CR - It's a Moving Target
A leading processed meat manufacturer claims to have reduced salt in their products decades before various municipal regulations required reduced sodium levels in packaged and restaurant foods. While the action taken by this manufacturer is certainly a laudable one, the question remains, how long can any business hang their hat on a single CR initiative from the distant past? Answer: Not long.
Just as products continue to evolve to meet changing customer requirements, so do CR targets and expectations continue to advance. Consequently, we always caution our clients against thinking of their CR goals and accomplishments as time-limited, one-off projects.
Consider the processed meat manufacturer referenced above. While sodium reduction is a big deal, it's just one of many CR issues the company faces. Is the meat used in the company's products sourced from humane and reliable suppliers? What about the waste water runoff on the farms on which the animals are raised? And what new technologies is the company using to deliver high quality, safe and healthy products?
When it comes to CR issues, it's a prudent move to keep an eye on impending legislation, growing NGO advocacy and parallel competitor advances. And as for the discerning and increasingly sceptical public, well, they take extravagant claims of corporate responsibility with a large grain of salt.
Like it or not, businesses must view CR as a journey - not a destination. So if the meat company referenced above wants to continue to be viewed as a CR leader, it's important that it keep moving forward.
Consider the actions of other companies spearheading CR in the industry. Nestlé, for example, takes a multi-faceted approach to addressing public health. In addition to heavy investments in research and development for nutrition, health and wellness solutions, the company hosts an annual International Nutrition Symposium to stimulate dialogue on current nutrition and human health issues and identify areas for future research.
Nestlé is also actively working to conserve water at plants and facilities and recognises the importance of investing in better water stewardship in the supply chain. Nestlé's forward-looking focus on nutrition, water stewardship and the needs of society distinguishes it as an industry leader.
Unilever is another example of a company focused on the future. By 2015, it will be sourcing the tea in its Lipton and PG Tips brand tea bags entirely from farms certified by the Rainforest Alliance, an organisation that works to conserve biodiversity and promote responsible land-use practices. Through this commitment to sustainable agriculture, Unilever is leading the tea sector in developing new CR practices and standards, while most of its competitors are still satisfied with simply complying with local regulations.
Leadership encourages other to follow. Through its commitment to sustainable agriculture, Unilever inspired one of its Lipton manufacturing facilities in the US to implement a zero-landfill initiative - a goal that it fully achieved in 2009. Clearly, Unilever is demonstrating a broad, forward-looking commitment to making its tea business a truly sustainability enterprise.
It's these sorts of innovations and commitments that will define the CR leaders of today and tomorrow.
What's vour view?