Global businesses now put focus on CSR.
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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a business model where companies integrate social and environmental concerns into their business operations and interactions with their stakeholders. It is about companies going beyond what may be required by regulators or environmental protection groups to contribute to the welfare of society.

While this concept has been around for decades, its value and purpose have grown in recent years, with the recent economic changes that happened and the consumers becoming more conscious of issues such as climate change, income inequality, health care disparities, unfair labor practices, and gender inequity. The 2019 AFLAC Corporate Social Responsibility survey reports that 77% of consumers are "compelled to purchase from companies committed to making the world a better place." This number shows how CSR is familiar to companies and a concept consumers value.

With the sudden shift brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical conflicts, and economic volatility, how has CSR changed and worked today? This explores the evolution of CSR, drawing on the insights and experience of global business leader and philanthropist Igor Makarov. With a career that spans years in business and charity, Makarov's journey encapsulates the adaptive and proactive nature of CSR today.

More Personal CSR Efforts

The approach to CSR has evolved significantly, with companies increasingly choosing to support causes that align closely with their core values and beliefs. Makarov explains that this shift departs from earlier, more generic CSR efforts towards initiatives that contribute to societal good and resonate deeply with the company's identity and ethos.

He adds, "Businesses recognise that engaging in CSR activities reflecting their interests and areas of expertise can make a more meaningful impact while reinforcing their brand values."

Makarov's rich background as a former professional cyclist exemplifies this modern CSR approach. His passion for cycling and belief in the sport's positive values led him to integrate his love for cycling into his business's CSR initiatives. In 2008, Makarov founded and became the sponsor of the Swiss-registered professional cycling team, Katusha Team. For Makarov, it was more than a sponsorship but a reflection of his commitment to promoting not only professional cycling but the sport in general for broader people.

It is with the cycling-for-all idea that Makarov went further and stepped up his game on supporting cycling-related federations. He joined the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the world governing body of cycling. Through UCI, Makarov brought his cycling-for-all initiatives worldwide and encouraged other aspiring cyclists to pursue their dream of the sport. Aside from this, his businesses also sponsored the European Cycling Union (UEC) for many years, providing funds and necessary support for all the European Federation's cycling projects.

He mentions, "By choosing a cause so closely related to my personal history and passion, the Katusha Team became more meaningful and impactful. It championed a sport that had significantly shaped my own life and shaped other aspiring cyclists as well."

A Globalised CSR Effort

CSR has also transcended the boundaries of individual businesses and leaders to become a global movement characterised by cooperation and partnership. According to Makarov, this evolution reflects a growing recognition of the interconnectedness of global challenges and the collective action required to address them. Today, CSR initiatives often involve collaborations across countries, industries, and sectors, pooling resources, expertise, and networks to maximise impact.

Makarov's philanthropic journey also exemplifies this global and cooperative spirit of modern CSR. After selling the Katusha Team in 2019, Makarov expanded his charitable endeavors, engaging in large-scale charity projects that span various causes and countries. His efforts include the establishment of a clinic for adults with autism at Mount Sinai in Miami, which empowers adults on the autism spectrum. Additionally, he supported the publication of books with convex illustrations and audio support for visually impaired children through the Project of the Books for Cecutient Children Fund. Meanwhile, in Limassol, Cyprus, Makarov, and other local investors funded the construction and maintenance of a public park, contributing to the community's well-being.

Like Makarov's experience, these initiatives highlight how CSR has become a platform for addressing global causes, benefiting a wide range of people across different sectors of society. The international scope of these initiatives widely disperses the benefits of CSR instead of confining them to specific locales or issues.

The Future of CSR

CSR will likely evolve according to economic situations and pressing global challenges. Makarov points out that the increasing urgency of climate change, social inequality, peace, and sustainable development will push CSR from the sidelines to a central business strategy pillar.

Moreover, digital transformation and the rise of social media will make companies more accountable to their stakeholders, enabling real-time monitoring and reporting of CSR efforts. As a result, businesses and people can expect to see more strategic partnerships between businesses, governments, and non-profit organisations to address global challenges collaboratively.

Makarov, who still uses his influence to advance more valuable causes today, believes the future of CSR will thrive through a more holistic approach, where businesses pursue economic growth alongside positive social and environmental outcomes, reflecting a broader recognition of corporate responsibility in a rapidly changing world.