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  Cassandra Pulley ' 76
  © Nathan Mandell
Cassandra Pulley ' 76

Global leadership demands social responsibility, say Kellogg experts

by Ed Finkel

Corporations that pay attention to the "triple bottom line" of financial, social and environmental outcomes come out ahead in all three areas, said panelists at the Kellogg School's Innovating Social Change Conference, held Oct. 5 at the James L. Allen Center.

All sectors, organizations and individuals have a social responsibility that flows from individual values and personal integrity, said Cassandra Pulley '76, vice president of corporate responsibility for Sara Lee Corp. and president of the Sara Lee Foundation.

"Social responsibility begins with the individual," Pulley said "No code of conduct ... will ensure that people do the right thing."

Pulley acknowledged that it is difficult to think about social responsibility during trying economic times because "a social investment is a long-term outcome," she said. But "short-term focus is part of what's wrong with corporate America right now."

Paul Dolan, partner with the Mendocino Wine Co., presented his longer-term focus as the morning keynote speaker. Dolan discovered he could produce a better-tasting wine without using chemicals - a process that is also environmentally friendlier.

"We can't treat the Earth as our superstore or the forests as our lumber yard." Dolan said.

Experts on a panel titled "Does Responsibility Lead to Profitability?" discussed how they had become more socially aware.

Tom Wistar, senior program manager for global care initiatives at Abbott Laboratories, travels throughout Africa to assist children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. He believes such initiatives, and the opportunities for employees to participate in them, help the company's recruiting and retention efforts. "People want to know the company they're working for is doing the right thing," Wistar said.

Starbucks became the first publicly traded company to provide health insurance to part-time workers, said Sue Mecklenberg, vice president of business practices and corporate social responsibility at the coffee retailer. As a result, her firm has enjoyed less employee turnover, lower training costs and greater morale, she said.

Companies must provide incentives to make corporate social responsibility a priority, said Joyce LaValle, senior vice president of human services for Interface Flooring Systems. "Now, we're more oriented toward cost-cutting," she said. "We don't count the right things."

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University