Industrial Louvers is a customer-focused, woman-owned and operated manufacturer of custom architectural metal products including architectural louvers, equipment screens, decorative grilles, sunshades and column covers. Since 1971, we have been helping meet the needs of designers, contractors and subcontractors across all segments of the construction industry. Our position as a leader in the industry is based on our reputation in manufacturing products of the highest quality and craftsmanship and providing un-matched customer service.
How have the employees responded to the JUST Program and the willingness of the firm to demonstrate transparency on these sensitive issues? Has this process and journey helped elevate employee engagement levels?
After ILFI published our JUST Label, we have taken the opportunity to educate our employees. We have used company publications and public spaces within our office to provide educational materials on JUST, helping our employees understand the implications of the program as well as its value to our community. While employees have made limited comments about the JUST program specifically, we have had significant feedback about the specific policies and practices it prompted that directly impact our workforce. Overall, we believe that such responses reflect and reiterate our intentions when we started the JUST process – to promote happiness and to strengthen our organization, spark enthusiasm for our mission, and improve our products – all while addressing the social and environmental issues that affect us all.
What do you think are the most valuable benefits to any organization pursuing the JUST Label?
Our organization has enjoyed benefits from participating in the program. JUST offered concrete metrics that escaped subjective, varying standards for social sustainability, allowing us to clearly and constructively evaluate our performance on a wide variety of issues. By helping us identify our strengths and weaknesses, the program set our company up to facilitate improvement; the one, two, and three star standards for each JUST indicator provide benchmarks by which we can develop improvement strategies and evaluate our success in pursuing those strategies. We found that a significant benefit of these standards is their consistent focus on putting employees and local interests first as a means of making a better company and better products. Putting our employees first has been a focus of our core values for some time, but we have been able to focus on this goal in a more structured way since participating in JUST. Finally, the JUST Label has helped us to see where our company measures up to competitors and has helped us embody another core value, transparency, and lead the manufacturing industry toward greater social and environmental consciousness.
Leveraging the Label
In what ways are you leveraging the JUST Label? Are you using JUST in your sustainability reporting, blog articles, social media or corporate communications?
Our JUST Label is featured prominently on our website, as well as in marketing and continuing education materials. The program was the basis for a series of articles in our weekly internal newsletter. Each article addressed an indicator on the Label and explained its significance, the reasoning behind the benchmarks to achieve it, our rating, and any notable successes or plans for improvement. We also incorporated many JUST requirements into our vendor survey to both help us conduct business with companies that share our values and as a means of educating others across the industry about social sustainability.
Advice for Prospects
What advice would you give prospective JUST organizations?
Any prospective JUST organization should expect surprises. As a manufacturing company, the hurdles and victories we faced were vastly different from those we would have experienced if we were, for example, a graphic design firm. We found that the strength of the JUST Label lies in this universality – the Label makes it possible for any organization to utilize their unique circumstances to promote sustainability and social equity in their industry. It also means that every participating business will face unique challenges and successes in pursuit of a JUST Label. As such, any organization that cares about corporate social responsibility should absolutely participate in the JUST program, but should do so with the bigger picture in mind. Organizations should not start the JUST process with the goal of using their Label to showcase a series of sweeping successes. While they may find many successes to show, the JUST program is better used to facilitate positive growth; to understand how the organization can better embody and promote its values, stronger communities, more equitable industry practices, and ultimately make the world a better place.
What are some of the most important lessons learned about your organization as a result of the JUST application process?
The JUST Program helped our company focus our goals and showed us that we have the tools to promote equity and social justice. The program made corporate social responsibility a more measurable goal by breaking it into a series of indicators and providing several metrics by which to evaluate our success. The process was affirming because it showed us that, in many ways, our company is already a positive entity for driving equity and community well-being. It also helped us develop strategies for improvement on some indicators.
Throughout this process, we were constantly reminded that our company is situated in local and industry-specific contexts that make our capacity to address JUST metrics and achieve its goals unique. As a company with a single location, we saw great success in the Local Benefit category. We realized that our company plays an integral role in building the local community and saw how various company policies can be utilized and expanded to maximize the positive outcomes of that connection.
We also face some exceptional challenges in our industry. For example, because sheet metal fabrication is an industry staffed almost 100% by men, we found that it would be next to impossible for any manufacturing firm like ours to achieve a 50/50 gender balance at this moment in time. Because of this, we only received one star in Gender Diversity despite the real progress we have made promoting gender equity in our industry. Industrial Louvers is the only woman owned business in this industry segment and boasts an executive leadership team dominated by women. The low rating for the gender diversity indicator was frustrating but it taught us the most important lesson we could learn from the program. JUST is simply a starting point. It is a platform for evaluating our contributions to corporate social responsibility and developing strategies to achieve our goals, but it is also useful for understanding what goals deserve our closest attention and what changes we should advocate at a larger scale – in the industry and in society – before we can achieve them as an individual company.
Changes in Policy
Can you describe some of the most consequential changes to organizational policies and practices as a result of JUST?
In pursuing a JUST Label, we realized that many of our company practices reflected the spirit of JUST and its requirements, but that our formal policies did not necessarily represent the values driving our operations. Because the Label requires companies to have written policies regarding every indicator, our participation in the program allowed us to re-evaluate and expand company policies to ensure that our values of equity and social justice became part of our company’s identity and were embodied by employees at all levels. Our charitable giving, continuing education, animal welfare, and volunteer policies were among those we wrote for the first time. Many major company policies were updated in some way. Further, we posted all of our policies to our website. This increased focus on transparency will not only help cultivate these values among our workforce, but draw potential employees who are passionate about our mission.
What Worked Well
Are there specific policy changes that have been particularly well received? Please describe.
Participation in the JUST program made us more cognizant of the effects small changes have on our employees’ well-being and morale and, in turn, on the community that surrounds us. In pursuit of the Stewardship category, we formalized policies that allow our employees to use paid time off to volunteer and developed a program by which each employee can select a charity to which ILI will donate $100. While we only received two and one stars in the Community Volunteering and Charitable Giving metrics, respectively, these policies have been incredibly well received because they demonstrate to our employees that we value their priorities outside of work and we want to support their personal well being as well as that of their community. More recently, after surveying our employees and receiving no objection, we made our office dog-friendly. This small change has been very popular among our employees and has contributed to a positive and fun office environment.
Please describe how the firm intends to use JUST as a management tool and framework moving forward.
JUST provided our company with a framework to evaluate how policy changes will affect our employees, the local and regional communities, and the industry as a whole. We will continue to use the JUST program to reach beyond traditional understandings of sustainability and transparency so as to best embody our core values. The company will continue to educate employees and prioritize their interests in our decision-making processes to improve upon our success in the Stewardship and Worker Benefit categories. We hope to improve our performance on the Continuing Education and Living Wage metrics. Living Wage was the only indicator we did not pursue, though we already pay our manufacturing assembly employees no less than $15 per hour and at a rate negotiated with the Union. Finally, we have already begun using JUST to both educate our vendors and evaluate the companies with which we choose to partner by incorporating the metrics described in the program into our vendor survey. In this way, we want to maintain a positive legacy and continue to lead the industry in socially responsible practices.