CSR: B&Q – Building Responsibly

Friday, December 22, 2006 14:52
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In China, “CSR” has traditionally been associated with synonymous with “corporate philanthropy.” While rhetoric stressing the comprehensive engagement of stakeholder groups is now common, companies often participating in one-off activities that are not related to one another. Integrating CSR into every aspect of a company’s business operations in China is only beginning to take hold — with the exception of a few pioneers. B&Q stands out as one of the leaders of this future-facing pack, with a fully integrated CSR program that has been tried and tested in the field.

12-Step Path to CSR Leadership:
To ensure it adequately addresses its responsibilities as a leading retailer across the entire supply chain, B&Q has implemented programs across 12 key areas spanning its business operations. Key examples include programs minimizing B&Q’s environmental footprint such as stringent timber buying standards and continuously increasing use of recycled or re-used materials and products. Others include commitment to promoting energy efficiency throughout its supply chain by managing the energy consumption of its facilities and transport fleet to reduce its contribution to climate change and promoting products that are energy efficient in both their manufacture and use.

Concern for social responsibility extends beyond supply chain and facilities management, as B&Q actively engages both suppliers and consumers to raise their awareness of key sustainability issues. “Decoration Centers” in B&Q retail outlets promote use of healthy and energy efficient products to consumers. Vendor trainings reinforce B&Q’s commitment to sustainability, fostering dedication to improved factory working conditions and raising QA and environmental awareness. In addition to B&Q QA and CSR teams ensuring compliance, the company has also partnered with leading inspection firm SGS to conduct factory audits.

In 2006, B&Q offered more than 200 vendor trainings, 200 vendor assessments, and 187 product inspections in China.

Responsibility in Action:
But walking the talk is not always apparent or easy. In September 2006, B&Q was accused by several media outlets of failing routine quality inspections on some of the products sold in their Beijing stores. The incident belied B&Q’s commitment to guarantee product quality and safety to its customers.

Within a couple days of the reported incident, B&Q management based in Shanghai flew to Beijing immediately to appraise the situation. Upon discovering that the reports were in fact to some degree true, the company’s management established new protocols for sourcing and quality control to prevent future reoccurrences. B&Q also contacted several key media outlets, including some which had published the incident previously, to increase public awareness of the issue and prevent potential harm to its customers.

By taking the aforementioned steps and maintaining transparency throughout, the company took responsibility for failing to meet its own CSR tenets and was responsive in taking proactive steps to ensure that more stringent practices were put in place.

Getting Serious:
Dedication to sustainability; active efforts to spread its values to its stakeholders; and rapidly, transparently managing any failures in upholding its commitments, are the marks of a true CSR practitioner. And B&Q makes the grade. Placing responsibility at the core of its business, and taking that responsibility seriously, has helped B&Q avoid some of the media nettles which have stung other multinationals, at great cost for some, and offered a sustainable growth platform that will help B&Q continue to find success in an ever more complex China market.

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