As 2012 begins, I derive a great deal of hope and inspiration for a better world from the people I met at Thunderbird School of Global Management’s Global Business Dialogue. There, I had the honor of moderating a panel on “Sustainable Prosperity: Can Greed Save the Planet.” And together with more than 1,000 business executives, government officials, social sector leaders, entrepreneurs and scholars, we spent two days engrossed in topics from emerging market growth to entrepreneurship and renewable energy.
Dr. Angel Cabrera, President of the Thunderbird School of Global Management, which is widely recognized as number one among international business schools, envisioned this global forum a year ago. Speakers were among the world’s most prominent leaders and thinkers, including some whom I knew from annual meetings of the Clinton Global Initiative and programs presented by The Economist. As Mia Haugen, Executive Producer, TheStreet, said when opening her session on Economic Empowerment, “This dialogue today is by far the most interesting event I have attended in a long time.”
As with any of the very best international meetings, the conversations during breaks and meals were as valuable as the formal speaking programs. And one emerges from such events with new and renewed friendships as well as fresh insights and thinking.
Jed Emerson, co-author of Impact Investing: Transforming How We Make Money While Making A Difference, whose book I had recently read and reviewed was a lively and generous contributor on my panel. So was Suhas Apte, Vice President, Global Sustainability, Kimberly-Clark, where the board of directors has integrated sustainability into the company’s core business strategy. Our panel was opened by Professor Gregory Unruh, Director of the Lincoln Center for Global Ethics at Thunderbird. Professor Unruh also developed and leads the Executive Certificate in Corporate Social Responsibility.
One of my personal favorites was Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, author of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana; she served on Haugen’s panel. Another speaker who has introduced transformative ideas about leadership and business is Matthew Bishop, co-author, Philanthrocapitalism, and US Business Editor and New York Bureau Chief of The Economist. Bishop served on the Financial Solutions panel.
Here’s why the people and conversations at Thunderbird's Global Business Dialogue lead me to believe that business and society are moving in the right direction: At the Global Business Dialogue, we met and heard from business leaders who are leading the way in fostering economic development, preserving the environment, countering corruption, improving board governance, and promoting transparency and corporate accountability.
Imagine boards of directors of companies simply saying no to mining minerals in ways that create incentives for violence and conflict, and no to employment practices that virtually enslave children. Imagine boards of directors insisting on fair wages, healthcare, clean water, and education for all of their employees around the world. Not only would the world be a better place, but companies would have exponentially larger markets for their products. That’s a lot of money for shareholders.
Corporate Global Vision (CGV) is my new term for companies that are building shareholder value by envisioning and advancing a better world with respect for human rights and the environment. I describe it further in the Huffington Post.
You and I are not bystanders in CGV. You and I are the key players every single day. We wear clothes, talk on phones, eat food, and otherwise consume goods and services offered in the marketplace. Now that some companies distinguish themselves by improving their social and environmental practices, we can make choices and purchase from those companies. With new information, available through a variety of resources, we can become more educated consumers and investors and vote with our wallets.
CGV is on its way. The smartest companies are leading the way. Listen to their videos. And with more meetings like this one organized by Dr. Angel Cabrera and Thunderbird School of Global Management, companies can share and learn from each other, and build partnerships with expert NGOs. Together we can build a better world.