Leading Sustainable Organizations
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The insurgent sustainability director’s goal is to empower allies to link social intelligence with their job responsibilities and the company’s overall sustainability strategy. This begins by encouraging functional managers to “relate” with key constituencies and harvest their own functionally relevant social intelligence.
As this occurs, CSR directors help employees “translate” their gathered intelligence into business insights that are connected to and aligned with the company’s strategy and the functional manager’s responsibilities. The CSR director then helps “incubate” sustainability-informed projects that create value for both the business and the identified constituencies. Finally, CSR directors ensure that the value created becomes core to the business by “acculturating” the organization to the new values and associated management processes.
“Relate” is the process used to obtain social intelligence and is something that your people already do. The goal of insurgent CSR directors is to inspire employees to identify social intelligence that will enhance the company’s performance and support its CSR goals.
Encouraging community volunteerism is a common way to generate social insights. For instance, Costa Rica-based Florida Ice and Farm Beverage Company (FIFCO) is the region’s largest producer of beer and soft drinks. This makes it a major consumer of fresh water — a demand could potentially pit the company against local communities also dependent on local water supplies. To help employees understand these water demands (and the user communities), CSR managers engaged employees in community projects focused on restoring watersheds serving indigenous communities. In one such project, an army of 178 blue-shirted employees waded through the Aqueduct Gavilán Canta river system to ensure the provision of clean water for the indigenous peoples of Talamanca. Florida managers believe this direct interaction between employees, communities and shared resources dramatically enhances social intelligence.
Burt’s Bees, a natural personal-care products company, finds volunteerism so valuable for relating that it has made it mandatory for all employees. Using the euphemism “non-optional,” Burt’s has even shut down production so its 400 or so employees could engage in projects like building playgrounds and affordable homes for local communities. Other projects tie into the company’s production needs, including volunteer efforts to protect eponymous bee populations from colony collapse disorder.
Walmart has taken an alternative approach to helping employees relate.