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.

2 thoughts on “How Does Quality Fit Into Social Responsibility?”

  1. This makes complete sense. Today, an overall quality schema MUST integrate social responsibility with all other organizational processes. It’s just good business. And it’s just good!

    Yes, this is critical research that Mr. Allen is conducting: What’s the nature of the leadership that brings about this state?

  2. I would start that the theme should be “Quality Fit into Social Responsibility” rather than “How Does Quality Fit Into Social Responsibility”. We can take a number of examples on how quality fit into social responsibility. Today the we live in a world that has more information and thanks to internet every one in the world has access. The fact of the matter it is the quality of the information that user looks not quantity of the information.

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