This week, Johnson Controls released its 2012 Sustainability Report, another step in the company’s decade-long leadership on corporate social responsibility. The $42 billion Wisconsin-based company has enjoyed continued growth the past 20-plus years and has paid a dividend to its shareholders annually since 1887. A key supplier for many automotive and construction companies, Johnson Controls has emerged as a leading corporate sustainability pacesetter the past decade. Year after year, the company has improved its environmental sustainability performance, employee engagement and supplier diversity.
As is the case with many global companies, Johnson Controls has faced challenges within its own supply chain. During its materiality assessment, during which the company consults with a wide array of NGOs and socially responsible investors, stakeholders expressed concern over some the company’s lead battery recycling facilities.
The company’s response to those concerns, along with other achievements, include:
Lead battery recycling
One of the world’s largest automotive battery manufacturers, Johnson Controls is also a huge recycler of those toxic lead batteries: 14,000 employees built 130 million batteries during its last fiscal year. The company operates over 50 manufacturing, distribution and recycling centers globally. Those recycling centers in Germany, Mexico, Colombia and the U.S. collected over 70 million spent batteries.
In late 2012, Walden Asset Management and a group of social investors asked the company about lead management practices at its Mexico recycling facility. Claiming it operates a closed-loop battery manufacturing and recycling operation, the company responded to Walden, stating it had built a new recycling facility, diverted spent batteries away from third party “tollers” (recycling service providers mostly based in the U.S.) and into the company’s own recycling facilities.
Diversity, internal and supply chain
Johnson Controls has made incremental progress within its management ranks, but some observers would say the company has much room for improvement. In the U.S., women make up 17 percent of its management crew; minorities comprise 16 percent. Outside the company, Johnson Controls spent a record amount on sourcing from historically underutilized, women- and minority-owned businesses: close to $2 billion.
Volunteering and philanthropy
Indices including that of Corporate Responsibility Magazine consistently rank Johnson Controls as a leading corporate citizen, and the company’s community work is one reason why the company commands respect for its performance on ethics and environmental stewardship. Last year, Johnson Controls donated almost $14 million to NGOs and community organizations while employees volunteered over 160,000 hours during the last fiscal year.
Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is the editor of GreenGoPost.com and frequently writes about business sustainability strategy. Leon also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable Brands, Inhabitat and Earth911. At Better4Business in Anaheim on May 2, he will join a panel discussing how companies can present their CSR initiatives to the media. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).
[Image credit: Johnson Controls]