The Role of Corporate Social Responsibility in Global Risk Management and Foreign Policy Development

Nancy Smith-Nissley, Senior Coordinator for Economic Policy and Public Diplomacy, Bureau of Economic, Energy and Business Affairs
Cornell University Johnson Graduate School of Management
Ithaca, NY
April 20, 2011

I’m delighted to be here because the core tenets of how corporate social responsibility (CSR) help mitigate business risk for multinational corporations ties in perfectly with our nation’s foreign and economic policy agenda. In my remarks today, I want to make the point that corporate citizenship benefits American businesses as well as the global community. My emphasis will be that there is a business case and a policy case for CSR and that mitigating risk is part and parcel of both a company’s return on investment and our nation’s foreign policy goals.

President Obama has told American businesses that, "Even as we make America the best place on Earth to do business; businesses also have a responsibility to America."

This is especially true for companies that operate internationally. Clearly, corporate social responsibility is important because of the realities of globalization. The people of the world are becoming more interconnected due to the advances of technology, communication and transportation. The global market economy is moving not only goods and services but ideas and values as well.

CSR plays a critical role not only in risk management for the business world, it also plays a key role in advancing our foreign and economic policy by enhancing and amplifying our public diplomacy and outreach efforts.

American companies are the face of the United States abroad, fulfilling an important diplomatic role and contributing to America’s overall foreign policy strategy. Wherever they go, American businesses carry the message of free enterprise, market-based economies and democracy. They are at the forefront of promoting education, environmental stewardship, sustainable economic development and, as evidenced by the extremely generous responses to the March Japanese earthquake and tsunami tragedy, humanitarian assistance.

So, CSR is all about "doing well by doing good." That’s a belief that stems from American values, and such values have been central to the long-term success of the American economy throughout its history. Strong corporate values contribute to the reduction of corruption, to increased transparency, and to fairer business practices. Responsible corporate practices that enhance civil society help mitigate risk by reducing the unpredictability of the business climate.

The State Department and Corporate Social Responsibility
We in the State Department work with American businesses on several areas related to corporate social responsibility. These include the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the Awards for Corporate Excellence, the G-20, public-private partnerships and the important role of the private sector in promoting development, anti-corruption, competition, and human rights abroad.

The Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE)
At the State Department, one specific way we recognize and promote the good work of American business and encourage corporate social responsibility is through the annual Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence, also known as the ACE, which is handled by my office. The ACE criteria are based on the OECD Guidelines. For almost 13 years now, I have had the privilege of managing this program for the Secretary of State. ACE nominations are submitted by our Ambassadors around the world for a U.S. company’s achievements in one or more of the following areas: Good Corporate Citizenship; Exemplary Employment Practices; Provision for a Safe and Healthy Workplace; Responsible Environmental Stewardship; Contribution to Overall Growth and Development of the Local Economy; Innovation; Compatibility/Contribution to Local Science and Technology; and Compliance with U.S., International, and Local Laws. For more information and history of the ACE program and its winners, I invite you to visit our website at