Established in 1992, the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine (ACC) is one of the most effective non-government business organizations working in Ukraine. The ACC provides its members with information services, assistance with establishing contacts and protecting their interests in interaction with the country’s governmental bodies.
Help in networking with other business colleagues and lobbying business interests are the primary reasons companies choose to join the ACC, according to its members. They enjoy the benefits of sharing and comparing their experiences in dealing with various business problem areas and find common approaches to finding business solutions.
“Companies want to become members of the chamber so that they can have access to the chamber’s resources, particularly for information, and for lobbying,” said James Hitch, chairman of the board of directors of ACC and a managing partner with global law firm Baker&McKenzie.
“Also, companies can raise issues and seek solutions from Ukrainian government authorities by putting them forward with the chamber, which can ‘anonymously’ raise these problems with the relevant government authority, with whom the chamber has developed good communications over the years,” said Hitch.
The ACC ensures that it represents its members in an exclusively transparent and fair manner. And while the ACC cannot lobby or represent the interests of any individual member or small group, it can promote business interests of all of its members combined, or of categories of members, including agricultural producers, food processors and others involved in the export of products from Ukraine.
“The American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine lobbies fair market rules for all business players. The Chamber does not seek special privileges for member companies,” said Myron Wasylyk, a member of the board of directors of ACC.
According to members, good examples of the business networking opportunities provided by ACC are the Chamber’s committees that address specific problematic areas. Separate committees address issues of investment, legislation, taxation, intellectual property rights, labor and employment. Other committees are devoted to specific industries, such as telecommunications, banking and financial services, pharmaceuticals and agriculture.
Speaking about additional benefits of ACC membership, Hitch mentioned that many Ukrainian companies join the ACC to take advantage of the unique programs that are not available from other business organizations. For example, the ACC has a Corporate Social Responsibility committee and program, under which members participate in charitable activities and projects involved with promoting good government, rule of law and ethical codes of conduct.
According to Hitch, Ukrainian companies are increasingly raising the same concerns shared by multinational corporations, including similar investment, corporate governance, and management issues. They draw benefit from interacting with the managers and employees of the other members during regular membership and committee meetings, and specials events, like the Captains of Industry series.
“The reason for any company to join an NGO, like the ACC or EBA (European Business Association), is to heighten company visibility within the business community,” said Robert Reed, vice president and external affairs director of The Willard Group (TWG), a Kyiv-based public relations and advertising agency.
With 13 years experience in Ukraine, TWG has been a member of ACC since 1999. Reed cautioned, however, that merely joining the ACC will not automatically benefit a business.
“Companies need to be pro-active in attending events, meetings, as well as participate in committees,” said Reed.
Chamber members also view the ACC as an opportunity to establish long-term relationships with Ukrainian political and business elites. This is achieved by the high level of organization that is typical for all ACC meetings and events.
“ACC has helped our company connect with stakeholders of all persuasions, particularly those from the business and political spheres. Events are well-conceived and well-executed and we have learned a great deal about Ukraine’s business dynamics through our membership,” said Antonius Papaspiropoulos, manager for communications and government affairs with Royal Dutch Shell, which has been operating in Ukraine since 1992. He added that stakeholder engagement is a fundamental business imperative for his company.
According to Boris Krasnyansky, managing partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers Ukraine, the ACC is a good platform for international business, as well as for those Ukrainian companies interested in developing business and expanding into other markets. PricewaterhouseCoopers Ukraine opened its office in Ukraine in 1993 and joined the ACC in 1997.
The “ACC helps member companies consolidate their views on the most important issues for the economy’s development, and deliver those views to the decision makers,” said Krasnyansky.
Maxim Kopeychikov, partner at the Ilyashev and Partners law firm, said his firm decided to join the Chamber because the ACC is quite effective in implementing best business practices from around the world into Ukraine’s business environment and legislation.
“Actually, we were not thinking about any personal benefits. We still hope that, together with the ACC, our ideas on improving Ukrainian legislation will be implemented into law,” said Kopeychikov. Founded in Kyiv in 1997, his firm joined the Chamber in 2003.
The ACC is highly valued in business circles as a promoter of investment activity. According to members, many foreign companies looking to invest in Ukraine make a point of first visiting the ACC’s offices in Kyiv to find out more about the overall investment climate and the environment in their particular fields of business and industry.
“ACC is undoubtedly an effective lobbyist and its membership list alone is testament to its foreign investment prowess. Any issue that has the weight of the ACC behind it cannot be ignored,” said Royal Dutch Shell’s Papaspiropoulos.
Source: Kyiv Post