71% of the companies implemented policies based on the ESG criteria that same year.

“Companies are no longer sustained solely on the economic dividend,” declares Monica Zuleta, Group Head of Sustainability at MAPFRE.

Today, social commitment is no longer a responsibility, or a tactic to achieve reputational gain, rather it’s a truly proactive commitment. There is no trade-off between solid financial performance and managing a responsible business that tries to return part of what the company has received to society. Sustainable business is, in effect, the path to a better financial future.

MAPFRE’S commitment to society

“We believe in an unfaltering business model that defends the idea that, without ethics, there can be no business, and that all our activities must be conducted sustainably”– Antonio Huertas, MAPFRE CEO.

MAPFRE firmly believes in this commitment, and makes this commitment manifest in its Sustainability Plan, a completely integrated strategy for business and decision-making in all areas of the company, which places people at the center of everything, establishes indicators that show us how we are doing and where we want to go, and which responds to the needs of all interest groups. It is a tremendously ambitious plan, with more than 20 measurable, attainable, and realistic goals, with concrete deadlines to, among other goals, reach carbon neutrality by 2030, reinforce transparency, and elevate compliance with the 2030 Agenda, with a special focus on SDG 8, 10, 13 and 17.

As Monica Zuleta emphasizes: “Our duty is to leave the planet in better condition than it was when we got here, and as a company, we have a commitment to doing what is in our power so that society and companies prosper, and that we strive for a more just, equal, ethical and safer world for all.  #PlayingOurPart is the slogan behind our communication on sustainability and refers precisely to this commitment, to the thousands of gestures that add up to the common goal of protecting the planet and building a better future for everyone, through simple but important gestures. It’s the contribution we want to make, but also to inspire others to contribute, in the advance toward the sustainable future to which we all aspire.”