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Last week I was at Best Buy headquarters in Minneapolis to moderate a live webinar with its CSR and sustainability executives. Joining me: Mary Capozzi, senior director of CSR, Leo Raudys, senior director of environmental sustainability and services compliance, and Hamlin Metzger, senior manager of corporate responsibility.
The agenda: To discuss Best Buy’s annual Sustainability Report and offer a live audience on Livestream and Twitter the opportunity to ask questions in real-time.
My job: To question, dig and examine, while moderating questions between the panel and the audience. About 20 minutes into the webinar, which is archived below — well worth a listen whether you are a sustainability nut, a tree hugger, a nonprofit exec, a job seeker or simply an electronics user — questions started streaming in.
From conflict minerals to employee education, every question was fair game. While @Gchesman asked whether being a well-known company affects the level and degree of time and money spent on CSR and sustainability, @Davidcoethica wanted to know how Best Buy can better balance its role as a promoter of consumption of products against a sustainability ethos, and Robin Cangie wondered how Best Buy can help us all become more responsible consumers?
The conversation, thanks in part to an active and engaged audience, and wonderfully diverse questions, was invigorating, informative and challenging.
Barring the repeated mentions of their recycling efforts — sorry Leo, its a pet peeve — which to be fair is a huge and important undertaking for the global electronics retailer, the panelists were clear, comprehensive in their responses and unapologetically honest about their challenges: That there is a ton of work ahead and that they hadn’t figured it all out yet.
But as David Connor wrote earlier this week, when you’re a global player like Best Buy, expectations are higher as well. Did Best Buy live up to the expectations of CSR activists? Perhaps not.
Flip the coin though for a second.
Did they go on the defensive when I asked them why their retention rates were remarkable (74%) but the diversity of their recruits (12% African-American, 14% Hispanic; 180,000 employees) was quite underwhelming? No.
Did they dodge repeated questions about educating their supply chain, influencing consumer decisions, or the recently drafted UN Guiding Principals on Human Rights? No.
Bottom-line: Capozzi and team did not have all the answers but they didn’t pretend to either.
And that’s where, as an independent journalist, they get points from me for an attempt, however small, at open transparency, willingness to be accountable, and daring to do something new.
Remember the 11 Challenges for Corporate Sustainability? Well, a significant number of those relate to fear. For the Best Buy team, this webinar was a successful exercise in effectively addressing their own fears.
And that is where they just won one for their team of blue shirts.
Company2Keep Inc. said:
I stayed throughout the webinar and was quite struck by the openness of the Best Buy team and the enthusiasm it obviously shared in telling the Best Buy story. Clearly, they are a proud lot. It did not matter to me that I did not get the fully informed response I would have preferred to hear on the human rights question I posed. It did matter that the team was willing to address the subject and that I had the opportunity to ask the question. It assures me that the team now knows such issues matter to someone ‘out here’ – hopefully many of us out here. And I suppose I could say the same for the range of issues the team was asked to comment on.
Situations like this work both ways. I am almost certain, if asked, the Best Buy team members would admit to being moved on some level by stakeholder interest in the continued success of their organization. Perhaps the opportunity to dialogue with their stakeholders deepened further their own resolve to push the boundaries of change in support of even greater sustainability stakes.
Time, of course, will tell.
Thanks for facilitating.
Jo Fergus said:
I think that opening organizations up to stakeholder and public reviews might point to the next evolutionary step in developing truly effecftive Corporate Sustainability practices.
I’m thinking about this in terms of Guelph Hydro which has just made their first report, and would likely benefit from the visibility, publicity and accountability that such public review would bring to the overall process.
Thanks for the inspirations 😉
Aman Singh said:
Thanks for sharing this Jo. Look forward to reading more about Guelph Hydro.
Barbara Kimmel said:
Aman-Thank you for sharing this. As you probably know, Best Buy was one of our Top Ten Most Trustworthy companies for 2010. Trust Across America’s selection process/methodology is solely quantitive and based on external data only.
But watching this video confirms that trustworthy companies embrace a certain corporate culture. They don’t operate on check the box practices. They don’t pick days to “do” CSR or hire PR firms to “green wash” their efforts. Instead, they live and breathe good business.
Kudos to Best Buy and to you for giving the good guys a voice!
Barbara Kimmel, Executive Director
Trust Across America.
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