Manufacturing & Society: Partnering With Others

Aug. 15, 2005
Social responsibility doesn't happen in isolation.

The word culture is overused and overworked, especially in the context of companies. Yet corporate culture is a product of people, including a corporate culture that champions social responsibility. Defining a manufacturing company's social responsibility, devising strategies and leading their execution all begin -- or should -- with the CEO. But if corporate social responsibility is really to be an integral part of what the company is about, it won't happen if the chief executive operates alone, or the company acts in isolation. It depends upon partnering with others, within a company and with those outside.

In the UK, the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca PLC supports the Brightside Trust, a charity that helps underprivileged young people enter the health-care professions. A vested interest? Sure. But understandable. Elsewhere, AstraZeneca is funding a project in Sweden aimed at assessing the environmental impact of contaminated soil. Another pharmaceutical firm, GlaxoSmithKline PLC, involves itself in global community partnerships to improve health and education in places without sufficient resources. The program predictably involves funding and product donations, but it aims also to create strategic partnerships. Hartford, Conn.-based United Technologies Corp. (UTC) in 2004 marked its 27th year of partnership with Special Olympics Connecticut. Across the U.S., UTC's Carrier subsidiary has donated more than $1.8 million to Habitat for Humanity and its employees have contributed more than 15,000 volunteer hours. Engine maker Cummins Inc., ranked No. 1 this year among the 100 Best Corporate Citizens by Business Ethics magazine, funds outstanding architecture in its hometown of Columbus, Ind., as well as the development of schools in India and China.

BP PLC, General Electric Co., General Motors Corp., Johnson & Johnson, Nestle SA, Procter & Gamble Co., Unilever NV, Coca-Cola Co. and Nike Inc. are among the companies cited in "Profits with Principles" (2004, Currency Doubleday) as examples of manufacturers that have formed new alliances as part of their defined social responsibilities. "Successful companies today build new types of partnership to increase the leverage and effectiveness of their philanthropic and community investment programs," state Ira A. Jackson, a fellow at Harvard University's Center for Public Leadership, and Jane Nelson, a senior fellow and director of the Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, the book's authors.

Another kind of initiative that deserves close watching is the Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics, a partnership launched in January 2004 and housed at the University of Virginia's Darden School in Charlottesville. Its announced mission is to pull together research and the practical to provide hands-on training to current and future business leaders. Its success will be measured by the extent to which CEOs and other leaders in manufacturing avail themselves of the training and make its lessons part of their companies' day-to-day operations.

Another effort to bring people, companies and groups together is the creation by the Business Roundtable this past May of a network to expedite relief to victims of major natural disasters, such as tsunami that hit southeast Asia last December. "The Business Roundtable Partnership for Disaster Relief will seek to fully integrate the capabilities of a variety of sectors -- such as health, technology, financial services, construction, transportation and communications -- into a coordinated private sector response," explains the Washington, D.C.-based association of 160 CEOs of U.S. companies.

About the Author

John McClenahen | Former Senior Editor, IndustryWeek

 John S. McClenahen, is an occasional essayist on the Web site of IndustryWeek, the executive management publication from which he retired in 2006. He began his journalism career as a broadcast journalist at Westinghouse Broadcasting’s KYW in Cleveland, Ohio. In May 1967, he joined Penton Media Inc. in Cleveland and in September 1967 was transferred to Washington, DC, the base from which for nearly 40 years he wrote primarily about national and international economics and politics, and corporate social responsibility.
      McClenahen, a native of Ohio now residing in Maryland, is an award-winning writer and photographer. He is the author of three books of poetry, most recently An Unexpected Poet (2013), and several books of photographs, including Black, White, and Shades of Grey (2014). He also is the author of a children’s book, Henry at His Beach (2014).
      His photograph “Provincetown: Fog Rising 2004” was selected for the Smithsonian Institution’s 2011 juried exhibition Artists at Work and displayed in the S. Dillon Ripley Center at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., from June until October 2011. Five of his photographs are in the collection of St. Lawrence University and displayed on campus in Canton, New York.
      John McClenahen’s essay “Incorporating America: Whitman in Context” was designated one of the five best works published in The Journal of Graduate Liberal Studies during the twelve-year editorship of R. Barry Leavis of Rollins College. John McClenahen’s several journalism prizes include the coveted Jesse H. Neal Award. He also is the author of the commemorative poem “Upon 50 Years,” celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Wolfson College Cambridge, and appearing in “The Wolfson Review.”
      John McClenahen received a B.A. (English with a minor in government) from St. Lawrence University, an M.A., (English) from Western Reserve University, and a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Georgetown University, where he also pursued doctoral studies. At St. Lawrence University, he was elected to academic honor societies in English and government and to Omicron Delta Kappa, the University’s highest undergraduate honor. John McClenahen was a participant in the 32nd Annual Wharton Seminars for Journalists at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. During the Easter Term of the 1986 academic year, John McClenahen was the first American to hold a prestigious Press Fellowship at Wolfson College, Cambridge, in the United Kingdom.
      John McClenahen has served on the Editorial Board of Confluence: The Journal of Graduate Liberal Studies and was co-founder and first editor of Liberal Studies at Georgetown. He has been a volunteer researcher on the William Steinway Diary Project at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., and has been an assistant professorial lecturer at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.


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