Sustainability & Social Media: From the Fine Print to the Headline Reply

Consumer Reports recently released their third annual “Naughty and Nice List.” The 10 companies in each category were based on nominations from Consumer Reports staff and Facebook friends. It should be noted that the lists only reflect a specific policy or practice, and not the company as a whole.  The “naughty” list consists mostly of companies’ weak return policies, and the details hidden in the fine print.  On the other hand, the “nice” list highlights companies with extraordinary policies and exceptional guarantees that place them ahead of the pack.

This brings to mind the relationship between brand value, one of the less tangible values involved in sustainability, and the impact of social media. Social media is everywhere we turn – it seems that you can follow nearly every company on Twitter and Facebook, and pin your favorite products on your Pinterest board. With constant updates available on our cell phones, company websites have almost become passé.  

social media logosGood press on any of these social media channels can be an opportunity for a company to gain new customers, but it can also serve as a risk to companies.  Social media can pull that tricky policy from the fine print right to a headline, forcing companies to face the consequences or do damage control. With access to the internet at our fingertips, we can easily look up an article or video from years ago, regardless of how it reflects on the company. Customer reviews are also available on third party websites, which, positive or negative, the companies being reviewed cannot control. With the holiday shopping season upon us, is it possible that people may look at the “Naughty and Nice List” to influence their purchasing decisions?  

This raises the question; are you using social media to  share your sustainability efforts? If not, why? Social media can help companies instantly and transparently communicate their programs to customers, employees, and supply chains. Some of the companies that show up on the “naughty” list aren’t bad companies – they just need to be better communicators of their policies. Customers and employees want to know that a company will do the “right thing” but they also want to hear and see them doing the “right thing.” So if you are unjustly on the “naughty” list, or want to be on the “nice” list, think about how social media can benefit your company.

Is Styrofoam going out of style? Reply

In a recent town meeting, the town of Brookline, MA banned restaurants from using polystyrene (commonly known as Styrofoam) containers and cups. This decision follows suit locally with Amherst, MA and Great Barrington, MA as well as 100 other cities nationwide.

Why are municipalities so concerned about polystyrene if it is so lightweight and made of 95% air?

  • Polystyrene is petroleum-based, which is a non-renewable resource
  • There are potential adverse health effects for the workers that make it
  • The chemical can leech into food and beverages inside the container
  • It is difficult to recycle and not biodegradable so it is commonly dumped into landfills
  • It is a common source of litter and can harm animals (Source: Green Restaurant Association)

Post-consumer recycled paper content, bamboo, or plant-based plastics are environmentally friendly materials that can be used as alternatives. A quick search on the internet leads one to find hot cups composed of wood pulp and biodegradable plastic, entirely renewable resources that are compostable (Source: Branch). Quick service restaurants like KFC (part of Yum! Brands) have already made the change by implementing side containers that are reusable.  As a result, they aimed to reduce their foam packaging by 62% and plastic use by 17%.

Thinking about this in relation to the sustainability value chain, what motivates or pushes company to make more sustainable decisions? In this case, coffee shops and other quick service restaurants are being urged to make changes both from a customer and a regulatory standpoint. It begs the question, will the java and quick service restaurant giants only implement the change where mandated, or across the whole company?  Do these customer and regulatory driven changes cause companies to find alternatives faster than they normally would?  Let us know what you think about the ban, and how restaurants may comply with the ban.

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Sustainability Impacts Medical Devices Too Reply

Mark Crawford of Pilgrim Software recently conducted a Q&A with Capaccio’s Wayne Bates regarding sustainability and the medical device industry.  Pilgrim Software is a world-leading provider of Enterprise Risk, Compliance and Quality Management (ERCQM) solutions for highly regulated industries. Pilgrim has pioneered effective, integrated software solutions for the Life and Health Sciences and Consumer industries, as well as manufacturers in the automotive, aerospace and defense, and other non-regulated industries.

 

“Sustainability” has become a trendy, mainstream term over the past decade. However, applying the triple-bottom line aspects of sustainability—economic prosperity, social well-being, and environmental stewardship—is of growing importance to customers, employees, investors, and non-governmental organizations (i.e., stakeholders of manufacturing and institutional organizations).  

Question: Wayne, how would you define sustainability?

 Sustainability is the ability of an organization to transparently manage and balance its responsibilities of environmental stewardship, social well-being, and economic prosperity over the long term. People often get sidetracked by definitional disputes. However, to be sustainable, regardless of size, an organization must identify and manage the environmental, economic, and social risks and opportunities associated with its operations and products. History is rich with examples such as unsustainable societies, practices, and products. The question is: How long can something that is not sustainable last?

 Why has sustainability become such a buzzword in recent years?

 Well-run companies (and societies) have been operating in a sustainable manner for years because it is good business. To a large extent, marketing is the reason sustainability is such a mainstream buzz word. As a whole, societies of developed nations are holding corporations more accountable for the products they are producing, especially in the business-to-consumer markets. In turn, organizations are responding by addressing their impacts and promoting the efforts to sell goods. As the general public becomes more educated on sustainable practices, the expectations are beginning to be integrated into the business-to-business world.

 Why is sustainability important to the medical device industry?

 In addition to the pressure society is putting on business-to-consumer companies to be more sustainable, governmental agencies continue to revise existing regulations and pass new ones that have a direct operational impact from an economic, environmental, and social perspective. For example, the United States recently passed the Dodd-Frank Act that requires organizations to verify that its products do not contain minerals originating from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is having a significant impact on large and small medical device companies and their supply chains. As a result, large and small medical device companies should be prepared to confront an increasingly broad range of environmental, economic, and social issues. 

 What are the value drivers for sustainability in the medical device industry?

 Value drivers may vary depending on the organization, but here are some examples:

  • Customers—group purchasing organizations can encourage the use of eco-friendly medical products
  • Suppliers—it is good business practice, and in some instances required by large organizations as a condition of doing business, to ensure that suppliers track and verify their sources
  • Data management—environmental metrics can be effectively tracked and managed through environmental health and safety management systems
  • Compliance with legislation—legislation, like the European directives (e.g., RoHS and WEEE), drives product stewardship and dictates what goes into a product
  • Economic value—increasing cost savings and efficiency reduces risks and impacts related to costs

How can a company track and communicate performance?

 There are many external ranking systems like the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Newsweek, and Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) that both influence and drive sustainability performance. It can be difficult to decide what to measure and report, but organizations should consider material issues that can be managed, as well as what is important to stakeholders. It is imperative that companies seeking to track and communicate performance make a commitment to sustainability and set quantifiable, achievable goals. Management systems such as ISO 9000, ISO 14000, and OSHAS 18000 help with tracking this data from several different departments or locations. A growing number of companies are communicating their sustainability programs by preparing and publishing a Corporate Social Responsibility or Sustainability report that covers the economic, environmental, and social aspects of the organization.

 How does having a sustainability program help companies manage stakeholders expectations?

 As noted above, understanding value drivers helps an organization identify and manage risks, challenges, and opportunities, whereas tracking and communicating performance  allows a company to transparently balance the three responsibilities. In doing so, it is important for organizations to understand and demonstrate expectations of both internal and external customers. For example, internal customers, including employees that expect to work for a socially responsible company, need to be shown how they can play a role in sustainability efforts, and be made aware that there is an ongoing commitment from the company. Ultimately, instead of viewing sustainability as “just another thing to do” it can be a tool to manage risk and address challenges throughout the organization. 

 Your company is presenting a panel session on sustainability for the Advanced Medical Technology Association’s annual educational conference in October in Boston. This is the first time an AdvaMed conference has devoted a panel discussion devoted to sustainability, correct?

 That’s right. The conference will be held October 1-3 in Boston. Capaccio Environmental Engineering is organizing a panel session entitled “Addressing the Evolving Sustainability Demands for the Medical Device Industry.” I will be moderating the panel that will include sustainability representatives from Smith & Nephew, Johnson & Johnson, Covidien, and Becton, Dickinson and Company, who will offer their unique perspectives on emerging trends and challenges and how they are addressing sustainability in their organizations.

For more information visit:  https://advamed2012.com/ and www.pilgrimsoftware.com.

Breaking News about Conflict Minerals! 1

 On Wednesday, August 22, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) voted in favor of a rule for conflict mineral disclosure. Based on this vote, US-based manufacturing companies will  be required to publicly disclose the  use of conflict minerals (including tantalum, tin, gold, or tungsten) that have originated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or  nearby areas. 

 Reporting to the SEC will be required on a new form (i.e., Form SD), if a company uses conflict minerals “necessary to the functionality or production of a product.” Companies will have until May 31, 2014 to make their first disclosures for the calendar year of 2013.

 This is two years in the making, as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was first signed into federal law in July of 2010. Continue to follow our blog for more information regarding conflict minerals and their now required disclosure.

View the SEC press release here: http://sec.gov/news/press/2012/2012-163.htm