The main difference is that factory management really directs their comments to me, the company representative, instead of the social compliance auditors who usually lead the factory tour. Management is eager to show me innovative practices, sparkling new machinery and practices that might set them apart.
The first factory we visited yesterday was one of the best I've seen from a CSR perspective. The factory managing director was eager to share with me some of the community investment work it has implemented, some at the behest of a customer, but others that it initiated to fulfill business and community needs it identified. Some of the highlights to me included the following practices:
CNG Power - Apparently, Indonesia sits on a huge pool of natural gas, so this factory converted its power supply to compressed natural gas. The factory has realized tremendous cost savings due to this transition and mentioned that the amount saved was so significant that they could not reveal how much it was!
Wastewater Treatment - Years ago, the factory realized it was having a negative impact on the environment when blue geese were appearing nearby, due to the dyestuff in its effluent. Since then, the factory invested in an on-site wastewater treatment facility that ensures all effluent is free of chemicals and harmful dyes.
Infant Mortality Campaign - Apparently, the region where this factory is located has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. Factory management found that some women workers would get pregnant, go on maternity leave and their babies would die. The women would suffer from extreme emotional devastation, return to work once their maternity leave was finished, then immediately try to get pregnant again, resulting in less productive workers and the potential of another few months out of the office. To combat this, the factory has embarked on an extensive infant mortality campaign, that includes not only education, but also training and nominating capable midwives for factory workers. The factory has seen great success in reducing workers' infant mortality rates, and continues to find benefit from this investment.
Community Health Clinic - After the factory realized workers would take time off to care for their sick husbands and family, it invested in a community health clinic that provides healthcare services at a substantially reduced cost. The clinic is used by factory workers, their families and others in the nearby community - a visible symbol of the factory's commitment to the community.
Outreach to NGOs - One of the most surprising initiatives is the factory's proactive outreach to local, national and international non-governmental organizations. It's tough to get large multi-national corporations to understand the potential benefits of partnering with NGOs, but this one factory already has seen the power of learning from civil society organizations.
There were some other initiatives that puts this factory among "best in class" in my mind, but what I was most impressed by was the factory manager's attitude toward these initiatives. She understood both the business and social/environmental benefits of these programs, realized where her team did not have expertise so brought in the right community partners and eagerly searched for additional ways the factory could support its workers and community.
If only more factories took this approach, I might be out of a job! But the world would be a better place.