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IT industry in Poland is just learning ESG. See the report “Opportunities and Threats – Social and Environmental Responsibility of IT Companies”

Polish technology companies do not study their carbon footprint, most of them transfer data to third parties without users’ consent and have not implemented any anti-corruption measures. It is clear that the Polish IT sector faces a serious challenge. In particular, it accounts for 7.6% of the EU market, and Poland ranks fifth among European countries in terms of the number of registered ICT companies and seventh in terms of growth dynamics.

In the European Union, from 2023 the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) will be in force, extending and specifying the obligation of non-financial reporting to all companies meeting at least two of the following criteria: EUR 40 million net turnover, EUR 20 million in assets, 250 or more employees. The number of ESG regulations on investment markets is growing at an exponential rate, so it is already clear that sustainable development is not a trend, but a new paradigm changing the rules of the economy.

– The modern economy is forcing new rules of the game. Without a comprehensive, authentic ESG strategy, it will be increasingly difficult to attract further rounds of funding, loans, customers, win foreign tenders, form international consortia, transfer know-how or attract the most valuable employees,” says Sebastian Kulczyk, the initiator of InCredibles, a mentoring program for the most innovative startups from Poland.

Challenges related to environmental, social and corporate governance issues, or so-called ESG issues (E-Environmental, S-Social, G-Governance), faced by technology companies are all the more important because the sector is characterized by a very low level of regulation in this area. Therefore, on the initiative of INSPIRED and Sebastian Kulczyk’s InCredibles program, a study was conducted at the end of 2021 titled. “Polish technology companies towards global challenges”, which resulted in the first report of this kind in Poland “Opportunities and threats – social and environmental responsibility of IT companies”.

The report focuses on several aspects of ESG, including the impact of IT companies on the environment and society. It also touches upon corporate governance and data security. It shows model solutions, examples of actions and forecasts for the future. The survey proves that such studies are needed, as it turns out that only 11% of Polish IT companies have a strategic approach to ESG issues, while unaware, i.e., those that have not implemented any actions resulting directly from the desire to induce positive social change, is about 45%.

Environment

A disturbing picture emerges from the survey – Polish IT companies’ approach to environmental issues is superficial, disorganized and dictated by economic benefits. Only 5% of technology companies in Poland measure their carbon footprint, yet half declare they will do so in the coming years. Most companies do not generate or purchase energy from RES or do not know if they use green energy in their daily operations. 90% of companies do not analyze how their software affects energy consumption.

– It is hard not to get the impression that most Polish technology companies think about the environment as if looking for savings. Symptomatic is the ability to work remotely – in the era of COVID-19 it is a standard and necessity, not a conscious pro-environmental initiative. This is best seen in the low popularity of activities that are closer to the core business, but require greater commitment and financial outlays, such as measuring carbon footprint, low-emission software solutions or the use of renewable energy – emphasizes Marta Lesiewska, initiator of the report, Founder & Consultant INSPIRED.

Social impact

The issue of social impact looks much better. According to the survey, 2/3 of Polish IT companies engage their employees in pro-bono and low-bono activities, and 56% independently organize charity actions or other help for the needy. On average, Polish IT companies devote about 400 hours a year to pro-bono activities and about 300 to low-bono, which is equivalent to 23% and 17% of a full-time employee.

– A good understanding of pro-social missions in most Polish enterprises remains at a basic level. The most common are financial collections or in-kind support for people in need or animal shelters, adds Marta Lesiewska.

Corporate governance

The issue of ethics and anti-corruption procedures is completely different. Two thirds of Polish IT companies do not have a code of ethics and 60% of them have not implemented any anti-corruption measures. However, only two of the surveyed companies conduct an external audit focused on detecting corrupt behavior. Slightly more than half of the companies declare that they resign from orders and tenders that raise ethical questions, and every third company has never encountered such a situation.

– An effective and respected code of ethics, support for diversity, anti-corruption measures or the ability to anonymously report concerns and violations should not be a market differentiator – they should be a standard,” Lesiewska emphasizes.

Personal data security

The survey also covered the issue of personal data protection. 9 out of 10 companies have implemented customer data security policies and other personal data security policies, but 40% of companies do not know how to proceed in the event of a personal data breach or ‘leak’. Very worrying is the high percentage of companies that transfer the collected information to third parties without the knowledge of the people sharing their data. As many as 75% of respondents admitted to such practices. However, as many as 1/3 of technology companies transferring personal data to another entity do not sign an appropriate entrustment agreement.

– The survey shows that Polish technology companies have managed to implement a number of formal solutions to protect their interests and the interests of the people whose data they manage. However, the practice is worrying, especially the very low awareness and readiness to react in emergency situations. The fact that 40% of technology companies do not know how to behave in the event of a data leak is a wake-up call for the entire industry – adds Marta Lesiewska.

Prospects for the future

A very positive conclusion was the declarations of the surveyed companies about the future. Most of them declare that they will develop ESG strategy especially in climate protection, corporate governance and impact on social environment.

The entire report can be found on this page.

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