Social Responsibility: Making a Quality Difference Where We Live, Work, and Play

This is a guest post by Jennifer J. Stepniowski, communications director at Pro QC International, a third-party quality consulting and engineering firm. She is an Influential Voices blogger for ASQ, vice chair of ASQ’s Social Responsibility Technical Community, and Education Chair for ASQ Section 1508. Stepniowski is also an adjunct instructor for Hillsborough Community College and HCC’s Institute for Corporate and Continuing Education.  Her personal mantra is inspired by Peter Drucker, which includes “the best way to predict the future is to create it.”

ASQ recently announced the approval of a Social Responsibility Technical Community.  According to the Community’s charter, its responsibilities will be to establish and administer general policies related to society-wide SR activities and to serve as a member-leader advisory board related to the Body of Knowledge.

This is exciting news that further demonstrates the salience of this topic and its progression into quality.  Further support is found in the United Nations Global Compact that claims more than 12,000 organizations in over 145 countries have committed to showing good global citizenship in the areas of human rights, labor standards, anti-corruption, and environmental protection.

SR is of special interest to quality professionals for several reasons.  The big-picture reason considers the definition of quality as meeting or exceeding customer expectations.  With that, it was cited in a 2010 IBM study that “83 percent of CEOs believe customers will expect an increasing focus on social responsibility.”  In fact, ASQ’s 2011 Future of Quality Study identified global responsibility as “the most significant force shaping the future of quality.”

Want to know more? Additional resources that further demonstrate the quality/SR connection include:

Social responsibility continues to gain momentum, and with it come increased opportunities for us as individuals to make a difference where we live, work, and play.

In a 2007 Harris Poll, 31 percent of those surveyed indicated a belief that “people have a personal responsibility to make the world a better place by being actively involved with various issues and causes.”  And yet in the same survey, 25 percent of respondents indicated “social responsibility has little consequence in their lives.”  (See the Harris poll data.)

So, how do we increase awareness and engagement? How do we become more socially responsible as individuals?

I decided to ask around for some ideas and am grateful for the feedback received.  It turns out that as individuals, there’s a lot we can do.

•    Learn stuff.  Check out ISO 26000, or explore the recently posted Body of Knowledge that ASQ has posted on the subject. Fast Company lists 51 resources in this article. Be inspired to incorporate what you learn at home and at work. Walking meetings, anyone?

•    Review your investments and reallocate to more SR-friendly sources whenever possible.  Several studies indicate that socially responsible investment (SRI) mutual funds are competitive with their non-SRI peers. Socially responsible funds performed well even during times of economic turmoil: Large-cap SRI mutual funds outperformed the S&P 500 by 6 percent in 2009. Source.

•    Make conscious purchasing decisions.  Start with evaluating the top 20 percent of your expenditures. Get into the habit of checking labels before you buy.

Did you know? Some 52 percent of global respondents in a 2014 Nielsen survey including over 30,000 consumers in 60 countries say their purchase decisions are partly dependent on the packaging – they check the labeling first before buying to ensure the brand is committed to positive social and environmental impact. Sustainable purchase considerations are most influenced by the packaging in Asia-Pacific (63 percent), Latin America (62 percent) and Middle East/Africa (62 percent) and to a lesser extent in Europe (36 percent) and North America (32 percent). Source.

•    Join your Homeowners’ Association (HOA) if you have one. Granted, I wasn’t winning any popularity contests with this one. But, it felt good to have more trees planted in my neighborhood, hire an environmentally friendly pest control company, and organize events like community garage sales.

•    Give blood. It’s not something that can be manufactured and must come from volunteers. According to the American Red Cross, someone needs a blood transfusion every two seconds. As little as one pint can save up to three lives.

•    Find a cause and donate some time and/or money. Feed the homeless, help at an animal shelter, volunteer at the hospital, support a crowdfunding project or consider using a website like VolunteerMatch.org to get ideas more suited to what you’re passionate about. I’m working with my ASQ section to organize one SR speaker per year and a follow-up community event to “increase impact” and satisfy strategic objectives.

Did you know? According to a 2010 study, one in five U.S. adults (21 percent) feel that people should generally take part in things such as voluntary service, donating to charities or getting involved in community activities because it is the right thing to do.  Source.

•    Tune in and speak up. Communicate your opinions on policy or other issues and let your public representatives know how you feel.  Sites like Change.org create awareness and provide an opportunity for action.

Did you know? A 2010 Harris Poll revealed among those who have taken action as a result of following a cause online (39 percent), over half (54 percent) say they have talked to a friend or a family member after reading something on a nonprofit or charitable organization’s social networking site, a third (33 percent) have contacted an elected representative, 31 percent have made a financial contribution to the organization, 23 percent have made a financial contribution to a cause the organization supports and 23 percent have attended an event sponsored by the organization. Source.

•    Talk to kids. American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt provided some insight here when he said “we cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build out youth for the future.”

•    Support local parks and outdoor spaces. They’re perfect for family picnics and team building events.

What else?  Share your ideas in the comments!  And, contact me at jenn@proqcna.com if interested in ASQ’s Social Responsibility Technical Community.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” ~William James

How Does Quality Fit Into Social Responsibility?

This is a guest post by Greg Allen, an environmental scientist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  He has degrees in biology, engineering management, and is nearing completion of a doctoral degree in organizational leadership.  His research involves assessing the indirect effects of corporate social responsibility on the relationship between certain forms of leadership and organizational commitment. He is the chair elect of ASQ’s Energy and Environment Division and is active in various ASQ projects related to social responsibility.

What’s in a corporate social responsibility program? Most such programs include philanthropy, community volunteering, and maybe eco-friendly practices. These are good things, and there is a special ingredient that makes such programs more effective, efficient, and aligned with business principles. The special ingredient, is, of course, quality.

Let’s step back a bit. More and more customers, employees, and investors want to be associated with organizations that care about the long-term sustainability of the planet and that conduct themselves with social responsibility as a core value.  Quality professionals are well-positioned to provide leadership and contribute to the strategic integration of social responsibility.

Why? Simply put, quality is socially responsible.  Quality directly supports business elements that are central to social responsibility.  Examples include:

  • Protecting consumer well-being while designing and producing products that meet customer needs.
  • Engaging employees and other stakeholders in process design and management.
  • And promoting sustainable resource use through the practice of lean and other efforts that achieve low off-spec process wastes.

Quality professionals also know how to provide leadership to continually improve organizational performance.  This is a socially responsible action!

The question now is whether quality, as it’s currently practiced, is enough to make the transformational change we need to create sustainability for society and the planet. I believe we have an imperative to do more. So, how can the quality profession evolve to meet this challenge?

Here’s a thought: What is all too often missing from traditional “corporate social responsibility” is an integrated approach—one that blends social responsibility into business strategy and day-to-day operations. It is possible to apply quality tools and management systems in an innovative way to enhance how organizations define, manage, and improve their social and environmental performance.  Moreover, social and environmental outcomes can be combined with financial performance to create the “triple bottom line” of people, planet, and profit.

Being responsive to the “triple bottom line” has been shown through empirical research to be good for organizations.  Why shouldn’t it also be good for the careers and satisfaction of quality professionals?  Contributing to the success of our organizations, our careers, and the communities in which we live through social responsibility is a potentially life-changing opportunity.

The new and open-access ASQ tool called Integrating Social Responsibility With Business Strategy – A Guide for Quality Professionals provides detailed suggestions to help you think through the process. This guide doesn’t have all the answers. But, hopefully, it will help you ask the right questions and start the process of creating a better, more integrated approach to social responsibility within your organization.

Now, you have to take the lead. Make your organization and the world in which it operates better—more just, more efficient, and more profitable. It’s been said that quality needs to explore new and innovative avenues. Lead the way.