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Purpose and People

How Stanley Black & Decker is using the SDGs to grow a 'new-collar' workforce

The company’s CSR head takes on the fourth industrial revolution, skills gaps and leveraging purpose to cultivate thriving makers and creators.

Deb Geyer, corporate responsibility officer for Stanley Black & Decker, has a vision for a thriving workforce that meets the needs and challenges of a changing economy for decades to come. We recently chatted about how Stanley Black & Decker is using purpose, partnership and innovation to advance its new corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy.

Shannon Houde: What drove you to develop this new strategy?

Deb Geyer: Stanley Black & Decker was founded 175 years ago by Frederick Stanley, an early innovator and social entrepreneur in his own right, and that commitment to innovation, performance and social responsibility has continued to this day. We have elevated our commitment to creating value beyond profits and last year launched a new CSR Strategy focused on inspiring makers and innovators to create a more sustainable world.

There’s a false assumption out there that businesses want to have automation and robots perform every possible work function so they can cut costs. That’s not the reality. We are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, which will increasingly be fueled by the "new collar" workforce of the future. In our manufacturing sector, we see this as an opportunity to replace the 4 Ds — dangerous, difficult, dull and dirty jobs — with clean, automated and safe jobs. To do so, we need to reskill and/or upskill the current workforce.

Houde: How do you define purpose?

Geyer: Purpose is the intersection of who we are as a company and what society needs from us. It’s the "why" of our existence.

When Jim Loree became Stanley Black & Decker’s CEO back in 2016, he knew that to continue being a financially performing company, we needed something more: a well-defined purpose that would come to life through a new CSR Strategy. Toward that end, we undertook a six-week project to re-excavate our purpose.

Our future depends on our ability to unlearn how we traditionally approached our jobs and relearn a new and better way forward, constantly.
In 2017, we launched our purpose: that Stanley Black & Decker exists "for those who make the world." Every product we make goes to an end user, who in turn uses that product "to make the world" — from our hand tools used to build houses to the fastener used to hold your smart phone together— Stanley Black & Decker is for the makers and the creators of the world.

Houde: How does this purpose inform your CSR strategy?

Geyer: Over six months, we invested in transitioning ourselves from driving small incremental reductions in our impacts to setting ambitious, longer-term targets with global impact. We translated our purpose into three main pillars aligned with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that we aim to achieve by 2030:

  • Empower Makers (SDGs 4, 8, 10) — This pillar is about people. Stanley Black & Decker will empower 10 million makers and creators to thrive in a changing world, leveraging upskilling and education to fuel the fourth industrial revolution.
  • Innovate with Purpose (SDGs 1, 6, 9, 10, 11, and 12) — This pillar embeds purpose into our products. Our goal is for our products to enhance the lives of 500 million people by addressing unmet societal needs.
  • Create a More Sustainable World (SDGs 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 15) — Stanley Black & Decker’s operations will become carbon positive and send zero waste to landfill.

We already have examples of how all three of these pillars work in practice. Under our new purpose-driven brand, Stanley Earth, we launched our first product: a solar-powered irrigation pump called NADI. Now available in India, NADI addresses the lack of reliable, clean energy to drive irrigation in rural areas of the country. The technology combines our patented brushless direct current (DC) motor — which you can find in many of our power tools — with solar power, creating an off-the-grid water pump solution for rural farmers. With this innovation, small scale farmers will be able to use cleaner, reliable energy to grow more crops multiple times per year, helping to improve their quality of life and feed many more people.

Houde: How can Stanley Black & Decker empower current and future makers in practical terms?

Geyer: The fourth industrial revolution, otherwise known as Industry 4.0, will dramatically reshape the types of skills workers will need to contend with forces like the digital economy, robots and automation. Therefore we focus on empowering makers through STEAM education partnerships, vocational and trade skills, makerspace training and more.

The fourth industrial revolution ... will dramatically reshape the types of skills workers will need to contend with forces like the digital economy, robots and automation.
In Connecticut, where we are based, we worked with academics, local schools and nonprofits to map the Industry 4.0 skills gap to figure out how we could improve the core curriculum so we connect what K-12 students are learning at school with the skills they need to thrive upon graduation. We know with the right education, the next generation will use their brainpower to solve bigger, more challenging needs in our world, whether that means building robots or the apps that operate them.

Beyond Connecticut, we work with major partners like Discovery Education to bring a stronger maker-focused curriculum into the classroom. We also have Makerspace collaborations with universities and other organizations, global apprenticeship programs and we’re a sponsor of WorldSkills International, which hosts skills competitions for young people around the world in carpentry, automobile technology, cabinetmaking, concrete construction work, water technology, landscape gardening and more.

Houde: How do your experienced employees stay relevant alongside the millennials as we go through the fourth industrial revolution?

Geyer: At Stanley Black & Decker, we have created a roadmap to re-skilling that builds human capital through personalized learning and continuous development. A core component of this roadmap is the creation of our Lighthouse Facilities, which offer a model for re-skilling that connects disciplines, generations and communities to speed the creation of novel approaches and productivity-enhancing solutions.

At our Lighthouse Facility in Jackson, Tennessee, we’re pairing our early-career employees with a more experienced workforce to accelerate mutual learning and upskilling in areas such as human-machine interfaces. Overall, we have invested $29 million in this facility and grown our employee base to 630 while also focusing on re-skilling the local workforce and combining the forces of its millennial digital and engineering experts.

Houde: Can you leave us with a final thought?

Geyer: We all have to be receptive to change and accept the speed at which change is occurring. Our future depends on our ability to unlearn how we traditionally approached our jobs and relearn a new and better way forward, constantly. That’s how we will not only survive, but also thrive through the challenges we face in the coming years.

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