Business, NGO and Policy Leaders Join the President to Discuss How Companies Can Be Agents of Positive Social Change
NEW YORK, March 15 /PRNewswire/ — President Bill Clinton told business and policy leaders at Economist Conferences' Corporate Citizenship event that Haiti has "the best chance in my lifetime to build a modern, functioning nation," but that significant near and long-term challenges remain. The former president called on the corporate community to address these challenges in Haiti and other societal issues by "figuring out where you can make the biggest difference" in applying resources. He further asserted that companies with a global reach have a duty to improve the environment in which they operate.
Clinton's remarks in conversation with Matthew Bishop, the U.S. business editor of The Economist and the conference chairman, closed the first day of a two-day conference that brings together top leaders from the public and private sectors to discuss how companies can play a more positive leadership role in society.
Turning closer to home, Clinton argued that both corporations and the public stand to benefit from job creation and economic growth stemming from health care reform, regulation of the finance sector and cap and trade legislation. He expressed the belief that health care reform advocates must "defend the morality, but argue the jobs" and predicted that America will pay a "terrible economic price" absent meaningful reform.
Prior to the President's remarks, speakers and panelists examined the role of the corporation in addressing critical societal challenges, including environmental stewardship and ethical leadership.
Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry's, called on business to go beyond corporate philanthropy efforts in serving the needs of society, arguing that business should play the role of watchdogs in calling attention to inefficient government spending and advocating for more efficient uses of taxpayer money.
Jeffrey Swartz, president and CEO of Timberland, urged businesses and consumers to consider recent economic turmoil as an opportunity to foster a "better capitalism," which he said has forced companies to make much more precise business cases for sustainability. Citing his work with Nike and Adidas, he emphasized the benefits that companies can yield benefit through cooperation with their competitors on social issues like labor rights and environmental impact.
Looking forward to the second day of the conference, participants will delve deeper into topics of corporate responsibility, including discussions on international aid, job creation, sustainability and financial education:
"International aid: Striking the balance" will examine the role of business in addressing international aid concerns, with a focus on re-directing aid flows towards business and entrepreneurial opportunities. Panelists Matt Lonner of Chevron, Jane Nelson of the Harvard Kennedy School, Susan Smith Ellis of (RED) and others will consider the impact of public-private partnerships in developing countries.
"Job Creation: The Long View" will explore the role of business in tackling unemployment and job creation. Panelists Leo Hindery, Jr. of InterMedia Partners, Jim Whaley of Siemens Foundation and U.S. Department of Labor Deputy Secretary Seth Harris will discuss how companies can better focus on the long-term health of their business and society, as well as the shift from an economy driven by consumption to an employment culture.
"Finance: Restoring Trust" will consider the state of the global finance as it relates to consumers. Panelists Jed Emerson of Blended Value Propositions, John Hope Bryant of Operation Hope, Mark Standish of RBC Capital Markets and Diana Taylor of Wolfensohn & Co. will discuss whether companies have a moral imperative to undertake business practices that protect consumers an how business can reestablish trust with society in the wake of the financial crisis.
For more information and a full schedule and agenda, please visit www.corpcitizen.economist.com.