Corporate Citizenship – Revitalizing Manufacturing in the U.S.

Our Impact Navigators messages often refer to the Corporate Citizenship (CS) movement as the replacement for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).  You will also often us promote a movement tag line of “economy with purpose” rather than a “purpose economy”.  While our fundamental principles mandate “giving back” we carry a banner of Socio-Economic Entrepreneurism and do not call ourselves Social Entrepreneurs.   What is the difference?  Is this some simple re-branding gimmick?  How does this relate to the issue of revitalizing manufacturing in the U.S.?

If you are a subscriber to our newsletter or a member of our IN Community you probably know more about our Corporate Citizenship model (if not, ask us for more information) so we will only touch on it briefly here.  The movement is based upon the simple premise that if you have nothing, you have nothing to give back and the time to give back is today, not when you have achieved extraordinary success and to then engage in personal or foundation philanthropy.  Primarily, this is a small to mid-size business movement, those wishing to be good Corporate Citizens but also striving to build and protect their business or organization.  Here is where the CS and the CSR models start to establish their own unique identity.

A common perception of CSR is that it is a socially-driven, cost center challenged, a tossing of profits into a “black hole” – because “we” have an obligation to “them”.  CSR programs are often challenged by internal financial managers, investors, stakeholders and shareholders.  Often even the employees see CSR “giving” as some  program led by the owner who  wants to been as a philanthropist and building a personal image or brand – using profits that the employees contributed to!

A common misconception of CS is that it is simply CSR with a different label.  Here are some of the major differences:

  • CS, rather than being a “black hole” is a program to improve overall business performance and measurably contribute to the bottom line.
  • CS is driven by the customer, employee, stakeholder, shareholder and investor rather than something that has to be sold or dictated.
  • CS does not require  a major investment.
  • CS takes the position that we are a part of the community, the “we” and “they” are really all “us”.

Yes, there is much more to CS but let’s move on to how this applies to the revitalizing of manufacturing in the U.S.

For many designers and developers manufacturing has become a “commodity” item and the thought of manufacturing locally is not of concern.  Former principles of “design for manufacture” are now replaced by a mentality of “design for China” where cost is considered only in the context of material and supply.  Economic development is nothing more than P&L and dividends to shareholders.  If I were to take this to the extreme, this mentality supports a CSR model  where “we” are giving money to the Food Bank so that “they”, our former employees don’t starve because their jobs have been sent overseas.

Corporate Citizenship takes a broader look at cost and benefit and takes into consideration the direct and indirect benefit of allocation of profits to our communities by utilizing local manufacturers.  Yes, it impacts local employment – which then in turn impacts community development (schools, roads, services, parks, recreation, …), attracts or retains a quality work force, reduces the dependency on government  sponsored services and supports self-sustaining families.  Benefits might also include the attraction of investment into our businesses, reduction in the cost of living and support for environmental sustainability.

This is not just a “feeling good” movement, there are significant and growing market demands and opportunities that are addressed in the CS model.  The hockey stick growth of a consumer base DEMANDING a “giving back” component for all businesses makes the CS methods of presenting – and promoting measurable positive impact cannot be ignored.  Those not following a CS approach are already behind the curve and risk being the next casualties in the battle for sustainability.

The true bottom line here is that instilling “good” in business is one of the best investments a business can make.  Including local manufacturing opportunities in the concept, design and development stages of business planning can achieve a significant return on investment.  This is not the only answer to our economic and social challenges but is one of significant and measurable impact!

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