Thoughts from Geneva and from Bled: “Business will change the world because it can and it must”

There I was in Bled taking part in a wonderful conference on “Environmental Citizenship Through Communication: Trends, Challenges and Solutions” when I received an extraordinary e-mail from John Plauszek (Ambassador at Large for the Global Alliance) who was taking part in the “2007 United Nations Global Compact Leaders Summit: Facing Realities; Getting Down to business”, described by organizers as “history’s largest and most significant event on the toic of leadership and corporate citizenship”.

All of a sudden, the UN initiative (comprising 4,000 of the worlds’ biggest C-suite leaders in business, government, non-governmental organizations, labour, foundations, academe and international corporate social responsibility) was saying that the momentum had come to question the role of business in society and issued some very interesting proposals of action for its members and for governments. In a nutshell they where saying they believe responsible business practices can lead to a more sustainable and inclusive economy. As Mr. E. Neville Isdell, Chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Company, said in Geneva: “we will change the world because we can and we must”.

While that happened at what John described as “The Mother of CSR Conferences”, we in Bled had just started of with a paper from Professors Ralph Tench, Brian Jones and Ryan Bowd from Leeds Business School entitled: “From Corporate Irresponsibility to Corporate Social Responsibility: The Competing Realities”.

But other contrasts where interesting as the UN Global Compact leaders where clearly recognizing, from a top management point of view, that business wants to have a role in society while we where questioning if CSR and/or Environmental Responsibility are indeed a key part of business success.

(My good friend Enric Ordeix as well as our common friend Gregory Payne would certainly agree to say that this is starting to look as something like an era of Corporate Diplomacy, which is adding up to Public Diplomacy. )

But as we where discussing the topic of Climate Changes in a very lively joint Session with the BledCom 2007 (Global Public Relations: The impact of Globalization on Public Relations) , based on the World Café method, we where also glad that the UN Global Compact leaders decided to issue a declaration: “Caring for Climate: The Business Leadership Platform” in which they commit to take practical actions now to increase efficiency of energy use and reduce the carbon burden of their products, services and processes.

From a PR perspective, it’s great that these events happened at the very moment which we hope becomes a tipping point for concrete action regarding the environmental citizenship. It’s great that the PR voice was present at the Geneva UN Global Compact summit and its also great that the Bled conference succeeded to engage PR experts in examining ways to involve stakeholders in effective environmental communication, in presenting views on how to incorporate sustainability in the business culture by means of communication, or in discussing the need for different ways to conceive the “other”.

Take a moment to go through the United Nations Global Compact Summit “Declaration of Geneva” and learn more about the call for climate action here . They’re worthwhile and hopefully we can continue this conversation.

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One Reply to “Thoughts from Geneva and from Bled: “Business will change the world because it can and it must””

  1. Dear Joao,

    just to clarify a bit better my view:

    More and more companies want to participate to the public strategic decisions because they directly affect on their development and can influence they finance aspects. We can easily find some market changes and facts: the PR activity is showing up an increasing activity in lobbying -in EU and United States-; PR agencies enlarged services related to lobbying and institutional relations; companies are increasing the activity related to social and cultural issues; privet foundations –most of them belonging to big corporations- are getting professionalized. This facts point out that something has changed in dealing with the social image and status of big corporations. This is where I see the diplomacy of companies, when they work for the general interest.

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