AHC Group

Leveraging global citizenship functions in the 21st-century corporation

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Courtesy of AHC Group

The author outlines HP's efforts to integrate global citizenship efforts across the entire business, from sales, investor relations, R&D, and branding, throughout HP's $40 billion supply chain and into the design and development of new products.


A host of trends and factors are increasingly validating the premise that good citizenship is good business. Research suggests that consumers are becoming more conscious of the social and environmental impact of the products they buy and this is a consideration that can affect purchasing decisions. Studies indicate a greater awareness and desire by graduating college seniors and MBA students to work for a company with a reputation for corporate social responsibility and ethics. Business and government customers increasingly require global citizenship performance data in vendor proposals. Investors are becoming more demanding of a company's commitment to global citizenship and are evaluating companies' citizenship efforts as criteria for inclusion in their funds. Investing in companies that are good citizens is not a regional phenomenon. Socially responsible investing, worth $2 trillion, is a trend that has a strong presence in the U.S. and Europe, and is now gaining momentum in parts of the Far East. The corporate world has long recognized the power of the non-governmental organization (NGO) community, and both the positive and negative impact these groups and the publicity they generate can have on corporate image and reputation. Finally, in an age of heightened sensitivity to the ecological and social impact of industry and in the wake of too many accounting and governance scandals, employees today are clamoring for an ethical work environment and an employer of which they can be proud. Employee expectations are higher than they have ever been before. Amidst all of this are new, emerging and imminent laws and regulations that further define market access and business requirements. Successful companies recognize these trends and are moving swiftly to fully leverage the changing business landscape. HP is aware of these factors and is continuously making improvements to address the challenges and maintain our company's leadership position in this arena.


With eyes constantly on quarterly earnings and annual financial performance, there can be a natural tendency to become too focused on short-term rather than long-term objectives. In the past, some NGOs and activists have been critical of individual company policies and practices that drive global citizenship, and were concerned that they were merely 'window dressing.' HP has always been cognizant of these and other similar concerns. Because of this, HP has taken a different and arguably unique approach to instituting and advancing global citizenship.

HP is a large multinational corporation in every sense of the word, and with its principal businesses spanning the fields of IT infrastructure and services, personal computing, and imaging and printing, the company has a unique perspective on the global citizenship challenges and opportunities it faces. Rather than viewing global citizenship as a matter of regulatory compliance, HP sees global citizenship as an opportunity for growth, organizational vitality and differentiation. HP also realizes the potential business benefits that exist through its global citizenship efforts. With HP's IT markets tapping into less than 10 percent of the world's population, the remaining 90 percent of the population presents future opportunities. These opportunities range from new ideas and markets being developed to new customers that could buy HP's products to new employees and partners needed to serve those new markets.


In examining the global citizenship policies and practices at one's company — and in working to understand the true impact such efforts are having — it is important to take a hard look at how a company is performing both internally and externally. The old adage of 'what gets measured, gets done' applies. Because of the broad scope of HP's global citizenship efforts, its success and progress against goals are measured in a number of ways internally. The company requires that all operations worldwide meet legal requirements and company standards while pursuing continual improvement. Internal audits assess accountability, privacy and ethical compliance. Another means for internal assessment is the use of internal scorecards that measure achievement toward goals related to global citizenship.

Externally, there is a well-established community of key audiences and stakeholders that, when viewed holistically, can provide an objective snapshot of global citizenship progress and impact. Included within this community are organizations such as Core Ratings, Domini, Innovest, INrate, and Oekom, among many others. It is critical that a corporation look at its rating within several of these organizations, not just one or two. Only in this way can an accurate assessment of the company's global citizenship efforts be made and its true impact measured. HP's global citizenship efforts have been recognized with a number of awards, including the 2003 American Business Ethics Award, the Ponemon Institute's and TRUSTe's List of Most Trusted Companies, and the Customer Respect Group's Top 100 U.S. Companies in Online Customer Respect and Online Customer Experience. Ratings received from publications such as Ethical Corporation Magazine and Business Ethics are closely monitored. Influential SRI funds have also evaluated HP's global citizenship programs and performance, rating the company as a leader in its industry. In 2003 and 2004, the company was listed in top spots in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), and on the FTSE4Good index. Although these are only examples of many indicators of HP's success, they also serve as guideposts for further improvements.

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