Gabriela Fistis, director of Denkstatt Romania, a consultancy company on sustainability, talks to Business Review about the certificates for sustainability management that it offers, their applicability, particularly on the real estate market, and the future of sustainable business practices in Romania.
How does the Romanian business environment perceive the concept of sustainability? How has this evolved over the years? How different is it from the mature markets of Western Europe?
In Romania we are still at the beginning but we are rapidly catching up because of EU pressures. In terms of large companies or companies with foreign capital where there is economic stability and organizational maturity, sustainability is already an integrated part of the business strategy. There are many companies that are already at the launch phase of sustainable products or services and are making it very clear that they are reducing their carbon footprint.
As far as comparing with the mature Western European markets I can say that there are still differences in the initiation process, approach and implementation, due to persisting confusion regarding the meaning of sustainability. When we talk about sustainability we talk about changes in the ways a company operates. Hiring interested parties in sustainability management is very important because only they can distinguish and orient this need, something that is not being done the way it should be in Romania.
What benefits do the courses and the resulting certificates you offer in the sustainability area entail for your clients?
The main benefits that they offer are, firstly, the competencies obtained following the courses and the European certificate. The certificate is awarded following a thorough examination, which I would call quite difficult, preceded by a project in the BPM – Business Process Management area for the ECQA Certified BPM manager qualification, and a project in Sustainability Management for the ECQA Certified sustainability manager qualification, respectively.
The participants have access to coaching and tutoring all throughout the course, so that the learning process can be as in-depth as possible and the certificates are well-seen and sought after especially because they are not easy to obtain. We don’t want to mass-produce business process managers or sustainability managers. These skills must be earned so that one can succeed in the work field.
Regarding your recent online survey on learning needs for sustainability management, what are your first findings?
The statistics showed a stringent need for training in the “resource management, eco-design and CSR” area, need identified at the level of operational functions, and a need for training in “innovation, strategic management, changing the business model and CSR” at the top management level.
The first findings are positive. The large number of trained ones in Romania and their satisfaction at the end of the program regarding their new competencies and the demand for the program’s continuation makes us certain that the plans for carrying on the program can bring about the desired change in society.
The program will continue with courses of study in 2016 and workshops with practical applicability on themes from the Sustainability Management domain.
From which areas of Romania are your clients primarily, the Western region and Bucharest or the entire territory?
Seeing as how we propose to those interested services in the sustainability area including trainings, I can say that we are not limited to the two regions, considering that the need in this segment is high throughout the country. We’ve had projects in the Bacau, Satu Mare and Salaj counties for consultancy services. But if we talk about access to potential clients or new course participants, Bucharest and the Western Region are definitely more accessible, but we do not exclude the other regions.
Our mission is clear: “To create and lead the change towards a sustainable society”. We try to shape the future and we firmly believe in what we are doing. We aren’t a big company, but we are trying to do great things. We can do this by being close by where the need appears. We understand the clients’ need and where others see challenges, we see opportunities.
What are your target groups – both for courses and consultancy? Have you noticed any changes in the target group or their demands?
When we talk about sustainability we are addressing a large target group. Our desire is to create these competencies first and foremost on the production side because this can have the most negative impact on the environment. It also impacts socially in that the employees and management should make the change and reorient the operational processes towards some that are more efficient, or even change the business model. But the courses are also very applicable for the services segment, where of course there is a sizeable environment and social impact but many have yet to quantify it.
Some changes already exist and in most cases they are for the best. Slowly, reaction will be passed over in favor of prevention, because there will be environment taxes that will directly impact the business. If the companies won’t voluntarily shift towards a sustainable business approach, then probably, in the shortest time, there will be a clear legislative framework that will impose stricter demands that at the moment do not exist. There are still companies that are not sufficiently transparent when it comes to exposing the problems they are being confronted with.
How can such a certificate be applied, for example, in the real estate area?
Any self-respecting organization wanting to communicate what it does internally – resource usage, business integration of environment and social responsibilities – to interested parties, needs qualified personnel to support these processes. This could be the Sustainability Manager, who will know what to do.
When we talk about real estate, the sustainability concepts are applied to the maximum because of all the activity sectors (except manufacturing), the buildings side of things is the most impacting when it comes to energy consumption and generating inert waste that often remains impossible to capitalize. Any building designed according to some strict demands regarding sustainability will be able to have costs that are at least 50 percent less and a longer lifespan. When a building is designed, its entire life cycle must be considered and all the associated costs, from idea/conception/design, execution, usage to its demolition. In each phase the building must be efficient.
What turnover did you have for 2014 and 2015? What are your expectations for 2016? Where did the growth come from and where do you estimate it will come from in 2016?
The growth has come through the implementation of new projects that are more and more demanded by our clients. The market need is stringent, perhaps not yet acknowledged by many companies. The turnover for 2015 for Denkstatt Romania was EUR 176,500 (an increase from EUR 132,500 in 2014) and the expected turnover for 2016 is EUR 200,000. Up to 20 percent of the turnover is generated by courses and 80 percent by consultancy.
What was the number of course takers in 2015 and what’s the price for a course?
LeadSUS registered in 2015 a total of 220 trained persons (in class and online), of which 130 persons from Romania. Of the persons trained in Romania 88 received the “Sustainability Manager Foundation level” certificate (base level) and 20 graduated and obtained the “Sustainability Manager Advanced level” certificate.
The course price includes the certificate, but differs whether it’s an in class course or online. For the in class course it’s EUR 900 per participant and for the online course it’s EUR 500 per participant.
Denkstatt Romania is a consultancy company on sustainability, operating on the Romanian market since 2007. The company was born as a joint venture between Denkstatt GmBH Austria and the Romanian Expert Consulting SRL following the EcoPROFIT project implemented in Romania in 2006 by the Austrian company. The purpose of the EcoPROFIT project was to implement the “Cleaner Production” concept among Romanian companies, the focus group being represented by companies from the Timis county.
Denkstatt Romania has a consultancy approach based on direct know-how transfer towards their clients, a group that includes private companies from Romania, which perform in the automotive, electronics, textile, food, waste management and service providers industries, most of which are medium-sized or large companies.