Through the Pledge we’ve seen many small to medium businesses undertake a strong commitment to being more sustainable. But many SME’s, unlike their larger corporate brothers, tend not to communicate or market their commitment to sustainability through their brand. This article from Sustainable Brands demonstrates the success Dibella had in integrating its values and commitment to sustainability through its brand.
“Dibella is a German-Dutch textile group with 39 employees and an annual turnover of €30m. Since 1986, the company supplies institutional bed and table linens, towels and bathing gowns to textile service providers that then rent them out to hotels and hospitals. It currently sources its cotton from seven countries. Confronted with dramatic events such as Fukushima and the financial crises, Dibella CEO Ralf Hellmann decided that the time had come for a change: “There was a desire to initiate a development for new growth that would be based on our inherent values, while making a positive impact to the environment and society.”
Reclaiming the ethical principles from the heart of its business, Dibella set out to primarily source organic, fair-trade cotton. At the same time, it raised the bar for its own environmental and social standards, pushing for a high level of transparency within its organization and supply chain.
To this end, the company first put some effort into setting up and certifying a sustainability management system according to ISO 9001 quality and ISO 14001:2015 environmental management standards. Inside the organization, the shift from a transactional to a transformational business approach and the ambitious goal to take on a leading role in the industry were being proclaimed a strategic decision and given top priority. In order to get everyone on board and to nip any skepticism in the bud, Hellmann spent “a lot of time” talking to his staff and existing customers personally: “People were asking how to shoulder this daunting project with existing resources.”
As it turned out, investing in collaboration with external partners was the critical success factor. Dibella realized that, for a push-start, it needed the backing of external experts to help with the certification of its sustainability management system and the preparation of its first sustainability report — both highly critical and time-consuming tasks. For efficiency reasons, the company leveraged standard reporting tools and frameworks such as GRI’s G4 and 360Report, a GRI-certified online solution for building non-financial reports. To spread its sustainability narrative more effectively, the company uses its corporate website and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as cost-efficient options.
But making a buzz as a small company in the online world has its limitations. In talking to customers and peers within its industry, Dibella soon earned the sympathy of like-minded companies, which were happy to convene around a shared purpose and collectively promote a sustainable business approach within their supply chains. This resulted in the foundation of MaxTex, an international industry coalition of 18 companies with a joint annual turnover of €3bn. The collaboration enabled Dibella to increase its reach into the stakeholder community, the number and impact of joint CSR projects, but also its recognition across industry borders, which gained the company a number of prizes and industry awards over recent years.
Inside the company, the collaborative approach had a significant effect on its corporate culture, as employees enjoyed the satisfaction from participating in social and environmental projects, which provided them orientation, purpose and pride in their daily work. Low rates of staff turnover and sick leave were only one indicator of these positive dynamics. Less measurable is the positive impact from employees who, as brand ambassadors, recommend Dibella inside their community.
This article was brought to us via http://www.sustainablebrands.com/news.