Sustainability & Social Responsibility
March/April 2008, eSide Supply Management Vol. 1, No. 2
Going Green: How to Generate Support for Social Responsibility
Despite the rising popularity — and necessity — of social responsibility, this integral concept can be difficult for existing organizations to implement. A recent report issued by ISM offers practical steps to get your organization moving in the right direction.
In the quest to implement social responsibility practices, supply management professionals need all the help they can get. Enter a November 2007 report by the Institute for Supply Management™: A Call to Action: Developing a Social Responsibility Business Case.
Detailed information about ISM's Principles of Social Responsibility is provided, as are incentives to go green, plus the main steps involved. A Call to Action walks readers through the creation of a compelling business case — an essential part of gaining executive support and organizational consensus.
ISM has identified seven areas that fall under the umbrella of social responsibility:
A social responsibility program tackling any one of these principles not only strengthens an organization's culture, but helps reduce risk, potentially lowers the cost of operations, helps recruit and retain employees, and improves internal and external relationships. Knowing which of these benefits will appeal most to your organization will help as you begin the first steps in building the business case.
The ISM report spotlights many reasons why an organization might choose to implement such programs and policies, including:
Many organizations are actively changing the way they do business to satisfy green or socially responsible initiatives. If yours lags behind, it risks lost business and negative publicity. Legal concerns are another strong motivator, as is compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley or other regulatory requirements. Once the reasons have been identified, expected outcomes and future goals can be formulated.
The more quantifiable an expected benefit, the easier it will be to convince the organization to move forward. According to A Call to Action, a handful of questions should be answered:
Implementing socially responsible initiatives demands that several key best-practice policy elements be in place. Organizational policy is updated as new challenges arise; overall, however, it is established, documented and maintained as a way of making sure all behavior — both employees' and organization's as a whole — is aligned with company values and all applicable laws. As such, management must support tweaking the existing policies and ensure that this new initiative fits the organization (and vice versa) when introducing a social responsibility program.
Planning the implementation requires clear definitions of all terms, conditions, operational values and components. The ISM report suggests that when developing the components of the project, issues involving training and its related mechanisms — whistle-blowing and sanctions, for example — are also considered.
No matter which principles are focused on, training is crucial. As applicable, comprehensive training programs should be developed to educate and develop employees, suppliers and other members of the supply chain.
Of course, none of this can happen without effective communication both internally and externally. Someone in the organization must be responsible for monitoring the initiative and be sensitive to how it is positioned. This person (or team) should consider creating reports that reflect performance to the shareholders, the public, supply chain members and employees.
Building the business case for social responsibility implementation will take time, resources, careful planning and a lot of discussion. The outcome, however, has the potential to outweigh the work involved.
The full report is available on the ISM Web site.
Lisa Cooling is a senior writer for Inside Supply Management®. To reach the author or sources mentioned in this article, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more articles and resources on social responsibility, visit the ISM articles database.
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