Corporate Social Responsibility

Our approach

a1qa is committed to driving economic growth and social impact for all stakeholders and the communities where we operate by using digital expertise and innovation mindset. Therefore, we established and have been continuously updating the clear and well-communicated set of policies and practices that reflect our responsibility to further social good. Our proprietary findings indicate that the implemented CSR initiatives provide for better brand reputation, appeal to potential and existing employees, help meet the ethical standards demanded by customers and partners, and create better relations with regulators and lawmakers. Thus, according to the Microsoft CSAT survey, 100% of the interviewed customers expressed satisfaction with the services delivered, while 94% were ready to recommend us for development outsourcing of various scale.

The 2017 internal employee engagement survey revealed 2.3 times increase of the employee loyalty, as compared to the 2016 research data, where 39% employees are reported to be extremely satisfied with their job, ready to recommend a1qa to their familiars and plan to keep on working for the next 5 years.

Being a member of the United Nations Global Compact, a1qa adheres to the global standards in the fundamental areas of human rights, labor, and environment and systematically advances programs that reduce skill gaps, inequality, and environmental issues.

Based on the idea that corporate success and social welfare of the local, regional, and global communities are interdependent, our CSR policy regulates technology innovation and organizational measures, addressing the welfare of all the constituents involved:

With that in mind, a1qa enforces the following principles:

• Accountability and transparency at all levels

• Treating all individuals with respect and making efforts to help members of vulnerable groups

• Providing employees with just and safe working conditions

• Identifying and improving the environmental impacts of our operations

• Respecting the law and treating partners fairly

• Bringing good to the local community.

a1qa efforts in promoting CSR policies have been recognized by the industry experts: we are the winner in the honorary nomination Socially Responsible Brand 2013, the category Best Employer, and the winner of the national professional contest Brand of the year 2012 in the nomination Corporate Brand Responsibility. In 2014 and 2016, a1qa was honored with the HR Brand Belarus Award, proving its leading position as a talent supporting employer nationwide.

At a1qa, each of us has an obligation to act with integrity and to ensure that we understand and comply with the policy. Training is provided to relevant employees throughout the group to support them in complying with their responsibilities. If you are not selected for training but believe that it is relevant for you, then, please, ask your dedicated HR business partner for further information. In addition, all employees are required to confirm that they have understood and complied with the policy annually.

Governance and ethics

The key element of a1qa business strategy is the commitment to ethics, compliance, and strong corporate governance. To ensure the high quality of the delivered services, a1qa recognizes the importance of well-established corporate administration principles and the ethical practices permeating all aspects of organizational governance. As a privately held company, a1qa has no obligations to stakeholders on accounting for organizational performance. Nevertheless, the duties of the company’s board of executive directors incorporate the establishment of rigorous measures aimed at achieving economic, social, and environmental sustainability through:

• Creation and approval of business plans allowing stable and prolonged action, approval of annual budgets with long-term financial solidity in mind

• Establishment and recurrent upgrade of risk management processes to identify, assess, respond to, and monitor significant operational, strategic, financial, legal, and compliance risks to our company

• Establishment of a decision-making process that is transparent and adheres to the principles of accountability and compliance.

Our company is focused on keeping track of decisions to ensure they are followed through and determining responsibilities for the results of the business’ activities. To eliminate potential conflicts of interest, preventive measures including the firm’s policies, employee education, and oversight efforts are taken. Annual employee opinion polls and engagement surveys are conducted to ensure continuous monitoring of employee satisfaction with the leadership approach, as well as to encourage greater participation of employees in decision-making on social responsibility issues.

Aiming to enhance CSR awareness among its employees, a1qa CEO emphasizes the importance of CSR management during all publicly delivered speeches. This information is also disseminated through online corporate channels including online publications and intranet. In 2017, a1qa introduced a Facebook-based Workplace social tool into the corporate environment that became an efficient tool for articulating business development directions and reinforcing cross-department communication and collaboration.

In addition, we promote CSR policies amongst employees by providing respective training on environmental, information security, human rights, and corporate ethics issues throughout the year. Our company aims at paying full respect to national legislations of a1qa Group members’ domicile and residence States including the responsibility to pay taxes to the government bodies and communities in which they operate. We believe that the incorporation of these initiatives into our daily activities further enhances our corporate governance, thereby maximizing corporate value.

Fair principles

a1qa adheres to the world’s best practices of fair competition while incorporating the principles of compliance with legislation and due information dissemination into corporate ethics. Any type of misleading or misinterpreted information, alongside with threat or compulsion is prohibited in terms of our daily operations. We believe that fair competition leads to innovation and progress, which is why we adhere to the principles of antimonopoly legislation.

a1qa conducts business in full consistency with national business competition laws and regulations of a1qa Group members’ domicile and residence States. We prevent engagement in anticompetitive behavior preemptively by pursuing the ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ policy. In tune with a1qa principles of respecting equality and human rights, we incorporate ethical, social, and gender equality criteria in our contracting practices. All organizations and companies with which a1qa has or is about to have any kind of business relationships are scrutinized for compliance with the fundamental principles of social responsibility. Owing to the specifics of the delivered services, respect for property rights represents a considerable part of the company’s CRS efforts. The treatment and protection of the intellectual property in the production of deliverables is laid out in the company’s Intellectual Property Rights Protection Policy addressing such primary areas of the customers’ IP rights protection as production-related IP protection, employment and non-disclosure agreements, employee education and training, legal framework and regulations, contractual basis, organizational infrastructure and insurance coverage.

a1qa operates on the basis of the anti-corruption principle laid down in the UNGC as well as national legislation related to anti-corruption. a1qa accounting department provides appropriate remuneration to the company’s employees and representatives for legitimate work with no exception. If any kind of legislation violation occurs, it is instantly brought to the attention of appropriate law enforcement authorities.

Risk management

The company has a robust risk management framework to identify, evaluate, and mitigate risks. This framework seeks to create transparency, minimize adverse impact on the business objectives, and enhance the company’s competitive advantage. The risk framework defines risk management approach across the enterprise at various levels, from generic risks, such as loss of personnel, changing requirements to project-specific risks, like technology skill level, methodology choice, facilities availability.

We adhere to proactive risk management, which means we start analyzing risks before technical work is initiated. In fact, every activity at a1qa begins with the identification of potential emergencies and consequences in a particular context and preparation of treatment plans for the most significant of them. This enables us to avoid risks whenever possible, solve problems before they manifest themselves, and respond to troubles that do happen in a controlled and effective manner.

Risks are monitored and controlled iteratively throughout the project as a part of the team’s project management routine.

The process is done horizontally – all participants of the software development are encouraged to participate:

• Developers continually report possible risks related to technical capability and project schedule

• Project managers ensure that the risk management process runs in compliance with the pre-defined project plan, take on-demand corrections, allocate resources for proactive risks management, and control their progress

• Customers articulate fluctuations from the defined project scope, organizational, financial changes and participate in the continual identification of risks.

Cybersecurity

At a1qa, we bring in expertise and assets to protect the privacy and security of personal and business data in the environment with continuously advancing security threats, technologies, and legislation. The data privacy ethics is systematically communicated to our employees from their first working day, and a policy for information leakage monitoring and treatment is used.

As long as cybersecurity is embedded in all our operations, we maintain strict protection, comply with globally recognized security standards and adopt security protection best practices. The establishment and operation of a proprietary security testing laboratory certified by the leading scientific-research organization in the Republic of Belarus enable a1qa to make technical information protection in IT systems an integral part of every initiative. In 2017, we started investing in an in-house R&D lab that along with state-of-the-art technologies incubation and testing, focuses on the latest developments in artificial intelligence, blockchain, and re-encryption for development efficient methodologies for threat intelligence, active defense, and Internet of Things security.

The laboratories’ scope of activities embraces:

• Research of innovative security testing techniques and test automation tools

• Development and implementation of the new threat assessment and security evaluation methodologies that would address more effectively the present-day security vulnerabilities that both our clients and we face

• Analysis and elaboration of best practices in the construction of information protection solutions

• Advancing our IT security policy in line with proprietary findings.

Thus, every outsourcing contract with a1qa incorporates software systems security audit and optimization measures aimed at enhancing the quality of the customer’s software products and systems and improving the condition of the entire customer’s software/hardware infrastructure.

Bribery prevention

Whoever we may deal with and wherever we may operate, we are committed to doing so lawfully, ethically, and with integrity. As part of this commitment, all forms of bribery and corruption are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. We must not, and we must ensure that any third party acting on our behalf does not act corruptly in our dealings with any other person.

Part of a1qa commitment to preventing bribery and corruption is to ensure that the people acting on our behalf also do so in compliance with effective anti-bribery and corruption policies. Accordingly, where we engage third parties such as our partners, we have obligations to complete sufficient due diligence when entering into arrangements to ensure that they are not acting corruptly and to periodically monitor their performance to ensure ongoing compliance. In short, if we cannot do it, neither can they.

• All forms of bribery and corruption are prohibited. We will not tolerate any act of bribery or corruption. Any breach of this policy or local law could result in disciplinary action being taken and ultimately could result in dismissal.

• A bribe does not actually have to take place – just promising to give a bribe or agreeing to receive one is prohibited.

• Bribery is prohibited when dealing with any person whether they are in the public or private sector, and the provisions of this policy are of general application. However, many countries have specific controls regarding dealing with public officials, and this policy includes specific requirements in these circumstances.

Customers

We are dedicated to conducting the procurement of goods and services in an open and competitive environment while guaranteeing safe custodianship of customer data.

We are committed to driving transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement throughout our global supply chain. Strictly adhering to the consumer rights protection practices as laid down in the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection, a1qa fully acknowledges our responsibility to use fair, transparent, and helpful marketing information and contractual processes.

Our customers are enabled to make informed decisions about a1qa services guided by the information disseminated through various channels and made publicly accessible online.

a1qa exercises great care in safeguarding and using any information which may relate to the private lives or be potentially harmful to the interests or reputation of our clients. Such information is kept strictly confidential unless the performance of the duty or the needs of justice strictly require otherwise. Non-disclosure agreements are signed to protect any type of confidential and proprietary information, including patent-pending ideas and trade secrets. Furthermore, none of the information regarding different aspects of cooperation with our customers is made public prior to obtaining customer’s consent. Measures are taken to ensure a1qa personnel does not participate in activities that may involve a conflict of interest without appropriate disclosure and approval.

a1qa properly informs its customers of all applicable rights and obligations stemming from concluded agreements and applicable laws and empowers them to act on this knowledge. A 6-month after-service warranty period is established during which any technical issue that might arise is fixed free of charge. Our company’s management system is certified according to the ISO 9001:2008 standard for quality management systems, thus, demonstrating the ability to consistently provide services that meet customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.

Employees

Our approach to talent management rests on inclusion, diversity and equal opportunity, talent attraction and development, and employee well-being.

Our company established conditions whereby its employees are free to enjoy their civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights as laid down in ICCPR, CEDAW, ICERD, ICESCR, CRPD, and other international treaties. We recognize the inalienability of human rights without distinction of any kind.

Equal opportunities

a1qa values and embraces a full spectrum of different backgrounds, cultures, affiliations, abilities, work styles, and perspectives. Whatever their role, function, grade, location, gender, nationality, or belief are set, our people always have the opportunity to learn and grow in new areas, enjoy the respectful and bias-free treatment and equal pay negotiations.

We take a range of actions to reinforce the racial equality policy:

• Attract and retain a diverse skilled workforce coming from different races

• Stick to equality of hiring, firing, benefits distribution, team building, discipline, career development, grievance and appeals, working environment, partnerships and community links, procurement and contracting, management and governance

• Conduct staff training on race equality issues to prevent direct and indirect racial bias

• Develop, monitor, and review annually the Race Equality Action Plan to support the implementation of the Race Equality Policy requirements

• Deal promptly with any incidents of racial harassment and bullying, record, monitor, and report such incidents annually to the Equality & Diversity Committee (EDC).

Gender diversity and equality are essential to a1qa, and we focus on attracting, advancing, and retaining both male and female talents. Our 525+ women comprise approximately 35% of our workforce. In a similar vein, a1qa offers equal job opportunities for persons with disabilities and has a policy of handling expressions of discrimination against the LGBT community.

Collaboration and communication

We believe that collaboration and knowledge exchange are the key drivers of a1qa growth. With this in mind, we hold developers’ meetups where our experts report, scrutinize, and improve their technology and methodology findings; and also organize internal communities adopting and defining the use cases of the emerging technologies, such as a1qa Agile Community. Activities of this kind yield increased development performance and code quality and bring in unified guidelines for service delivery.

Employing 700+ full-time specialists, a1qa pays great attention to enterprise-wide communication. A cross-department connection is ensured by means of an intranet, Facebook-based Workplace social network and a1qa Content — a monthly company newspaper that allows all employees to stay abreast of company news and updates, industry insights, the inner workings of other departments, employee personal interests, and many more. For the unprecedented employee engagement increase proved by figures and the ability to meet the HR goals, in 2016, a1qa was awarded the national HR Brand award recognizing the periodical as a strong HR branding tool.

Well-being

In order to ensure the atmosphere of healthy enthusiasm, a1qa takes care of both physical and mental health of its employees along with bringing their talents to light and unlocking creativity. a1qa maintains a ‘safety first’ policy, providing the safe equipment and training necessary for the prevention of occupational diseases, accidents, and dealing with emergencies. Since we consider our employees to be our most valuable asset, we provide them with free medical services.

We organize favorable conditions for recreational activities as well: our employees enjoy free swimming pool membership and sports expenses reimbursement. Moreover, a1qa employees enjoy massage sessions in the office on a weekly basis to reduce the risks of a sedentary lifestyle. As far as corporate culture and self-improvement are considered, a1qa fosters continuous employee education and self-development. With this in mind, we provide our employees with skills development opportunities at the expense of the company. Our workers enjoy courses in English and French languages. To ensure a healthy work-life balance, we provide reasonable working schedules, parental leave policies, and childcare facilities oriented to improve employee well-being.

Recognizing the fact that employment entails the rights and responsibilities specified for both parties of the relationship, a1qa fully covers all its legal obligations to workers whilst eliminating the possibility of any kind of discrimination in regard to employees during hiring and dismissal processes (including those who are sub-contracted). Our human resources management system fully complies with the national legislation of a1qa Group members’ domicile and residence States.

To gauge the health of employee engagement and promote employee motivation, a1qa actively engages our workers in a social dialogue via two-way discussions and surveys to address their concerns. The results of anonymous surveys are published on a1qa internal employee portal and are available for all employees to get acquainted with. Thus, by means of the surveys, the company’s management can fully appreciate the level of employee satisfaction and take steps to make amends where there is a room for improvement.

Environment

Recognizing the dire need for environmental protection and sustainable development, a1qa promotes environmental responsibility and runs programs to reduce the hazardous impact on the environment.

a1qa is actively engaged in promoting awareness and tackling environmental issues in accordance with best practices. The company management has ensured that the outdated IT equipment is gradually being replaced with energy-saving hardware systems. Renewable energy is utilized whenever possible. A number of measures are taken to optimize electricity consumption with a view to decreasing energy consumption and ensuring that the energy efficiency of office buildings is improved. This includes equipping lightning devices in a1qa offices with energy-saving light bulbs and switch-off automation of corridor lights with motion detectors during nonworking hours, evening time, and days off.

As a professional services company, our environmental footprint consists primarily of the carbon emissions generated through air travel and the use of electricity, and we take measures to reduce them. Thus, we use telepresence tools to collaborate with our geographically dispersed employees and clients, while reducing the cost, time, and carbon emissions associated with travel.

In order to reduce the global carbon footprint, our company frequently holds tree-planting campaigns. In terms of these initiatives, our employees gather in city parks or public gardens to plant trees or any other plant species. In general, over 50 items per hour were planted when a1qa participated in a social project by the large Belarussian private bank and during the tree-planting action on our own initiative.

a1qa follows the principles of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Recycling Program in an effort to promote the recycling and reuse of waste electronics and reduce the amount that is disposed of in landfills. One of the elements of our corporate culture that is communicated to every employee since their first working day in the company is to refrain from printing incoming emails and draft materials and utilize recycled stationery in order to limit paper waste. Thus, paper consumption per employee has been reduced by 19% during the past 5 years, which is of strategic importance given the growth in employee number.

a1qa has made sure that there is no polluting production or manufacturing that emits greenhouse gases and destroys the ozone layer. All office air conditioning systems have inbuilt air cleaning filters to prevent the emission of dust and other inappropriate substances into the atmosphere. Furthermore, a1qa offices are regularly inspected by supervising authorities — local sanitary and epidemiological stations — to control airborne emissions. We have equipped a bicycle parking space and office shower rooms to encourage our employees to switch from private cars to bicycles for commuting. In 2016, a1qa extended the bicycle parking with 50 extra places, addressing the spike of interest to bicycle transportation at the company, which indicated the effectiveness of the Sustainable Transportation Promotion Program.

Community

By engaging with local communities, we promote the morals, values, and ethics of the IT industry, equip young people with the skills to get jobs and make the place we live and work in better.

Employment creation and skills development

a1qa provides decent job opportunities, maximizes local employment, and fulfills its tax responsibilities under the aegis of HiTech Park Belarus – the technology park established by the Belarusian government where a1qa plays a significant founding resident role.

The company also provides collaboration and networking opportunities for IT professionals and organizations interested in knowledge exchange through the establishment of several local professional .NET, PHP, startup, testing, and project management communities, holds meetups and hackathons.

In our mission to achieve higher quality education for young people in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), the company partners with Belarusian state educational establishments, providing its production facilities for compulsory theoretical and practical training within the students’ curriculum. a1qa set up fully-equipped training labs at 7 educational establishments, including Belarusian National Technical University, Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics (BSUIR), and Belarusian State University, where the company’s specialists deliver lectures based on their knowledge and hands-on, industry-specific experience. a1qa has a proprietary QA academy organized around the idea of effective knowledge transfer and experience sharing. Initiated as a training center for interns and newcomers, during 8+ years of operation the Academy evolved into an independent educational entity providing unique practice-oriented course programs for our clients willing to improve their departments, increase productivity and efficiency, gain more expertise and practical knowledge. The strategic idea under the B2B training is to share our valuable domain-specific knowledge, methodologies, tools, and instruments, communication and teamwork, metrics, etc. that could help companies increase the quality and security of their products and services.

Having accumulated extensive technology and operational skillset and experience, a1qa has been advancing a proprietary framework to give young people the skills and connections to gain sustainable employment, as well as actively share the accumulated knowledge through co-working initiatives.

In 2018, the company organized:

• Introductory tours for to the in-house production facilities for 1000+ pupils

• Motivation lectures for pupils

• Weekly meetups of the QA Community on project management

• A dedicated Smart Minsk rubric in the regional information portal with the aim of attracting potential employees and sharing 16-year experience and expertise.

Community involvement

a1qa recognizes the establishment of multi-faceted relationships with the communities it operates in, the positive impact on all community members, and support for non-profit organizations as a core social responsibility area. The company’s community development initiatives include holding of company-wide and country-wide events, supporting flashmobs aimed at raising money to support relief funds and search and rescue organizations. Among such initiatives, there are toy donation actions and the annual Christmas bazaar where the company’s employees can sell and buy home-made bakery to raise funds for the international children’s aid fund.

In 2016, the International Socio-Economic Foundation IDEA named the ‘Super park’ community involvement project held by a1qa the CSR project of the year in the respective category. The project idea consisted of the extensive engagement of citizens in edutainment activities and improvement of the urban environment and public spaces in Minsk, Belarus.

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