During a recent forum hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative, former President Bill Clinton and CEOs of major corporations called on the private sector to develop ways to integrate corporate social responsibility and sustainability programs into their core businesses in ways that enhance their bottom lines.
Panelists including Clinton, Archer Daniels Midland chair and CEO Patricia Woertz, and Coca-Cola chair and CEO Muhtar Kent discussed various ways in which major multinational companies are using innovative practices to increase profits and reduce their costs while fighting climate change, increasing educational opportunities, and reducing poverty. During the discussion, Woertz announced the launch of ADM Cares, a social investment program that targets up to 1 percent of pretax earnings to initiatives that advance societal improvements in areas that are related to the company's business.
Indeed, a new study released by the Harvard Kennedy School and the World Bank's International Finance Corporation examines how Coca-Cola's Manual Distribution Centers in Africa help build "economically viable business linkages with small enterprises in their value chains, which can also have development benefits." MDCs account for more than 80 percent of the company's sales in East Africa and create small-business ownership opportunities and jobs for an increasing number of first-time entrepreneurs and women. To date, Coca-Cola has created over 2,500 MDCs in Africa employing more than 12,000 people and generating more than $500 million in annual revenues.
"The perception that businesses must choose between turning a profit and improving the communities where they operate is outdated and irrelevant in our interdependent world," Clinton said. "Through the Clinton Global Initiative, more than 1,400 commitments valued at $46 billion are improving more than 200 million lives in 150 countries. Hundreds of these commitments, made by some of the world's leading companies, are demonstrating that investments in social and environmental programs in local communities and on other continents benefit both society and the bottom line."