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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an idea that corporations have to consider the interests of customers, employees, shareholders, communities, and ecological considerations in all
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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : Jul/Aug 2001 : Headlines

Private Sector Ingenuity at Work

Working toward what is described as a “net benefit” for both the global environment and for business, Conservation International (CI) and Ford Motor Co. have launched the Center for Environmental Leadership in Business. Made possible through a five-year, $25 million contribution from the Ford Motor Co. Fund, the center’s goal is to engage the private sector in creating solutions to critical global environmental problems. It intends to work in partnership with a wide range of companies and environmental organizations to promote business practices that reduce industry’s environmental effects and contribute to conservation. These practices also benefit business by cutting the costs associated with environmental impact and by enhancing a company’s reputation with communities, customers, employees and shareholders.

“Solving the planet’s most pressing environmental problems requires the ingenuity of the private sector,” said Peter Seligmann, chairman and CEO of CI. “Leading corporations like Ford are recognizing that their effect on the environment is a core business issue. We believe that the next ‘industrial revolution’ will be a move by corporations to direct their entrepreneurial energy toward solving environmental problems.”

The center concentrates on those industries with the greatest environmental effect on critical ecosystems and those with the potential to bring about positive environmental change, including agriculture and fisheries, forestry, energy and mining, travel and leisure, transportation, manufacturing and financial services. The center provides an open forum where business leaders, environmentalists and academics can work together to create innovative solutions.

Once new business practices have been developed and tested in the field, the center will share its results. The ultimate goal is to have industry replicate these proven best practices around the globe. Initial projects include the following:

• Water Conservation
—Beginning in Sonora, Mexico, the site of a Ford Motor Co. manufacturing plant, the center is working with Ford and other large water users to promote business practices and public policies that help to conserve scarce freshwater resources, enhance water quality and protect watersheds in critical ecosystems.

• Natural Resource Development—The center is working with industry and environmental leaders to integrate conservation and environmental protection into the exploration and development of oil, gas and minerals. Priorities include best practices to reduce the ecological footprint of operations and to support conservation, metrics to measure the industry’s net impact and criteria for deciding whether to undertake activities in sensitive areas.

• Food and Agriculture
—Meeting humanity’s growing demand for food and fiber without sacrificing natural ecosystems will be a major challenge in the decades ahead. In partnership with leaders in the food and beverage industry, the center is developing sourcing guidelines that help to conserve critical ecosystems affected by global agriculture. The projects will work with the company’s supply chains to reduce the ecological impacts of major farm and fisheries commodities.

• Tourism—Considered the world’s largest business, the center is working with tour operators to integrate conservation principles into their day-to-day operations and to influence the planning and management of key tourist destinations to ensure their environmental sustainability. Projects will also engage leading travel companies to develop environmental criteria for their suppliers.

“We’re at a crucial point in our ability to address environmental issues,” said Martin Zimmerman, Ford Motor Co. vice president of government affairs. “Through our involvement, we intend to act in the interests of both our shareholders and society. Beginning with our project on water conservation, Ford will work to create innovative solutions to critical environmental problems.”

“As business acquires more influence worldwide, and public support for conservation grows, companies face new incentives to demonstrate environmental leadership,” said Glenn Prickett, a senior vice president at CI who serves as the center’s executive director. “The center will partner with a wide range of businesses and environmental organizations to create a net benefit for the environment and the economy.”

Detailed information is available on-line at


Operating as a division of CI, the center is headquartered in Washington, DC.
It is governed by an executive board of business and environment leaders:

  • Peter Seligmann, chairman and CEO of CI
  • Joan Bavaria, president of Trillium Asset Management Corp.
  • Frances G. Beinecke, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Sir John Browne, group chief executive of BP p.l.c.
  • William Clay Ford, Jr., chairman of Ford Motor Co.
  • H. Fisk Johnson, Ph.D., chairman of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.
  • Roger W. Sant, chairman of AES Corp.




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