A CSR tool for the licensing community

Posted by Marty Brochstein on November 04, 2011

On the face of it, the attendee list alone at the Consumer Products sector meeting I attended prior to the massive BSR Conference this week in San Francisco speaks to the growing importance of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) among companies that deal in the consumer products marketplace. More than 20 brand owners and retailers were represented – some by multiple people — ranging from brand owners such as Hasbro, Disney, Burberry and Ralph Lauren and merchants including Wal-Mart, Office Depot, H&M, Gap and Nordstrom, among others, in a workshop format.

At this point, virtually all – if not all — major consumer goods companies have well documented policies concerning the working conditions under which their goods can be made in their own and their suppliers’ factories, and most have stated policies about the environmental impact of the manufacturing process. In the face of rising consumer consciousness about how their toys, clothing and other goods are manufactured, it’s an important aspect of any supplier relationship.

But for those in CSR-related jobs within those companies, it’s often a challenge to monitor and encourage compliance with the stated policies. As became evident during the workshop, in many cases it’s as big a challenge to make sure that the CSR imperative is integrated into decision-making and processes throughout the company, rather than being considered an annoying do-gooder add-on.

“It’s not built into the top agenda of the business itself. It’s not in anyone’s performance appraisal [in the sourcing or merchandising departments],” said one executive from a softlines brand very active in licensing. “We need to get it integrated into the business.”

Another attendee put it another way: “I want to spend less time selling [internally], and more time doing.”

It’s a particularly acute issue for those in the licensing business, where there’s at least one extra element in the path from brand and concept to product on the retail shelf. For the past several months, LIMA has been part of an ongoing effort with a Licensing Working Group – whose current members include Hasbro, Time Warner, NBC Universal and The Walt Disney Company — assembled by BSR to encourage compliance by licensees and their suppliers with licensors’ CSR requirements. We’ve hosted well-attended webinars and a seminar just prior to the Licensing International Expo, with content developed by members of the working group and BSR.

The latest manifestation of that effort was introduced earlier this week, and is now available to anyone in the licensing business. “Good Practices for Complying with Licensors’ Social and Environmental Requirements: A Practical Guide for Licensees” is a 28-page document designed to help licensee executives and professionals understand how they might work toward meeting licensors’ requirements related to social and environmental compliance.

The publication of the guide comes at a time when more companies in the licensing industry are defining strategies and implementing programs to address the root causes of noncompliance with social and environmental standards. The practical tips in the guide aren’t built around any single licensor’s requirements, but can ease the way for licensees and suppliers to manage their compliance efforts.

The guide is available as a free download from LIMA by clicking here.

It can also be obtained from BSR or from any of the Licensing Working Group members.