In 2017 it is vital that companies be sustainable. Sustainability is not just about company car emissions, but the whole production process and business strategy. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a company’s strategy for assessing and taking responsibility for its impact on the environment whilst also taking stakeholders’ interests into account. This can be a hard balance to maintain. In this blogpost, we look at the 7 top tips for CSR policy, based on Spadel’s development since 2010.
Spadel’s CSR development has been the subject of a case study that has been used in a teaching day on sustainability with our students. It has been developed in collaboration with partner Sustenuto who have worked successfully with Spadel on their sustainability strategy for the last 7 years. The strategy was reviewed last year in collaboration between Sustenuto and Antwerp Management School and resulted in the case study.
1. Analyze your impact
First of all, it is important to know which areas of your company can become more sustainable and which have the biggest impact. You can implement the greatest measures where the biggest impact is. This makes the whole exercise more credible.
Spadel is active in 4 regions: Belgium, The Netherlands, France, and Wales. For each of these regions, the management board works in tandem with the CSR team to assess the company’s environmental impact.
2. Set a clear goal of sustainability
A big mistake everybody makes is to not set a goal and just strive for improvement. That’s not how it works: without a vision and a goal, you will make the wrong choices.
Spadel’s managers developed a clear sustainability goal: by 2020 the company wanted to obtain 100 percent natural products. This has helped it make important choices so far. For example, in the production process of Spa Citron it used aspartame, which isn’t a natural product. The alternatives, stevia and beet sugar, have a bigger CO2 foot print, but they are natural. It chose to work with stevia and beet sugar as that connected with its goal: 100 percent natural.
3. Appoint a CSR professional
Spadel made sustainability a strategic priority and appointed a CSR manager in 2010, Ann Vandenhende. She developed a 10-year plan which should transform the whole company by 2020. As coordinator and leader, she plays a pivotal role in company’s sustainability policy.
4. Ensure you conduct enough consultations
If managers don’t talk about the goals set or evaluate the progress or effectiveness of measures taken, the chances are the goals will never be met.
Spadel holds regular consultations throughout the year between the CSR team and the managers.
5. Break down your goal into manageable chunks
Striving for a goal without splitting it in smaller parts is not that effective. A goal is often an idea which cannot be easily translated into action: what needs to actually happen can remain very vague. By breaking down your main goal into smaller, achievable chunks, you get a concrete picture of what needs to be done.
Spadel divided its goal into three key areas : nature conservation, carbon footprint, and people and society. Within theses areas, it built eight platforms to further clarify its goals.
6. Make sure you have an critical external eye
It certainly cannot hurt to let external bodies evaluate your goals and action. This helps provide a much-needed fresh perspective. They will also see if your targets are achievable and may advise on areas where you can improve further.
Spadel co-opted the assistance of external partners from the very start. One of those partners was Antwerp Management School, which evaluated its strategy after 5 years.
7. Don’t be afraid to change
Nobody has the most perfectly-formulated and feasible goal right from the outset. It is a process which takes years, which means new influencing factors could pop up at any stage. It is a constantly-evolving process which therefore needs to be continually assessed and adjusted.
Based on Antwerp Management School’s evaluation, Spadel adjusted its strategy in 2016. It added 4 extra platforms to its goal: street litter, sustainable packaging, renewable energy and green logistics.
Your sustainability policy
Spadel’s CSR development has been the subject of a case study, in collaboration with Sustenuto, which is now used in our Full Time Master programs. Furthermore, our Corporate Social Responsibility Knowledge Community is able to create a review of your sustainability policy, which might lead to new insights, ideas and improvements.