Bozena Lesniewska

Vice President of Orange Polska S.A

Nowadays, more and more often company managers put emphasis on the fact that their organization fits into a broader social context and undertakes initiatives related to corporate social responsibility. What activities do you carry out in this area, how is it implemented, what does responsible leadership mean to you? 

The idea of corporate social responsibility can successfully become a permanent element of management, the way the company conducts its business, shapes its relationships with customers, builds commitment and loyalty of employees. For this to happen, CSR must be the basis of business strategy and management processes, the foundation of its organizational culture.

Orange Polska is a good example of such an approach. For the first time, CSR has become an important part of our company’s business strategy – “Responsibility” is one of its 4 strategic pillars.

This means that the challenges and issues related to responsibility have the same weight, the same level of governance and the same impact as the business objectives. For several years, we have had a social responsibility strategy that defines our areas of social and environmental impact, indicating goals and measures of their implementation.  Currently, these areas in the main aspects integrate with the business strategy at a higher level – creating a new strategy. Grow. Let’s grow together means that we have to develop not at the expense of others, but together with them, in symbiosis and cooperation. This is not just a typical business strategy – it is a strategy for managing our impact on the environment and stakeholders – customers, employees, investors, business and social partners as well as the environment. Maximizing the positive impact and mitigating the negative one.

The key issue for us is the digital transformation, which is driven by 5G technology for Orange. Digitization is an element that is in each of the pillars of the strategy. Digital transformation is also about the area of technology responsibility – it is the challenge to make technologies available to everyone, it is our desire for digital inclusion, care for technologies to be more and more green, as well as thinking about ethics in creating advanced AI and Big Data.

From my point of view, responsible leaders are a key and necessary element of building social responsibility in the company.

More and more investors and financial institutions choose as their partners those organizations that operate in accordance with ESG recommendations. Do you think that is right?

CSR, sustainable development or now ESG are concepts based on the idea that a company is something more than a company generating profit for shareholders. We look more broadly – at what this profit looks like for all stakeholders: employees, customers, investors, suppliers, society, business and social partners and the natural environment. We look long-term and broadly. We believe that for the company and its environment, it leads to long-term development and this approach brings benefits and contributes to improving the quality of life of all of us. Thanks to this, our story about the company is more complete – we show it not only as a participant in economic life, but also as a social one, as a citizen or a good neighbor.

ESG is an attempt to capture this broad view in indicators in the field of corporate governance, social and environmental areas. Thanks to this, we can also speak a language understandable to investors and financial institutions. We have been speaking this language for several years when preparing CSR reports,

and now integrated reports. We show that such thinking is close to us. And I think our investors appreciate that.

How does the company you manage go beyond the so-called business as usual? What is it doing for the climate, local communities, diversity or what would you like to implement in the near future?

For years, Orange Polska has been an active participant in social life in Poland and has been taking up specific challenges related to digital integration, diversity and climate responsibility. A lot to mention, so I will mention only the most important. We believe that technological progress must be accessible to all, but it must not come at the expense of the environment. We have set ourselves specific, ambitious climate goals and we invest in new, energy-efficient and more efficient technologies. We are also looking for green energy sources. In addition to reducing its own emissions, the technology industry has a special role to play. Modern digital technologies and the services we offer support the green transformation of many industries. We also involve our customers in activities for the benefit of the environment.

Orange Polska focuses on three priorities by 2025: responsibility for reducing CO2 emissions and resource consumption; the values it wants to build for customers, shareholders and stakeholders and the impact it has on the digital transformation of the Polish economy.

By 2025, Orange Polska will reduce its own CO2 emissions by 65% compared to 2015. We will achieve the goal primarily by increasing the share of renewable energy in the energy structure to at least 60%, but we are also optimizing energy consumption, working on our real estate resource or electrifying the car fleet. And all this towards the overarching goal: climate neutrality by 2040 for all our emissions – our own and in the value chain.

For many years, we have attached great importance to education in the wise and responsible use of new technologies. This is the main area of activity of our Orange Foundation. The Foundation teaches how to use new technologies in a responsible and valuable way. It runs its own projects and educational programs in which it takes care of the digital competences of children, young people and teachers. The Foundation’s programs are based on research, analysis and expert consultations to effectively respond to social needs. They are free and nationwide, and their activities are planned in a long-term way. All of them are also subject to evaluation. In their implementation, the Foundation cooperates with teachers throughout Poland, with leaders from small towns, with volunteers and volunteers from Orange, as well as with other NGOs.

Our social programs are directed to schools. MegaMisja is a 10-month series of classes for grades 1-3 of primary schools, which was created to help children take care of their balance and online safety. However, #SuperKoderzy is a series of classes for grades 4–8 of primary schools – learning the basics of programming and robotics. More than 5,000 children participate in these programs every year. What’s more, we also educate teachers in the use of digital skills as part of the Lesson:Enter program. Our goal is to train 75,000 teachers by 2023.

Since 2012, Orange Workshops have been operating in small towns, created to facilitate residents’ access to information, knowledge and technology. The common rooms are open to everyone, not only as a place to develop digital competences, but also as a space for meetings, integration, courses, workshops and interesting events. Currently, there are 81 workshops, which are available to over 700,000 local residents. In October 2022, we established the Orange Digital Center. It is a non-formal education program in which we support people in the development of competences of the future, in order to increase their chances in social and professional life. We provide the possibility of modern education, especially among groups that for various reasons may have difficult access to this type of option.

Every company creates its corporate culture that embodies the values that customers see externally. Do customers prefer to choose this particular company because it does something good with which the customer identifies or is it mainly price-driven purchasing decisions? What is your opinion, what trends have you observed, is something changing in this area?

When we ask our clients about corporate social responsibility, sustainable development, few know what this concept means and how to understand it. But when we ask about their and their children’s safety online, the availability of new technologies for seniors or people with disabilities, the protection of our climate and the challenges associated with it – we see that these topics are very important to them.

I recently saw Kantar’s global Sustainability Sector Index 2022 study showing that 65% of consumers want to do more for the planet and the environment, even though they are hindered by the rising cost of living. They also signal a lack of knowledge about pro-ecological alternatives to the products and services used. 47% of consumers say they have stopped buying a particular product or service because of its impact on the environment or society.  Among the group of more socially engaged consumers, this percentage rises to 87%.

This shows that customer expectations in this area are growing. We try to answer them as best as possible – showing what the company does and how as customers they can engage in these activities, e.g. using their phones more effectively or giving us unused ones that are lying in their drawers.

A topic that has been functioning on our map of the most important challenges for years is the safe use of new technologies – the security of our data, our devices and networks, but also the youngest users of technology – children. For over a dozen years, we have been cooperating with the Empowering Children Foundation in this area – teaching children, teachers and parents how to avoid the dangers of the digital world.We estimate that last year over 500,000 children benefited from our educational materials – courses, educational games, lesson plans and publications.

Recent events in Ukraine also show how important it is for customers to look at what the company is doing. Some of the companies faced a consumer boycott when they did not withdraw from their activities in Russia, many with consumer recognition for their commitment to helping refugees and refugees from war-torn areas.

As customers, we want our consumer choices to be ethical. As a company, we try our best to respond to these needs.

The development of values and ethical principles in many organizations may indicate that awareness in this area is growing. Many managers declare that they put ethics at the center of their activities. Is compliance with the principles of fair play in management a guarantee of stable development of the company?

When we talk about a good leader, trust seems to be the key thing. The Edelman Trust Barometer has developed a special model for measuring confidence[1]. It refers to two attributes: competence, i.e. fulfilling promises, and ethical behavior, i.e. doing the right things and acting to improve the life of society. The latest results show that 60% of employees want their bosses to speak out on socially important issues, and 80% want them to be personally involved in activities for the benefit of society. CEOs are expected to shape conversations and policy on employment and the economy (76%), wage inequality (73%), technology and automation (74%) and global warming and climate change (68%)[2].

These results show that business will not make full use of its competence to change the world for the better and the potential to build trust until it behaves responsibly towards people and your surroundings. That is why the issue of ethical leadership is so important.

Recent years – the pandemic, the war, and now the economic crisis – show us how important ethics are in the management of the organization. After a period of “little stability,” we were suddenly thrown into a time of great uncertainty.

Deloitte’s 2021 report on HR trends is titled “Responsible Business and the Disturbed World Order: Moving from Survival Strategy to Development Strategy”[3]. He points out that due to the unknown future, the overriding goal of the organization should be to organize work and provide support to employees in such a way that they are able to meet the upcoming challenges. Giving a human dimension to all actions taken by employers will help to successfully adapt the model of work and familiarize employees with the vision of an uncertain future.

And how uncertain the future is socially and economically – can show us this year’s challenge – the war in Ukraine. This is another test for ethical leadership.

What’s more, organizations face an increased number of ethical dilemmas, which especially arise when new technologies come into play. The challenge to ethical leadership is not only people, but also technology.

The world needs wise and good leaders who want to have a positive impact on their environment. Was there a moment when you started to look for a deeper meaning in your work, an opportunity to do something good for your communities or country? What has been achieved?

Answering the question of what my leadership should be like in the new era of management, I say that it is ethical and responsible, based on values and trust, putting people at the center, looking broadly at the needs of people and the entire social environment.

For me personally, as a leader, the topic of diversity is important, which is why I have been involved in the topic of supporting women and building an inclusive workplace for years.

I have been supporting women’s equality and development for years – I am a mentor, I am involved in the activities of women’s organizations, I co-create a study program for women – Lidershe at Kozminski University.

At Orange Polska, I am the leader of the Razem programme, which aims to show how important and effective it is to use the potential of diverse teams consisting of both women and men. We set ourselves specific and measurable goals – strengthening the role of women in Orange – 40% of women in managerial positions (this corresponds to % of women in the company), equal pay (reducing the pay gap), increasing the number of women in technologies –  25% women, care for equality / diversity in teams, e.g. in the recruitment committee and among candidates.

Personal and mentoring goals are also important to me – supporting women who become better managers or leaders and watching them become more confident in order to reach for more and change your environment and world.

Bozena Lesniewska – For years, professionally associated with management and the technology industry. Currently, as Vice-President of Orange Polska S.A., she is responsible for the business market and Integrated Solutions and BlueSoft. She has a unique blend of strategic thinking, motivating and developing skills, combined with passion and genuine commitment to everything she does. An active mentor in mentoring programs and co-author of the first studies for women in Europe.

Last Updated on January 27, 2023 by Anastazja Lach