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Electronic Recycling Association on why giving back is important

Do you remember your first introduction to philanthropy or giving back?  For tens of thousands of Canadians, it has been National UNICEF Day, a Halloween tradition beloved by generations and one of Canada's longest-running youth fundraising activities. Students across Canada raise funds to improve the lives of their most vulnerable peers around the world. Money raised goes towards helping children around the world access to a quality education, build schools, train teachers, advocate for girls’ education and reach children whose lives have been disrupted by emergencies.

> Learn more about National UNICEF Day

The Electronic Recycling Association’s Founder and President Bojan Paduh about the efforts of Canadian students and approached UNICEF with the idea of donating 10 recycled laptops to schools where students and teachers came together to make a difference in children’s lives alongside UNICEF. Because of ERA’s generosity and the dedication of the students, the top 10 fundraising schools were presented with these laptops. Schools were encouraged to use the laptops in whichever way they thought would be most beneficial, whether used as a general resource computer, given to a class or a student, or donated if the school had a local organization that they knew was in need.

An interview with Bojan Paduh

We recently connected with Bojan to learn more about the most important influencers in his life, why he believes in giving back and what advice he would give to Canadian companies interested in investing in a global cause.

Why did you (or your company) decide to support UNICEF Canada?

ERA believes that giving back is critical and has made it a significant part of our business model. By providing donations to UNICEF Canada, we know that we’ll be supporting some of the highest needs children in the highest needs area.

Because we are a Canadian company, most of our programs are geared toward Canadians. Partnering with UNICEF Canada broadens our reach and allows us to positively impact children on a larger scale, through an organization with a track record of making a real difference. We are proud to work with such a remarkable group.

Why is giving back important to you personally, and to the Electronic Recycling Association as a company?

I came to Canada in the 1990s from Bosnia, which at the time was experiencing significant unrest and was unsafe for my family. Here I was shown kindness, welcomed to the country and given a shot at opportunities that I probably wouldn’t have had back home. The warm reception and opportunities provided me with a happy and successful life, so it is extremely important that I continue the cycle of goodwill. I believe if you are able to give back, you should. Our business is run almost entirely on the donation of equipment from other organizations as well as individuals, which we data wipe and refurbish if possible. This business model now employs over 20 full-time individuals. To ensure the preservation of goodwill, I built in a comprehensive donation program to ensure Canadians currently going without necessary computer equipment were given access to that equipment for free. It’s a great way for our clients to extend their corporate social responsibility programs, while at the same time addressing an unavoidable business process (retiring IT asset management).

What types of charitable projects are closest to your heart?

I am passionate about what ERA does, from a community investment as well as environmental perspective. I am working toward expanding what we do – making sure the digital divide doesn’t continue to grow and working to minimize waste. My goal is to bring more awareness to the global waste crisis and play a leadership role in creating alternatives.

Where do you think the future of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is going?

I think we will soon see a shift toward CSR initiatives that include more of an environmental sustainability element. There is so much uncertainty right now in many of the markets within which we operate, so businesses need to start integrating CSR into all of their operations as opposed to giving it its own segment – one of the first things to go when the economy slows down.

By better integrating CSR, businesses will ensure their impact is consistent despite downturns. Instead of having specific initiatives to raise CSR profiles, I think we’ll start to see creative initiatives built in that maximize visibility and impact. Also, as the business climate evolves, consumers and employees are starting to demand more (CSR activity) from the businesses they work for or support, so truly in order to remain competitive a strong CSR profile will become more and more important. I think we are heading into a really exciting time!

>Learn about UNICEF’s approach to CSR

What advice would you give Canadian companies looking to invest in global causes?

Make sure the causes that we invest in value human life over profits and revenues. I think it’s really important to thoroughly research opportunities to ensure they are viable over the long term and legitimate. Unfortunately too many companies in the developing world have lower environmental standards and labor standards, enabling unethical companies to reap higher profits.

By Richard DeLisle 

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