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Where Next for Corporate Responsibility?

Posted by Melanie on 11 March 2008

London Business School hosts a distinguished speaker series about every two months. This week it was the Chairman and CEO of Nestle, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe. (Concidently, he's from Villach, a little Austrian-Dolomite town I've driven through many times).

Prior to the event, there was a discussion on the Responsible Business Club board about wheter of not we should challenge the him regarding the controversy around their baby-milk substitutes, which is related to a boycott since 1977.  Though not confronted with this particular topic directly, Hr. Brabeck handled the brand issue swimmingly well. Acknowledged the issues, apologized for their mistakes, and called for people to judge them based on what they are doing now. Perhaps, companies (and people) learn from hard lessons...what matters is the reaction, no? Are consumers forgiving if disasters are handled well? Are shareholders forgiving?

Snippets from his speech I particularly liked:

"... more and more people have realized that Corporate Responsibility cannot be an add on to the business, but needs to be a part of the core business strategy."

He covered a handful of initiatives Nestle is championing around water conservation and women empowerment in developing countries. Then went on to close with...

"Do we do all these things for a business reason? Yes.

Are we doing it in a way that bring poor people out of poverty, creates a sustainble environment, and brings about better nutrition? Yes

And what makes them sustainable is that they aren't done with charity contributions, or grants, which always have an end point and often don't reach scale. They are a part of a business process which can be sustained for decades without outside support."

That just sounds so right.

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