Archive for February, 2009

WAL-MART AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Following a management decision in 2005 Wal-Mart Corporation decided to embrace sustainability throughout all its stores. Because “sustainability” includes both environmental care and social benefit, this decision is consistent with IPPA’s principle that ethical guidelines should inform public policies. In quoting from an article titled, “Green-Light Specials, Now at Wal-Mart” reported by Stephanie Rosenbloom and Michael Barbaro in the New York Times January 25, 2009, “Wal-Mart has done well by doing good”. Together with McDonald’s Corporation, Wal-Mart was one of only two companies in the Dow Jones Industrial average whose share price rose last year.
Wal-Mart, pushed into this effort by criticism from environmental groups for being a polluter as well as having a negative image on labor and employee health care issues, began working with activists to improve its environmental record. Wal-Mart has subsequently laid out long term goals for using renewable energy, creating zero waste and selling products that will help to sustain the earth’s resources and environment. The effect of Wal-Mart’s decision to sell fluorescent light bulbs has forced General Electric to greatly increase their production. Wal-Mart’s decision to carry only concentrated laundry detergent, has pushed Proctor and Gamble to change its manufacturing process for that product in the US and around the world. Wal-Mart predicts its customers will save more than 400 million gallons of water, 95 million pounds of plastic resin, 125 million pounds of cardboard and 520,000 gallons of diesel fuel over three years. They have also introduced recycling of loose plastic and improved fuel efficiency in their trucks by modifying their design.
Wal-Mart’s profits climbed $1.5 billion in 2008 over the 2006 fiscal year. Their total sales increased $60 billion in the same period.
Quoting Lee Scott Jr., Wal-Mart’s current CEO, “As businesses we have a responsibility to society….There is no conflict between delivering value to shareholders and helping solve bigger societal problems”.
The recent experience at Wal-Mart is an object lesson:  doing the right thing is good business.

Should we, the public, demand this type of sustainable behavior from other companies with whom we do business?  Should we demand of our legislators changes in business tax policy that will encourage similar sustainable practices? If you know of other organizations that have adopted this policy, please let us know.
IPPA looks forward to your comments.

“ULTIMATE DESIRES’ AND THEIR INFLUENCE ON PUBLIC POLICY”

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

One of our IPPA founding members, Donald J. Munro has recently published   Ethics in Action: Workable Guidelines for Private and Public Choices [Published by The Chinese University Press, Hong Kong, 2008], derived from his 2006 work at The Chinese University as the Tang Visiting Professor. In this book Munro describes five “Ultimate Desires” rooted in human evolution and common to our shared worldwide humanity. They provide both the motivation and a moral basis for the choices we make in life. These desires contain large instinctive components as well as emotional content and non- instinctive cognitive beliefs about how to satisfy these desires.
The five ultimate desires include health and well being of the body, experienced as joy/happiness and the absence of suffering; love and the desire to be loved, leading to sympathy, empathy and altruism; fairness which is linked to trust, social equality, and reciprocity/cooperation; respect and esteem and their opposite shame, which we seek to avoid;  foresight to anticipate consequences of our actions and have control over our resulting choices (autonomy). At their core is the equal worth of all humans based, among other things, on these shared traits (other traits include language and shared DNA). Most of the desires are interrelated, often linking together as clusters, as do their associated values. These ultimate desires also underlie the core values of IPPA.
To illustrate the application of these desires and values in the business world we would like to illustrate with the Fluor Corporation, a successful company providing world wide construction and engineering service. The values are manifest in the company’s efforts in global responsibility.

The following is a quote from their website [Fluor Corp. http://www.fluor.com].

Fluor strives to become increasingly effective in performing its global responsibilities.—–Fluor Corporation and its people go beyond legal requirements and traditional practices to do business in a socially, economically and environmentally responsible way. In doing so, we believe we will help benefit and sustain current and future generations.

On their web site, under global responsibility, are listed the 6 links which follow below. With each we have placed the value derivatives of the ultimate desires that seem most appropriate.

Community Involvement:   sympathy, cooperation/ reciprocity, and altruism
Diversity and Inclusion: respect and esteem
Integrity: trustworthiness and transparency
Health, Safety and Environment: Desire for the physical well being of employees and those affected by the   company’s work, recognizing the equal worth of all humans
Corporate Governance: foresight, trust, cooperation, accountability
Sustainability: foresight, fairness, environmental responsibility, and recognizing the equal worth of the lives of future generations

These policies and the implicit values which we identify are consistent with the guidelines of Fluor’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Alan Boeckmann who has said that as a leader in their industry, they focused not only on such traditional measures of success as profitability but also on a series of broader measures for doing the right thing. He added that for almost a century, those who founded and built what is now Fluor Corporation have evidenced a strong social consciousness that has helped explain the company’s duration and success.

As further expressed in Fluor’s website:

In part due to our employees’ hard work, dedication to ethics and socially responsible behavior, Fortune magazine      consistently ranks Fluor as one of America’s, and the worlds,     most-admired engineering and construction     companies.      (www.fluor.com/globalreponsibility)

IPPA would like to use this as an example to show how it is possible that these basic universal human values can guide public policies in the corporate world in “doing the right thing”.

Posted by the executive committee of IPPA