We often think about CSR as companies just doing their thing. What we sometimes fail to recognize is that the CSR of companies is the sum of the actions of individuals, all working to make a contribution in what is often a very complex web of corporate, global, local, internal, external, social, environmental, business and a million other considerations. The personal experiences of people working in CSR are always interesting. No matter how many times you read a company's CSR report, there's no comparison to getting the real story from the ones who make things happen. The background, challenges and perspectives of real people telling their real stories about CSR in their company is always enlightening, informative and usually inspiring. In this particular case, I am referring to real people from Intel at a meeting with them this week which was certainly enlightening, informative and inspiring. But as most of you didn't attend the meeting, you can find Intel's 2010 CSR report here :)


The occasion of the meeting was a Round Table event in Israel for local CSR practitioners with four Intel leaders, working in the CSR terrain:

Gary Niekerk, Director, Corporate Citizenship, Intel’s Corporate Affairs
Julian Lageard, Senior Manager, Global Public Policy, EU environmental laws
Dan Doron, Director, Construction, Intel Israel
Revital Bitan, CSR Manager, Intel Israel
RtoL: Dan Doron, Gary Niekerk, Revital Bitan, Julian Lageard
Over 20 representatives from local companies attended.
My take-outs from the personal contribution of these Intel leaders discussed in this meeting are:
Plan local employee engagement with CSR issues
Dan Doron made a presentation about how Intel Israel has led an internal campaign to engage and enthuse local employees on ESG matters. This has included developing a cross-company platform ESG Forum and integrating all individual initiatives into one umbrella program, identifying section leaders and establishing a platform for planning, learning, sharing and action internally and externally, to leverage Intel's efforts with local government, non-profits and community stakeholders. A new ESG strategy has been developed and this year, Intel Israel has published a focused Environmental Report covering all environmental impacts. This has been underpinned by a branded internal communication campaign to support the ESG Forum activity and grow employee awareness for Intel Israel’s green activities.

 

Green never happens unless you make it happen. Employees are the lynchpin for green activity. By making ESG local, personal, planned, measured and transparent, Israel is setting itself up for success.
The CSR voice represents the external stakeholder perspective
Not everyone can be an expert in sustainability issues and not every business decision will be considered with sustainability issues in mind. Decision-makers have different experience and understanding of CSR issues, which is why the CSR voice is so important at early stages of all business decision-making. Gary Niekerk sees his part of his personal role as bringing the external reality and perspectives of stakeholders to the table at the time decisions are being made. An example is a local Intel subsidiary whose pollution control permit had lapsed and savings were to be gained by delaying the renewal, while continuing to operate entirely legally and in line with all regulations. By tabling the stakeholder perspective and the potential erosion of local stakeholder confidence should they hear that such a permit was not up to date, the CSR voice was able to ensure the decision went in favor of immediate renewal, thereby maintaining respect for stakeholder interests and heading off a potential reputation risk.
Take proactive action to clean up the supply chain
Long gone are the days when most ITC companies were vertically integrated. The development of complex supply chains with high outsourced requirements means that companies must broaden the scope of accountability and ensure they understand impacts of the supply chain on their business. One outstanding example of Intel leadership is around the issue of conflict metals. Intel purchase components which contain a range of metals which, once smelted, are not traceable back to their mined source. As Gary said, "Everyone says it comes from Rwanda! Rwanda would have to quadruple in size in order to supply all these metals attributed to it!" Intel thus embarked on a pioneering journey to a metals certification system. After visiting 25 metal smelters around the world, Intel initiated a dialogue with other players in the electronics industry to establish a standard for smelters by which the source of metals such as tantalum, tin, tungsten and even gold can be guaranteed as sourced from non-conflict countries. Intel plans to publish names of certified smelters and purchase only components made with metals from these approved sources.
Regulators need educating
Julian Lageard gave an enlightening talk about his role as a public policy specialist. He is based in Brussels and has a voice in pre-decision processes relating to the formulation of new environmental regulation. Technology is changing fast and regulators are not experts. In order to develop fair, balanced but progressive and demanding legislation, European regulators need to know the issues. Regulations such as RoHS and REACH and substance restrictions in electronics such as lead and more are likely to increase in scope and intensity. We are facing a "tsunami of regulation on nano materials" for example, says Julian, as well as other themes regulating water consumption, power saving technology, fluorinated gases, emissions trading, packaging and more. Much regulation which is passed in Brussels for Europe, which now has 27 member states, may also end up becoming global legislation. It is important for a company such as Intel to ensure the legislation is developed in full knowledge of the issues. Julian's personal role is to ensure that Intel is part of sector associations which contribute knowledge of facts, issues and implications on the environment to help regulators understand CSR and sustainability concepts in order to develop the most appropriate legislation. This is a form of stakeholder engagement activity, as well as risk management, which is based on Intel being a trusted voice in the industry. And CSR is all about trust.

 

There were many other great insights coming out of this meeting, which local Israeli companies would do well to heed and emulate. Intel in Israel is a big player, employing over 7,000 people in 5 sites (manufacturing and development centers). Israel can definitely be described as "Intel Inside" and hopefully, Intel's CSR Leadership, engagement and transparency will catalyze a ripple effect in Israel, leading CSR strategy development by local companies.


Disclosure: Intel Israel is a client of my company, Beyond Business.