Determine Your Purpose, and The Rest Will Follow

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Stanley Black & Decker
Through partnerships, Stanley Black & Decker supports STEAM-based nonprofits like Greenlight for Girls.
© Stanley Black & Decker


Global companies have a responsibility to be a force for good. The process of ensuring companies generate a measurable, positive impact starts with one word: purpose.

Purpose is the “why” behind everything we do as corporate social responsibility (CSR) professionals. It helps determine our investments in local communities, drives efforts to reduce our impact on the environment, dictates how we support our employees, and it even influences business decisions.

Most large companies are at different stages of identifying their purpose and translating this into CSR commitments. At Stanley Black & Decker, we consider ourselves lucky that our company has an enduring purpose rooted in our founding more than 175 years ago. And, as our business has become more global and complex, we’ve taken the opportunity to re-articulate our purpose—For Those Who Make the World—to both look towards the future and nod towards our founder’s legacy.  

With this, we also created a new, comprehensive CSR strategy, with the objective of breaking down our purpose into achievable goals and infusing this mindset throughout the company. We tied this CSR strategy directly to our purpose with an overall mission of “inspiring makers and innovators to create a more sustainable world.”

Since creating this strategy and rolling it out internally, we’ve learned a lot. Here are a few of those learnings.

Design a flexible strategy

Agility and adaptability are paramount to driving a CSR strategy. Companies can do this by identifying overarching themes and goals that a variety of partnerships and community impact projects can support, supplement, and augment.

For example, one of our core pillars at Stanley Black & Decker is called Empower Makers; our goal for this work is to enable 10 million people, including our own employees, to gain the skills they need to thrive in an era of industrial and technological advancements. This is a big goal, so we have many different programs to help meet it, from our partnership with Discovery Education to our lighthouse factory initiative in cities like Jackson, TN and our Manufactory 4.0 center under development in Hartford, CT. Flexibility is crucial; it allows us to scale our impact exponentially while also tailoring our work to meet local community needs.

Create a governance structure to execute your strategy

It’s not enough to create a CSR strategy and expect everyone to understand it. To have it take root, especially in global organizations with many business units, you need to create a structure that brings together a variety of internal stakeholders and gives employees across the organization the chance to participate. At Stanley Black & Decker, we’ve done this by designing a governance structure overseen by an executive leadership team and staffed by a steering committee responsible for initiatives in each of our core CSR pillars. As we move forward, we’re also planning to add an external guidance board so that peers, partners, government agencies and others can provide additional oversight.

Governance is crucial for several reasons. First, it allows us to prioritize key partnerships and initiatives, and phase out the ones that don’t align to our strategy. Second, it surfaces good ideas that work in a particular region and expand those to other markets, allowing us to scale our overall impact. And last, it engages employees at every level, giving them the opportunity to introduce ideas and have a voice in how we make a collective impact.

Measure against your goals, but understand things will take time

We all know how important metrics are when it comes to goal setting. CSR professionals need to understand, however, that things take time, especially in large, complex organizations.

When we set out to create our CSR strategy earlier this year, we knew there would be an adjustment period in which we educated everyone about what our strategy is and how we reach our goals. Therefore, our first year was all about engagement, getting buy-in throughout the company and making sure all employees understood our direction. As we move forward, we will continue to measure ourselves against our 2030 goals with the knowledge that our impact will increase exponentially as a result of the time we spent this year getting our teams up to speed.

As we look to 2019, we expect companies will increasingly put CSR at the center of their business, especially in response to calls from employees, customers, and clients to do so. To make sure the company is best positioned for real impact, we should all start by asking ourselves, “What’s our purpose?”