A widely held tenet of this industry is that ours is a people business. Relationships are the most valuable asset for all companies, especially in the current climate. The industry runs on this premise, with suppliers working with each other and their common customers to build and innovate product. But this sense of duty, of responsibility to one another, extends beyond the ties that bind the fenestration market. Through efforts in corporate social responsibility, fenestration companies have an opportunity to make a real impact on not only their staff, partners and customers, but also on their communities at large.
Window + Door sat down with one such company in our industry that has made CSR a common and uniting focus for its staff. VEKA Inc.’s President and CEO Joe Peilert and Corporate Marketing Director Steve Dillon share their insights on why CSR is important and the implications of making CSR a reality and priority.
Window + Door: Why is it important for companies to engage in corporate social responsibility?
Joe Peilert: In order to live up to its full potential, a company needs to make an impact on employees, customers and the community, beyond just offering a paycheck, making quality products and paying taxes.
Steve Dillon: Companies need to lead by example while empowering others to act. The goal of a business should be to get buy-in from its workforce on its initiatives and on the local community and/or marketplace while encouraging others to engage in initiatives within these same groups.
While individuals seem to view CSR differently, there are a lot of common interests from person to person—whether it’s donating to a cause, supporting local fire or police departments, or engaging in the education or growth of children within a community’s school district.
Companies need to set core values and make sure all know and understand them. I believe such positive messaging and behavior inspires the same in others.
W+D: Makes sense. Now, why does VEKA value its social responsibility values and practices?
JP: We are a family-owned business with multi-generational owners, customers and employees. It all starts with our shareholder family: they believe that success is defined in more ways than just sales and profits. We tend to operate in smaller communities, which gives us an opportunity to make a real difference.
W+D: And what is the impact on employees, customers, the market at large?
JP: The answer is spelled out in our mission statement: We Care, We Act, We Grow—and everybody is We. More than a brilliant strategy, a company needs people who care. If we care and act on it, good things happen for all stakeholders: team members develop personally and professionally, and we grow together with our customers.
SD: The impact for an employee can be great. But it takes managers at all levels to engage in CSR one-on-one or in a group while inspiring peers to do the same. People want to work for great leaders and companies. Customers want to partner with other companies that lead in all facets of their activities and communication. They want to work with partners that are best in class. Communities support companies that give back. The result is a complete 360-degree positive perception at a high level and employees who are proud to say, ‘I work for that company’ or customers that say, ‘I do business with that company.’
W+D: That is powerful. So, how exactly is VEKA addressing CSR for its employees, customers and community?
SD: We Care, We Act, We Grow is our global mission. We care is three-prong, about our customers, employees and partners. We act with appreciation, with care, with courage and entrepreneurship. We grow, by building long-term partnerships, developing talent and being environmental stewards across all facets of our activity.
Individual VEKA business units are challenged to find the best ways to bring our mission to life. For VEKA North America, We Care, We Act, We Grow is the foundation and driver behind several major initiatives such as our CSR program and our serving leadership training.
W+D: On that note, how does VEKA encourage its employees to participate in socially responsible practices?
JP: Our VEKA Days are a great example: every year a team of employees select local charities to support. To say thank you for our team members’ support of these charities, VEKA offers three additional vacation days—over 22,000 hours per year! Charities we have frequently supported are the Yellow Ribbon Girls, local Food Banks and Animal Friends. We are currently fundraising through this program for the over 100 VEKA Ukraine families that have been displaced. The generosity of our team members has been overwhelming in support of all of these charities every year.
SD: This year, in addition to VEKA Days, we will be engaging in an effort to bring attention to teen suicide prevention and mental health awareness. We are partnering with individuals and organizations in Europe and North America to accomplish what will be a pretty inspirational event and are giving every employee within both groups an opportunity to contribute in different ways. More details will follow in Q2.
W+D: I can’t wait to hear about it! In that sense, how does VEKA gauge what to do to address social responsibility?
JP: We use external and internal KPIs to gauge our activities. To give you a few examples: we are engaged with FGIA on product life-cycle analysis studies. For background, since early on, VEKA has taken an industry leadership role in recycling. VEKA Europe has three post-consumer window recycling plants in Germany, France and England. In North America, we operate as a net user of recyclables, processing start-up scrap and customer cutoffs as substrate for our Outdoor Living Products division.
In our plants, we have made tremendous strides in reducing our energy consumption, reducing our carbon footprint. We offer a benefit package for team members that exceeds industry standards and provides for a secure retirement. We monitor our retention rates, which are over two times longer than the average for U.S. manufacturers. We conduct team member surveys, but there are other great ways to track employee satisfaction: the level of employee referrals is very telling. More than half of our new hires are based on recommendations by family and friends employed at VEKA.
SD: From basic awareness to full out charitable events or activities, what goes on in my own community has been a great asset in being able to offer opportunities for VEKA to also get engaged. I encourage everyone to do the same if they work for a company that has the wherewithal to give back.
VEKA CSR Photo Gallery
Check out VEKA leaders and employees helping in their community.