Watch: Jim Keane on Fueling Sustainable Innovation

By Jim Keane

Steelcase has been in business for more than 100 years, creating places that unlock human promise for the world’s leading organizations. But what motivates our company and clients isn’t our products and what they can do — we’re motivated by people and what we can do together.

Actions form the foundation of culture, and we believe building a strong, sustainable business depends on getting culture right. We’re committed to unlocking human promise by moving from words to action and pursuing sustainability innovation built on inclusion.

Last spring, we made an intentional decision to relocate our leadership team from the fourth floor of our global headquarters to the ground floor of our Learning + Innovation Center. This move signals presence and accessibility, fostering empathy and building organic connections within the leadership team and with our employees and customers — something we couldn’t do from our former location. These connections help people learn cultural norms and gain a strong sense of community and alignment. When people feel included in shaping who we are as a company, they’re more likely to suggest ideas and see those ideas through. This fuels innovation and drives value for stakeholders.

As a manufacturing company, we’re always looking for new ways to demonstrate inclusivity. Sustaining our company requires we understand our role in creating jobs and ensuring the safety of everyone in our organization. That’s why, in addition to many other well-being initiatives, we’re proud to have made a significant investment to build a 1,200-person tornado shelter in our Athens, AL, factory, for example. By prioritizing people and acting in a spirit of inclusion, this was an easy decision.

This value also extends to our local and global communities. Our employees have logged more than 38,000 volunteer hours companywide — more than triple our previous year. Through innovative social partnerships with global organizations, such as Teach for India, we donated hundreds of Polyvision whiteboards to benefit children in underresourced schools in India.

In addition to our corporate and social investments, Steelcase remains committed to actions that protect the environment. Many of our environmental initiatives began with passionate employees who saw opportunities to make a difference. A few examples include: strengthening our 100 percent renewable energy portfolio, expanding our end-of-use services and diverting tons of furniture from landfills, and reducing water use and waste even as global production expanded.

We aspire to create a culture of innovation where ideas come from everywhere and innovation is everyone’s job. Because at Steelcase, sustainability begins with inclusion — inclusion that empowers people to imagine, to take risks, and to pursue initiatives that drive growth and increase our resilience.

For more on these stories and other examples of inclusion at work, please visit

*Originally published by Business Roundtable

Jim KeaneJim Keane is former President and CEO of Steelcase, a 105-year old company committed to creating places that unlock human promise for the world’s leading organizations. In his 20 years with the company, Jim has worked in various roles including COO and CFO. Jim currently serves on several boards ranging from IDEO to Design Futures Council. He is passionate about listening to and interacting with customers, and building an inclusive workplace culture that moves people from words to actions.

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