Social investment projects by Viktor Rashnikov’s MMK become key pillar of company’s sustainable development.
Corporate sustainability efforts have traditionally focused on the environmental component of ESG. But in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and more recent global economic turbulence – and now, in recent weeks, the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and neighbouring states – the social aspect of sustainability has come to the fore. In some emerging-market countries like Russia, large companies care for the wellbeing of the regions where they operate and often form the backbone of their economic and social development. A standout example in global industry is MMK headed by Viktor Rashnikov, whose assistance to those affected by the tragedy in Turkey underscores the growing role of social responsibility in the company’s sustainable development.
Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works (MMK) is one of Russia’s largest metallurgical companies. Under Rashnikov’s leadership, the company is carrying out a comprehensive social programme for which it allocates more than $40 million annually. This includes projects to support employees and local residents, as well as measures to promote infrastructure development and initiatives in healthcare and sports. As the main donor to the Metallurg charitable foundation, Rashnikov’s company funds assistance to families with disabled children, pensioners and veterans, and works with other nonprofits to support vulnerable social groups.
Thanks to its longstanding track record of carrying out regular and systematic social work, MMK has been able to respond quickly in crisis situations that affect people’s welfare. From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has offered free medical and rehabilitation care to current and former employees, in addition to purchasing medical equipment for city hospitals. This effort was recognised by S&P Global Platts in 2021 with a Global Metals Award for “the company’s contribution to the fight against the pandemic and assistance to socially vulnerable residents of Magnitogorsk.”
Most recently, a plant belonging to MMK Metalurji, part of MMK Group, found itself in direct proximity to the epicentre of a devastating earthquake that hit Turkey in early February. Almost immediately after the first underground shocks, the enterprise offered shelter, free food and medical assistance to its employees and local residents. In an address, MMK board chairman Viktor Rashnikov said: “The doors of MMK Metalurji are always open for you, and we are ready to provide all those in need with all possible aid and support.”
According to Anadolu news agency, up to 1,600 people were almost constantly sheltering on the territory of MMK Metalurji in the aftermath of the quake, with the company providing up to 6,000 sets of hot meals daily. In addition, the company opened its port in Dörtyol to humanitarian vessels delivering medicines, food, clothing and equipment. MMK Metalurji also sent a cargo truck with humanitarian aid and essential goods from its facility in Dilovası to the Hatay Province, and provided excavators, mobile cranes and other equipment for relief work in affected cities.
In terms of the company’s long-term social responsibility strategy, a key focus of its activities has been empowering young specialists. MMK supports a variety of educational and career development programmes that open up a wide range of professional opportunities for young people, including through a longstanding partnership between MMK and Rashnikov himself with the local Nosov Magnitogorsk State Technical University (NMSTU). Among more recent projects, the company has been sponsoring a children’s technology park and developing a network of educational, wellness and athletic centres for children and youth, which include a childrens’ IT learning centre and a personnel training centre for high-tech production in metallurgy and metallurgical engineering.
Sports has been another longtime focus of MMK and Rashnikov’s social initiatives, which span both professional and amateur athletics. The Metallurg Magnitogorsk Sports Club, one of the largest facilities of its kind in Russia, has a long history of raising homegrown champions and today offers facilities for hosting a broad range of athletes, including athletes with disabilities. An important personal project for Rashnikov has been the development of the Metallurg Magnitogorsk professional ice hockey team, the main local sports symbol, which has won seven national championship titles and ranks among the strongest teams in Europe. MMK is also developing two ski resorts, Abzakovo and Bannoe, which annually serve as top destinations for winter tourism and relaxation among local residents and company employees. With their top-level facilities and modern infrastructure, the resorts have become venues for hosting international sports competitions, including stages of the Snowboard World Cup.
To improve quality of life in Magnitogorsk, Rashnikov has worked with the city administration to refurbish key urban structures and transportation infrastructure, improve city landscaping and create new green spaces. A major initiative in this regard is the Attraction project, conceived and financed by MMK’s board chairman. The project is currently transforming more than 400 hectares of territory into a major park complex outfitted with cultural, educational and recreational facilities to be enjoyed year-round – including skiing and bike trails, an urban beach and an oceanarium. In addition to becoming a focal point for residents and visitors, the Attraction project is expected to create more than 1,500 new jobs and become a driver of local business development upon its completion in 2025. Despite the challenging current environment, Rashnikov recently announced that the project is developing according to plan, and the second stage of the park’s territory will be opened to the public in summer 2023.
Beyond creating new urban spaces, MMK has transformed its own assets into an engine of social and economic development. For example, MMK Industrial Park, part of the MMK Group of companies, hosts dozens of medium and small businesses working across various branches of industry. Since the Park’s inception in 2016, production and investment by resident companies has grown steadily each year, helping to boost employment and diversify the local economy.
A final key aspect of social responsibility is internal work within the company to foster motivation, engagement and professional growth. To that end, MMK allocates millions of dollars annually towards professional training and career development, as well as supporting diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity in the workplace. The company also upholds best international practices in occupational health and safety. Under Rashnikov’s leadership, MMK became the first company in Russia to receive “gold” accreditation from the UK-based Investors in People standard for its work in personnel development and achieved “gold” status among industry employers in the Forbes Best Employers 2021 rating.
As global challenges continue unabated, companies around the world are stepping up efforts to support communities in the areas where they can have a positive impact. For business leaders and companies that have a longstanding tradition of social responsibility, like Viktor Rashnikov and MMK, the rise of the social aspect in ESG strategies serves as additional confirmation of the key role that corporates play in advancing societal wellbeing in an increasingly turbulent world. Emerging-market players are particularly interesting to watch in this regard, as they provide case studies of how companies can build on decades of social efforts spanning across political and economic systems to emerge as leaders in corporate social sustainability.
This article originally appeared in European Business Magazine and was reprinted with permission.