Social Responsibility & Risk-Based Thinking

We attended ASQ’s Joint Technical Communities Conference in Orlando, FL this week.  In addition to attending some really insightful and valuable sessions by impressive quality industry leaders, we enjoyed participating in the panel discussion related to SR and the Update of Risk in the New ISO Management Systems Standards.

Risk is highlighted in the recently issued ISO 9001:2015.  Identifying opportunities over threats is inherent. Preventative thinking is thoughtfully applied.

“One of the key changes in the 2015 revision of ISO 9001 is to establish a systematic approach to risk, rather than treating it as a single component of a quality management system.

In previous editions of ISO 9001, a clause on preventive action was separated from the whole. Now risk is considered and included throughout the standard.

By taking a risk-based approach, an organization becomes proactive rather than purely reactive, preventing or reducing undesired effects and promoting continual improvement. Preventive action is automatic when a management system is risk-based.”

(Source: ISO-TC176-SC2_N1222_N1222_-_Risk_in_ISO_9001_2)

The moderator and presenter during the session, ASQ Fellow Dick Gould, laid out risk as identified in ISO 31000:2009.  In that, positive risk is an opportunity. Successful organizations evaluate their threats and their opportunities.

Here are a few examples that we shared of positive risk opportunities associated with social responsibility:

  • Many electronics companies working with Foxconn as a contract manufacturer realized a very real threat when an increase in worker suicides in 2010 gained international exposure. Apple was an organization that identified an opportunity that came from working with Foxconn to assess and improve conditions.  They took advantage of the opportunity to join the Fair Labor Association and have subsequently helped changed several industries and increased profits as a result.
  • A packaging company was receiving violations for ink disposal and there wasn’t an easy answer to resolve the associated issues. As a negative risk, the threat would include violations and wasted materials.  The positive risk is the opportunity that presents itself when the organization realizes the benefits to their stakeholders and bottom line by exploring preventative action. Switching to a water-based ink reduces the need for increased disposal requirements.
  • Many organizations reach out to Pro QC for assistance with social audits at their manufacturers abroad.  They identify an opportunity to demonstrate their vision, mission and values through ensuring social responsibility throughout the supply chain.  Assessing and improving worker conditions within factories is stakeholder and bottom-line friendly.

In the same ISO document referenced above, there’s a compelling argument for risk-based thinking:

By considering risk throughout the organization the likelihood of achieving stated objectives is improved, output is more consistent and customers can be confident that they will receive the expected product or service.

Risk-based thinking therefore:

  • builds a strong knowledge base
  • establishes a proactive culture of improvement
  • assures consistency of quality of goods or services
  • improves customer confidence and satisfaction

Contact us for additional information regarding ISO 9001:2015 or SA8000 social audits. Example reports are found here and demonstrate how our clients have effectively identified opportunities that have driven improvements.

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