Companies Describe 'Compact' Achievements

By Ed Cohen | Spring 2011

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Coca-Cola is giving Haitian farmers advice on how to grow mangos for Coke’s Odwalla-brand Mango Tango smoothies.

Alcoa is bringing drinkable water, hospitals and schools to an Amazon rainforest community, where the company plans to mine bauxite (aluminum ore) for 80 years.

These are two examples of how signatories of the United Nations Global Compact are doing good while doing well financially. They talked about their successes at a major conference held in March at the Mendoza College of Business.

The UN Millennium Development Goals: The Global Compact and The Common Good Conference brought together scholars, government officials, company executives and UN representatives to discuss practical and conceptual issues involved in world poverty. More than a dozen Notre Dame faculty participated, including Dean Carolyn Woo.

Conference organizer Rev. Oliver Williams, C.S.C., director of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Religious Values in Business, said the main purpose of the event was to help people understand that business can serve the common good in two ways: by bringing wages, goods and services to communities; and by “helping the many who are not even in the market because they lack the skills and the resources to acquire them.”

At the conference, representatives of several well-known companies, including Microsoft, Nestlé, Novartis, KPMG, Merck, Deloitte & Touche and Levi Strauss, described their firms’ initiatives in connection with the UN Global Compact. The document’s 10 principles promote human rights and labor rights, enhance care for the environment and encourage anti-corruption measures.

A representative of the global aluminum company Alcoa described the company’s development efforts in relation to a bauxite mine it opened two years ago in the Amazon rainforest. The area is home to about 47,000 people who survive on an average of $23 a month, he said.

To spur economic development, Alcoa formed a community council, then seeded a microdevelopment fund; built schools, a hospital and a government office; dug deepwater wells and sponsored business-training programs. The representative said Alcoa wants to turn the facility over to capable local citizens as quickly as possible.

A Coca-Cola Company representative described his company’s efforts in line with the Compact. Project Haiti Hope aims to teach Haitian mango-growers better production methods so they can sell to Coke brands, such as Odwalla fruit drinks. Coca-Cola is one of the world’s largest buyers of fruit for ingredients in its beverages.

The Notre Dame conference was convened by the UN Global Compact Office, the Mendoza College Center for Ethics and Religious Values in Business and the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME). It was presented in conjunction with the Notre Dame Forum on the Global Marketplace and the Common Good, a yearlong series of activities intended to examine the role of ethics, morals and values in the rebuilding and reshaping of the global economy.