CSR initiatives are effective only if a company’s top management and owners are involved, says Boris Krasnyansky, CEO of Group DF, a diversified international group of companies that is sponsoring The Days of Ukraine in the United Kingdom festival. We talked to Mr. Krasnyansky about why the group has chosen cultural diplomacy as a vehicle for corporate social responsibility, and how big businesses can promote their country’s image. Mr. Krasnyansky also talks about his cherished dream.
Why did Group DF decide to focus on improving Ukraine’s image? How was this decision made?
Truthfully, much of the world is still not very familiar with Ukraine. Although the country has been independent for 22 years now, what people know about it is still fragmentary—if even that. There are still people who don’t think of Ukraine as a separate country and call the people who live, for example, in Kyiv “Russians.” So our main objective is promoting knowledge about our country so that people will recognize it, understand it and respect it. Ukraine has so much to be proud of: world-class achievements in culture, sports and business.
From a business perspective, why is The Days of Ukrainefestival being held in London?
London is the financial center of Europe. Ukrainian business, like all business, needs investment, and the London Stock Exchange is the one of largest financial platforms for Ukrainian companies to issue IPOs. By promoting better knowledge of Ukraine, we are changing negative attitudes and perceptions to positive ones, and potentially increasing the value of Ukrainian businesses that eventually hope to go public. For business, with operates abroad, it is much easier to negotiate when others know your country. As I said, Ukrainians have so much to show to the world: literature, music, contemporary art, fashion, opera, and ballet. Not to mention our cuisine. I’ve never tasted anything quite so delicious as Ukrainian borsch.
Why did you choose cultural diplomacy as a vehicle for corporate social responsibility?
The Group’s Supervisory Council made this decision after considering various options. We decided to focus on promoting the culture that Ukraine can offer to the world. Many organizations are working to raise Ukraine’s world ranking, such as Doing Business, but few are promoting culture. Every serious business must be socially responsible, but it also has to concentrate on only four or five main areas so as not to spread itself too thin. For our Group, cultural diplomacy is one of our choices.
As a major corporation, how does Group DF hope influence the world’s image of Ukraine?
There are a number of ways, actually. One is by supporting and promoting Ukraine’s national achievements, which is what we’re doing in The Days of Ukraine festival. Another is by maintaining a clear, consistent dialogue with foreign partners to gain their confidence and thus improving Ukraine’s image as a reliable partner. The one complements the other.
How often do you visit London? What’s your favorite place?
I first visited London in 1992. I had actually studied English since elementary school when it was virtually impossible to travel abroad. Although I had often seen pictures of British attractions in books, I experienced a bit of culture shock when I actually saw London with my own eyes. For me, culture and traditions are the quintessence of Great Britain: from the royal family, which still plays an important role, to popular fixtures like the English pub. I have favorite routes that I always try to take when in London: I go to Park Lane, Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross, the Strand and Covent Garden. I am fond of the old London hotels where the floorboards squeak and you get an excellent English breakfast in the morning. The beer in English pubs is like no other beer in the world: it has no gas, it’s darker, and it has that special flavor. I’m not a big fan of beer, but British pubs have a rich and unique atmosphere.
What’s your dream?
I have lots of dreams. A man must have dreams. In terms of what we’ve been talking about, I dream that every person who goes abroad carrying a Ukrainian passport is treated everywhere with the respect.