Responsibility Strategies - Engaging a Vision for the Future
hot topic, corporate responsibility embraces the most dynamic set of business
issues facing leadership today. Living daily under heightened scrutiny from
consumers, investors and communities that question business practices, global
companies are now seeking to manage the social, human and natural capital
of their business to build authentic shareholder value.
article frames the corporate responsibility issues, introduces a tool called
Standing in the Future, and briefly notes one companys experience for
Is Taking Action?
corporate executives and they will likely respond that corporate responsibility
performance has become more important to business success over the past decade.
A recent Conference Board survey of over 700 companies found 68 percent of
corporate managers think the link between corporate responsibility and performance
appraisal is increasingly important. At the June 2002 Global Environmental
Management Initiative (GEMI) conference, another survey revealed that 50 percent
of attendees had or would soon be adding corporate responsibility
to their environmental and/or health and safety position title within their
organization. However, business toolsmeasures, incentives, training
programsare still emerging.
Do Strategies Include?
hot button corporate responsibility issues will differ by
business and be influenced by a spotlight of current events (from accounting
practices to oil spill disasters), all businesses possess a framework
of assets and capabilities to manage these issues. Multi-national corporations
recruit and retain some of the best business talent in the world, and
the knowledge, skills and motivation of this workforce are considerable.
An inventory of corporate assetspeople, relationships, natural resources
and production materialscan be examined and proactively managed
to add business value, and avoid being the next crisis reported in the
headlines. So the business framework includes:
Human capitalincludes labor, health and education. Also corporate
governancethe system by which companies are directed and controlled
(such as business ethics and standards, board of directors).
Social capitalvalue added by external relationships, use of business
wealth to stimulate economic development; includes disaster relief.
Natural capitalenergy and matter that yields valuable goods and services;
natural resources, minerals, land, oil.
Manufactured capitalmaterial, tools, machines, buildings, other forms
of infrastructure contributing to production, but not embodied in output.
is important for any corporate responsibility strategy to maximize the utilization
of these resources in a way that not only adds value, but clearly provides
a vision for the path forward.
baseball legend Yogi Berra once said, If you dont know where youre
going, you will wind up somewhere else.
in the Future is a visioning tool that may be used to plan a practical corporate
responsibility strategy and budget based on human, social and natural resource
availability. This tool employs a visioning exercise and backcasting
to clearly describe what a successful enterprise would look like at a defined
point in the future (i.e., five, 10 or 15 years). Our experience is that the
Standing in the Future tool provides enhanced results over traditional planning
techniques, such as trend extrapolation, because it does not place limits
or bind an organization to current technology or practice to design a preferred
future state. Participants in the exercise collaboratively plan responses
to potential business challenges after they have clearly described what successful
corporate responsibility would look like for their company.
a company example based on our experience at Blue Circle Industries, a U.K.-based
heavy building materials company that was recently acquired by Lafarge, making
Lafarge the worlds largest cement manufacturer. Blue Circle formed a
cross-functional team that represented the Blue Circle business process to
conduct the visioning exercise. This team consisted of 10 members: Blue Circle
Industries: chief executive (1), corporate governmental affairs, environment
and safety managers and an environmental scientist (4); regional operations,
communications and environment managers (3); and external facilitators (2).
The team was responsible for defining what sustainability might mean to the
heavy building materials industry by:
clearly establishing what it meant to think in the future;
possible outcomes, performance improvement expectations and achievements;
balance and outcome between people, planet and profit;
concluding the process with a priority on investment and strategy.
team came up with many suggestions and ideas. A matrix was developed to grow
the Blue Circle vision in terms of the triple bottom line: economic growth,
environmental performance and social responsibility. New concepts had to offer
improvements to each dimension of the bottom line to go forward in planning.
result of this process was a visiona preferred future statethat
provided clear direction and possibilities that otherwise would never have
been developed. Blue Circles vision of cement works in the future was
much different than the existing vision. For the cement plant to be sustainable,
the team saw a need to move away from a dependence on natural resources .
. . thus reducing the environmental footprint . . . and maybe having no footprint
vision of a cement plant in the future became:
No stack, which means no emissions.
quarry, which means reuse of alternate materials.
shovels, no brooms, no masks, which means a plant with no spillage.
employer of choice.
neighbor of choice.
social responsibility index score that attracted new investors.
team approach, including management and operations perspectives, produced
a degree of ownership that ensures meaningful outcomes. Implementing this
vision will produce significant improvements in labor and material waste,
manufacturing efficiencies and health risk, while providing visual improvement,
better morale, improved image and reputation. Blue Circle could now establish
targets for measuring performance improvement from a baseline. These targets
also supported institutional investor analyst scoring.
to Implement the Vision
have moved away from a society where a corporation could say, Trust
me. We now must show what corporate responsibility means, moving away
from the abstract to clearly outlined actions that engage the vision of the
do you go about testing the vision, to see if its viable, sustainable? Demonstration
projects are an ideal way to test the vision and see if it, indeed works.
The vision and demonstration can then be shared with internal and external
stakeholders, calibrated to meet societal needs and ensure a balanced triple
different from a policy statement, the Standing in the Future vision communicates
concrete direction internally for business investment and annual operating
plans. Now that's good business.
Business by Steve Hilton and Giles Gibbons, © 2002
Global Environmental Management Initiative (www.gemi.org)
Capitalism by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins, © 1999
article appeared in the January/February 2003 issue of Green@work
Gray, PE, served as group environmental manager for Blue Circle Industries
PLC, now Lafarge. He serves on the advisory board for the EEMC at Georgia
Tech, and environmental committees for the National Stone Sand and Gravel
Association and Georgia Crushed Stone Association. Susan Graff is principal
of Environmental Resource Services, Inc and is also the company founder. She
serves on the board of directors at the School of Public Policy at Georgia
Tech, and the steering committee of ENFORM, a regional business forum on corporate
responsibility and sustainability.