Risk Insider: Quin Rodriguez

Do Vendors Help or Hurt Your Corporate Social Responsibility Mission?

By: | May 31, 2018 • 2 min read
Quin is Vice President, Strategy, for Riskonnect. He is responsible for leading Riskonnect's vision to drive growth and engagement in the Integrated Risk Management market. Quin has 18+ years of Executive Sales Management and Leadership experience.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is becoming an influencer of consumers’ purchasing decisions.

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Whether it’s the environment, human rights, supply-chain sustainability or corporate governance, companies now have to take a clear stance on social issues, and it better be one that consumers can get on board with. If it doesn’t make sense or “feel good” to customers, they’re less likely to support the business.

Critical to maintaining a positive CSR image is understanding how your vendors influence this image. Your vendors are an extension of your brand, so they should reflect your commitment to maintaining a socially responsible reputation. With that in mind, it’s important to steer clear of vendors that can cause consumers to question your stance on social issues.

Whether it’s the environment, human rights, supply-chain sustainability or corporate governance, companies now have to take a clear stance on social issues, and it better be one that consumers can get on board with.

For example, let’s examine the backlash that arose in 2010 when the Susan G. Komen Foundation partnered with KFC to raise money for cancer research and breast health awareness. For every “pink bucket” sold, KFC donated 50 cents to the foundation. Though the gesture promoted social responsibility for KFC, questions arose for Susan G. Komen as a huge part of battling cancer, or any other serious disease, is a healthy diet. As a result, the partnership became a huge brand contradiction, resulting in negative press for both companies.

More recently, in 2016, Nestle and two other major food companies were under fire for knowingly sourcing cocoa from the Ivory Coast, an area known for using child labor. These companies were accused of providing farmers with financial and technical assistance in exchange for cheap product and labor, thereby supporting child labor and poor work conditions. Though it is not clear how these incidents have affected consumers’ brand perceptions, fighting the resulting lawsuit has to be taxing on the company’s resources.

Avoiding the pitfalls faced by Nestle and the Susan G. Komen Foundation requires a more extensive look at your vendor network and how they are viewed from a CSR perspective.

  1. Research vendors before entering a contract:
    Before signing the dotted line, be sure to research any CSR stories on your potential vendors and where and why they were written.

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    Conducting business with a vendor means you agree with their business standards, thus this research ensures full transparency into their business practices.Also use potential vendors’ websites as a resource. Most company websites include pages dedicated to values, missions and even board members and stakeholder information. All these details can provide useful insight into company priorities.

  2. Be proactive. Monitor vendors:
    Once you’ve entered a contract with a vendor, it’s important to take proactive measures to ensure your vendor is maintaining compliance as well as social responsibility. Visit your vendors so you can see their operations first hand, use quality compliance solutions to hold vendors accountable and even consider including vendors in your own CSR programs.

As consumers become more aware of corporate social responsibility, companies become more vulnerable to scrutiny. And the room for error is minimal as the internet increases accessibility and social media demands a fast response and resolution. Taking the time to understand your vendors and their approach to CSR can help avoid reputation risk nightmares.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]