How CSR can make manufacturers more popular with consumers and employees
In a nutshell, corporate social responsibility means showing concern for the well-being of employees, customers, and the communities a business operates in rather than a focus strictly on the bottom line. CSR doesn’t necessitate an indifference toward the bottom line, though. Quite the opposite, in fact, by showing how much companies care about the things that matter to key stakeholders, CSR in manufacturing can increase sales and shore up the long-term sustainability of operations. There are many ways for manufacturers to get involved in CSR and many potential benefits.
The why of CSR in manufacturing is pretty simple. Consumers want to buy products that are sustainably made. They’re often willing to pay even more for such products than for non-sustainable competitors. These consumers do their research, and they’re quick to catch on to greenwashing, so any changes manufacturers make in their operations need to be meaningful, not just lip service.
It’s not just consumers that increasingly take social and environmental factors into account when making decisions. Workers do too, and for manufacturers looking to attract and retain talent, a commitment to CSR can be a boost over competitors. Almost 70% of job-seekers place an emphasis on working for companies with a sustainability strategy in place. They do this not only because sustainability matters to them, but they know that companies without such strategies are not set up for long-term stability and success.
Engaged employees and loyal, enthusiastic customers make it easier to increase sales and productivity than just about any other adaptation a business can make. They make a brand stand out, especially if marketing is evangelizing all about CSR. By adopting environmentally sustainable materials and strategies, manufacturers are also making their operations more efficient and less wasteful, a boon to that bottom line. Analytics like digital performance monitoring from Visual Factories can quantify such gains.
The how gets a little trickier, especially if it means convincing stakeholders who are reticent to change to overhaul some aspects of operations. But there are so many places to incorporate CSR in manufacturing that you can start small, gather some positive results, then make bigger wholesale changes. Trying out a new vendor for materials or a distributor that operates more sustainably can be a small step that makes a big difference. Even subtle changes in product design can help without costing quality. Switching to recycled packaging materials like EAM-Mosca’s plastic strapping is the sort of change that can make a real difference without upsetting operations too much.
Manufacturers can also audit factory operations, looking at factors like energy usage and waste generation and disposal that often get overlooked but can add up to great cost savings. Publicizing the results of those audits and the changes being implemented can buy some valuable public relations and provide a better picture of what industry best practices are. Emissions are of course a huge environmental factor, and any way to cut those will optimize a manufacturer’s supply chain and win accolades. Less talked about but still quite impactful is water usage. Figuring out solutions to use just a bit less water in factory operations is a simple way to make an impact.
Where to Look for Inspiration
Incorporating CSR in manufacturing doesn’t have to be difficult. There are examples of companies large and small making changes that take environmental and social impacts of their business into consideration.
In 2017, HP announced it was emphasizing ethical sourcing of minerals used in its computers’ hardware, as these frequently come from conflict zones with forced labor and other human rights violations. Since then, the company has set goals to be net zero by 2040 and has received a Triple A rating in climate, water, and forest benchmarks from the Carbon Disclosure Project.
McCormick has set goals of using 100% recycled plastics, an 80% reduction of solid waste, and a 20% emissions reduction by 2025. They have a net zero goal of 2050, and have earned the top spot for food companies in the Corporate Knights sustainability rankings seven years running. McCormick has also made Diversity Inc.’s list of companies committed to a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture for six straight years.
Johnson Controls HVAC equipment helps customers reduce energy use, increase their reliance on renewable energy, and hit net zero goals with OpenBlue Net Zero Buildings. For employees, the company’s Blue Sky Involve program provides grants for volunteer and community outreach opportunities and scholarships for children of employees.
CSR in manufacturing can be accomplished, and it can be a game-changer for sustaining companies throughout the 21st century.