Is Product Safety a CSR Issue?
In my response to my recent CSR piece about auto recalls, ethics blogger and professor Chris MacDonald posted the following comment:
Recalls, it seems to me, have little to do with CSR but potentially plenty to do with ethics. I don't think it makes much sense to discuss basic product safety in terms of *social* responsibility. If so, then the term "CSR" really has lost all meaningâ¦
Fair enough, and if I were to weigh in personally, I would to some extent agree with this comment. Â But CSR is a field full of practitioners each with their own opinions, which is why I thought it would be helpful to find out whether major companies deemed successful in their CSR efforts had included safety as a category in their most recent CSR reports.
For this exercise, I decided to look back at one of my previous CSR rankings posts, which compared best-of lists published by five major ESG analyst groups and magazines (Ethisphere, RiskMetrics Group, Corporate Knights, Newsweek, and CRO), and update it to include the latest CRO ranking. Â Of the six companies that made three of the five lists (no company was listed in all five CSR rankings), only one--- Procter & Gamble --- Â included product safety in the table of contents for their most recent reports or websites. Â The remaining group, which included HP, Johnson Controls, Nike, PG&E, and Starbucks, did not list product safety as a key priority, although many made some reference to the subject somewhere within the report itself.
Now, I concede several points about this analysis. Â First, I recognize that my analysis of product safety within CSR reports does nothing to address the more specific question of whether recalls are commonly discussed in CSR reports (that would require a more time-consuming analysis). Â Second, six is a very small number of companies, and not necessarily representative of the larger CSR field. Â Third, it is worth noting that not all of the six companies I examined are manufacturers, which means that some may have excluded product safety simply because they have no product safety to measure. Â And fourth, it is possible that the CSR rankings I used to assemble this list skewed my results by discriminating against (or favoring?) companies with an unrepresentative approach to product safety within their CSR reports.
One additional observation I made is that P&G refers to its most recent CSR publications as a sustainability report, as does Baxter, which is another company that treats product safety as a priority in its most recent report. Â I wonder if there is a connection between the language companies use to describe their CSR programs and the topics they include in their reports, but this is a topic too broad for this CSR post!
Photo credit: underminingme