Remarks at the 12th Annual Secretary's Awards for Corporate Excellence
Secretary of State
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MS. MCCARTHY: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Department of State’s historic Benjamin Franklin Diplomatic Reception Room, which many of you have seen before; it is truly a treasure. My name is Deborah McCarthy. I’m the principal deputy assistant secretary in the Economic Bureau, and we are part – I am part of a fantastic economic team here in the Department that supports U.S. business. We negotiate the rules of the game for trade and investment, and we promote economic growth.
Today, we are here to honor some fabulous companies that contribute to our mission through their exemplary corporate citizenship. The importance that we attach to the role of U.S. companies as global ambassadors for responsible economic growth is reflected in the Secretary’s presence here today to announce this year’s winners of the Secretary’s Award for Corporate Excellence.
I would like to introduce now Mr. Robert Hormats, our under secretary for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs. Bob chaired the interagency principal selection committee that deliberated between 80 highly competitive submissions for this prestigious award. With a very distinguished background in both the public and the private sector, Under Secretary Hormats serves as our senior economic official, advises the Secretary on international economic policy, and covers all global economic issues as well as outreach to business.
Prior to assuming his current position, Bob had a long and very distinguished career with Goldman Sachs, but he is not a newcomer to the Department, as he previously served here as the assistant secretary for Economic Affairs. He was also deputy U.S. trade representative and a senior staff member of the International Economic Affairs Office at the National Security Council. He is a highly regarded lecturer and has written many, many publications on the global economy, debt, and monetary reform.
Now, it is my great honor to present you my boss, Mr. Robert Hormats. (Applause.)
UNDER SECRETARY HORMATS: Thank you very much for your kind introduction, Deborah. It’s a great honor to be here, and I want to welcome all of you to this ceremony for the 2010 Secretary of State’s Awards for Corporate Excellence. I am pleased that all of you could join us today for the 12th year of this very special program which we call ACE. It is an event that we at the State Department look forward to each year because it’s a chance to showcase some of the truly good work that the American business community does daily all over the world. In a few moments, Secretary Clinton will announce this year’s winners. But first, I want to make a few remarks about the ACE Award itself.
The State Department established the ACE Award in 1999 in order to recognize the critical role that U.S. businesses play around the world in advancing good corporate citizenship and democratic principles, actions that help to create enabling environments where democracy and economic development can flourish. U.S. companies are nominated by U.S. ambassadors throughout the world. Nominations are based on achievements in areas such as innovation, responsible environmental stewardship, exemplary employment practices, and contributions to the overall growth and development of the local economy. Winners represent both multinational companies and small to medium size enterprises as well.
This year the interagency selection committee, which I am pleased to be able to chair, evaluated a record of nearly 80 ACE nominations. I want to thank the U.S. ambassadors and their country teams for their outreach to the U.S. business community, their commitment to the ACE program, and their efforts to identify the outstanding ACE nominations we received. Every one of the ACE nominees is doing important work in helping the people in their host countries to achieve a better life for themselves, their families, and their communities. That’s because these companies know that operating abroad involves more than just investing in buildings and equipment. It means investing in a country’s greatest resource – its people.
I would also like to thank the members of the ACE selection committee who did such a great job in the interagency team to select both the ACE finalists and the actual winners for 2010. Our 12 ACE finalists, which I was pleased to announce in September, are U.S. companies operating throughout the world, including Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. These finalists rose to the top of a very competitive list of candidates. They are Alta Ventures in Mexico; Cisco Systems in Israel; Coca-Cola in Swaziland; Denimatrix in Guatemala; Fiji Water in Fiji; GE in India; Intel in Costa Rica; Mars, Inc. in Ghana; PepsiCo in India; Qualcomm in China; Synopsys in Armenia; and Tang Energy in China.
All these ACE finalists deserve our recognition and our thanks. Today, we have gathered to hear the announcement of the three 2010 winners and honor their achievements. As Secretary Clinton has said, investing in our common humanity through corporate social responsibility and socially responsible development are not marginal to our foreign policy, but essential to the realization of our goals. This statement speaks to what the ACE Award represents. ACE winners promote growth and prosperity in communities around the globe, leaving behind a long-term legacy with their best practices and their American optimism. Winners both past and present promote positive change through the vitality of public-private partnerships. They remind us that the best type of foreign assistance is one that helps people help themselves.
And now, it is my distinct honor and my great personal privilege to present to you the Secretary of State of the United States Hillary Rodham Clinton. Madam Secretary. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Good morning. Thank you all very much, and it is a pleasure once again to join you here in the Benjamin Franklin Diplomatic Reception Room for this important program. I thank Under Secretary Hormats and I thank PDAS Deborah McCarthy and everyone who worked to bring us to this point. And it is exciting, because we not only are gathered here at the State Department, but we’re also satelliting in to our counterparts, and we’re delighted to have this very important global announcement be represented here and in our partner sites – Guatemala City, Accra, and Jerusalem.
Now, we’re here to honor American companies that stand out for their efforts to improve lives around the world. Today’s three winners represent iconic American products – blue jeans, chocolate bars, and computers. (Laughter.) They also represent the best of what American business has to offer. They are generous, inventive, and effective. These companies understand there is no conflict between doing well and doing good because they do both every day. They invest in the communities where they operate to create a healthy workforce. They protect the environment to make their investment sustainable. They educate the next generation of employees, managers, and customers. They win market share, they win respect, and they prove that corporate social responsibility is not an added cost of doing business; it’s a core part of doing business right.
This matters because obviously, government knows that we cannot imagine solving global challenges alone. We are in partnerships. We’re in partnerships that can push the envelope for social innovation, unleash markets to solve problems, create opportunities that transform lives.
More people will do business with American companies and use American products than will ever meet an American diplomat, a development worker, or a soldier. Often American companies are the face America shows to the world; that’s why America is committed to adhering to the OECD standards for multinational enterprises. And it’s why the State Department not only advocates for American businesses large, medium, and small, but promotes best business practices as well.
This year, as you’ve heard, we had a record number of nominations and it’s now my great honor to call up our three winners, one at a time, to receive the 2010 Award for Corporate Excellence. Our winner in the small-to-medium size enterprise category is Denimatrix – Denimatrix of Lovett, Texas, and for its work in Guatemala. And I’m delighted that Ambassador Steven McFarland and company are enjoying us by satellite from Guatemala City, so, hello, Guatemala City. (Laughter.)
Now, the Gap – there they are, they’re all waving back – the Gap and Banana Republic chose this company as their supplier because of the jeans they make. When Denimatrix was nominated for the ACE Award, they were really touted for the exemplary care they show for their employees, their respect for the local community, and their commitment to the environment. Denimatrix supports free medical clinics and medical treatment. Employees who would only go to a doctor in case of an emergency, or in fact, never at all are now receiving preventive care, prenatal care, and regular checkups for their children.
As Denimatrix President Carlos Arias, who is here with us today, has said: “When people ask me whether this makes operations more expensive, I tell them it’s the best investment we could possibly have made. If we advance our workers’ ability to understand English and do more complex jobs, self-servingly, we’re helping ourselves.”
Well, President Arias, it could not be said better. And I am delighted to recognize this company, Denimatrix, with the 2010 Award for Corporate Excellence. I would like to ask Wallace Darneille, the CEO of Denimatrix’s parent company, to step forward. So, please, Wallace. (Applause.)
MR. DARNEILLE: Well, thank you very, very much, Madam Secretary. On behalf of our stockholders, our employees, our board of directors, our management team, many dear friends and families who have traveled a long way to be here, going through a bit of an old John Candy movie like Trains, Planes, and Automobiles with this weather – (laughter) – we thank you deeply for this award. We are very honored to be here. We’d like to also thank Ambassador McFarland in Guatemala, Under Secretary Hormats, PDAS McCarthy and Under Secretaries Carson, Feltman, Valenzuela, and members of the ACE selection committee for this great honor.
PCCA is a cooperative of cotton farmers in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. We produce about one-third of the U.S. cotton crop there. We think it is very fitting that our Demimatrix subsidiary has been honored for this award for their corporate social responsibility and their environmental stewardship, because frankly, that’s one of the things that first impressed us about Carlos Arias and his people when we went down to consider an investment in Guatemala. We could see that their commitments to their employees, to their community, and to the environment were exactly the same as ours. We could see that they shared our core values. I often say publicly that America’s farmers are the original environmentalists – no one needs to tell them to take care of their land. They know it’s their greatest single asset.
So when Carlos came to us in January 2009 with the idea that we would form the first vertically integrated supply chain all the way from cotton fields to fashion shelves, and we saw that they were people who shared our values, we thought we were dealing with people that saw that the commitment to maintaining jobs and preserving our world was important, and we founded Denimatrix.
Our farmers built a denim mill in Little Fields, Texas in 1975 to spin and weave some of their own cotton. That first step up the value chain created about 700 jobs in a small town in rural Texas and about 2,500 indirect jobs. We fought hard to preserve those jobs over the last 10 years, as 70 percent of the U.S. textile industry has disappeared. Our members’ commitment to helping sustain rural America is very strong. The formation of Denimatrix was the logical next step up that value chain, going all the way to fabric and apparel. We reopened a clothes factory, reemployed 6,000 people. In less than two years, it’s been a tremendous success story and it’s enhanced tremendously by your honor today, and we thank you very much.
As Secretary Clinton said, we believe that social responsibility and environmental stewardship are really critical to a company’s success. By providing a stable and attractive workplace, we can attract employees who want to work there, who want to stay and take pride in what they do. We do offer a broad variety of benefits for our employees and their families, including medical care, dental care, educational opportunities, and access to basic necessities. We don’t do this on a for-profit basis; we do it because it creates a work environment where they will stay and do a good job. Their productivity allows us to be competitive in a global environment. We also stress the importance of personal responsibility, of recycling, of wastewater issues, reuse of everything possible, and the importance of hygiene to health.
When our apparel customers come to visit our plant, as Secretary Clinton mentioned, one of the strongest impressions that people like Gap take away is our commitment to saving jobs and to saving the environment. This means that our commitment is a reason for them to do business, and our vertical model is really a selling point. They see a group of people who know what they’re doing, they like doing it, and they do it well. This dedication really becomes – helped us in doing business.
So this award to us says a great deal about the future as well as the past. It is a recognition of the dedication of several generations of cotton producers to doing the right thing for the present and future generations. It’s also a roadmap for success in the future when consumers will choose to buy products from companies who are socially responsible and environmentally responsible.
So on behalf of our 25,000 stockholders and about 6,000 employees, we want to thank you again for this honor. We are very humbled to be in the presence of such great companies who are all dedicated, and the winners and the nominees are all to be congratulated.
I’d like to ask Eddie Smith, our chairman of the board, and Carlos Arias, president of Denimatrix, to join us up here. Eddie is chairman of the board of our company, as well as past chairman of Cotton, Inc., a family farmer and my hero. Carlos is the president of Denimatrix who conceived this baby, carried it for nine months, gave birth to it, and nurtures it today. (Laughter.)
Thank you, again, Secretary Clinton for this great honor.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. Thank you so much, Wallace, good job. (Applause.) Well, thank you so much, and what a wonderful testimony for socially responsible investing, and I hope that it will get a very wide audience.
Now, Mars Incorporated, of McLean, Virginia, makes everything from bubblegum to rice. But the heart of its business remains a highly addictive substance – (laughter) – that many of us have struggled with over the years. Now you know I’m talking about chocolate. (Laughter.)
Mars was selected because of the company’s special relationship with the cocoa farmers of Ghana. Mars has supported the Sustainable Tree Corps and helped in developing the Cocoa Livelihoods Program to evaluate the cocoa sector of Ghana and other regions. Mars works to raise awareness of the importance of reducing child labor and protecting workers at every level of the cocoa value chain from the fields to the factories. And by 2020, Mars has committed to certify its entire cocoa supply – all 250,000 tons a year – as sustainable.
So it is my pleasure to recognize Mars Incorporated with an ACE Award, and I’d like to welcome Grant Reid, President of Mars Global Chocolate, to the stage. (Applause.)
MR. REID: Good morning. Madam Secretary, Under Secretary Hormats, Assistant Secretaries Fernandez and Carson, and distinguished guests, let me begin by saying how honored I am to accept the State Department Award for Corporate Excellence on behalf of the 65,000 associates at Mars today, as well as some of the Mars family members who are here as well.
The agricultural development work in Ghana’s cocoa sector that this award recognizes reflects Mars’s deep desire to make farming a profitable and sustainable industry for all those involved. Like other cocoa farmers around the world, Ghanaian farmers face a range of challenges, including soil depletion, aging trees, and a lack of modern agricultural training. Because of these limitations, cocoa farming is extremely difficult for many. In fact, with incomes of less than two dollars a day, many of these farmers hope their children never follow in their footsteps. With the next generation of cocoa farms and farmers at risk, the world faces a potentially a severe future cocoa shortage, not to mention a lost opportunity to make cocoa farming more profitable, sustainable, and rewarding for more than 10 million people living in rural areas of cocoa-producing countries around the world.
Mars is proud to be working alongside many others in this sector to help change the future of cocoa farmers. For more than a decade, we’ve worked with partners across geographies and industries to professionalize and intensify the agricultural practices that are the foundation of a well run, high-yield, and profitable cocoa farm. By enabling farmers to create sustainable businesses, we believe we can ensure the future of cocoa while increasing incomes and securing livelihoods for tomorrow’s farmers.
This is not easy, but we’re attacking the problem on several fronts. As we’ve learned in Indonesia, where we’ve been able to make a meaningful difference in cocoa farmers’ yields, we can encourage a greater number of high-yielding and profitable cocoa farms by researching new cultivation methods, partnering with local governments to breed and distribute high-quality plant stock, and working aggressively to establish rigorous certification standards and enabling farmers to meet these standards and sell their crops for a quality-based premium.
In addition to this on-the-ground work, Mars has devoted substantial resources to the science of cocoa, most notably in our recent work on sequencing the cocoa genome and making it publicly available. We did this to provide the scientific community with a roadmap to increasing quality and yield, and thereby improving the lives of cocoa farmers, their families, and communities all over the world.
As significantly, Mars had made a symbol – a simple but bold pledge to use only sustainable cocoa in all of our products by 2020. To achieve this goal, we have taken lessons in our investment – excuse me – programs around the world that foster innovation and agricultural science, transfer key technologies to farmers, and enable effective collaboration between them and manufacturers, governments, and NGOs. A critical element of this commitment is our efforts to unite rigorous certification standards that address farmer productivity as well as key issues, like the worst forms of child labor. We believe that successful certification must help reduce poverty as well as the social inequities it creates.
As much as all these efforts mean to us and to me personally, we are keenly aware that what we do alone will not be sufficient. To create and sustain real changes in communities where cocoa is the main economic engine, but yet chocolate remains unaffordable, we must – emphasizing the increasing need for uncommon and unprecedented collaboration between private companies, local and national governments, and civil society organization. Our vision is an industry that empowers the cocoa farmer to thrive alongside suppliers and manufacturers in a way that doesn’t happen today. We stand ready to work with anybody who shares that goal, and look forward to a day when the Ghanaian saying, “Ghana is cocoa and cocoa is Ghana,” rings as true for the farmers of tomorrow as it has for generations past.
Madam Secretary, ladies and gentleman, farmers first has been our guiding principle in all of these projects, and it is on behalf of those farmers, not only in Ghana, but around the world, that I accept this award today. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Nice job. Great, great. Thank you. (Applause.) And of course, we want to say hello to everyone in Ghana. We’re very happy you’re there participating in this. Thank you.
Now, our final ACE Award winner has a vision of corporate responsibility that shows how business can address our most difficult challenges. Our Embassy in Tel Aviv and our Consulate in Jerusalem have jointly nominated Cisco Systems. At a time when many companies colored the West Bank red on their maps as an economic no-go zone, Cisco saw an opportunity.
It invested $10 million in Palestinian programmers, and by including both Palestinians and Israelis on the same programming teams, Cisco has taken people and economies that are too often kept apart and reconnected them in person and in cyberspace. Today, Cisco’s leadership has inspired other American and Israeli high tech companies to recognize that the West Bank is open for business, and its youth programs teach Palestinian children English and computer skills. We are very committed in the United States Government to the economic development of the Palestinian people, so it is my particular privilege to ask Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers to accept this ACE Award for your efforts to create jobs, improve lives, and lay the groundwork for lasting peace. (Applause.)
MR. CHAMBERS: This award means a great deal to the entire family at Cisco, as I know it means to my colleagues who have also received awards today. When you look at the future of countries, and to put this in proper perspective, countries that lead in the future will have a great education system, a great infrastructure broadband, an innovative, risk-taking society, supportive government who works together in a unique environment. Madam Secretary, that’s what you’ve done at the State Department. Your leaders Bob, Deborah convey that in every way, and the state departments throughout the world often led with business to really make a difference.
I want to thank especially my team, Tae Yoo, Georgia Keekee – Zeka, I know you’re there with the entire team in Israel – for the courage that you’ve had to really bring it together. And while you think, “Does this really work, can we make a difference in business,” I want to give you a little bit of background, not just on the transaction, but how it scales and how together government and business can change the world, create middle class throughout the – all geographies in the world, and really bring peace around the world. It sounds like an impossible dream, but I believe it is within our aspirational goals.
About three years ago, I got a phone call from somebody very close to the State Department. They said, “John, you need to come to Palestine.” I said, “Do you understand there’s a lot of conflict going on there?” And she said, “This is the right move for you to make.” So I went in, over the objections of a lot of colleagues, over hesitation, met with President Abbas, and he outlined a dream for what he would like to see occur. President Peres in Israel outlined the same dream. They had come together on what was possible to really say, “If you create jobs, you create a middle class, you bring countries together.”
And at that time, we made a commitment of $10 million when it was a red zone, where most people would have said that’s the last thing you want to do. And today, I want to share with you how far that’s come. Madam Secretary, you met with seven of the CEOs from the Palestinian IT community. We started working with three of those purely as corporate social responsibility, gave them some early projects for R&D. Here we are two years later. They’ve come in on budget with quality programs, and we’re expanding it across the board. And by the way, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and others have followed.
We brought together communities that brought together the Jewish world, the Arab world, the Christian world and Nazareth – Illit Nazareth – in an open environment to be able to bring services to the population. We took our network academies to train young people to get jobs in the future, took it throughout Palestine, throughout Israel, 60,000 students now in the Middle East on these network academy programs. Together, we can change the world. USAID has been a great partner throughout. And so when you have these aspirations and dreams, it’s not just the right thing to do, as my peers said earlier; it is good for business.
I made the mistake eight years ago of telling King Abdullah of Jordan – he said, “John, if you help us in Jordan with the education system you will achieve great financial success here.” I said, “Your Majesty, I will never make money in Jordan and probably not in the entire Middle East.” That’s a lesson for all of us CEOs – never say never. (Laughter.) Fast-forward eight years. We are more profitable and the number one player in every country in the Middle East than China, or than India.
So I want to thank you, Madam Secretary, for creating this environment. The State Department truly knows how to lead with business being their partner, and on behalf of all the people at Cisco, we are honored for the award today. Thank you very, very much. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, because we are very eager to build on Cisco’s success – and I greet everyone from Jerusalem who’s here with us via satellite – I am pleased to announce the Palestinian Information and Communication Technology Capacity Building Initiative. Five U.S. companies, including Cisco, have officially committed to initiate or expand projects with Palestinian companies that work in this growing and profitable field. Under Secretary Hormats will be leading a roundtable with representatives from these companies later today. And we welcome all of our visitors who are part of the Palestinian IT initiative.
So as I conclude, I want to reiterate that corporate leadership – not just responsibility, but genuine leadership – is more important than ever. I thank these companies for reminding us that American business is about so much more than the goods we sell or the services we offer. It’s about who we are as a people, what we value, what we can accomplish together. And to all of you in Guatemala, in Ghana, in Jerusalem, congratulations and thank you for setting such an example. We want to continue making the case for the kind of American-led business interventions that do well and do good.
Thank you very much. And now, let me turn the program back over to Deborah. (Applause.)
MS. MCCARTHY: I’d like to thank the Secretary for hosting all of us today, and congratulations to all the recipients. We’re going to move now to the interactive portion of this ceremony. I’m pleased to welcome distinguished colleagues, winners, and guests who have been celebrating with us via satellite.
I’d like to start with Ambassador McFarland and Mr. Marco Cotton, Vice President for Denimatrix in Guatemala. Ambassador McFarland.
AMBASSADOR MCFARLAND: Thank you. Under Secretary Hormats, Assistant Secretary Hernandez, Assistant Secretary Valenzuela, PDAS McCarthy, Denimatrix CEO Mr. Darneille, President Arias, and here to my right, Denimatrix Vice President Mr. Cotton, it’s a real honor to be here today with representatives from Denimatrix in Guatemala to recognize the excellent work that Denimatrix is doing to promote economic development and sustainable environmental practices.
Guatemala faces a variety of challenges right now, ranging from crime and insecurity, to poverty, impunity. In all of these areas, economic development is an essential part of any solution, and the key to economic development is jobs. And in this way, companies like Denimatrix are doing much more than providing solid, stable employment for workers; they’re also providing hope for a better future in Guatemala.
Denimatrix’s work in Guatemala clearly demonstrates how free trade agreements, like CAFTA-DR, can benefit both businesses and the economy and workers. Denimatrix’s Guatemala operations support jobs both in Guatemala and in the United States, and they offer a quality product to consumers. It is a real model of a win-win relationship.
Denimatrix is a company that is committed to being a good corporate citizen. Denimatrix provides good pay and a safe and healthy work environment for its 5,000 employees. Environmental concerns are particularly important to – in Guatemala, and Denimatrix is leading the way with programs to recycle water and plastics and to reduce carbon emissions. Denimatrix also advances education, helping employees finish primary and secondary schooling, and supporting technical training for homeless Guatemalans through a partner organization. This is really, truly, cutting-edge corporate citizenship in Guatemala and a tremendous model.
Denimatrix sets an example for other companies that do business in Guatemala and around the region. Denimatrix demonstrates that corporate excellence, corporate leadership, as the Secretary just said, is not just about the bottom line, but also about improving communities and creating opportunities.
On a personal note, I would like to congratulate Denimatrix as well for supporting the American farmers, speaking as someone who lived as a boy not too far from some of those cotton fields. Denimatrix is a deserving recipient of the ACE Award. And for all their efforts, I congratulate Denimatrix and its executives and employees. And I thank everybody in the Department of State, from Secretary Clinton to all the members of the committee that evaluated the awards, and appreciate their consideration of Denimatrix.
Thank you very much, and I will now turn to the microphone over to Mr. Cotton, vice president of Denimatrix Guatemala.
MR. COTTON: Well, thank you very much, Madam Secretary and Ambassador McFarland. On behalf of our more than 5,000 associates in Guatemala, we would like to thank Secretary Clinton, Ambassador McFarland, and the members of the selection committee for the great honor, as well as the corporate social responsibility and environmental stewardship, our values we have held for many years, for the dedication to our associates, families, and communities, and for – in the – and for the environment. They’re truly a core value for us. This is why we provide a network of services as part of our working environment – medical care, dental and eye care as well, access to medical supplies at a reasonable rate, dispensaries offering groceries, shoes, and meals where the Denimatrix role is simply to monitor the quality, consistency, and hygiene of the products we offer.
We believe also that education is very important, and for this reason we also offer programs in basic literacy as well as more advanced classes leading to the equivalent of a GED degree in the U.S. We also provide several training programs to be sure that our associates are well schooled in understanding and maintaining our safety programs for their own well-being.
Environmental stewardship begins with our recycling program within the plant where receptacles are placed conveniently through the facility and employees are encouraged to cycle – to recycle everything possible. Water is one of the main inputs in jeans construction due to repeated washings to achieve the desired effect. We use advanced biological treatment plants to treat our wastewater, and we are able to reuse much of it. We are only one of the few companies in this hemisphere now using waterless washers, using only ambient air as raw material and a byproduct. In Denimatrix, we believe this is the right way to run a business, and we are deeply honored that you have chosen us for this ACE Award.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MS. MCCARTHY: Thank you, Team Guatemala. Thank you, Ambassador McFarland, Mr. Cotton. Denimatrix not only provides a tremendous service to the people and use of Guatemala, but sets, as you note, an exceptional, exceptional example in environmental stewardship.
Let us turn now to our team in Ghana, Ambassador Teitelbaum and Jeffrey Morgan, Director of Global Programs for Mars, Inc. Good morning from Washington, or midday.
AMBASSADOR TEITELBAUM: Good afternoon from Ghana, where it’s balmy and warm, let me point out.
Under Secretary Hormats, Under Secretary Fernandez, Assistant Secretary Carson, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary McCarthy, leaders of Mars, Inc., Denimatrix and Cisco, first of all, let me say congratulations to Mars, Inc., for winning its Secretary’s Award for Corporate Excellence.
As Jeff Morgan, the Director of Global Programs at Mars, has made very clear to me, this success wasn’t achieved alone, but in partnership with the Government of Ghana and many implementing partners. So I’d like to recognize here in Ghana the presence of the Honorable E.T. Mensah, Minister of Employment and Social Welfare, and the honorable member of parliament, Charles Hodogbey, vice chairman of the Committee on Employment, Social Welfare, and State Enterprises. Again, let me congratulate Mars, Inc., for winning this award in the face of stiff competition from 78 nominations from around the globe.
Mars’ corporate social responsibility programs have improved the quality of life for cocoa farmers and their families throughout Ghana. Corporate social responsibility of this kind is important, but so is doing good business, and Mars does that, too. This week, there’s been a lot of attention paid to Ghana’s newborn oil industry. But cocoa pays the bills for many, many thousands of Ghanaian families. And one day, when the supply of oil inevitably runs out, Ghana’s cocoa will still be here, and I’m betting it’ll still be the finest cocoa in the world.
Cocoa is the single largest employer of any sector in the country, and the second largest earner for Ghanaian families. And by promoting a good, strong business model here, Mars, Inc., is already playing a role in the lives of Ghana’s estimated 800,000 cocoa farmers and their families. By choosing to buy its cocoa from Ghana, Mars is creating jobs for farmers, for drivers in the transportation industry, and for workers at the ports. Every one of these jobs helps a Ghanaian farmer, driver, or shipper pay school fees for his or her children, pays the cost of healthcare and more.
Over the past three years, we’ve seen an increase in cocoa exports from Ghana to the United States, from 3,800 tons in 2007 and 2008 to a staggering 27,525 tons this past year. Mars has recognized that the well-being of cocoa-growing communities is integral to the well-being of their business. And even as Ghana deservedly celebrates this week’s flow of first oil, hundreds of thousands of Ghanaians continue to earn their livelihood thanks to the success of their cocoa industry and good corporate partners like Mars, Incorporated. So Mars, congratulations once again, and thank you for your partnership with Ghanaians and for providing a solid business model that benefits the people of Ghana.
Over to you, Jeff.
MR. MORGAN: Well, thank you very much, Ambassador Teitelbaum. I also wanted to thank Secretary of State Clinton, the representatives of the Government of Ghana, and all of those here who have supported our activities in Ghana.
In his remarks, Grant Reid spoke of the need for effective partnerships to accomplish the goals of helping cocoa farmers achieve greater yield and income, and for cocoa farming communities to overcome their many challenges and become more vibrant places to live, supporting a new generation of more professional cocoa farmers. As we have learned from our efforts here in Ghana, these are challenging goals. More importantly, we have learned that to achieve a more prosperous future for cocoa farmers and their families, collaboration and partnership with a variety of people and organizations is vital.
With that in mind, let me reflect on the following. We are optimistic that a better future for cocoa farming communities is possible when partners work together. Our efforts have demonstrated that together we can improve the yields on cocoa farms, we can increase the incomes of farmers, and communities can improve their educational and health facilities, and in so doing become a much more rewarding place to live. The engagement and partnership behind this initial success, however, needs further capacity building and expansion.
I also want to reflect on the characteristics of our partnerships here in Ghana. My colleague, Allister Child, and I have been privileged to work in one of the friendliest countries in the world. So while it is true that Ghana is cocoa, Ghana is also a place where partnerships will quickly become friendships. Many of our partners are in the room today, and I want to say thank you for your determined efforts.
When I first came to Ghana, I brought along many of my American or Western practices, one of which was the desire to move things forward quickly. It didn’t take long for one of my newfound friends here to give me advice that has guided me and my colleagues to this day. It was simple, but effective. I was told that to work well in Ghana and in Africa, I needed to appreciate a wise proverb: If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together. We definitely need to travel together, as we have a long way yet to go.
So on behalf of Mars, I want to say thank you to all of you for traveling together with us. (Inaudible) and thank you. (Applause.)
MS. MCCARTHY: I must say as a comment that Mars – the speechwriting is amazing. You are gifted speakers – (laughter) – both of you gentlemen, I must say.
We will now move to our Embassy and introduce our teams participating in Jerusalem. We have Ambassador James Cunningham, our Consul General Daniel Rubinstein, and Zeka Abzuk, the senior manager for corporate affairs at Cisco.
Over to you.
AMBASSADOR CUNNINGHAM: Thank you very much and greetings to all of our friends and colleagues in Washington. It’s a pleasure to join you from Jerusalem, where we are celebrating the success of Cisco’s Corporate Social Responsibility Projects with their partners and supporters.
Let me tell you a little bit about the efforts that Cisco is taking within Israel to bring the benefits of technology and education to Israeli communities while countering social inequality. The Digital Cities Project has transformed the predominantly Jewish city of Upper Nazareth and the predominantly Arab adjoining city of Nazareth as twin digital cities. Using advanced internet technology, the project provides concrete tools to improve relations among the Jewish and Arab residents while promoting tourism, health care, education, and civil services. Net@ encourages teenagers from disadvantaged communities to become leaders the technology field through advanced technical skills and a complementary social leadership curriculum that reinforces commitment to community.
Since 2003, Net@ has graduated more than 2000 students in Israel. This program has been so successful that Cisco has used it as a model to launch another pilot program, Mediterranean Youth Technology Club, in neighboring Middle Eastern countries. And Cisco Israel’s Women Empowerment Project was developed in 2006 to promote the inclusion of more women in the ICT industry. Two pilots were established, one for Jewish women in Netanya and one for Arab women in Baqa el Garbya. Six hundred women have graduated from this program so far, and 65 percent of them have found high-quality jobs in the sector.
This will give you a sense of the power of Cisco’s commitment to improve Israeli communities. I trust that the ACE Award will only enhance their resolve to have an even greater positive impact here and around the world. I know how much we all appreciate the contribution Cisco has made to building bridges of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Now let me ask my colleague, Consul General Daniel Rubenstein, to say a few words.
MR. RUBINSTEIN: Thank you very much, Minister Cunningham. The U.S. and Cisco share the understanding that by working with both Palestinians and Israelis, good things can happen.
I’ll briefly speak on Cisco’s work on the Palestinian side. Cisco (inaudible) with Palestinian companies has directly contributed to our work with the Palestinian Authority to strengthen the economy and bolster the private sector’s competitiveness. Three Ramallah-based Palestinian companies – Exalt, Asal, and GSSI – originally began working with Cisco as part of the $10 million it pledged for corporate social responsibility. The funds provided training, equipment, and a direct communication link to Cisco Israel. The companies quickly began developing five R&D and software projects that involved real business. Cisco gave these companies the opportunity and the exposure they needed to demonstrate that Palestinian companies can compete in the global marketplace and that the Palestinian economy is open for business, as Secretary Clinton mentioned.
Cisco also worked with the Palestinian Authority to fund other projects, such as youth centers, specialized training, and most recently a venture capital fund that will focus on the Palestinian technology sector. Cisco’s work has helped create a personal connection between Israelis and Palestinians. Technology bridges the gap between Netanya and Ramallah, and provided the first positive interaction many of the young developers have ever had with their counterparts on the other side of the Green Line.
Cisco has shown the positive impact that an American company can have, both on the economic front and in defining the United States as a positive force in the world. Zeka, congratulations, and over to you. (Applause.)
MS. ABZUK: Thank you. It’s a great honor for me to be here and speak on behalf of the Cisco team.
MS. ABZUK: It is a great honor. And first, I would like to say that we couldn’t have done this without the leadership of the Cisco CSR team (inaudible) with the CSR management team with the leadership of (inaudible) and without our partners, Israelis and Palestinians here on the ground. We started our CSR work here in Israel almost 10 years ago. And under the guidance and inspiration of the management of Cisco, it was only a natural progression to move and work – do our work of CSR also in Palestine.
So what have we learned in those few years? One of the things we’ve learned was that, after all, we Israelis and Palestinians are very similar in more than one way. First, we are two small countries – or a country and a country to be – with no natural resources. But for both of us, our best resource is our people, which could establish the best foundation for high-tech industry. We also share a similar sense of humor. We just need to remember to bring it along, because sometimes we do forget. And I just realized, we are also masters in complaining. (Laughter.)
So one of the things – I think our greatest achievement is our ability to bring the spirit of collaboration and sharing that we lead every day in Cisco and what we envision the internet to be into the reality here in the region. And my hope is really that this might contribute to making the first baby steps of a shift in the paradigm, because I think that we Israelis and Palestinians have played the zero-sum game for a little too long now.
So it hasn’t been easy. And so far, we had to hold meetings in gas stations, (inaudible) to waiting in long lines, to getting home really late after our kids’ bedtimes and sometimes also after our bedtimes, but we did manage to trust each other. We learned to trust each other and work together under a common vision.
So to you, our partners, Israeli and Palestinian, just wanted to say how grateful we are and how proud we are of the partnership that we formed with you. And to you, I would like to quote the words of a great American lady, Margaret Mead, who said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
So thanks again for the celebration and the acknowledgement. And the best part of this really is the fact that tomorrow we continue to work together, because there is still a lot of work to do. Thank you. (Applause.)
MS. MCCARTHY: Thank you, Ambassador. Thank you, Consul John Rubinstein, and Ms. Abzuk.
I want to thank all our colleagues in Guatemala as well, and in Ghana, and all of you here in Washington for participating in our 12th Annual Ace Awards with enthusiasm and vigor. As we bid farewell to our winning posts and guests overseas, I want to offer my personal congratulations for outstanding achievements. Thank you. (Applause.)