Expanding Your Business Can Also Be a Good CSR Tool

Expanding Your Business Can Also Be a Good CSR Tool

For the first time in the company's 163-year history, a U.S. president visited a Siemens factory.

During his tour of the Midwest in late April, Barack Obama made a stop at a Siemens plant in Fort Madison, Iowa. The plant, which opened in 2007 and has a workforce of 600 employees, produces rotor blades for wind turbines.

"It was remarkable, made all the more so when you consider that just a few short years ago, this facility sat dark and quiet," Obama said after touring the plant. "Today, it's alive and humming with more than 600 employees, almost two-thirds of whom found themselves unemployed before landing here."

Obama's visit to the Fort Madison plant highlighted how clean technology can help revive a local economy. Siemens is the largest employer in Fort Madison with nearly 600 employees. Sixty-five percent of these employees were former employees of larger companies in the area that had closed or downsized. At Siemens, green initiatives have become an integral part our CSR strategy -- creating new jobs, strengthening our corporate brand, and boosting employee morale in every community we touch.

To some, green practices are a fad, but being "green" has a distinct place in any company's corporate responsibility platform. With Siemens' 160-year experience as a technology innovator, it was natural for us to include sustainability in our CSR portfolio. While our green products certainly add to our business profile, "going green" is not simply a revenue generator. Sustainable business practices are a key component of any corporate social responsibility strategy.

Particularly with the down economy, there are ways to integrate sustainability into your business that serve as both a good CSR tool and build your business.

In May 2009, Siemens announced it had selected Hutchinson, Kansas for its first U.S. nacelle production facility. (A nacelle is the structure that houses all of the generating components of a wind turbine.) Hutchinson, Kansas, was selected after an extensive search and spirited competition between several finalist locations. From a business perspective, Hutchinson has all of the aspects that make it a great location for a Siemens factory -- it's near the geographic center of the lower 48 states and offers a viable workforce and excellent transportation logistics. The factory will include direct loading onto rail, which will provide easy access to project locations throughout the United States and Canada. Shipments can also be made utilizing the barge facilities at the Port of Catoosa, located 250 miles from the plant. The new facility will enable Siemens to better meet the strong demand for wind turbines in the Americas.

There are a variety of factors we look at when opening a new facility in the U.S. We want to go into an area where the local economy could use revitalization, keeping in mind that it's important that potential employees have a basic understanding of and general competence to excel at green jobs. There are limited numbers of locales with a workforce capable of this kind of employment. The Hutchinson facility is a great example of how companies can do well in expanding their businesses while having a hugely positive impact on the local community.

The new Siemens facility is not only good for business, but good for the community and the environment as well. The Hutchinson facility will bolster our sustainable business practices by increasing "green collar" jobs by 400 in an area of the country that has been hard hit by layoffs in manufacturing and the economic downturn. At the same time, it will enable us to better meet the strong demand for wind turbines in the Americas. In Hutchison, Siemens employees will work to create sustainable products, while their jobs are helping to sustain their community.

 

Siemens factory sketch

 

In continuing with our holistic and sustainable approach, we will also continue our Caring Hands volunteer program in Hutchinson, where employees will regularly participate in green volunteer initiatives in the community, from planting trees to recycling old cell phones and addressing the specific "green needs" of the Hutchinson community. Through the Caring Hands program, in the U.S., 60,000+ Siemens employees are helping to improve life in the communities in which they live and work.

We know that the major role of green and sustainability is to tie together multiple components of our business, and our sustainability initiatives help us to do well and do good. With "green" ingrained in our corporate DNA, we ensure we're making both smart business choices and smart choices for the communities in which we work.

For more information on the Hutchinson, KS facility, check out this video from our corporate website.

Jim Whaley is vice president of Corporate Affairs and Marketing at Siemens.

Photos courtesy of Siemens.