Younger employees are accused of not being respectful of authority, lacking initiative and generally ignoring the criteria senior employees demand. However, many don’t fit this broad and unfair generalization. They remind us of how far our industry can go, while emphasizing where we—and the world—are now and where we should be. Once CSR meant Customer Service Representative. Today, it also means Corporate Social Responsibility—doing well by doing good.
Customers expect their money will go to causes they believe in, while you’re delivering top-quality products. Similarly, employees want their workplace to be an extension of their beliefs and priorities.
Today CSR is a self-regulating model helping a company be socially accountable to itself, its customers, the public, shareholders and employees. It means operating to enhance society and the environment, instead of negatively impacting them.
CSR and the Imaging Industry
Minimum wage boosts are a global issue. Income inequality is a major social concern. When discussing CSR with Joe Dumitsch (B&C Camera, Las Vegas, Nevada), DIR’s 2016 Dealer of the Year, he talks about paying substantially above minimum wage.
“Employees should earn enough so they can have a good car and a decent home to live in. That’s my responsibility to provide.” Dumitsch doesn’t “provide” paychecks. He creates an environment where employee productivity is substantially above industry average. B&C employees work hard and consistently with minimal wasted time or effort. There’s no “warehouse person.” Every employee puts away stock and checks in shipments, squeezing these tasks between serving customers. For years, Precision Camera (Austin, Texas), DIR’s 2011 Dealer of the Year, has had salespeople who earn $75,000–$110,000/year—staggering paychecks for the average salesperson. They sustain this because each of these salespeople sell millions of dollars and are paid on their generated gross margin. This pay plan rewards productivity while encouraging low producers to work elsewhere. It benefits the business, the employees and society as a whole.
What are other socially responsible things our industry can do?
• On Earth Day, Fort Worth Camera (Fort Worth, Texas) encourages safe recycling of batteries and obsolete CE products. They buy good used cameras as part of their recycling effort.
• Water/chemical usage: Can you reduce chemical usage in your photo lab? Reduce water consumption? Use less packaging?
• Biological benefits: Live plants in a work environment reduce stress and absenteeism, increase productivity and creativity, and clean the air. (ciphr.com/advice/plants-in-the-office). Stan and Shelly Grosz (Horn Photo, Fresno, California) installed a living plant wall in their remodeled store. Customers prefer the kiosks that face the green wall.
• Recycle or reuse containers/packing materials: The PRO buying group has long used biodegradable “peanuts” packing material in their warehouse (ReNature by STOROpack). The warehouse recycles cardboard at a recycler who provides the raw material to a nearby box manufacturer. The 50-mile recycling trip has a very low carbon footprint. David Harrar, PRO’s director of Distribution says they do this “because it’s the right thing to do.”
• Promote ecological stewardship: Dan’s Camera City (Allentown, Pennsylvania), DIR’s 2011 Photofinisher of the Year, is installing the nation’s first Urban Photo Park to demonstrate and teach outdoor and wildlife photography. This habitat for local wildlife and birdlife will include native species of plants.
Supporting Community Efforts
• Support community efforts, Part 1: Midwest Photo (Columbus, Ohio), DIR’s 2017 Dealer of the Year, closed the store on Martin Luther King Day. The majority of employees gave back by volunteering at the local food bank.
• Support community efforts, Part 2: Quarterly, Midwest Photo donates $500 when sales hit a certain level. Employees determine which cause is funded. In August 2018, the Camera Company (Madison, Wisconsin) was flash-flooded without insurance. Midwest’s employees sent them the $500 toward their rebuilding efforts.
• Support community efforts, Part 3: Youth groups wanting to expose their members to photography are a great outreach for photographic retailers/manufacturers. Many passionate amateur photographers got started while working on a photography merit badge.
• Support community efforts, Part 4: Paul’s Photo (Torrance, California), DIR’s 2012 Dealer of the Year, designates October as Women in Photography month. Paul’s Creative Photo Academy features classes taught by women photographers that month. Events include a breast cancer walk, girls’ night out and multiple classes. All proceeds go to the American Cancer Society.
Furthermore, when employees engage in CSR programs, there’s a 50% reduction in employee turnover. In addition, 75% of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company (yourcause.com.)
What are you doing that’s good for your world and good for your business?