Would you have thought that soap dispensers, cashew nuts and the Amazon Rainforest were connected to the corporate responsibility and sustainability of small and medium-sized enterprises?
The following three examples make clear how differently corporate responsibility and sustainability are now practiced in SMEs. The ideas, projects and measures in that area are as special and individual as the services and products of the different sectors.
Below, you can read about the successful CR examples of a provider of hygienic and work clothing, a snack company and a manufacturer of fragrances and flavourings.
Example 1: Cycles of reuse and intelligent soap dispensers
CWS-boco is a leading international provider of hygienic and work clothing that is increasingly focusing its service cycles on the topics of saving resources and reuse.
In cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS), CWS-boco has, among other things, developed intelligent soap dispensers. Thanks to a newly developed information system, paper towel, soap and toilet paper dispensers are now only refilled as required.
This means purchasing and warehouse storage can be planned sensibly. The cleaning teams no longer need to check every washroom. Needs-oriented planning of all utensils saves time, reduces physical work for the cleaning staff and ensures a high level of hygiene as the soap dispensers are always sufficiently filled.
Example 2: Ethical procurement of all kinds of nut
The Intersnack Group is the biggest European provider of savoury snacks like peanuts and cashews. The company is aware of its responsibility along the entire supply chain. For example, Intersnack makes an effort to ensure ethical procurement of every cashew that ends up in supermarkets.
To this end, among other things, the company carries out projects with a positive effect on the living and working conditions of suppliers and pre-suppliers in the countries where the nuts originate. The Fair Trade Cashew Cooperation in Tanzania improves income in eight communities, while the African Cashew Project increases the revenue of around 150,000 farmers.
Example 3: Protecting sensitive ecosystems, achieving ambitious climate goals
In addition to climate protection, the fragrance and flavouring manufacturer Symrise is also committed to maintaining biodiversity. The company primarily relies on plant-based materials for around 10,000 raw ingredients, some of which originate in sensitive ecosystems such as the Amazon Rainforest.
At an early stage, the responsible managers recognised that the requirement for natural and sustainably produced raw materials is growing continuously, but those raw materials are threatened by climate change and the reduction in species diversity. With its commitment, Symrise not only ensures organic raw materials for its own use, but also protects the threatened ecosystems at the same time. For example, Symrise achieved its ambitious climate targets for the year 2020 as early as 2016.
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The new challenge is efficient and cautious thinking
These three corporate examples are ‘only’ parts of a comprehensive, strategically considered corporate responsibility concept in each case. But they demonstrate what corporate responsibility can look like in practice. Economy and ecology are not mutually exclusive; cost efficiency and farsightedness can complement each other in a sensible way. In this way, companies can sustainably take responsibility for society, the environment and future generations with innovative ideas and creative planning.
The terms corporate responsibility (CR) and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are often used in a similar or synonymous way in this context. But on closer inspection, the more general term or concept of corporate responsibility includes various topics such as corporate social responsibility (CSR), corporate governance, corporate citizenship (CC) and sustainability management. You can find explanations of the various specialist terms in the box below (link to the box below: CR, CSR or CC: a short explanation of terms).
Operate economically – for your own good and that of others
More and more owners and managers are getting to grips with the idea and concept of corporate responsibility these days. Those responsible soon understand why sustainable activity is very much in an SME’s own economic interest.
Those who very closely inspect and evaluate all their company processes in terms of energy consumption and use of resources, as well as direct and indirect effects on the environment and society, will save hard cash at the end of the day. ‘Corporate responsibility is thus also the art of efficient and cautious thinking’, says CR expert and business consultant Sven Grönwoldt, adding ‘sustainable thinking means including the factor of the future in every equation.’
In every company and at every workplace, there are various possible ways to act sustainably and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Job Wizards article ‘Sustainable companies: it’s this simple’ shows what some general initial steps could look like.
What gives sustainable competition its strength is that there are only winners.
Sustainable supply chain management creates planning security
Those who pay attention to maintaining standards in supply chain management, such as the Intersnack Group and Symrise, are investing in the future, in planning security for their own company and in securing jobs. SMEs in particular are often suppliers to major companies who are paying ever more attention to sustainable social and environmental standards.
Why? Because major companies are increasingly being inspected with regard to these standards by critical stakeholders or interest groups such as legislators, shareholders, investors and contract partners.
The business standing in the eyes of ever more critical consumers and customers plays an important role in this. The general public are more and more aware of questions regarding social standards and occupational health and safety in production and put the subject on the agenda of big and small companies.
The future of companies is also dependent on social standards
Systematic CR management with focus on social standards and social services is particularly growing in importance for the future viability of companies in structurally weak regions. Important areas of activity include health management and work–life balance, occupational health and safety, training and further education, family friendliness, diversity and equal opportunities. Companies that act sustainably with a good CR management set-up are recognised as having an advantage in terms of image and competitiveness. The increase in websites for ‘sustainable’ jobs, such as the site, https://goodjobs.eu/de, shows the importance corporate responsibility has for applicants these days.