Social responsibility just makes business sense

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Wells Fargo, Nuveen Investments and Hewlett-Packard all make the list as socially responsible corporations — meaning that the companies are concerned about workers, the environment and business ethics.
But businesses do not have to be large, multinational corporations to become socially responsible, said David Stangis, director of corporate responsibility for Intel. Stangis was in Colorado Springs this week to meet with the Rocky Mountain Socially Responsible Investors group at The Broadmoor.

Top 10 Best Corporate Citizens

1. Cummins Inc.
2. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters
3. St. Paul Travelers Cos. Inc.
4. Nuveen Investments
5. Intel
6. Wells Fargo
7. Hewlett-Packard Co.
8. Procter and Gamble Co.
9. Novell Inc.
10. Xerox Corp.

Source: Business Ethics magazine

Being socially responsible is a good business practice, he said, and is getting even more important in the wake of the Enron and Worldcom scandals.
“Over the past decade, the questions communities ask have shifted,” he said. “People want to know if we’re taking care of workers, if we’re taking care of the environment. But they also want to know what good the company is doing. They want to feel like the companies in their communities are valuable citizens.”
Intel answered these questions by creating a foundation, which encourages employees to volunteer at their children’s schools. Once they’ve volunteered 20 hours, Intel’s foundation makes a grant that starts at $200.
Even small mom-and-pop businesses can become good corporate citizens, Stangis said, and maintain a competitive edge with other businesses.
“You have to try to do things that make good business sense,” he said. “But there are things that anyone can do. We have a good relationship with socially responsible investors simply because we are so open. If people have questions, we answer them. We have detailed information that’s available publicly, that many public companies do not have to have — and won’t tell.”
Even privately held companies — the majority of businesses in Colorado — can make ethical decisions that keep their companies in the public eye, he said.
“Even small and medium enterprises can follow reporting standards,” he said. “There’s a framework, easily available on the Internet, that companies can use for guidance to be more open, as well as find things that make them socially responsible.”
For instance, companies can check their supply chains, making sure that their suppliers are following ethical guidelines, as well as environmental checks.
Stangis said that Intel is an environmentally friendly company, but doesn’t advertise the fact. However, its customers —computer companies that use Intel’s chips — know it, and Stangis believes it makes a difference.
“Smaller companies can join Co-op America, and pool their resources,” he said. “That’s a group that focuses on socially responsible companies, and addresses it from many different angles.”
Co-op America says its mission is to “harness economic power — the strength of consumers, investors and businesses —to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.”
Companies can check with Co-op America to make sure their suppliers are upholding good environmental and social policies, Stangis said.
“All those expectations trickle down to businesses,” he said. “No matter what size, any business can take that step.”
Investors are the reason that many companies have chosen to go the corporate responsibility route. Socially responsible investing increased 258 percent to $2.29 trillion from 1999 to 2005.
“Companies can really benefit from taking this step,” Stangis said. “Letting customers know that they are upholding these standards, that can only give them an edge over the competition.”
Amy.Gillentine@csbj.com

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Source: Co-op America, www.coopamerica.org