In today’s age, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has transcended mere compliance to becoming a cornerstone of any company’s business strategy. After being recognized by Newsweek as one of America’s Most Responsible Companies for the second year in a row, Winnebago Industries has cemented itself as a paragon of integrated CSR.
Seamlessly weaving environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and robust governance into the fabric of its operations, Winnebago sets a benchmark for how companies can drive sustainable growth, community engagement, and ethical leadership in the outdoor lifestyle industry.
In an interview with Modern Campground, Stacy Bogart, Winnebago’s senior vice president, general counsel, secretary, and corporate responsibility president, emphasized the integral role of CSR in the company’s business strategy, particularly its environmental efforts.
“It’s very important that we preserve the outdoors as well as enhance our community’s ability to enjoy the places where we love to travel, work, and play,” Bogart said, underscoring the alignment of CSR with Winnebago’s mission.
One of Winnebago’s strategic focus is on waste reduction, showcasing its environmental dedication. The company has set ambitious goals to divert 90% or more of its waste from landfills, a milestone already achieved by two of its Iowa locations. This initiative is part of a broader effort to mitigate climate impact and preserve the earth’s resources.
“A number of years ago, when we started this whole journey and endeavor, we signed the global UN compact, and we also did what’s called a materiality assessment. And through that process, you engage with all your stakeholders to determine what’s important to our shareholders, our customers, our employees,” Bogart said.
“And we determined that reducing the amount of waste that particularly goes to landfills is critical. And so we then work together with all our business units and enterprise experts in the area to create a strategy to make sure that we can accomplish those goals.”
The company also champions in fostering diversity and inclusion within its workforce and beyond. In its 2023 Corporate Responsibility Report, Winnebago’s board diversity reflects its commitment, with 30% women and 20% directors of color, illustrating the company’s dedication to creating a more inclusive and representative corporate culture.
“We’ve also sponsored Melanated Campout. We work with Black Folks Camp Too… and many organizations that promote diverse people being able to feel welcome and enjoy the outdoors,” she said. “It’s really something that’s imperative for us because we believe that it’s the right thing to do and it creates a more healthy society.”
Bogart remarked on the importance of this move, noting that it demonstrates to their employees and other stakeholders that they mean what they say when they value diversity. She believes that promoting outdoor activities and the industry to a diverse group of people is good for business.
Winnebago extends its CSR efforts through strategic partnerships, notably with the Nature Conservancy to support conservation projects in Florida and Minnesota.
“It’s a great organization that’s been around for a long time, and they submitted a grant request that we spent a lot of time analyzing and debating,” Winnebago’s CSR president told Modern Campground.
“Then we had several meetings with them to see if we could find some common ground to make sure that we could accelerate both of our interests in preserving the outdoors for us, particularly for our employees and our customers, to make sure that they can get out and enjoy the outdoors,” she added.
“We were able to partner with them on two really critical initiatives. One is in Florida, regarding the blue ocean, and then the second is reforestation in Minnesota, where our headquarters are.”
These initiatives, aimed at preserving the outdoors for future generations, align closely with Winnebago’s mission and values. The company’s collaboration with the Nature Conservancy underscores its commitment to environmental conservation and community engagement.
Winnebago Industries’ dedication to CSR is further evidenced by its alignment with leading global initiatives aimed at enhancing transparency and accountability in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting.
Bogart believes that governance plays a critical role in Winnebago’s CSR strategy. The company adheres to global reporting standards and engages in third-party audits to ensure the accuracy and transparency of its CSR initiatives.
“From the beginning, when we first did our materiality assessment back five years ago, we felt it’s important to align with initiatives that have been around for a long time and that are proven,” she said.
The adoption of frameworks from the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) demonstrates Winnebago’s strategic approach to CSR, ensuring its efforts are both measurable and comparable within the industry.
Addressing Infrastructure Needs for EVs and e-RVs
Amidst a growing shift towards sustainability in the recreational vehicle industry, Winnebago has been proactive in addressing the infrastructure needs for electric vehicles (EVs), including RVs. The company is at the forefront of promoting electric RVs (ERVs) and is actively involved in efforts to expand the network of charging stations across the country.
Infrastructure…is still very critical and much needed support from industry as well as the government,” Bogart said.
She highlighted the collaborative efforts with industry associations to enhance the EV infrastructure, ensuring RV enthusiasts can confidently embrace electric mobility.
Innovation remains a cornerstone of Winnebago’s environmental strategy, as the company continues to explore and implement alternative energy sources across its operations. A notable initiative is the integration of solar power at its facilities, with the Barletta facility being a recent example where creativity and sustainability intersect.
Bogart said they’re proud of all the solar that they’ve installed in their facilities. She added that it showcases the company’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint and leading by example in the use of renewable energy in manufacturing and operations.
Looking forward, Winnebago remains committed to expanding its CSR initiatives, with a focus on increasing the use of renewable energy sources and advancing the electrification of its products. These efforts demonstrate the company’s ongoing commitment to innovation and sustainability in the outdoor lifestyle industry.
Winnebago’s holistic approach to CSR—encompassing environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and governance—sets a standard for corporate responsibility in the outdoor lifestyle industry.
Through its dedicated efforts, Winnebago not only enhances its business strategy but also contributes positively to the environment and communities it serves, ensuring a sustainable future for all.
Featured image from Winnebago Industries.