Keynote Speech by Alice Tepper Marlin, Stern-Citi Conference on CSR in a Global Environment, February 22, 2008
(Introduced by Dean Tom Cooley.)
Thank you Tom... What an honor and pleasure it has been to serve as a Distinguished Fellow at the Stern School!
Just three weeks ago, the Financial Times reported: “Business school students once coveted jobs in finance and consulting. Now they want to save the world… Recent years have seen greater employee crossover between corporate, non-profit & public sectors, and this … has created more professional non-profits and a business world with a burgeoning social conscience.”
Certainly there’s plenty of reason for it. The challenges we face remind me of the sixties when I graduated. We were fighting an unpopular and discredited war, in Vietnam.A vast gulf separated black and white America, our cities erupted in violence, Newark burned.Air and water pollution brought hundreds of thousands out into the streets for the first Earth Day in 1971.Martin Luther King had a dream, and we shared it.JFK asked us to ask not what our country could do for us but what we could do for our country.
I and many of my friends were inspired to commit our lives to breaking the cycle of poverty, and to end the war.We vowed to live more simply, to “walk lightly on the earth”.We gained some ground: the Clean Air and Water laws, the end of the war, the concept and practical application of corporate social responsibility in business as more than charitable giving.
Like the social entrepreneurs of today, I saw that I needed to do more than march in the streets, and that I needed more than a liberal arts degree to make a difference. I needed business skills. So I majored in economics at Welleseley and was fortunate to get a job as a securities analyst at a major Wall St firm.
There were only six female analysts on Wall St then, and most top business schools did not admit women -- NYU was a rare exception --and it was excellent training. Those days were a bull market and Wall Street was fun and easy. I planned to go into venture capital for minorities after learning a thing or two the practical aspects of business.
But life intervened, and it was serendipity. A religious group asked my boss to manage their pension funds but not invest in any companies producing weapons for the war in Vietnam. He gave the portfolio to manage, so I created the first “peace portfolio”.The Wall St Journal and the NY Times picked up the story, 700 people contacted me including Yale and the Rockefeller & Ford Foundations.
We were on a roll. We set up the Council on Economic Priorities to get the information we needed to build on the peace portfolio, digging up the data and designing the rating system needed to launch the SRI field.Today the Social Investment Forum reports 1 in 9 investment dollars is screened for at least one social or environmental factor and votes proxies on social issues at some 200 companies every year.
I’d given up the inflation-adjusted best paying job of my life – among the highest of women my age at the time – to work for $50/week, but I felt elated, as if my life made a difference in the world.And through my work, I was fortunate to meet my husband John, who shared my vision, found a positive relationship between a company’s pollution control and its financial success that was the subject of an editorial in Business Week, “The Good Guys Wear White Hats”. 36 years later, he now teaches CSR here at Stern School.
Our next step was to bring consumers into the game. We simplified our ratings to make it fast & easy for consumers to check, and produced ---------------Shopping for a Better World------------------------------------------- People loved it.The book sold more than a million copies, Ballantine Books made it a mass paperback, the media pitched in with big stories in Time, NYT, Wash Post, Newsweek + hundreds of local papers, and interviews on Today, GMA & CNN. 4 out of 5 readers told us they actually changed their purchases on the basis of our ratings on advancement of women & minorities, environmental impact, humane treatment of animals – 8 criteria in all. We even began doing annual ratings for Fortune Magazine. -------------Fortune------------------------------------ There’s one big difference, though, between the seventies & eighties and today. •Except for apartheid in South Africa and the war in Vietnam, we were looking at America, virtually in isolation. And similar groups in Europe and Japan too were doing the same thing: rating companies headquartered and operating primarily in their home countries, according to national laws and values. •Then in the early 90s it all changed. We did a SBW for students, rating for the first time apparel and sportswear companies.But the ratings for the first time did not ring true TO US. We REALIZED WE had captured the design and marketing operations of these companies, but completely missed what happened where the clothes and running shoes were made – the polluting sweatshops in Asia and Central America that these brands did not own or operate. •-------------------------China photo---------------------------------- •The filthy WORKplaces that activists, CNN and the internet had just begun to bring into our living rooms and our consciousness.The frail and insecure first rungs on the ladder of survival for the lucky among the desperately poor billions on our planet. The 250 million children working full time – often under hazardous conditions, some sold into slavery --. •---------------------VN photo-------------------------- •So we moved on from the CEP to found a new organization, SAI. •We recruited a multi-stakeholder board – brands, factory owners, NGOs, trade unions – a global group. We brought conflict prevention and conflict resolution techniques to enable the group to reach consensus on a global standard for decent work, SA8000. •It was based on the human rights and employment conventions of the UN + national labor law ANDa management system to implement it and enable reliable audits. We developed a system of oversight to verify the quality and consistency of those audits and licensed organizations to certify those factories and farms than could demonstrate they meet the standard.Today that job is done by an independent organization, SAAS.Today 700,000 people work ATfacilities certified to SA8000, in 64 countries and 67 industrial sectors. •Along with the Ethical Trade Initiative and FLA, we work with the global brands as well as smaller ones, to improve working conditions all along their supply chain. We encourage them to do the same for environmental standards like organic, Rainforest Alliance and the Forest Stewardship Council, and to report to the public in accordance with the GRI guidelines. •---------------working with us----------------------- •AD lib: some you’ll hear from today. Here’s what a few of the others are doing: TNT, Switcher. BIG NEW DEVELOPMENT -BSCI – 100 OF LARGEST RETAILERS IN EUROPE. MORE THAN A TRILLION DOLLARS OF BUYING POWER. ••---------------------------Ruggie------------------------- •New laws will be needed.But it’s primarily a question of failure to enforce.We’ll need to beef up the will and technical ability of government and provide the requisite resources. Most of all, we must engender a global culture of compliance, for we can’t post a cop in every workplace and household. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and it is us.”
•This CSR approach is not designed to replace government.It’s designed to support and supplement the rule of law: the enactment of laws congruent with international conventions and their effective enforcement. After all, if government had proven itself capable of and willing to do the job alone, we would not today be facing such monumental challenges, global threats to security, and even the sustainability of life on earth. Too often government lacks the will, the mandate and the resources to do the job alone. And just as often, the victims do not know their rights, are afraid to appeal to the government, and don’t even speak the language of the country where they work. •The job may seem TOO DIFFICULT TO CONTEMPLATE, but there are lots of tools. Take a look at BSR, SVN, Net Impact, GRI, ISEAL.Check out the web when you decide where to work, to intern, to invest, to volunteer, and to shop. •And look for role models. Today we’ll hear from path-makers who can show us the way. These are executives of some of the leading edge companies in CSR, along with another standards and technical assistance group and a professor doing real world research testing actual consumer CSR buying on the web. •You’ll hear about benchmark companies, working to deliver human rights at work, to measure & report progress, and to do so in a manner that redounds to the bottom line. •Just remember, stories like this are SO FAR rare, not typical. … WE HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO.
The Stern-Citi Foundation Conference, February 22, 2008
Corporate Social Responsibility in the Global Environment
Fifth Annual Conference in Leadership & Ethics
9:15 am Welcoming Remarks - Dean Thomas F. Cooley, NYU Stern School of Business
9:30 am Opening Keynote Presentation - Alice Tepper Marlin, President, Social Accountability International Fifth Annual City Distinguished Fellow in Ethics and Leadership Her remarks are posted at left. Her slides are posted below.
10:30 am Panel Discussion CSR as a Founder's Vision and Brand Builder
Moderator: Edwin M. Hartman, Peter Schoenfeld Visiting Faculty Fellow & Visiting Professor of Business Ethics, NYU Stern School of Business
Panelists: Susan M. Schor, Chief Culture Officer, EILEEN FISHER, Inc. Daniel Katz, Founder, Rainforest Alliance; Environment Program Director, The Overbrook Foundation Michael J. Hiscox, Professor of Government, Harvard University
12:00 pm Luncheon - Keynote Remarks Anant G. Nadkarni, Vice President, Group Corporate Sustainability, Tata Council for Community Initiatives, Tata Group
1:30 pm Panel Discussion CSR and "The Mainstream"
Moderator: Bruce Buchanan, C. W. Nichols Professor of Business Ethics & Professor of Marketing, NYU Stern School of Business
Panelists: Pamela P. Flaherty, President & CEO, Citi Foundation and Director of Corporate Responsibility, Citi Dan Henkle, Senior Vice President of Corporate Responsibility, Gap Inc. Tom DeLuca, Vice President of Compliance, Toys "R" Us (retired)