CEO Jeffrey Hollender, whose Vermont-based company Seventh Generation is a poster child for corporate conscience, has written a brave and detailed blueprint for a new paradigm of "responsible business." Written in the dog days of Enron/Inclone/Martha Stewart scandals, Hollender's vision is passionate and panoramic. "Corporate responsibility is a broad social movement centered in the corporation as much as the anti-war movement of the 1960s was centered in college campuses." He builds a persuasive case for global citizenship, with in-depth analysis of case histories (For example, the "peace pops" controversy after Ben and Jerry's ice cream was acquired by Unilever, the commitment to healthcare coverage during Starbuck's global coup d'etat).
Hollender borrows from best sellers such as Built to Last but he is willing to ask the tough questions: When do core values conflict with goals and commitments? Does being a responsible business really cost shareholders more money? How do corporate charters inhibit social responsibility? How can reputation become a corporate pressure point? His answers are provided in seven approaches to social responsibility. Each defines new metrics to define prosperity, environmental stewardship and corporate citizenship. For example, he unpacks the strategy of "transparency" in descriptions of Challenger explosion, the embedded journalists of The Gulf War and the SARs epidemic. Sometimes these powerful strategies are swamped in an overabundance of examples, sources, or acronyms of activists groups. But Hollender's comprehension shows us the forest and the trees. --Barbara Mackoff
From Publishers Weekly
The corporate scandals of recent years have underscored the growing emphasis on responsibility and accountability, and even the world's largest businesses have been heeding the call. Hollender (with writing and research assistance from professional business scribe Fenichell) checks in with Nike, McDonald's, Starbucks and other companies to see what they're doing about altering their products and processes to fit with sustainability, which values environmental impact as much as consumer satisfaction. Hollender's tenure as head of Seventh Generation, manufacturers of ecologically safe home-cleaning products, ensures his credibility on corporate social responsibility issues, though some readers might wish for more behind-the-scenes stories about grappling with those issues on a daily basis. He's also good friends with the founders of Ben and Jerry's and the organic yogurt makers Stonyfield Farm, both initially small companies that have been acquired by international food conglomerates. Will the smaller companies' values be subsumed by the bottom line or infect their new owners with progressive ideas? Hollender appears to favor "inclusive globalization," but he takes care to devote as much attention to those who would prefer a more radical outcome-crippling the giants and bolstering smaller, local economies. And he's sharply critical of both sides: McDonald's may have a long way to go, he points out, but is it really fair to attack their unhealthy menus while giving Ben and Jerry's a free pass to make fattening ice cream? This honest assessment of the difficulties corporations large and small face in fostering social change adds a welcome tone of moderate optimism to the globalization debate.
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