Sara Broadbent is a distinguished Management Consulting professional with passion for and experience in the diverse areas of corporate social responsibility (CSR), energy conservation, human resources, environment, health, safety and Six Sigma. Presently, Sara leads Avaya’s Corporate Social Responsibility, Philanthropy and Environment, Health and Safety Programs.
Christopher P. Skroupa: In what ways does the internal environment of a company play a role in integration and implementation of CSR strategies?
Sara Broadbent: Creating and nurturing a strong internal culture is a vital component in successfully delivering on a commitment to corporate responsibility. What helps us is defining our culture into four categories: teamwork, empowerment, simplicity and accountability. While these watchwords have relevance in how we approach customer challenges and market opportunities, they also give us the guide rails within which we integrate and implement our corporate responsibility programs around the globe.
Our employees are empowered to play a key role in our CSR strategy, both at the corporate and local levels. We have established Employee Engagement Committees around the world, made up of volunteer teams who coordinate philanthropic and environmental stewardship activities throughout the year. You might find one location hosting a bake sale with all proceeds going to their local food bank, or a team assembling on the weekend to do a beach cleanup. These committees amp it up in the time leading up to Earth Day with special environmental awareness communications and activities planned to help employees reduce their carbon footprints both at home and in the office. The local level initiatives increase our collective impact by addressing the needs of each community in which we have a presence.
At the Corporate level, we engage employees in our annual Month of Giving, which is held in October. This program celebrates 31-days of employee volunteer and fundraising activities, as well as an online silent auction. Since its inception in 2015, we’ve raised more than $600,000 for worthy charitable organizations around the world, and global employee teams have engaged with local nonprofits, donating thousands of volunteer hours to assist the communities where we live and do business.
Integration and implementation of CSR strategies requires a corporate culture that sees the business within a global system of interdependent players – customers, employees, communities, governments, NGOs, shareholders and suppliers. Empowering a variety of employees to lead and participate in programs that benefit people and the environment has resulted in benefits such as a consistent carbon reductions and increasing support of charitable initiatives.
Skroupa: How does a well-connected company environment affect CSR strategies? On the other side, how does fragmented company environment impact CSR efforts?
Broadbent: CSR strategies require not just cultural cohesion but an internal infrastructure of connection and communication assets, including policies and procedures that make it easy for people to meet, share information, make decisions and track results. Creating and implementing programs that address climate change or social inequities requires that people are getting the right information at the right time, in the right context, thereby enabling a higher level of engagement across dispersed teams.
Corporate Social Responsibility has become a critical part of every company’s long-term strategy and it extends across business channels: marketing, recruiting, risk mitigation and supply chain. Customers are concerned where their products come from, how they are made and what the vendors with whom they do business are doing to protect and defend the environment. Potential employees aren’t any different. They want a sense of pride and fulfillment in their work and to spend their time with employers whose values match their own.
CSR must be tightly woven into every company’s fabric with infrastructure and policies that support collaboration and communication. CSR then becomes more than a single activity that’s only temporarily rallied around. It becomes a unified approach to creating significant impact and part of the company mindset. CSR is more than donating a percentage of annual earnings or implementing a day of greener business operations. In the simplest terms, it needs to be integrated into everyone’s way of doing business from the top down.
Conversely, fragmentation within any business will negatively impact outcomes – whether that’s innovation, growth, engagement, profit or CSR. When stakeholders aren’t connected and communicating with each other, the impact on CSR programs is usually limited. There’s a delicate balance to maintain in CSR of allowing space within the program for both local and global approaches. As we’ve seen at Avaya, our local teams know best about what programs and efforts will most improve communities and ecosystems. Yet, when disparate teams are permitted to act independently with no global integration, the impact can be small or ineffective. Knowledge sharing, synergies and critical mass are the results of an integrated local-to-global approach.
Skroupa: A non-vertically integrated supply chain poses a major threat to a company’s CSR. How can companies integrate fully with their suppliers, and effectively allocate funds for upfront costs that, if handled improperly, could prevent them from becoming a more socially and environmentally responsible firm?
Broadbent: While CSR strategy and program implementation must become an integral way of doing business, in order for its impact to be material to any business, it must extend to the supply chain. This is challenging as companies move beyond their “four walls” of directly owned operations and begin to influence the behavior and business practices of their suppliers.
There are two key ways to help ensure the successful integration of the supply chain: a platform for setting and verifying metrics and performance – including audits – and joining an industry-led supply chain coalition.
The value of an industry-specific coalition is the scale with which many in the industry are approaching shared concerns and problems. In the technology sector, this ranges from forced labor and conflict minerals issues to energy use and diversity and inclusion. Industry coalitions are forming to tackle the most material issues to the sector and applying pressure to all players in the value chain. This means that a manufacturer has an important partner in driving change throughout the industry.
Sometimes the coalition provides an online tracking and verifying tool that gives companies the ability to set and track goals and metrics throughout its supply chain. This requires an investment in time, training and follow-up, but is well worth the commitment in building a globally compliant supply chain. The Responsible Business Alliance, of which Avaya is an affiliate member, has such a platform in place that includes supplier questionnaires, a shared anonymized supplier database and auditor protocols. Leveraging the power of both coalitions and systems helps companies ensure that a complex and global supply chain is making progress against specific company goals and larger industry issues.
Sara Broadbent will be speaking on a panel entitled Employee Engagement: Aligning Corporate and Social Purpose at the CSR 4.0 conference in San Francisco, California on March 1.