Regional Post interviewed Irina Seylanyan, the Chief Executive Officer at HSBC Bank Armenia CJSC, about the CSR activities of HSBC and, generally, the state of CSR in Armenia.

Photo : HSBC 

How does HSBC define Corporate Social Responsibility?

— Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an integral part of the business strategy for modern organizations, as companies are now expected to act in ways that benefit not only their shareholders but also their employees, customers, and the broader community. It is about the ethics which drive an organization’s activities and how it operates to be viable over the long term. 

CSR is a broad concept that was established decades ago. Today, there is no one-size-fits-all CSR model, as it depends on the size of the company, the industry in which it operates, and the priorities it chooses. However, CSR is typically broken down into four categories: environmental, philanthropic, ethical, and economic responsibility. Broadly speaking, socially responsible companies aim to reduce pollution, increase the use of renewable energy or otherwise offset the impact they make, ensure fair treatment of all stakeholders from employees to customers, dedicate a portion of earnings to charitable giving, and link their financial decisions to the company’s commitment in the above areas.

To me, it’s important to highlight that corporate social responsibility is not a side project. Instead, it should be fully integrated into the company’s business practices. 


Solar power station and digital library for Hovhannes Toumanian museum sponsored by HSBC Armenia


Does HSBC Armenia have a CSR strategy? 

— At HSBC, we recognize that how we do business is as important as what we do. Our people, our customers, and the community we serve remain at the heart of our business.

From the very first days of our operation in Armenia, HSBC Armenia has always acted on the belief that sustainable growth is the prerequisite of our business success. In line with HSBC Group’s Sustainability strategy, we have given our best efforts to support and deliver projects which positively affect the lives of community residents, open up new opportunities and bring hope to less advantaged groups of people. 

We aim to help build resilience in areas where we can make a difference and support sustainable economic growth. Accordingly, our approach to community investments is based on four pillars: educating youth to make job opportunities available to them, offering financial education to people with less financial literacy, supporting local communities in need, as well as investing in projects that support the transition to net zero economy. We implement these projects through collaboration with NGOs.

As part of our strategy, we also encourage our employees to volunteer their time and expertise to various causes. Apart from benefiting the communities, volunteering can bring great personal rewards, enabling people to build connections, develop new skills, and gain a fresh perspective. I am incredibly proud of my colleagues, who spend hundreds of volunteering hours in the community to make a difference in people’s lives.


Do you track the impact of your CSR projects?

— We’ve all heard the saying, “What gets measured gets done.” Considering the importance of corporate responsibility to our overall business strategy, we have a well-established mechanism for tracking the execution of the projects we support. Measuring enables us to understand the scale of the impact of our actions, as well as to improve our decision-making as we plan our next CSR programs. 


What areas do you believe should be of focus for CSR in Armenia?

— A wide range of causes need attention and support in Armenia, and different companies will have different strategies and priorities in implementing their CSR projects. As I already mentioned, for us, the focus of corporate responsibility is on achieving sustainable economic growth. To ensure sustainable economic growth in Armenia, we believe that it’s important to address the significant imbalance between the capital of Armenia and its regions, create opportunities for rural communities and people, ensuring balanced development and inclusive economic growth. Therefore, at HSBC Armenia, we prioritize the projects implemented in the regions. While all our branches are located in Yerevan, most of our projects are implemented in the regions, which helps us keep connectivity with the regions and hopefully helps ensure a more balanced and sustainable development of our country.


Launch of “Solar Energy for Cultural Heritage” project


Which of your recent CSR initiatives are you most proud of and why?

— We implement a number of initiatives each year, and all of them are close to my heart. However, one of the recent projects I’m really proud of is the “Solar Energy for Cultural Heritage” project, which we implemented with the Armenian Energy Agency Foundation. I’m mentioning this specific project because it was a multi-objective initiative, contributing to the sustainable development of Armenian cultural heritage while helping to address climate change challenges.

The project’s beneficiary was the Hovhannes Toumanian Museum, on the roof of which a solar photovoltaic power station was installed. The project’s primary purpose was to reduce the museum’s energy costs and use the savings to benefit the museum’s other fundamental needs. Thanks to the implementation of this project, the museum saves on its annual electricity costs. Meanwhile, the money saved is used to digitalize Hovhannes Toumanian’s personal library, consisting of nearly 8000 books. Once the digitization is complete, our famous poet’s personal library will become available to art lovers.

Nowadays, digital libraries are effective and sustainable sources of knowledge for future generations, and I am proud to have contributed to opening up this opportunity for Toumanian lovers. Moreover, this project is a tremendous chance to demonstrate the relevance of cultural heritage for sustainable growth and inspire other businesses to invest in this area.

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