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Although a company may be a private entity from a strictly legal viewpoint, we consider a business to be a public body belonging to the society at large, with an obligation to be a socially responsible and environmentally friendly company. In a self-organizing process, to use the metaphor of organism, every cell has its own identity as well as a clear sense of its place in the system.
As a socially responsible and ethical sourcing company that employs resources of our society in pursuit of gainful enterprise, we recognize our imperative to have a business approach that is socially and environmentally responsible as well as economically logical.
Today’s complex and evolving business setting requires that ethical companies steer an intertwined set of economic, social, and environmental challenges. These factors drive all aspects of commercial operations: from supply chain to marketplace, from employee engagement to investor return.
Our commitment to our social responsibility emanates from our corporate as well as personal convictions. We believe in principles of sustainable procurement enshrined in concepts such as circles of sustainability and triple bottom lines.
In a broader sense, however, we are realistic about needing the help of our customers, affiliates, suppliers and, above all, the broader citizenry (who drive the economy and the society) to be able to implement our ideas.
Our Human and Organizational Relationships
Like most global companies today, we often do not own or directly control the factories that make our products. We are, however, fully cognizant of the responsibility the society places on us in terms of sharing the consequences of the policies, decisions, and actions throughout the value chain. Leveraging our business principles of ethics and social responsibility, we seek to influence and encourage our affiliates and suppliers in aiming towards policies in the interest of the society at large.
Given this intricate context, we believe that the most fundamental competence an ethical and socially responsible company has in discharging its complex social obligations is its capacity to develop and sustain effective human and organizational relationships. Despite all the pressures of a highly competitive environment, we still believe that the business arena provides the opportunity to practice Aristotelian virtues: courage, justice, magnanimity, temperance — and more.
Consequently, our relationships with our affiliates and clients are designed to be challenging yet non-adversarial; innovative and entrepreneurial yet inclusive and open-minded; results-based yet far-sighted with a definition of performance that goes well beyond dollars and cents.
Our Eco Awareness
The term “sustainability” has gained wide currency ever since the United Nations World Commission on the Environment and Development introduced this concept in 1987 – in a report entitled “Our Common Future.” In the report, sustainable development is defined as “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
This is indeed a tall order; and there are few, if any, indications that the world is moving closer to that goal than it was on the day of the above proclamation. Brazil, for example, lost a record 25,000 sq km of its rain forest last year. Overall, the world has already lost half of its rain forest over the last century, while temperatures on the West Antarctic Peninsula over the last fifty years have risen by 4.5° F. Today, the Glacier National Park has only about 20% of the glacier content compared to when it was officially established a national park by President Taft circa 1910. By 2030, the Glacier National Park is likely not to have any glaciers.
This information does not simply represent a belief system; these are observable scientific facts. Change that should happen in geologic time (driven by nature) is taking place in human life time (driven by human activity alone). In the long run, the delicately-balanced eco-systems may unpredictably evolve to the point where the natural cycles of interdependent creatures may fall out of sync, leaving the human and other species no room to run.
The purpose behind the last two paragraphs is to highlight the reality that the solutions to the intricate eco problems are beyond the ability of a single individual, company, or government. Yet the solutions require a contribution from them all. In other words, we need a tidal wave of awareness about these predicaments we face as one single human community. Only then can we even hope to achieve the elusive balance whereby environmental and economic aspects exist side by side and reinforce one another.
In a practical sense, interpreting Justice Louis Brandeis’ observation that sunshine is the best disinfectant, we believe that greater social responsibility is a function of greater transparency — assuming, of course, the prevalence of a fundamentally ethical socio-political system. We are committed to both halves of the equation: social responsibility and transparency.
Our Concept of the Preservation of Native Cultures and Social Cohesion
While there is occasional discussion taking place in the business circles about the disappearance of rainforests and glaciers, its core thrust tends to be mainly expressed as meteorological and geological. What generally does not get much attention is the loss humanity is suffering because of weakening social structures, and disappearing languages and cultures.
In Brazil alone, during the 20th century, over 90 tribes are known to have disappeared. Along with them also vanished the knowledge and wisdom gathered over thousands of years that passed through oral tradition from generation to generation. The inherent worth of such a cultural treasure cannot be determined in material terms. The loss is thus immeasurable.
Linguists predict that of about the 7,000 known languages in the world today, well over half of them would cease to exist by the end of the century. According to Professor Stephen Anderson of Yale University, “the main force driving language extinction today is economic globalization.”
Going beyond sound bites, however, it needs to be clearly understood as to what aspect of economic globalization may in fact cause serious damage to native cultures and social systems. Our company’s philosophy of social responsibility stems from a deep understanding of these issues.
Another issue of concern is the general lack of understanding about the over-consumption of resources on the one hand, and the inequity in such utilization on the other. Such a situation leads to myriad problems: wastefulness, destitution, injustice, and violent conflict. Even though we are a North American company, we have learned not to look at the world solely through the North American prism in this regard.
Our definition of globalization, therefore, is rooted in the concepts of fair trade and preservation of native languages and cultures.