Chad Tragakis's blog

Restoring Chitimacha: How Companies Can Serve as Agents of Cultural Preservation

“The artist has a special task and duty: the task of reminding men of their humanity and the promise of their creativity.”

As historian, sociologist and critic Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) so eloquently noted in the quote above, all art – visual, musical, literary, architectural, performing, culinary – reflects the best of humanity.  We are, after all, the culture that we create.

This month, the Smithsonian held its 46th...

Business… with Liberty and Justice for All (Part Two)

The world is more peaceful today than it has been since 2009. This is the finding of the 2012 Global Peace Index, released last week by the Institute for Economics and Peace.

As noted in my ...

Business… with Liberty and Justice for All

The 2012 Global Peace Index was released this week. This annual study of relative peacefulness and stability, produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, found that in spite of some unfortunate pockets of strife and unrest (think Syria and Somalia), the world is more peaceful today than it has been since 2009....

Telling the Whole Story

More jobs and cheaper energy. In the lead up to this week’s Super Tuesday primaries, these have been constant refrains from the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. They have also been central messages from President Obama.  No doubt, they will continue to be among the key themes repeated between now and November 6.

Almost as if on cue, comes a new study by Deutsche Bank and the Rockefeller Foundation. The report suggests that a renewed emphasis on energy...

Helping Japan in the Best Way Possible

Just over a year ago, in the aftermath of the worst natural disaster ever to befall Haiti, I wrote about the generous and inspirational commitments that individuals, organizations and corporations were making in response. I also wrote about the very best way to helpin times of disaster, based on lessons long learned by government, NGOs and others in the disaster response and relief community.

Now, in the aftermath of...

Privacy is Dead. Long Live Privacy!

The Queen of England joined Facebook late last year. I signed up early last month. It was a New Year’s resolution and I was officially out of excuses. If, at age 83, Her Majesty could do it, then I certainly could. I had my reasons for waiting so long, much to the surprise, chagrin and teasing of friends and family. First, the time crunch. I’ve seen how so many friends and colleagues practically live on the site, and how much it consumes some of them. But, more than

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Imperceptible But Meaningful Change

 “If mankind is not to perish after all the dreadful things it has done and gone through, then a new spirit must emerge.  And this new spirit is coming not with a roar but with a quiet birth, not with grand measures and words but with an imperceptible change in the atmosphere – a change in which each one of us is participating…”

If ever there were a New Year’s wish for humanity, this...

Supersizing Responsibility, Not Portions

Hard to believe that the end of another summer is upon us.  Earlier this month I was on Cape Cod, enjoying a week of vacation, which included eating a lot of fresh seafood.   The menu included cod (of course), clams, flounder, haddock, lobster and scallops.  All of it was delicious, but with every bite there was a little remorse.  Ever since I first read the United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP’s) prediction...

Echoes of Bhopal in BP

“Business started long centuries before the dawn of history, but business as we now know it is new – new in its broadening scope, new in its social significance.  Business has not learned how to handle these changes, nor does it recognize the magnitude of its responsibilities for the future of civilization.”

        Wallace Donham, Dean of Harvard Business School – 1929

I love this quote.  Sadly, it rings as true today as it did 80 years ago.  Business had not yet learned how to handle the changes that were happening then in...

Remembering C.K. Prahalad

“What is needed is a better approach to help the poor, an approach that involves partnering with them to innovate and achieve sustainable win-win scenarios where the poor are actively engaged and, at the same time, the companies providing products and services to them are profitable.”

 

                 C.K. Prahalad – From The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits

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The Next Generation of Responsible Business Leaders

Recently, I hosted a group of graduate students from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School.  I also spoke to a group of undergraduates at George Mason University.  I was struck by the questions they asked me and their responses to the questions I asked of them.  They wanted to know about the linkages between ethics and business performance; they asked about the risk management dimensions of social and environmental responsibility; and they hold crystal clear points of view on corporate reputation, respect for customers, and the value and impact...

Kids, Soccer Balls and the Unintended Consequences of Good Decisions

Several years ago, I attended a forum in Washington, DC on supply chain responsibility.  At the time, I was managing corporate social and environmental responsibility communications for two different clients, both with vast, global supply chains.  Supplier responsibility was an area of constant focus and opportunity for these companies.
 
The forum was a quiet, routine affair as these things go, and polite.  I saw a few participants looking a bit sleepy at the end of one session in particular – where representatives from three Fortune 500 multi-nationals spent the better part of an hour outlining the steps their companies had taken to eliminate child labor from their supply chains (the inspections and audits, on the ground partnerships, tracking and reporting).
 
Everything changed when, during the Q&A period, a young woman in the audience stood up and posed a question to the panelists.  She worked for a small NGO with operations in India, and noted that many families there desperately rely on the income of all family members – parents, grandparents, and yes, children.  She spoke briefly but compellingly, painting a picture of poverty and need that most in the room couldn’t comprehend.  The panelists look puzzled, and there were murmurs of surprise and disbelief throughout the audience.
 

Saving Ducks and Confiscating Guitars: A Good Law Gets Better

The United Nations has declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity.
 
There are many definitions for biodiversity, but the one adopted by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity is: “the variability among living organisms from all sources, including, ‘inter alia’, terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are part: this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems”.
 
Preserving the world’s ecosystems and the web of life they each support is a good and noble goal in and of itself.  But by preserving biodiversity we are really ensuring our own health, safety, economic security, and our very way of life.  So this year, global institutions of all kinds, government agencies, and even corporations are coming together to celebrate the variety of life on planet Earth, and the value and importance it has for us humans.
 
From supporting and advancing agriculture, medicine and tourism, to combating climate change, biodiversity has real bottom line benefits for our global society.  If you’ve never seen it, The United Nations Environment Programme issued a great report on the topic, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB).
 
But how do we make the goal of protecting species and ecosystems real?  How do we preserve biodiversity?  One way is through policies and laws with teeth, and through the rigorous enforcement of those laws.  One such law is the Lacey Act.
 

The Best Way to Help Haiti

Our hearts are with Haiti.  The 24-hour news coverage is arresting, but at the same time, it is difficult to watch.  For each glimmer of hope – each miraculous rescue more than a week after the initial earthquake – there is the grim reality of despair, desperation and dire need.
 
The world is coming together for Haiti, hoping to fill that need.  Individuals, community groups, civic organizations and corporations are displaying levels of interest, compassion and generosity not witnessed since the South Asian Tsunami five years ago.  People are marveling, and rightly so, at the seeming speed and ease with which the Red Cross has received more than $22 million for Haiti relief efforts via text.
 

Far Beyond Sustainability

It’s great that the word sustainability is in such common usage today.  It suggests that people, organizations and institutions have accepted that environmental responsibility matters, and that we all play a role in achieving and ensuring it.
 
Still, I know plenty of people (both within the broader community of CSR thinkers and doers as well as outside of it) who find the word problematic.  Few would argue that the term is overused, and much has been raised and written about the limitations of sustainability as both a word and a concept.  Despite these limitations and challenges, though, usage of the term persists.
 
There is great diversity even among the most often quoted and widely used definitions of sustainability, among them, those developed, adopted or advanced by the United Nations, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Business for Social Responsibility, and the World Resources Institute.  Looking at these and at other definitions of sustainability collectively, a common theme emerges.  There is a strong focus on maintaining, preserving, and ensuring the continued viability of a process, product, resource, system or state.  Many would argue that, in terms of the environment and natural resource management, achieving this level of performance by business would be incredible.  It would certainly be a good start.
 

Making Copenhagen Personal

No, this isn’t the new ad slogan for the Danish board of tourism (fortunately for them).  Copenhagen is a beautiful city, and they have certainly done a better job than that in marketing themselves to the world.  I’m talking about the need to make a personal, human connection between the bureaucratic and technocratic workings of next month’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, and the planet’s 6.8 billion people.
 
The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (or COP15, as this will be the 15th Conference of the Parties), will host political leaders and top government officials from 192 countries who are coming together to develop a new framework to combat climate change.  The new agreement will replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
 
Most of what has been written thus far about the conference has focused on scientific, political and economic considerations – namely, what must the world do to slow and reverse the effects of climate change, what kind of an agreement can be reached, and what impact will it have on the global economy?  Less has been said about the efforts of individuals and small groups who have been working to humanize and personalize the issue.
 

Enter the Sustainable Century – Part 3

Strategic communication for business will be critical as President Obama ushers in a new green vision for America and the world.
 
“We will move forward with investments to transform our energy economy, while providing incentives to make clean energy the profitable kind of energy. We will press ahead with deep cuts in emissions to reach the goals that we set for 2020, and eventually 2050. We will continue to promote renewable energy and efficiency, and share new technologies with countries around the world. And we will seize every opportunity for progress to address this threat in a cooperative effort with the entire world."
- From President Barack Obama’s Address to the United Nations General Assembly, September 23, 2009
 
As mentioned in my previous post, President Obama is ushering in a new green vision for America and the world.  Each company will need to take a close look at its current strategy, and determine where, when and how it makes sense to introduce or expand environmental sustainability programs, partnerships, policies and processes into its operations.  But in terms of strategic communication and stakeholder outreach in support of business goals, there are some clear and deliberate actions that every company, regardless of size or sector, should be actively considering.
 

Enter the Sustainable Century – Part 2.

Strategic communication for business will be critical as President Obama ushers in a new green vision for America and the world.

“The danger posed by climate change cannot be denied. Our responsibility to meet it must not be deferred. If we continue down our current course, every member of this Assembly will see irreversible changes within their borders. Our efforts to end conflicts will be eclipsed by wars over refugees and resources. Development will be devastated by drought and famine. Land that human beings have lived on for millennia will disappear. Future generations will look back and wonder why we refused to act; why we failed to pass on an environment that was worthy of our inheritance.  And that is why the days when America dragged its feet on this issue are over.”
 
- From President Barack Obama’s Address to the United Nations General Assembly, September 23, 2009
 
Building on my previous post, President Obama is moving quickly to reframe the environmental debate and reset expectations on the part of many stakeholders.  All this change will have both an immediate and a long-term impact for business.
 
Despite some uncertainty over the timing and substance of legal and regulatory changes to come, whether you are an American firm, or a global enterprise doing business in or with the U.S., there’s a new sheriff in town.  And despite the policy and political challenges Obama faces, companies would do well to take stock of the fact that the very citizens who voted for a green president are the same consumers who will vote for clean energy, for products with recycled content, for low energy consuming electronics, for reduced product packaging, and for companies with a genuine and demonstrated commitment not only to quality and value, but to sustainability.
 

Enter the Sustainable Century – Part 1

Strategic communication for business will be critical as President Obama ushers in a new green vision for America and the world
 
 “Let’s be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil. We can harness homegrown, alternative fuels like ethanol and spur the production of more fuel-efficient cars. We can set up a system for capping greenhouse gases. We can turn this crisis of global warming into a moment of opportunity for innovation, and job creation, and an incentive for businesses that will serve as a model for the world.”
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What Wall Street Can Learn From Distance Runners

by Chad Tragakis, Senior Vice President, Hill & Knowlton, Washington

Anyone who has ever run a 10K or 10 mile race (or longer) knows that you can’t start by going all out.  You have to work up to cruising speed.  And you need to leave something in the tank for the last part of the run.  This is seemingly common sense, but for many “running” on Wall Street and within the business community generally, it is a lesson that bears repeating.  Long runs require a sustainable pace.  And if a business or an investment is to enjoy long-term success, it must create sustainable value.

This is the subject of a new report prepared by the Aspen Institute Business & Society Program   – Overcoming Short-termism: A Call for a More Responsible Approach to Investment and Business Management.

The CFA Institute defines short-termism as: the excessive focus of some corporate leaders, investors, and analysts on short-term earnings guidance, coupled with a lack of attention to the strategy, fundamentals, and conventional approaches to long-term value creation.

That pretty much nails it, but as the Aspen report states, short-termism is not limited to Wall Street.  It pervades the entire web of business – corporate leaders, company boards, investment advisers, providers of capital and even government.  Therefore, the report concludes, meaningful reform will only come from comprehensive, system-wide change.

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