Hitachi Foundation Board Dinner Welcoming Remarks
July 14, 2003
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for coming. We're here tonight to celebrate the public release of the "State of Corporate Citizenship Survey" commissioned by the Hitachi Foundation, and to welcome the sponsors and co-hosts of tomorrow's conference on public, private and community partnerships.
We're especially pleased this evening to welcome Barbara Dyer, president and CEO of the Hitachi Foundation, Joe Kasputys (Kas—POOT—is), Chairman of the Hitachi Foundation Board and President & CEO of Global Insight, and the rest of the Hitachi Foundation board.
The Hitachi Foundation was established in 1985 to improve the quality of life of underserved people in the U.S. and to help Hitachi learn how to better fulfill its duties as a corporate citizen.
Although you would never know it by reading the papers, the Hitachi Foundation and others like it are making a real difference in people's lives, and we're grateful for its hard work and dedication.
I'd also like to thank Bernie Milano of KPMG for his long-standing support of the CCC, and our friends at GM, GlaxoSmithKline, and the Rockefeller Institute for sponsoring tomorrow's conference.
My hope this evening is to have a candid discussion on the state of corporate citizenship. We know corporate citizenship is good for its own sake and also because it supports public policy objectives that are good for business. But how do we encourage more of it?
Let me begin by telling you a little about the Chamber's role in promoting and facilitating corporate citizenship.
When the Chamber started its Center for Corporate Citizenship in 1999, we planned for it to be a resource that could help companies coordinate humanitarian relief efforts like those after Hurricane Mitch and 9-11.
Today, it's a public policy center that focuses on philanthropy, ethics, community relations, and the image of business in society.
CCC assesses the impact of public policy on corporate citizenship, serves as a base for companies to organize public service coalitions, and educates the public about what companies are doing for their communities.
Philanthropy ethics community relations—all of these things are part of corporate citizenship, but that's not all it is.
People are realizing that corporate citizenship increasingly is about how you manage relationships with key interest groups—like investors, customers, employees, and local communities.
Corporate citizenship used to be looked at as outside a company's core mission, but now it is viewed as an important part of business marketing, investor relations, and HR management.
As the definition of corporate citizenship expands and evolves, CCC will evolve with it, helping companies to become better citizens in every way, shape, and form.
Before I open the floor for discussion, let me briefly mention two factors that I think are having a tremendous impact on corporate citizenship.
First, businesses are trying to do more with fewer resources because of difficult economic conditions.
The current economic reality is affecting the public and non-profit sectors as well.
State and local governments are being forced to cut community programs because they are facing their biggest fiscal crisis in more than half a century.
Non-profits are struggling to fulfill their missions because of fewer donations.
Individual giving is down because of rising unemployment and the underperforming stock market of the past few years.
So any discussion about corporate citizenship has to include a conversation about public policy that will get the economy moving again.
A second major factor affecting corporate citizenship is the public's poor perception of business. Individually, some businesses are rightly recognized as good citizens, but collectively, business is not seen as a positive force.
We run into this way of thinking on Capitol Hill all the time. Many members of Congress have great relationships with individual businesses. They appreciate Hitachi or General Motors or KPMG, but they don't have the same feelings for business in general because of unfair stereotypes or misperceptions.
These misperceptions are pretty hard to overcome – we learned that during the recent responses to corporate misconduct.
There are more than 17,000 publicly traded companies in the U.S., and only a couple dozen of them have been accused of wrongdoing.
Yet Congress, the regulatory agencies, and opinion leaders were quick to put the entire business community on trial while assuming the roles of judge, jury, and executioner.
Some of the reforms contained in Sarbanes-Oxley will scare auditors away from reviewing corporate books and giving honest advice, make it more difficult for companies to attract good directors, and otherwise completely discourage risk-taking by company leaders.
When companies fail to take risks, there is little economic growth or job creation, which in turn means fewer available resources for community development.
The Chamber and CCC stand ready to work with everyone here to help rebuild public trust and improve the image of business while countering efforts to unfairly mischaracterize us.
Hitachi is one of our strongest supporters partners is this endeavor. At this time, I'd like to invite Joe Kasputys [Kas-POOT-is], the CEO and Chairman of the Board of the Hitachi Foundation, to share some of his thoughts on the state of corporate citizenship at Hitachi and the direction of corporate citizenship in general.
Afterwards, we'll open up the floor for general discussion.