Driving growth without creating negative social and environmental impacts is a challenge faced by businesses, governments and organizations of all types. Those that are succeeding have developed new ways of thinking and operating — strategies and tactics that enable sustainability to guide day-to-day decisions and inform strategy.
In this context, publishing a corporate social responsibility (CSR) report is an important undertaking. The data within this document must be an accurate, reliable reflection of performance against clearly articulated goals and objectives. This provides an opportunity to report effectively to financial markets and the general public about past accomplishments and ongoing commitments.
Furthermore, a CSR report also can be a powerful way to communicate accountability and transparency to stakeholders. Again, solid data is critical, as any incomplete or inaccurate information will undermine the public’s perception and damage the organization’s brand. When done well, however, CSR reporting becomes a valuable tool that enables dialogue and monitors progress in pursuit of sustainable growth.
There are other benefits of publishing a CSR report, as well:
- A growing number of companies see sustainability reporting as a means to drive enhanced product and process innovation, creating added competitive advantage.
- Transparency of nonfinancial performance can bolster an organization’s reputation and demonstrate its leadership.
- A CSR report provides a solid basis for examining and improving decision-making processes, leading to improved efficiency in areas such as energy consumption, material usage and waste reduction.
These are all areas in which supply chain management professionals can and should play a major role. To be sure, measuring performance and resource consumption are essential steps toward improved results and increased efficiencies. For instance, procurement departments focus on resourceful use of raw materials and packaging, recycling, and using materials that require less energy to produce. Logistics professionals likewise work to reduce miles traveled to reduce fuel consumption. And packaging engineers seek ways to optimize space usage, improve stacking and reduce the amount of empty air. All of these are examples of sustainability initiatives that improve profits and protect our planet.
Importantly, leading companies today also are requiring their suppliers to green their own operations. In 2017, Walmart reinforced its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its supply chain through an initiative called Project Gigaton. The retail giant is providing emissions-reduction toolkits to a broad network of suppliers as it strives to eliminate one gigaton of emissions by 2030. That’s equivalent to taking 211 million cars off the road for a year.
“We are proud of the improvements we’ve made in reducing our own emissions, but we aim to do more. That’s why we’re working with our suppliers and others on Project Gigaton,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, Walmart’s senior vice president and chief sustainability officer.
Added Laura Phillips, Walmart’s sustainability senior vice president: “Our suppliers recognize the opportunity to realize those same benefits in their businesses. By working together on such an ambitious goal, we can accelerate progress within our respective companies.”
Walmart is not alone. Global candy maker Mars Inc. has announced its commitment to invest about $1 billion to tackle climate change, poverty and resource scarcity. Explaining why Mars has decided to raise the visibility of its sustainability initiatives, Andy Pharoah, vice president of corporate affairs and strategic initiatives, said, “We have taken a different approach because we see the scale of the challenge we collectively must overcome and the opportunity for business to find its voice on these issues.”
Walmart and Mars are just two examples of organizations embracing transparency in the reporting of their CSR initiatives, as well as effectively using CSR reports to convey objectives, account for their progress against those objectives and influence the values they stand for as an enterprise. Supply chain management professionals must continue working every day to define and support such undertakings.
Antonio Galvao, CSCP, CLTD, is vice president of supply chain at DuBois Chemicals. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Dries is a retired business journalist and corporate communications executive now working as a freelance writer. He may be contacted at email@example.com.