Companies must embrace ethical practices if the globalisation movement is to succeed, delegates heard at last week’s annual conference of the Institute of Directors in London.
George Cox, IoD director general, told delegates there needed to be a global spread of higher standards of corporate governance. Globalisation was needed in developing countries to bring investment and the transfer of skills, he added.
Richard Greenhalgh, chairman of Unilever UK, argued that UK and European businesses have a role in countering the assertion that globalisation is Americanisation by another name. “Globalisation involves active manage- ment, involving, above all, the business community,” he said.
The conference attracted hundreds of anti-globalisation protesters, particularly in response to the presence of former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.
Greenhalgh said Unilever took its corporate social responsibility seriously through initiatives like the Global Compact, a group of 200 companies who pledged to protect human rights, employment and the environment.
Kissinger said that today’s business leaders were better educated than ever but the length of their contracts led to short-terminism. “The challenge is can we find forums in which we can address long-range problems,” Kissinger said.
Malcolm Brinded, director of planning at Shell International admitted the company had made mistakes in the past.
Brinded said Shell was investing heavily in sustainable development in countries including Nigeria and the Philippines, using local staff and described the approach as enlightened self interest.
“Shell has introduced dismissal for staff who accept bribes even in countries where corruption is endemic,” he said.