The changes that have occurred in Poland after 1989 due to the collapse of the socialist bloc countries also apply quite significantly to the area of environmental protection. In the initial period, the principles of collection and management of household waste were subject to transformation; then in 1995 it was made compulsory to pay fees for usage of the environment and finally, in 2002, it was made compulsory to pay product fees constituting a sign of extended producer responsibility. Despite the lapse of years, still a significant percentage of companies have not implement statutory obligations in the field of environmental protection, which means a risk of huge financial penalties for those companies. On the other hand, these companies declare a high level of awareness and environmental responsibility. In the years 2014-2015 the company M&M Consulting conducted a survey1 of 217 companies of the SME sector across the country, in order to establish the facts in this regard.
The Broad Spectrum of Responsibilities of Entrepreneurs in the Field of Environmental Protection
A common problem with the implementation of statutory environmental obligations in Poland prompted the authors to carry out a detailed analysis in this respect. The subject of the study were the results of audits carried out in the SME sector in Poland in the years 2014 - 2015 and a survey which asked company representatives about the attitude of the companies represented by them about the need to implement the principles of sustainable development. The survey consisted of 10 very simple questions, answers to which were to help determine the ratio of companies operating in the country to the obligations imposed on them by many existing pro-environmental legal acts in Poland. The survey was conducted using the available tools as well as by surveying enterprises participating in training courses, seminars and conferences organised by the testing unit. The answers were given by companies of the SME sector by a representative responsible for carrying out the obligations related to environmental protection in the company, not rarely was it a delegate of another functional area or a person seeking contact with a consulting company in the field of environmental protection to understand the scope and start the implementation of statutory duties.
As presented in the table, negligence in the application of environmental acts is significant. Nevertheless, the survey was to help determine the commitment and attitude towards new statutory responsibilities and assess the development trends in this area. Comparison of the results of the analysis with the survey results gives us completely contradictory images of the current situation. While nearly half of the audited companies have a problem with the correctness of implementation of most statutory obligations, declarations made in the survey provide a picture of environmentally conscious of companies, implementing in nearly 90% of their environmental responsibilities.
Table 1. Irregularities most often detected during environmental audits
Source: Own study based on environmental audits conducted by the company M&M Consulting.
The Attitude of Polish Wntrepreneurs to Ecology
The first question of the survey concerned the role and significance of ecology in the audited company. More than 90% of companies declare that they are not indifferent to issues related to the need to protect the environment in our country (see Fig. 1). This is an obvious manifestation of an intentional and behavioural gap occurring especially often in relation to issues of pro-ecological actions of people and businesses around the world2.
The results of respondents’ answers to this question indicate a phenomenon of inconsistency of declarative answers with actual behaviour. It is interesting that at such a high rate of environmental responsibility, almost 50-60% of the companies (see Table 1) do not perform basic duties such as recovery and recycling of packaging waste, proper classification of waste, record keeping and reporting in this area.
The survey also wanted to discover the impact of household waste segregation on waste segregation in companies. Surveying in this respect respondents responsible for environmental aspects in enterprises can be important due to the duplication of certain behaviours from their own environments in their workplaces. It is impossible to resist the impression that in both cases a high degree of segregation indicates rather a declarative nature of the response. Almost 98% of the respondents segregates waste in households (see Fig. 3) (at 75% rate of waste depositing3) and in companies more than 90% have active systems for selective waste collection (see Fig. 4). Despite this, unfortunately, Poland still falls behind European countries in terms of recovery and recycling of waste.
Is There Supply and Demand for Organic Products in Poland?
Then there was an attempt to estimate the demand for products from recycling (i.e. produced from recycled materials such as waste paper, scrap metal, broken glass, used electrical and electronic equipment) or which can be described as recyclable, i.e. meeting the harmonised standards defining parameters which must be met by packaging or the product to be recycled easily and safely for the environment - only 50% of respondents declare such purchases (see Fig. 5). Again, a clear discrepancy between the declared kindliness towards environmental issues and the desire to use products from recycling or recyclable did not escape the attention of the researchers, which indeed would be an expression of such environmental responsibility, which was declared at the beginning. [Po polsku ten podkreślony fragment nie jest zbyt klarowny, a w związku z tym po angielsku także niezbyt zrozumiały. Proponujemy pominięcie i zakończenie zdania na „....researchers.”]
At the same time, only 40% of consumers are interested in the above products - sustainable production in Poland has therefore no consumer’s favour in the present state and success in the disposal of such products cannot be expected. A harbinger of good changes may be that another 40% speaks very positively of ecological products despite the fact that they do not purchase them (see Fig. 6).
Looking for reasons in our region why so few Poles would buy products from recycling or recyclables, we asked about the economics of ecology - in the conviction of respondents, being green is expensive (see Fig. 7). This involves either extra expenses (42.4%) or additional work (34.6%). Only 3.2% of the surveyed companies consider products manufactured in accordance with the principles of sustainable development to be cheaper. General conviction associated with it, conditioning the demand for sustainable products and not supported by figures, is also a sign of a gap between the perception of certain phenomena and behaviour, which has a particularly significant impact on the economy in the area of environmental protection4.
The Need for a Change of Business Models in Poland - Green Business Models
In the surveyed companies it was sought to determine whether any changes had already been made in terms of applied business model so as to adapt to new environmental statutory requirements - which as shown by the statistics - are increasing (see Fig. 8). And so it turns out that nearly 60% of companies met with the concept of a sustainable business model, but still more than 40% do not know what this term may relate to.
This is surprising, since the subject of sustainable business models has been present in our economy for a long time. Knowledge resources, so-called “open science”, are filled with reflections on the slogan Green Business Models that are successful despite the economic slowdown, thanks to their individual approach to production and its objectives. As indicated in the report, in this area5 green business models are generally regarded as innovative and success- ensuring for an enterprise, regardless of the economic situation.
Another proof of the occurrence of an intentional and behavioural gap are answers about the knowledge of CSR - more than 75% of respondents believe that it is a real improvement of the social and ecological situation with economic benefits of enterprises (see Fig. 9). In the world CSR is going through the period of its most rapid development, inter alia the obligation to disclose non-financial information. Despite this, in Polish companies we are dealing with a lack of implementation of fundamental environmental obligations (see Table 1), which is a manifestation of environmental irresponsibility.
An interesting set of responses to the last tenth question was received. The question concerned the position responsible for the implementation of environmental obligations in Polish companies. The spectrum of responses was impressive. It covered all the possible functions in enterprises, from a secretary to the owner of the company, through accounts, managers and specialists (health and safety services, ISO proxies, purchasing managers), directors and board members.
Another report in this area shows that the professions related to ecology are still distant future occupations among other very abstract professions. For example, a waste data handler can become extremely sought after “even before” 2030. . As you can see in the given example, responsibilities of specialists in the field of ecology are in quite an original set of new yet distant professions.
The existing level of business involvement in the pro-ecological activities of companies, including the implementation of statutory duties together with the statistical data provided by the Central Statistical Office paints not a very optimistic picture. However, the level of backwardness from which Polish economy started and the immense task that Polish companies had to catch up with to begin exiting from the centrally-planned system should be taken into account. This happened at a time when nobody paid attention to the impact of production on the environment. Also, other market economies were characterised by a relatively low level of involvement in environmental issues in the initial period and also a lot had to be improved there. Challenges that are put before sustainable supply chains are clearly highlighted. They are: uncertainty of demand for second-hand products, unknown quality of recovered products, homogeneity of secondary raw materials, the lack of relationship between planning of demand for used products and their supply and many, many others7. In view of the above, taking into account the level of difficulty of changes to be made, you can positively assess the condition of Polish companies in the pursuit of pro-environmental development and expect, but primarily promote, further positive changes in protecting the environment. Activities of this kind will protect Polish economy against known errors of other countries and against adverse effects of irresponsible operations of industry and services on ecosystem.
1. Cosserat Graham W., Modern Auditing – Second edition, John Wiley & Sons, 2004
2. Green Business Model Innovation: Conceptualisation, Next Practice and Policy http://nordicinnovation.org/Publications/green-business-model-innovation-conceptualisation-next-practice-and-policy/
3. GUS, Ochrona środowiska. Environment 2014, ZWS, Warszawa
4. Kaiser, F., S.Wolfing, U. Fuhrer (1999), “5. Environmental Attitude and Ecological Behaviour”, Journal of Environmental Psychology 19: 1–19.
5. Kollmuss, Anja; Julian Agyeman (2002). “Mind the Gap: Why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behavior?”. Environmental Education Research 8 (3): 239–260.
6. Pezzotta S., Przyszłość społecznej odpowiedzialności przedsiębiorstwa we Włoszech i Europie, Społeczeństwo 2003, nos. 3-4
7. Pochampally K. K., Nukala S., Gupta S. M., Strategic Planning Models for Reverse an Closed – Loop Supply Chains, CRC Press, Boca Raton 2009
8. Report on the state of small and medium enterprises in Poland in 2008-2009. http://www.parp.gov.pl/files/74/81/380/9282.pdf.
By Katarzyna Michniewska, phD, Managing Director, M&M Consulting
and Paulina Siwiec, Specialist for Environmental Protection, M&M Consulting