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Monday, July 23, 2012

Lean, Quality, and Social Responsibility

This month on ASQ's blog Paul poses an important question about making the case for quality and social responsibility.
When executives understand they can save money, reduce risk, and enhance their reputation by being socially responsible–they will. Who better than the quality community to provide the needed education?
In Lean we talk of two main components: Continuous Improvement and Respect for People. In Toyota, Respect for People extends past the staff of the company to the community. Toyota strives to assist the communities where we live and work by supporting local organizations focused on the areas of environment, education and safety. They believe this is there social responsibility and part of their long term (50 years or more) thinking.

Some organizations have misinterpreted social responsibility to be more environmentally conscientious, hence, the recent boom on the “Lean and Green” movement. However, there is much more to social responsibility than a focus on the reduction of environmental waste.

The phrase social responsibility represents a wide-ranging group of concerns that includes environmental impact, corporate citizenship, ethics, stakeholder accountability, community relations, and more. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in Geneva, Switzerland, developed an international standard to help organizations in all industries and sectors understand and address social responsibility issues.

ISO 26000: Guidance on Social Responsibility was launched in 2010.  It defines social responsibility as the “responsibility of an organization for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment, through transparent and ethical behavior that:
• contributes to sustainable development, including health and the welfare of society;
• takes into account the expectations of stakeholders;
• is in compliance with applicable law and consistent with international norms of behavior; and
• is integrated throughout the organization and practiced in its relationships.”

A basic Lean principle is to create a focus on the customer. We must re-define the ‘customer’ to include society, local communities, and employees’ quality of life of outside the organization. Organizations must deal with the social responsibility factor in all its operations, processes, and partnerships. As Lean exposes additional resources within an organization, explore social responsibility possibilities with those resources.

ISO 26000 also identifies seven subjects that are core to social responsibility: organizational governance, human rights, labor practices, the environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues, and community involvement and development. Lean and quality improvement gives organizations a way to unify their previously discrete efforts to address these issues.

Social Responsibility, like Lean or Quality, is a choice. We must strive to be self-sustaining without impact to society and provide for society.

I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

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