Saturday, November 14, 2009

Inform, inspire and involve to embed CSR in operations

Embedding, post number 4. We already covered embedding CSR in Human Resources, the Procurement function, and the Finance function. All of this, as you may recall, is based on Ethical Corporation's 2009 research report called How to Embed Corporate Responsibility across different parts of your Company. This time, i will cover the ways Companies embed CSR in the "Facility, Logistics and Operations" bits of the Company. Having managed logistics for many years with Procter and Gamble in Europe, this is an area of the business I am familiar with. The report looks at:
  • How to make facility or manufacturing operations more efficient and more  environmentally friendly through consultation with operators and line workers
  • Developing low energy or socially innovative solutions for triple bottom line benefit
  • Indentifying no-cost innovation solutions
  • Developing partnerships to drive suggestions for improvements
Most people will understand quite easily that environmental opportunities are abundant in the Manufacturing and Logistics functions. With examples from Boots, Hewlett Packard, Novo Nordisk and Vodafone, the report cites examples of innovative solutions in different aspects of the supply chain which offer benefits for customers and the business, and which have been developed using insights and suggestions of those involved on the ground. Opportunities such as haulage partnerships with non-competitive companies to optimize truck payloads, recycling and re-use rather than disposal of products, real-time energy monitoring  are some of the solutions highlighted. The key common demoninator of the development of these solutions is : dialogue. Creating a culture where employees of the business, suppliers and customers can contribute to developing triple bottom line solutions is core.

Developing new ways of doing things, and maintaining a constructive dialogue with suppliers, customers and employees does not happen automatically. A company looking for CSR opportunities in the manufacturing and logistics functions needs to define its objectives and create awareness for the concepts of social and environmentally preferred ways of manufacturing or trucking. This means creating  communications processes for all these stakeholders, so that CSR is part of their mindset when they are reviewing operational activities. "Greening employees" for example, reflects the process of educating, informing, involving and inspiring  employees regarding environmentally friendly practices.

What better Company to use for a review of the embedding of CSR in the logistics function than a logistics Company. I took a look at Fedex 2008 CSR report. Here is an example:

"At the FedEx Packaging Lab, our engineers use the latest materials and tools to solve shipping challenges, including environmental ones. FedEx engineer Yongquan Zhou recently helped a customer shipping heavy exercise equipment from China find a more protective and environmentally friendly alternative for a commonly used cushioning material known as expanded polystyrene foam (EPS). His result: a honeycomb-style packaging with corrugated pads and banding, a packaging solution that not only reduces damage at a comparable cost, but is also better for the environment."

I assume Mr Zhou didn't wake up one morning out of the blue and thought to himself over the morning cornfakes: "Hmm, I need to find environmentally friendly packaging solutions today". I bet he didn't say to himself " Wow. Honeycomb-style packaging, gotta do something with that". I bet he didn't think, as he helped himself to a third bowl of cornflakes,   "I can contribute to saving the planet today by developing environmentally-friendly solutions for Fedex clients". Maybe he did, but the chances are that if he did, it was because of a culture that had been developed at Fedex to ensure employees are aware of their possibilities to contribute to environmental efforts, and provide them with the opportunity to do so.

You can't embed CSR if you don't inform, inspire and  involve.
elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm . Visit our website at:

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