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Quality Scan: Social Responsibility, Quality Help Competitiveness

 Deborah Hopen 

By Deborah Hopen
Editor, Workplace Development Brief
Editor, Journal for Quality and Participation

The need for quality in all aspects of manufacturing design and production, as well as delivery and post-delivery support, has been an accepted principle of modern organizations for many years.

Over time, however, the field of quality has expanded considerably, adding new concepts and tools to its purview. One of the newest areas connected with quality is social responsibility (SR), which, in its broadest interpretation, goes far beyond environmental impacts, encompassing every effect an organization can have on current and future stakeholders, communities, and the world in general.

ASQ and IBM recently conducted an in-depth evaluation of the connections between quality and social responsibility to determine how they might influence organizational performance. More than 1100 respondents from across the globe representing many industry classifications participated in the study and 419 provided specific information demonstrating the benefits of leveraging social responsibility and quality initiatives.

The most compelling finding involved the change in competitive position of organizations with SR programs. More than 93% of the organizations with longstanding SR initiatives are either the leader or a leader in their industries. This contrasts sharply with the organizations that do not have SR programs—where only 55.5% are viewed as leaders.

The report goes on to say, "It is also interesting to note a difference in results over time between these two groups. The organizations that do not have an SR program have degraded from 80% being recognized as leaders initially to only 55.5% now.... [O]rganizations with long-standing SR programs have increased their leadership positions from 36.9% to 93.3%."

The comprehensive study report, "Quality and Social Responsibility: A Key Business Strategy for Enhancing Competitive Position"
(, also shares findings related to the following investigation areas:

  • Rationales for and perceived outcomes associated with SR initiatives—from the perspectives of board members, executives, managers, employees, customers, and other stakeholders
  • SR program design features, including budgets, staffing levels, and organizational structure
  • Roles in SR program leadership, design, and execution
  • Alignment patterns of organizational SR initiatives with the seven core elements (organizational governance, human rights, labor practices, the environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues, and community involvement and development) described in the international standard, ISO 26000:2010—Guidance on Social Responsibility
  • Analyses of common goals associated with these seven elements and their metrics, targets, and achievement rates over time
  • Application of quality concepts and tools in SR programs
  • According to the study, 41.4% of respondents indicated that the SR program initially was part of their organization’s business strategy. Public relations (22.4%), profitability (19.0%), and economic climate (17.2%) had noticeably lower response rates. Other survey questions validated that the respondents believed SR initiatives should be included in the organization’s strategies to ensure successful implementation.

    Furthermore, "At the time of SR program inception, the environment was rated the most important area by 32.9% of the respondents, and it had almost twice as many selections as the next two most important areas: community involvement and development (18.6%) and fair operating practices (15.7%). Labor practices (4.3%) and consumer issues (5.7%) were rated lowest." This pattern remained true for current SR initiatives. The issuance of ISO 14001:1996 Environmental Management Systems specifications created a focus on the environment, which dovetails with the core elements of the current SR standard.

    This research shows that both quality and SR initiatives are critical components of organizational strategy and success. Manufacturing engineers can help demonstrate that production processes can be designed and operated in a socially responsible way. By embracing quality and social responsibility, these practitioners can expand their professional capabilities and further contribute to their organization’s success. ME


    This article was first published in the December 2012 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.  Click here for PDF

    Published Date : 12/1/2012

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