Concessionaire in charge of the construction & operation of the Rion – Antirion Bridge (inaugurated in August 2004), GEFYRA S.A. had initially built its civic-centric policy of support to local institutions of social & societal action (NGOs & public institutions) on a bilateral basis. The reason was the special relation between the company and the population in the middle of which the Bridge was constructed. The choice of “active proximity” in the relations between the company and this kind of stakeholders was the starting block of the latest phase of this strategy.
When financial crisis started to be dramatically felt in Greece in 2010 with the collapse of the Greek Welfare State, GEFYRA decided to overpass the bilateral status in the relation with its societal stakeholders and move towards the union of forces with in a common platform of 45 organizations united under the name “SOLIDARITY PYLONS”.
The objectives were; prioritization of the needs of the platform-members by themselves (proving that anyone understands the fact that his/her fellow could be in a more urgent circumstance than him/her), multiplication of the tools of support (i.e. the company doesn’t give only money but also the gains earned from the utilization of the commercial image of the Bridge) and all these aiming to guarantee the sustainability of the member-institutions. The Steering Committee of the Platform is in charge of the implementation by selecting the most urgent needs to be fulfilled by the means of GEFYRA in order to avoid the stoppage of functioning of the member-institutions.
The stakeholders involved were: The employees of the company (volunteering assistance), its main shareholder (VINCI through VINCI Foundation), NGO’s active in musical & theatrical activities (performing in order to finance the members), other companies active in Western Greece (offering their products/insurance, ambulances, fuel, distribution of printed material to their clients, food, money) and well known Greek citizens acting as official ambassadors, as well as the local government of the Region of Western Greece (supporting politically the whole experiment).
The challenge was to assure material help to the weakest and to keep the assisting volunteers by their side. The lesson learned was the miracle of solidarity among citizens and corporate citizens. The lesson was the power of solidarity in achieving to build the most possible bridges among people, knowing that even a corporate citizen is incarnated by true citizens acting on behalf of companies. This lesson will still go on during the crisis and even when the crisis will be just a memory. It’s all about soul.
The business impact rests in the field of reputation due to social/societal utility. A company who has a contract with the Greek State to fulfill, it goes beyond the obligations coming out of the contract and honors the moral obligations binding the company to the community. The Solidarity Pylons GEFYRA’s CSR policies were positively embraced especially by people suffering from the crisis effects, categorizing the company among those who did something in favor of the weakest members of society.
The first social impact is the fact that real material help is being given where needed. The last (but not least) is that, thanks to the help offered, the active citizens responsible for the member-NGO’s who do play the role of “encouragers of the society” do not feel alone in their battle and won’t abandon the fight. This is happening because the (active) corporate citizen named GEFYRA is here in order to “encourage the encouragers”. This crucial gain cannot be measurable by metrics, but it is the main conquest of the Solidarity Pylons experiment.
The Solidarity Pylons website is under construction.