July 22, 2008
The popular expression that "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" assumes that some intentions are never translated in actions. However, good intentions have value in that they are the beginning of a process that hopefully will lead to tangible measures.
I have just returned from Israel where I spent a week, working from our Jerusalem office.
I was honored to be invited at the launch of the Global Compact in Israel.
The Global Compact is a United Nation initiative that engages major corporations to adhere to ten basic principles in the areas of human rights, labor, the environment and anti-corruption. Today, more than 4,300 companies have signed-up including Microsoft, Novartis, Sanofi-Aventis and Norsk-Hydro.
The launch event was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem. Tzipi Livni, the Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs was the keynote speaker and addressed approximately 150 representatives of Israeli corporations and the not-for-profit sector. Among the attendees was Ofra Strauss, the Chair of the Strauss Group, one of the world’s ten largest players in the coffee market, as well as the CSR Directors of Coca Cola, Motorola and IBM. "I believe" said Ms. Livni, "that there is a real need today to join forces and tackle internal and global challenges crossing boundaries between the public and private sectors."
George Kell, the Executive Director of the Global Compact said, in his presentation that: "commerce trade and investments build bridges between cultures and nations" and are "fundamentally important to build peace."
The launch was coordinated by a great organization called MAALA, (which stands for Business for Social Responsibility,) Israel’s leading CSR organization. Talia Aharoni the Executive Director said: "Tonight in Jerusalem we expand the borders of Israeli Corporate Social Responsibility. We join thousands of companies from 88 countries around the world that together act in the framework of the Global Compact to address the world’s crucial issues. On MAALA’s 10th Anniversary we look wide and far and launch a new dimension to Israeli Corporate Social Responsibility and to the globalization of Israeli companies some of which are already significant players in the global world".
The question could be asked: Are these just good intentions or real commitments that bring real change? It is difficult to know, and in some cases only time will tell. Every year, each member company must summit a progress report that is posted on the Global Compact’s website. The Global Compact obviously cannot verify the accuracy of every submission but rely on an honor system that expects a company to be truthful in what it declares. (The Global Compact will occasionally remove a member for non-compliance to the 10 principles.)
Commitments play a central role in our lives because we need to trust people that make them. If we had no trust we would never ride an elevator, drive a car or have surgery. Therefore it is crucial that we make every attempt to keep our commitments, however large or small they may seem to us.
I have a friend in Switzerland, Philippe Pidoux, a very well-respected politician and attorney who says:
"I make very few commitments because…… I keep them!"
That is a good motto.
The quote below, which has been attributed by some to Abraham Lincoln, very well represents the ideal of the Global Compact:
"Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality. It is the words that speak boldly of your intentions and the actions which speak louder than the words… Commitment is the stuff character is made of; the power to change the face of things. It is the daily triumph of integrity over skepticism."