Is Mark Hanna the Tom Brady of CSR?

Mark Hanna, CMO at Richline Group, is a diehard New England Patriots fan and like all of his brethren is in a good mood as the Pats rack up more post season victories. I try not to hold this kind of fanaticism or misplaced loyalty against Mark — I mean you can’t really blame a guy for where they were born, right?  And in a genuine display of largesse given that my football loyalties lay elsewhere, I even went so far as to feature his thoughts on “Retooling” in my recent released book!

Mark’s passion for the Pats is almost matched by his passion for Corporate Social Responsibility, a subject about which we have no disagreement. As you will see in our conversation below, Mark has quarterbacked a number of “winning” initiatives for Richline, which if you don’t know is one of the largest makers of jewelry in the world and a highly successful Berkshire Hathaway-owned company. Does this make him the Tom Brady of CSR?  Well The CMO Club thought so at their annual awards last year.  Read on and you can decide for yourself.

Drew: How do you define Corporate Social Responsibility?

In summary, it is a socially responsible company’s efforts that go beyond what may be required by regulators or environmental protection and based on the conscious contribution to promote positive social and environmental change. The standard answer of leaving a better world than we have now works perfectly for me.

Drew: Can you provide a short recap of your CSR initiatives in 2015?

Our efforts are diverse and each a journey toward improvement but a few highlights are:

  1. The installation (started 2013) of over 180,000 square feet of solar panels which fully power our major Albuquerque facility and supply a surplus for the State of New Mexico. This equates to a four acre roof treated with energy conserving coating that reflects 80% of heat and UV rays.
  2. Additional energy saving initiatives through utilization, in our facilities here and abroad, of efficient lighting and generators plus measured traffic management.
  3. Numerous initiatives for the elimination of conflict region gold while funding and assisting artisanal mining through legal supply chains of custody and the elimination of hazardous mercury in the process.
  4. Board membership and directional influence on the industry’s largest proponent of responsible supply chains, the Responsible Jewelry Council.
  5. Lead company in the industry in the conservation efforts for Wildlife and Biodiversity through the elimination in all jewelry plus industry and consumer education.
  6. Various philanthropic support starting with Chair of Jewelers for Children.

Drew: How do measure the success of these programs? (Please provide specific results if you can.)

We truly believe in Return on Responsibility…so much so that we influenced the Berkshire Hathaway Sustainability Summit to adopt this as the 2015 meeting theme. It is important that we act as leaders because it’s incredibly meaningful to our industry position and reputation value. The “return on responsibility” from such involvement exceeds that of pretty much anything else we could promote for our Brand…. It’s that significant. We chose to pursue a “Return on Responsibility” model that both holds our firm to a clear “glass house” discipline and communicates our trustworthy journey to true corporate responsibility.

Drew: Building a business case for CSR initiatives can be tricky. What were the keys to gaining management support?

I believe sustainability initiatives have to be driven from the top and integrated into the culture….they must become a way of doing business, require the participation of all company resources and are not just one-off operations’ projects. As keepers of the firm’s reputation and in a world demanding trust and authenticity, it is a necessary strategic goal. We should be committed to showing that an investment in sustainability is an investment in our Brand. Employee advocacy will follow and add to the value..

Drew: There are an unlimited number of options when it comes to CSR. How did you narrow the list down?  

We set strategic goals for our Sustainability/CSR initiatives:

  • Insuring our ability to meet current and future environmental requirements
  • Reduction of energy use (also an economic win)
  • Responsible supply chain management to strengthen our B2B partner and supplier relationships
  • Cradle to cradle processes including advanced recycling capabilities
  • Community support and satisfaction to enhance local and national government relations
  • Enactment and dissemination to all associates and stakeholders of a “best practices” Code of Conduct
  • Employee attraction, motivation, innovation, retention and productivity

Drew: When it comes to sharing your company’s CSR initiatives is there a fine line between letting the world know about it and overplaying the contribution?  Where do you sit on this spectrum from letting the good action speak for itself and broadcasting it from the treetops? 

We are very conservative here. Our strategy has been to celebrate our Richline Responsible program leadership and accomplishments only to the trade and B2B…no consumer programs or promotion at this point.

Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you’d like to overcome? 

Sticking with the Responsibility theme, I believe in the future of transparency as a requirement by the upcoming generations of consumers. Therefore, in 2016 my challenge is to expand our true chain of custody supply documentation to a significant mass for the creation of a brand based on such transparency.

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