In the second of a three-part series focusing on CSR reporting, we present an interview with Jeremy Handler, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Hunter Industries, a global manufacturer of products for the landscape irrigation and lighting industries and a custom molding provider. Headquartered in San Marcos, California, its products are sold in more than 80 countries.
I recently met with Jeremy to chat about his experience with CSR and sustainability. I found him to be very passionate about his work and thought it would be great to share his thoughts with others who may be wondering about the benefits of CSR reporting.
Q. Tell us a little about your background and how you arrived at your current role at Hunter Industries?
A. I’m a mechanical engineer who became passionate about sustainable development during my time volunteering with Engineers Without Borders. Because of this, I pursued an MBA focused on sustainability, which led me to creating Hunter’s green team, a big reason for creating our sustainability department.
Q. How long has Hunter been publishing a CSR Report and what was your primary reason for producing one?
A. We launched our third annual CSR Report on Earth Day, April 22, 2015. The report was the catalyst for creating sustainability goals at Hunter, with the inaugural one acting as the baseline for the goals. We update our performance annually and add new goals as we tackle previous ones. The report lets us share our successes and challenges.
Q. How would you say Hunter has benefited from producing a CSR Report? How has it helped in meeting company goals?
A. The CSR Report is an authentic account of what’s happening at Hunter and educates our customers and employees on those endeavors. As the first company in the irrigation industry to publish a CSR Report, it also acts as a badge of pride. The report tracks our progress toward our sustainability goals, and as a public document it keeps us accountable.
Q. I see you follow the Global Reporting Initiative‘s reporting framework. Was that the case from the beginning?
A. Hunter reported to GRI’s G3.1 for the past three years and we’re working to report to G4 next year.
Q. When you broached the subject of creating a CSR Report, how receptive were the company owners?
A. The company owners were interested in getting a better understanding of our sustainability performance because they’re stewards of the environment and communities in which we operate.
Q. Who are your primary readers and how do you ensure you’re including content that’s important to them?
A. Our primary readers are customers and employees. Over the past two years we’ve held sustainability forums with stakeholders to better understand what they want us to focus on. We’ve highlighted their priorities in our report and work to share our efforts toward them.
Q. Have there been any benefits (outcomes) you didn’t expect resulting from the reporting process?
A. The report was my capstone project for my MBA in sustainability and was one of the reasons I could make the case for starting a sustainability department at Hunter. Additionally, the company has rallied behind our 8 sustainability goals.
Q. Looking back on process of creating your first report, what would you have done differently, if anything?
A. I would have kept the text to a minimum and highlighted the important data and stories.
Q. What advice would you give to those who are looking to create their first CSR Report?
A. Start early and include as many department heads as possible in the process so they have some ownership of the content.
I really appreciate Jeremy taking the time to answer my questions. I hope his experience and insight have whetted your appetite for creating a CSR Report at your company.
Watch for the third part of the series, which focuses on which companies are creating reports and how you can get started.