To date, most corporations have left the politicization process up to politicians and concentrated on doing their business well, by making money for the company and for their shareholders.

Beginning within the past year, a number of corporations have started looking at ways to fulfill the wishes of the public while continuing to operate smoothly-running companies.  One of the trigger-points has been a survey of 80,000 Americans about what they expect from corporations regarding the employees, the environment, customers and products, the community, shareholders and human rights (this information from a recent article in Forbes.)  The result has shown that the country (if 80,000 of them are any indication) is not nearly as divided as we have been assuming.  Large majorities of the 80,000 believe that companies should pay their workers fairly, protect their customers’ privacy, and minimize pollution.  The American public sees employees’ benefits as equally important to that of a fair wage – 82% of those surveyed believe that there should be paid maternity leave.  Semiconductor Nividia, which ranks first among the top 100 employers’ list, provides 22 weeks of paid leave to new mothers and offers a concierge service that does up to six hours of errands per month.  Adobe (which ranks #9 in that listing) offers up to $20,000. reimbursement for fertility drugs and up to 100 hours of child care per year.  Most of the top 100 companies have also conducted pay equity studies in their companies, in order to ensure that there is equal pay for equal work.  Twenty-nine of the companies on the top 100 list (including VMware, Proctor&Gamble and General Mills) have signed up for an initiative that requires them to adopt carbon-redction efforts.  Proctor&Gamble, which is #8 on the list of 100 and is one of the world’s largest generators of plastic waste, has developed a Tide container that is more cardboard than plastic and a Head&Shoulders bottle made from recycled plastic.  Interestingly, the shampoo bottle also gets more display prominence by retailers who want to signal to customers that they, too, are interested in better emissions awareness.  Proctor&Gamble’s CEO David Taylor describers his company as “Always in compliance with local laws, but going further than that … by developing products that solve the problems that consumers identify.”  That doesn’t necessarily mean that socially conscious employees and consumers get to call all the shots, but Brad Smith, CEO of Microsoft says that his company is not going to make editorial decisions to “cut away customers, whether it’s in government of the private sector” but “we’re going to have ethical principles.”  Which can be interpreted to mean that they will refuse deals with foreign governments that don’t meet their standards on human rights or societal needs.  Interestingly enough, the needs of corporations – more revenue, less cost – are dovetailing nicely with the needs of workers, customers and the public interests.  Whistleblower reporting data have been able to display that the companies that took these reports seriously and acted on them were able to experience 7% fewer lawsuits and paid 20 percent less when they were sued.  The current trend toward self-regulation by companies has only begun to heat up – and perhaps if it moves fast enough it will “head off clunkier attempts by government to achieve the same goals.”

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