“Careful what you ask for, you might get it.’ A familiar expression that for me is often the recognition that a milestone is really just a step forward on a longer – often challenging – journey. So true in the case of Brocade’s recent decision to join the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) as an applicant member.
The EICC works collaboratively with its members to promote environmental, social and governance standards across the electronics industry. Through a shared Code of Conduct, EICC provides a foundation, and future direction, for best practices in corporate responsibility (CR). Participation in the EICC affords members a common platform for engagement, access to a group of likeminded executives and companies, and an efficient and effective roadmap for sustained outcomes across the supply chain.
When I joined Brocade in 2011, I expressed the advantages of joining the Coalition and adopting the Code. For a variety of logical organizational considerations, however, the Company deferred engagement. Informed and determined, I wasn’t about to rest. Instead, I worked with colleagues in the enterprise, and external subject experts, to develop a comprehensive strategic CR platform. Piece-by-piece, year-by-year we demonstrated aligned principles and practices to adopt the Code (in 2012) leading to this year and officially applying to join the Coalition. Along the way, a few themes emerged.
Act 'As If'
For some business leaders, hesitation to adopt the Code or join the Coalition was rooted in mere uncertainty. They had reasonable questions: What is the Code? What does membership entail? Do we currently meet the standards; if not, what is required? For about 18 months, I conducted due diligence on Code requirements and utilized the Coalition’s ‘Self-Assessment Questionnaire’ to determine what we were doing right and where we had opportunity to improve. In partnership with peers in operations, legal, and facilities, we behaved as if we had adopted the Code and were members. Activity during that period was crucial to eventually adopting the Code.
Being transparent, there is incremental work and accountability to adopt the Code and join the EICC. Understandably
some people resist additional responsibilities and change. At the same time, many subject experts inside Brocade developed greater familiarity and comfort with our CR strategy. They became allies. Moreover, key executives came to understand the reasoning and value of taking the next step. Having solid teamwork – in many ways my own internal ‘coalition’ – was essential.
Resources – fiscal and human – are always constrained. Membership entails expense and I needed to clearly articulate the benefits and ROI of membership. Although there are important social considerations to joining the EICC, it is also a business decision and those factors must be evaluated. From training tools, peer-to-peer exchanges, business eco-system engagements, web-based platforms for data collection and more, the returns to the Company justify the investments in time and treasure.
Now, the real work begins – refining and executing our rolling CR plan to utilize the Code as a guidepost to ensure a responsible supply chain. Thankfully I now have the resources of the Coalition to do so. I have a means by which to provide personal leadership on issues of critical importance. And, I have pride that Brocade is willing to take this voluntary action.
To the 100+ active members of the Coalition – Brocade looks forward to partnering with you. Equally important, to the thousands of companies across the electronics industry that have yet to ‘say yes’ to membership – don’t just join the list, be a part of the movement.