Ethics and Social Responsibility: Convergence or Divergence?

November 2004 Volume II Number 4

Net Contents
I. Network Presentation
Key Learnings
Perspectives

II. What’s Next?

III. The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future
The Concept of the Network

I. Network Presentation
A big thank you to those who took the time to attend WNSF’s luncheon panel on October 4, 2004: “Ethics and Social Responsibility: Convergence or Divergence?” The event was hosted by Bertelsmann at the law offices of Hunton & Williams in New York City. Speakers highlighted the importance of ethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR) in three different industries, media, pharmaceuticals and public relations.

Key Findings

  • The key question, should ethics and social responsibility converge or diverge within a company, was easily answered: CSR needs strong backing by strong company ethics.
  • A related question, why corporate ethics and social responsibility sometimes appear to diverge, was harder to answer. If disconnected from ethics, CSR programs are likely to serve simply as window dressing.
  • It takes top management’s determination to ensure that a company thoroughly adopts and upholds its own ethics standards. CEOs who throw their weight behind corporate codes of conduct are more likely to create the trickle down effect that can ensure compliance.
  • Embedding a CSR program in the strategic business plan and review system tends to motivate employees to internalize the company’s code of conduct. Faced with challenging ethical situations, employees are more likely to understand how the company would expect them to behave.
  • Ethics policies and codes of conduct should apply within the company and among employees, as well as to business conducted with stakeholders outside the company.

Perspectives

Moderator: ANN GOODMAN, Acting Executive Director, WNSF

Speakers:

  • ANDREA BONIME-BLANC, Senior Vice President, Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer, Bertelsmann, Inc.
  • JACQUELINE E. BREVARD, Esq. Vice President, Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, Merck & Co., Inc.
  • EMMANUEL TCHIVIDJIAN, Senior Vice President, Ruder Finn

II. What’s Next?

  • WNSF held its last luncheon panel, Community Engagement: Local and Global, on December 6, from noon to 2pm at BP headquarters in NYC. Net Notes for this panel will be distributed soon.
  • WNSF will hold its next luncheon panel on February 8. Invitations and details will be sent shortly.
  • In early November, WNSF held its first Businesswomen’s Sustainability Leadership Summit in New York, bringing together 100 business leaders to confer on businesswomen’s roles in advancing social responsibility and sustainability at companies.
  • Also in November, WNSF chair, Joyce La Valle, spoke on behalf of WNSF at the Business for Social Responsibility conference in New York, serving as interviewer on a panel on a panel about the Calvert principles on women.

III. The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future
The Concept of the Network

The Network provides a forum for business and professional women to congregate, reflect, and act on the converging issues of corporate social responsibility and sustainable development. Through meetings and simple electronic support tools, the Network aims to facilitate the exchange of experiences and best practices on these vital workplace issues. By creating a new network of executive women, the Network seeks to improve responsible practices in workplaces; sensitize corporate culture more generally to issues of sustainability and social responsibility; and encourage a public commitment locally, nationally, and internationally to sustainability principles.

The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future is a 501c3 organization.

For more information, please contact:

Ann Goodman, Acting Executive Director
Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future
Please direct inquiries to: info@wnsf.org

Board of Directors: CHAIR: Joyce LaValle, Senior Vice President, Interface Inc.; Muni Figueres, formerly of the Costa Rican Foundation for Sustainable Development; Joanne Fox-Przeworski, Director, Bard Center for Environmental Policy, Bard College; Ann Goodman, Acting Executive Director, WNSF; Sarah Howell, Director, Corporate Communications, BP; Michele Kahane, Special Projects Director, Corporate Citizenship Program, Boston College; Clair Krizov, Executive Director of Environmental and Social Responsibility, AT&T; Kathy Robb, Esq., Partner and Head of Environmental Practice, Hunton & Williams; Deborah Sliter, Vice President of Programs, National Environmental Education & Training Foundation.

This issue of Net Notes was written by Irmintraud Jost. WNSF thanks founding sponsors AT&T and the Ford Foundation for their generous support.

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