International Corporate Citizenship Conference : Breaking down a breakout session

Transparency and Governance

Every year, the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship gathers experts from around the world for our International Corporate Citizenship Conference. This 2.5 day event is packed full of inspiring speakers, networking opportunities, and hands-on workshops that offer the insight and guidance to help you tackle environmental, social, and governance issues. While attendees find value in all of the activities, many find the most in-depth, actionable discussion to take place during our 26 breakout sessions. In these sessions, a panel of distinguished CSR leaders dives into a specific topic—offering real world examples of successes and challenges and fielding questions from the audience. Because the Conference admits corporate citizenship practitioners only, attendees engage in honest dialogue and free discussion.

One of the most enlightening breakout sessions that occurred during our 2015 Conference was titled Transparency and Governance, and featured leaders from three major organizations: Mark Ohringer, executive vice president and global general counsel at Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL); Tom Tropp, corporate vice president of ethics and sustainability at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. (Gallagher); and Theresa Alvarez, vice president of community development and community affairs at Wells Fargo. The panel discussed how ethical behavior and honest and upfront information can drive positive reputational and financial impacts, and their stories highlighted the valuable insight and competitive advantage that effective and transparent governance can yield.

Below you can find some key highlights of the session, which is covered in detail in our most recent issue of the Corporate Citizen magazine.

JLL’s Executive Vice President and Global General Counsel Mark Ohringer

On the difficult job of creating and disseminating engaging governance materials to more than 58,000 employees across the globe:

“These days, people have so much information flying at them from all directions. We have a very large, very diverse organization, and we constantly struggle with how to make our materials clear and accessible. We strive to ensure that our communications resonate with our employees, and that they outline our values, expectations, and—if necessary—the actions we are prepared to take in response to an infraction. We know that nobody’s perfect, and so we want to encourage our employees to ask the right questions, and to understand the personal reasons they should take ethics seriously.”

On transparently disclosing ethics metrics in an Annual Ethics Report:

“At JLL, we do our best to make sure that all of our employees understand and appreciate the importance of acting with integrity, but we also know that we can’t control every person’s behavior. That’s why we want to make sure we’re transparent about our processes—both to let our clients know that we take ethical lapses seriously, and to let our employees know that their actions have consequences. The metrics that we disclose in our Annual Ethics Report illustrate that at the end of the day, our leadership team—those with the ultimate decision making—are going to do the right thing, and that’s what I believe is truly the key to good governance.

Gallagher’s Corporate Vice President of Ethics and Sustainability Tom Tropp

On ensuring that the ethical commitments detailed in The Gallagher Way are adopted globally:

“It is vital to us that all of our employees embrace our shared values. We are cautious, as we bring individuals and organizations into the company, in ensuring that their values are not in conflict with our values, and that they continue to keep these values top of mind as they conduct their work. We know that the only real way to achieve this is through face-to-face communication, which is why I spend my time traveling all over the world to our offices talking to employees.”

On discovering the competitive advantage offered by of transparent disclosure:

“In the past we never hid our compensation, but we didn’t reveal it unless requested to do so. However, roughly ten years ago we began clearly outlining our compensation in every proposal we gave to our clients. In response, many of them— especially our major global clients—began requesting similar information from our competitors, but they wouldn’t disclose it, and more often than not we won the business. What began as simply a sound business practice—transparently offering information to our customers—turned out to be a huge competitive advantage, one we’re still enjoying today.”

Wells Fargo’s Vice President of Community Development and Community Affairs Theresa Alvarez

On tackling a serious issue facing the community:

“It became clear that—because undocumented immigrants did not have the two forms of identification required to open a checking or savings account and deposit their earnings—they were forced to cash their checks and carry around large sums of money. This made them targets for assaults, robberies, and—sometimes—even murder. So we at Wells Fargo worked with the Mexican Consulate to determine if their Consular Card could serve as a primary form of identification.”

On achieving business and social value through ethical decisions:

“We accepted the Consular Card because it was the right thing to do for our community, but it ended up benefiting us as a business as well. For every customer that closed his or her account [due to the decision to accept the Consular Card] there were even more who moved their accounts to our bank, and when we opened our doors to those carrying the Consular Card, we were met by people carrying their life savings—shoeboxes and coffee cans containing thousands of dollars. The result was unexpected, but in the end, it delivered business as well as social value.”

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