Bose V.P. Stresses Sustainability

November 7, 2013 1:00 am0 comments

By SOFIA HU

Correction appended

Drawing from his experiences as a leader of audio equipment company Bose Corporation, Rick Martino MBA ’82 told students Wednesday that sustainability and financial viability can go hand in hand in the private sector.

Martino, the vice president of global human resources at Bose, described the company’s two-year-old sustainability campaign to students at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. He said that although private companies and sustainability are two things that are generally not paired together, investing in sustainability promotes collaboration, innovation, growth and financial viability — principles that most private companies value.

Focusing on sustainability allows companies to better attract and retain talented employees, maintain healthy relationships with communities surrounding company facilities and strengthen consumer services, he said.

Bose’s sustainability campaign is three-fold — focusing on environmental, economic and social sustainability. In two years, the company has made achievements in all three parts of its campaign, according to Martino. “By using less plastic and using fully compostable materials, we increased the recyclability of our packaging [for our SoundLink2 bluetooth speakers] by 85 percent,” he said.

In addition, when consumers returned Bose products two years ago, the company would usually dispose of them. Now, Bose will send the products back to the facilities, closely inspect the products and either recycle them or resell them at lower prices, according to Martino.

“We’re putting much less into landfills now,” Martino said.

As for social sustainability, Martino described the company’s various efforts to cater to its workers. At a recently opened facility in Malaysia, Bose built prayer rooms, special bathing rooms and a cafeteria that serves Halal food in consideration of its Muslim employees.

Bose also regularly hosts events about wellness at its facilities in Belgium, the United States, Mexico and many international locations.

In terms of the campaign’s focus on economic sustainability, Martino mentioned that one of the company’s guiding principle is financial viability.

“If we can’t fund it, we don’t do it. We do not have shareholders, sell stock or borrow from banks,” Martino said. “You want to talk about liberated? That’s liberated.”

According to Martino, Bose self-funds all research, even if the studies concern topics other than sound. For instance, Bose has also conducted research on how to make trucks more comfortable to drive for extended periods of time.

Bose’s sustainability campaign is still developing, Martino said, adding that “this is happening real time in our business.”

Currently, the company is receiving data on the effects of the campaign over the past two years and plans to use this information to develop a formalized strategy.

“We are on a journey, and we are committed to this,” Martino said. “We are not a perfect company; we have a lot of work to do on this, but it is truly a remarkable place.”

Martino’s talk was a rare inside look at Bose, which usually discloses little information about its finance and organization, because it prefers its products speak for themselves, Martino said.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly said that Bose increased the recyclability of its products’ packaging by 85 percent. In fact, the improvements in recyclability apply specifically to Bose’s SoundLink2 bluetooth speakers. The story also incorrectly said that Bose conducts research on controlling fuel rods in nuclear reactors, when in fact, the company does no research on the topic.

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