The Socially Responsible Company: High Standards for a Changing World
Ali Moshiri, Managing Director, Upstream Latin America Business Unit
Back when Chevron and Texaco were starting out more than a century ago, it is probably safe to say that neither company gave a lot of thought to health issues in Africa or small business growth in Central Asia. Their concerns were more along the lines of struggling to stay afloat in a brand-new industry.
Today, ChevronTexaco not only thinks about issues like these, but is actively involved in them all over the world. Whether a floating clinic in the West Niger Delta, a blood bank in Angola, low-interest loans for entrepreneurs in Kazakhstan, schools in Maracaibo, or a computer lab in Colombia, these and so many other initiatives are today part-and-parcel of how we do business everyday.
A quick look at a map helps to explain why such an evolution is taking place. ChevronTexaco operations spread a lot further afield today than California and Texas. (ChevronTexaco's Map of Operations)
But more important, this evolution reflects changes not only in business, but in the world around us. In the last 10 years alone, the world has become a smaller and more intimate place, thanks to globalization, the Internet and other technologies.
All of us have a much greater awareness that what we do has an impact on others. Companies like ours have a much greater awareness of the interrelationship between energy consumption and the environment and social needs. And businesses as a whole have a much greater awareness of their responsibilities as they relate to consumers and customers and shareholders -- indeed, to society as a whole.
Commercial success is no longer the sole measure for a business today. Our impact on society -- good or bad -- is also taken into account.
We see a lot of different definitions of what is generally known as "Corporate Social Responsibility." But no matter what you call it, the best companies clearly agree that success in our world today means doing business in a socially responsible and ethical manner.
It means respecting the law. It means respecting human rights. It means benefiting the communities where we work. And specifically for an energy company like ours, it means respecting the environment while working to meet the world's growing energy demands.
“... the best companies clearly agree that success in our world today means doing business in a socially responsible and ethical manner.”
In our company, we outline all of this in a document we call The ChevronTexaco Way, and I know that other companies also have these documents.
In fact, we have made a special effort since our merger to engage all our employees everywhere in the world to embrace our vision and values. You have to have everyone on board, at every level.
The imperative to work in a socially responsible manner reflects the rapidly evolving expectations that global companies face today -- expectations that come both from within and from the outside.
Investors, for instance, have many choices today. They also have greater access to information, analysis and commentary than ever before. In short, they can afford to pick and choose exactly what kind of investments they want to make and what kind of companies they want those investments to impact.
The growing influence of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) is also changing the dynamic between companies and government, and companies and consumers.
The NGO community now has a seat at the table when it comes to many vital issues facing industry today: climate change and sustainable growth, to name only two.
And outside organizations are now taking more steps to measure the performance of multinational companies when it comes to promoting social development or protecting the environment.
The World Bank now requires both environmental and social impact assessments before agreeing to finance new projects.
And Dow Jones has launched a "sustainability index" to recognize those companies that are actively working to increase shareholder value while promoting responsible development at the same time.
Clearly, as companies become more global in their thinking and their operating practices, they are also making every effort to become more global in meeting the social, environmental and economic needs of the places where they do business.
Fortunately, this is nothing new for us at ChevronTexaco.
The term "Corporate Social Responsibility" basically describes the range of responsible and ethical practices that ChevronTexaco has followed for years in the communities and countries where we work. (ChevronTexaco on Social Responsibility)
Are we completely successful in all our outreach programs? Of course not. But our commitment is unequivocal, and we will continue to strive to make our presence a positive one wherever we may be.
We have touched millions of people through initiatives such as the already mentioned floating clinic in Nigeria or an inner-city recreation center in California or hosting visits to U.S. facilities for thousands of Indonesian engineers.
We are committed to hiring the people and services and equipment we need in the countries where we need them. We are committed to billions of dollars in contracts with women- and minority-owned firms.
We are committed to cutting carbon dioxide emissions in project areas from California to Kuwait by switching to natural gas to generate electricity.
And we are committed to one of the oldest privately sponsored conservation programs in the United States.
We are dedicated to all these things because we believe we should use our resources:
- to train and empower local residents in our host communities;
- to contribute to improving their health, their education and welfare; and
- to learn from them and their cultures - whether we are talking about the Gulf Coast of Texas, the Caspian Basin in Kazakhstan, or the Middle East
Global forces have encouraged us to change the way we work, our business models, our assets and investment strategies. They have changed the way we recruit, develop and manage our work force. They have changed how we manage risks and the role we play in communities.
Global forces have led us to shed the traditional way of doing things and to expand into new and eye-opening opportunities.
The good news is that these new ways of doing things are giving us a competitive advantage. They allow us to attract and retain the best employees, investors, partners, customers and suppliers. They allow us to maintain and improve our license opportunities to operate in host countries. And they give us a leading edge in access to new business.
Losing sight of these expectations and our ability to meet them means losing that competitive edge. And, quite frankly, it means losing any chance of competing effectively in today's global economy.
The early American patriot Thomas Paine wrote in The Rights of Man that "my country is the world ... and my [aim] is to do good." Those words that helped launch the idea of democracy around the world two centuries ago are in many ways even more resonant today.
For a company like ours, our country is indeed the world ... and our aim should be to do good not only because it is good for business -- which it is -- but because we live in a world where expectations have changed and new benchmarks are making respect for ethical values, people, communities and the environment non-negotiable.
Thank you very much.
Updated: May 2002