September 09, 2010 Leaders in Corporate Responsibility

By Pat Murphy, Professor of Marketing in the Mendoza College of Business

On Sept. 8, the Fall Career Expo was held in the Joyce Center’s north dome. Nearly 140 companies and nonprofit organizations participated. It was estimated that around 2,000 undergraduate and MBA students seeking full-time employment or internships were in attendance to meet with firm representatives.

As a professor who teaches courses in business ethics and corporate responsibility, I advise students to seek out employers whose values are closely matched with their personal values, because they will likely be both more comfortable and more successful in such an environment.

Although there were no doubt many very good and responsible companies at the Career Expo, I would like to highlight four of them known for strong ethical values and/or their corporate responsibility programs.

The first company is Cummins, the Columbus, Ind., based maker of diesel engines and related products. Cummins has had a longstanding commitment to the Columbus community and even paid well-known architects to design churches and schools there. In recent years, the firm has expanded its community outreach internationally and has 150 Community Involvement Teams of employee volunteers that are active in thirty countries.

A second firm is General Mills, the well-known marketer of popular cereals and other consumer packaged goods. It is one of 15 companies that endorsed the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, which is committed to offering and promoting healthier choices in their products. General Mills is one of only a very few firms that have developed a separate code of advertising ethics dealing with marketing toward children.

Target Corporation, the popular discount retailer, is another leader. The company prides itself in its commitment to community giving and donates $3 million per week to needy causes in education, arts and culture, and social services. Besides the emphasis on community giving, diversity and protecting the environment are other major thrusts of the firm.

The fourth firm is Whirlpool, the household appliance manufacturer. The company is known for its support of Habitat for Humanity. For a number of years, Whirlpool has donated a refrigerator and range to every Habitat house. Recently, the company has expanded its partnership with Habitat to include strategic planning and other business services where the two organizations can learn from one another.

In my class during the week of Sept. 8, we discussed the recent papal encyclical (Caritas in Veritate) where the Pope highlighted the importance of considering the common good and making ethical business decisions, especially in the context of a global marketplace. These four companies illustrate how the principles espoused in Caritas can be applied at successful firms.

Author: Pat Murphy

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