I received a preliminary look at Paul’s July blog on The Intersection of Quality and Social Responsibility while vacationing in Maine. It gave me the opportunity to sit around the table with friends and relatives and ask a very different set of people the question, “How are we making the case for quality and social responsibility in our various endeavors?”
Immediately, my brother asked, “Isn’t social responsibility about doing what is right even when no one is looking?” That brought to mind BP who is now advertising for gulf coast tourism as a requirement of a court settlement. How different that would have looked if BP had always been partnering with the Gulf States prior to any oil spill. Would their actions following the spill have been different if they had established a social partnership in the region? And what about Penn State and the Jerry Sandusky conviction? What social responsibility did the college have to ensure that young boys using their facilities would be properly supervised? Penn State may have been presenting an image of Happy Valley to the world, but to those young boys the college’s outward acts of social responsibility must have seemed reprehensible. How much is Penn State culpable for not responding appropriately when the assistant coach first reported his concern? Shouldn’t social responsibility occur even when no one is looking?
This was getting to be a pretty heavy discussion for a vacation. So we shifted the discussion to whether social responsibility included shopping locally vs. supporting big box stores. In the news this week, it was noted that our US Olympic uniforms were made in China, rather than in the US. What is the social responsibility of the US Olympic Committee to support job growth at home? On the brighter side, recently people have been using the social media to hold “cash mobs” where they pick a business and then mob it with new customers to help the business stay afloat. Maybe we do better with social responsibility when everyone is looking.
To lighten the mood of our discussion, one person added the story of Proctors Theatre in Schenectady, New York where the CEO, Philip Morris has done the outstanding. As he shared recently in The Capital Commons Quarterly, “Downtown Schenectady ten years ago was at a low point, with vacancies everywhere and people obviously absent. We chose to stretch ourselves by creating a district energy component. With the help of NYSERDA and the Schenectady Development Authority, we invested nearly $8 million in a plant to create and distribute hot and cold water that our neighbors could use to heat and cool their buildings, reducing the carbon footprint by almost 300 pounds an hour.“ In addition the Theatre used the energy system to melt the snow off the sidewalks in the neighborhood so people could get out and enjoy the winter community life, no small thing in the snowy northeast.
All of this got me thinking about how do I, as a small business owner, help support social responsibility, especially in an economy where every nickel is important? We just celebrated our 28th year in business and today our social responsibility runs the gamut from recycling all paper, boxes and inks to sponsoring an Entrepreneur Boot Camp, from donating a bowling lane for Big Brothers/Big Sisters to membership in the area’s Chambers of Commerce and Rotary service initiatives, from participating in a GenNEXT program for young professionals to providing discounted services for all non-profits and local customers. Usually these ideas spring up from our employees who have a special interest in one organization or another. What I did take away from this discussion is the need to make it more proactive and mindful and to be doing it even when no one is looking. What will be our social responsibility initiatives for 2013? That’s a new discussion we haven’t had before and one that every business should have.
I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.