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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Compassionate Capitalism : Not An Oxymoron

(Via 800ceoread) Todd.S quotes Marc Gunther as saying,"during the dot-com era, having a great place to work was about perks - bringing your per to the office or having a concierge to take take your laundry. Now that's a radically different climate. The collapse of the stock market , the corporate scandals and September 11 have all changed the world of work. Now having a great place to work means creating a company where you can have a sense of purpose. It's a company where you can bring your whole self to work, be engaged by the mission the company is pursuing and be passionate about what you do." Marc Gunther, author of the book Faith and Fortune: The Quiet Revolution to Reform American Businesswrites "Major corporations are becoming more open and a substantial transformation is happening in their outlook towards society". Excerpts with edits and my comments added:

CEO’s define "values" more broadly than politicians to mean the beliefs and principles that govern their business practices - how they do what they do, in essence. And, despite Enron and other scandals, the truth is that many of America's big companies are becoming more socially responsible, more green, more diverse, more transparent and more committed to serving the common good -as well as the bottom line.
On worker rights:
Hewlett Packard, Dell and IBM have agreed on a far-reaching code of conduct to protect the health, safety, labor and human rights of people who work for their suppliers in the developing world. Their suppliers, who make electronics in Mexico, China and Southeast Asia, will be audited to ensure compliance. Factories that fail the tests will have to reform or lose business. Social activists praised the computer makers, ordinarily arch rivals, for joining together to protect workers' rights. No law requires them to do so.
On affirmative action : Corporate America also finds itself to the left of Washington. When the U.S. Supreme Court took up the issue of affirmative action last year, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Intel and Microsoft filed briefs supporting the University of Michigan, which considers race as one factor in its admissions decisions.
On Environemnt: Home Depot and Lowe's have pledged to stop buying wood from endangered forests in such places as Indonesia and Brazil. Staples opposed the Bush administration's decision to permit commercial logging in roadless areas of the Alaskan national forest. UPS operates more than 1,800 vehicles that use "alternative fuels" rather than gasoline, including electric-powered vans in New York City. Sustainability has become a buzzword in corporate circles.
Climate Change: DuPont, once labeled America's worst polluter, is remaking itself from an oil-and-chemicals company into an environmentally friendly life sciences firm; it has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent since 1990. American Electric Power, the biggest coal-burning utility, has voluntarily agreed to reduce its carbon emissions; it is investing in renewable energy and planting trees, to offset its contribution to global warming, in Louisiana, Bolivia and Brazil. Environmentalists aren't satisfied, but they do see progress.
Openness : Leading companies are becoming more open. Gap Inc. issued a warts-and-all report this year, acknowledging that some overseas workers who make its clothes have been mistreated; the company vowed to do better. When it comes to the daunting problem of global poverty, influential business thinkers C.K. Prahalad and Stuart L. Hart have persuaded Unilever, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson and others to explore ways to profitably serve the world's 4 billion poor and promote economic development by making businesses out of manufacturing low-cost utilitarian products such as water purification pills.
These companies are mainstays of the Fortune 500, This liberal tilt of big business has not generated much press attention as much as buisness scandals.

"If you want to be a great company today," Jeff Immelt, GE's CEO, likes to say, "you have to be a good company."
When asked why GE has begun to talk more openly about corporate citizenship, he said: "The reason why people come to work for GE is that they want to be about something that is bigger than themselves." As Immelt suggests, the biggest driver of corporate reform is the desire of companies to attract people who seek meaning as well as money from their work. Few of us go to our jobs every day to enhance shareholder value. Younger people, especially, want to work for companies with a mission that goes beyond the bottom line. To be sure, there are plenty of corporations indifferent to to the rights and wrongs of corporate behavior. But, the bottom line is that a growing number of companies have come to believe that moral values, broadly and liberally defined, can help drive shareholder values. And that is a case study from which everyone could learn. Interesting perspective and an interesting read too.

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