Materiality Assessment

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In early 2018, Southwire completed our second materiality assessment, used to identify, assess and prioritize the sustainability topics most significant to our business and our stakeholders. This assessment followed Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines.

  1. Identification. Industry research and a benchmarking analysis of competitors, customers, suppliers, aspirational peers, company documents and third-party reports identified the universe of relevant topics. Through a value chain impact mapping session with Southwire subject matter experts, we narrowed this list to 23 topics for prioritization—including eight topics not included in our 2014 materiality assessment.
  2. Prioritization. Following the GRI principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness, we interviewed 23 internal and external stakeholders, including senior company leaders, shareholders, members of Southwire’s board of directors, customers, suppliers and representatives of communities/non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The GRI Materiality Principle guided interview questions, which ascertained Southwire’s impact on the environment, society and economy; the greatest risks and opportunities for Southwire’s business; and influence on stakeholders’ decision-making. Through this process, two additional topics surfaced. We supplemented the interviews with 18 additional sources of information relevant to Southwire and our industry.
  3. Validation. Southwire’s executive leadership team reviewed the materiality assessment findings. After discussion of the process and results, the group confirmed the material topics.

We began the process of strategically integrating the findings into our business strategy by refining—where necessary—the management approaches regarding the material topics and setting goals with associated key performance indicators (KPIs).

Material Topics

While all topics shown on the matrix below are important for Southwire to monitor and manage, this 2018 sustainability report communicates our management approach and progress on the 13 Tier 1 or “material” topics shown at the top right of the matrix. In keeping with our commitment to transparency, we also report on Operational Waste, which decreased to Tier 2 in our recent materiality assessment. We organized our sustainability topics in alignment with the five tenets of our corporate sustainability vision.

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The table below provides an overview of how Southwire manages each topic, where impacts occur, and which stakeholders expressed the greatest interest in Southwire’s management and performance of each topic. Topics in bold font represent Southwire’s material topics, covered in depth in this report.
      Southwire Leaders Shareholders Board of Directors Customers Suppliers Communities/NGOs Government Agencies Industry/Business Associations Sustainability Experts Potential Employees
Topic Management Approach Boundary
(Where Impacts Occur)
Highly Interested Stakeholders
Air Emissions (increased from Tier 2)View Topic Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, fine particulate matter and other significant air emissions (NOx, SOx, etc.) from operations and transportation Southwire – Manufacturing operations, sales offices
External –
Suppliers (metals, compounds, chemicals/additives, manufactured products); logistics (inbound and outbound)
Biodiversity Restoring and maintaining remediated sites and minimizing significant ecosystem impacts of activities Southwire – Manufacturing operations
External –
Suppliers (raw materials); customers (electric utilities)
View Topic
Reducing energy intensity and increasing use of alternative and renewable sources Southwire – Manufacturing operations, customer service centers, sales offices, corporate offices
External –
Suppliers (metals, compounds, chemicals/additives); customers (utilities)
View Topic
Minimizing material use and integrating sustainable attributes (e.g., recycled materials) into products and packaging; minimizing or eliminating the use of materials with negative health impacts; and maximizing material reuse at end of life Southwire – Corporate (product design), manufacturing operations, customer service centers
External –
Suppliers (metals, compounds, packaging, manufactured products); customers (all); end users (contractors, DIYers, consumers)
Operational Waste (Decreased from Tier 1)View Topic Tracking and minimizing waste (e.g., solid, toxic/hazardous, electronic) and utilizing safe
disposal methods
Southwire – All locations
Water & Wastewater (Increased from Tier 2)View Topic Controlling water usage in manufacturing facilities and office spaces by monitoring total withdrawal by source and using recycled or lower quality water whenever possible; managing water quality by reducing the release of chemical and physical contaminants into bodies of water such as rivers, streams and lakes; and minimizing spills and releases Southwire – Manufacturing operations
External –
Suppliers (metals, compounds, chemicals/additives)
Employee & Labor Relations (New Topic) Engaging in fair labor practices and work conditions for all employees; providing communication mechanisms related to employee relations; and supporting employees’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining Southwire – Manufacturing operations (Waukegan), customer service centers (Pleasant Prairie)
Employee Engagement & Development
View Topic
Providing employees with opportunities to advance their skills, experience and career through training, personal development programs and plans, coaching and more Southwire – All locations
View Topic
Creating an environment among Southwire’s board and employee population where individuals from diverse backgrounds (ethnic, cultural, generational, economic, etc.) feel included and comfortable expressing varied thoughts and perspectives Southwire – All locations
External –
Board of Directors
Talent Attraction
View Topic
Attracting talent through Southwire’s sustainability program, competitive benefits (i.e., Total Rewards) and general outreach; and promoting a positive and unified culture by encouraging open communication, collaboration and employee ownership of initiatives and social programs Southwire – All locations
Workplace Safety & Employee Well-Being
View Topic
Providing a safe workplace for our employees and contractors through the elimination of hazards and the implementation of safety training, systems and equipment; making resources available to promote the physical, emotional and financial and well-being of employees Southwire – All locations
External –
Charitable Partnerships & Donations Leveraging Southwire’s resources and expertise to create a positive societal impact through partnerships and programs to provide education, products and services to those in need Southwire – Corporate (Media and Community Relations)
External –
nonprofits and educational institutions in the communities where Southwire operates and sells our products
Communities (Decreased from Tier 1) Evaluating impacts and providing meaningful dialogue and engagement, employment and prosperity in the communities where Southwire operates Southwire – All locations
External –
Communities where Southwire operates
Employee Giving & Volunteerism Fostering opportunities for Southwire employees to “give back” through community involvement, skills-based volunteerism and grant programs Southwire – All locations
External –
communities where Southwire operates
Anti-Competitive Behavior (New Topic) Implementing policies and standards to prevent unfair competition Southwire – Corporate (sourcing), sales offices, international locations
External –
Board of Directors, outsourced agencies
Ethics, Anti-Corruption & Transparency
View Topic
Ensuring policies, communications and training are in place to promote ethical behavior (e.g., anti-corruption, bribery, extortion, money laundering, fraud and tax evasion); operating an internal audit program; maintaining a whistleblower policy and other means to safely and anonymously report transgressions; and providing accurate and transparent reporting regarding company performance, challenges and opportunities for improvement Southwire – All locations
External –
Suppliers, Customers
Marketing & Labeling (New Topic) Accurately disclosing product components and content that may produce negative environmental or social impact; and providing information on safe product use and disposal Southwire – Corporate (sales, marketing, legal); customer service centers
External –
Suppliers (manufactured products); customers (OEMs, retailers, EPCs, transit); end users (DIYers, contractors, consumers)
Public Policy Practices (New Topic) Thoughtfully participating in discussions to shape policy and ensuring third-party/trade spending aligns with Southwire’s values Southwire – Corporate (government affairs, legal, marketing)
Sustainable Supply Chain & Procurement Practices
View Topic
Ensuring a stable, low-cost materials supply; practicing ethical sourcing requiring current and prospective suppliers to adhere to strict guidelines regarding forced labor, child labor, sexual harassment, and workplace health and safety; factoring human rights, supplier diversity and location considerations into our supplier selection process; evaluating supplier performance through surveys and on-site audits for environmental, social, governance and quality management systems; and adherence to all applicable import laws Southwire – Corporate (Ssurcing)
External –
Suppliers (all); logistics (inbound and outbound)
Climate Change (Increased from Tier 3) Evaluating the financial implications, risks, and opportunities due to climate change; and increasing resilience to the effects of long-term and extreme weather events on Southwire and our customers Southwire – Corporate (product design, marketing, legal, quality, sales), manufacturing operations
External –
Shareholders; suppliers (all); inbound logistics; customers (all)
Customer Experience (New Topic) Listening to and observing our customers to fully understand their needs; developing a value proposition reflective of each customer group; providing exceptional customer service and building long-term customer relationships; and educating customers, contractors and end users on safe and effective use of Southwire products Southwire – Sales, Marketing, Product Development, Customer Service
External –
Customers (all); end users (all); industry associations/apprentices
Financial Performance (New topic)View Topic Focusing on business continuity planning, wise allocation of capital, resource and process efficiency, and delivery of superior products to drive strong long-term financial results Southwire – All locations
External –
Shareholders; suppliers; communities where Southwire operates
Indirect Economic Impacts (New Topic) Affecting the economic well-being of communities throughout Southwire’s value chain (e.g., economic impacts from the use of Southwire’s products and services and jobs supported in the supply or distribution chain) External – Communities where Southwire’s suppliers or customers have presence
Product Quality & Safety (New Topic)View Topic Paying special attention to product design, installation methods and use and integrating solutions to enhance customer and user productivity and safety; providing product/service warranties; and proactively informing customers in the unlikely event of a product recall Southwire – Corporate (product design/R&D, communications), manufacturing operations
External –
Customers; end users
Technology & Innovation
View Topic
Allocating funds to research and development, creation of new technologies and eco-friendly products, investment into defining new areas for product growth, and improving access and sustainability of products and services in the industry Southwire – Corporate (product design, marketing, IT, legal, HR); manufacturing operations, customer service centers, sales offices
External –
customers (all); end users (all)