Scalable, Measurable, Impactful and Beyond ‘Business as Usual’

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Attila Chikán Jr. president of the Business Council for Sustainable Development in Hungary and CEO of alternative and renewable energy specialist ALTEO Group, talks to the Budapest Business Journal about the impact of the council and the growth of sustainability in Hungary.

Attila Chikán Jr.

BBJ: How and when was the BCSDH formed?

Attila Chikán Jr.: The Business Council for Sustainable Development in Hungary was established in 2007 as the national partner organization of World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Several companies and private individuals believed that businesses should also take actions for sustainability in Hungary, therefore they founded the BCSDH. Since then, the organization has evolved into a value-creating community of business leaders of companies who presently employ more than 400,000 people and contribute approximately 30% of Hungary’s GDP. Currently our most important task is to promote the incorporation of the principles of sustainable corporate governance into practice, while actively contributing to the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

BBJ: How has it changed since 2007?

AC: In 2007, BCSDH started with 15 members, and now, 11 years later, the number of member companies has grown to 81. Through the years, the council has become a unique, leading organization in its area, and connects to the government, private and business sectors as well.

BBJ: What is the significance of its membership today?

AC: The members are known to be the biggest companies with the power of influence in Hungary. Under the frameworks like the SDGs and the Paris Agreement, our members work together on big questions, such as: how do we get to net zero emissions by 2050? And how can we avoid wasting a third of the food we produce while millions of people still go hungry every day? Membership gives businesses the value, impact and voice to navigate this change and prosper by transforming themselves and the world. Members develop business solutions that are scalable, measurable, impactful and beyond “business as usual”.

BBJ: How and why did you get involved with the BCSDH?

AC: Personally, I believe that sustainability is the future of businesses. The energy sector, in which ALTEO operates, is strongly linked to sustainability and renewable energy as well. Sustainability is a significant part of ALTEO’s corporate management strategy; we shape our portfolio and investment decisions in line with this attitude. My personal vision and aim is to acquaint people with and spread responsible and sustainable corporate governance principles as widely as possible, and to provide the opportunity for Hungarian companies to become more sustainable on their own area. I also served as the head of the Action2020 Working Group for a couple of years, which has been a great experience and an exciting trip.

BBJ: How has awareness of sustainability and green business changed over the years?

AC: BCSDH was founded almost 11 years ago, which was actually the period of the culmination of corporate sustainability in Hungary. In order to be able to follow the trends, the current state and future prospects of the corporate sustainability of the council’s recommendations, we have carried out a BCSDH survey every year since 2013.

Although our survey indicates that progress with corporate sustainability in Hungary still lags behind global trends, more and more domestic company leaders are reporting that they value environmental responsibility and are preparing for the emergence of a carbon-neutral economy – one of the significant elements in a corporate sustainability strategy. The adoption of climate-related BCSDH recommendations from 2016 is clearly identifiable in the 2017 survey.

BBJ: Would you say business is driving the sustainability agenda now, or responding to market/public demands?

AC: Our opinion is that, in Hungary, companies are driving the sustainability agenda now, and we know that the global markets go through a slow transformation. Markets move toward true-value pricing and long-term value creation. Besides the birth of environmental and economic crises and the spread of “green” values by education and the media, these initiatives encourage “One World – People and Planet” behavior in society and individuals worldwide.

BBJ: What are the most important projects the council working on right now?

AC: One of our flagship programs is the “Action 2020 Hungary Program” that calls on the Hungarian business sector to take immediate action. The program is the Hungarian adaptation of the global program of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Within the program, five priority areas (Food and Feed; Sustainable Lifestyles; Employment; Climate Change; and Water) and 20 specific macro-level goals are defined. This year, this program has a special focus on Sustainable Lifestyles.

The aim of our “Future Leaders Talent Program” is to help potential business leaders, who today are currently talented professionals, to understand the complexity of corporate sustainability and to enable them to incorporate sustainability into their future decision-making processes. This program is unique in Hungary.

BBJ: What future sustainability trends do you expect to impact business?

AC: Most business leaders in Hungary feel that the circular economy is the future, in accordance with what we also forecast at the WBCSD. The proposed circular economy directive of the European Union is an obvious sign of its implementation into legislation. Transitioning to a circular economy is one of the greatest business opportunities nowadays. The core of the concept is not yet deeply acknowledged by most companies, although use of this model can increase the flexibility of the economy and facilitate the achievements of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

BBJ: How does Hungary compare with its peers when it comes to sustainability?

AC: If we look over our performance in the context of Sustainable Development Goals, we are at the end of the line compared to the close Western countries. Concerning our ecological footprint, we exceed our biocapacity, and we have an ecological deficit. Mostly it is these facts that force us to move towards more sustainable lifestyles.

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