For any executive working on embedding corporate social responsibility into the company fabric and every decision-making structure across functionalities, there are two critical requirements that must precede any expectation of acceptance and implementation: 1) The plan/business case must obtain dedicated direction and agreement from leadership; and 2) Without employee engagement, you might as well forget about it.
At Campbell Soup, when Dave Stangis took the reins of a newly-created position of vice president for CSR in 2008, he had that first requirement in place. But with an economic downturn just ahead, several challenges lay ahead—and employee engagement was one of the most acute.
Last week, however, Stangis received the final nod for the implementation of one of his long term goals, which he hopes will serve to "integrate CSR into every aspect of the company so that everyone starts doing it without thinking about it." Starting next year, if not sooner, every new hire orientation will include a module on the CSR strategy of the company that will describe not only how Campbell looks at corporate social responsibility but also a specific directive on their participation and contribution in furthering the strategy.
Challenge: What Does CSR Have To Do With My Job?
Over a short phone call, Stangis elaborated. Calling it a small start but a huge win, he explained, "Previously, the Personal Performance Objective form had a CSR and sustainability portion to it but only a small percentage of the staff fully understood the expectation because they didn't see the correlation between CSR and their job. That is the gap."
He realized early on that to align every employee's personal job profile and goals with this strategic focus of the company was going to require early intervention, hence a new module in all new hire orientation.
"It's crucial for employee engagement on CSR and sustainability initiatives that the message reaches employees on the very first day of the job. The new hires go through a new employee orientation just like any other company: we've always talked about safety, benefits, company policies, etc., but now they will also learn about CSR and sustainability."
Company Directive: CSR Isn't Optional
Not only will new hires be walked through a presentation, they will also be told in realistic terms, "What it means when they hear these words at Campbell, what some of our focus areas are, as well as a directive that everyone is expected to participate in the fulfillment of these goals." "This then acts as a heads up so that when they hear about related news, announcements, etc., they can place the reference as well as contextualize corporate responsibility with their job," he said.
As Stangis emphasized, this is just one component of a many-faceted, long term strategy to get every employee at Campbell Soup embedded in the notion of a responsible company that succeeds on the premise of a healthy and happy community, an innovative and ethical workplace, with a commitment to giving back to the environment.
Campbell's Success Model
Now initiatives like incentivized performance reviews and a toolkit for employees that helps them come up with ideas on how they are/can contribute to the overall CSR strategy ("whether that's through volunteering, a new product, a packaging change, a new design element, etc.") have been institutionalized at Campbell for a number of years now.
It is the final elements connecting strategy with individual performance and innovation that occupy most of Stangis' time these days. He described his strategy as a lead-off of Campbell's "Success Model" (see left).
"Winning in the workplace allows us to win in the marketplace. When we do those two things right we are able to win in the community and make a social impact," explained Stangis. This model ensures that every discussion relates individual employee's contribution and fit within the Success model to the company's overall strategy, he added.
Connecting CSR to Recruitment
I have often discussed the continued disconnect between the CSR, marketing and recruitment departments at companies and made the argument that you cannot recruit the best talent without a clear vision and understanding of the company's core values. Stangis was quick to address this: "The gap was that the recruiting people were excited about what we were doing but not necessarily clued in on how they could have a role in expanding the company's CSR strategy without having been in the job for a while. We wanted to get them on Day 1, that's why a dedicated module on CSR and sustainability in the new hire orientation is a huge win," he said.
Stangis' team's efforts are starting to pay off in other departments of the company as well. For example, departments like marketing and recruitment were much more receptive to engaging and contributing on how to contextualize CSR into their functions because they see the business case and how they fit in. "The recruitment people have been on a steep learning curve, but they've been great," he added.
But the road to progress continues on. For Stangis, this is just a small step in a long list of goals.
At AsianMBA's Leadership Conference, Stangis and I share a panel on corporate social responsibility in the 21st century: Why Innovation, Diversity & Sustainable Leadership Must Be Every Job Candidate's Top 3 Skills
Stangis reacts to Professor Aneel Karnani's ridicule of CSR: "When I was hired at Campbell...I told them that they didn't hire a tree hugger. I wasn't going to go out and plant trees and clean up the streets...but.."