Remarks at the 18th Annual Awards for Corporate Excellence

Antony J. Blinken
Deputy Secretary of State
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
January 5, 2017

MR HAIDER: Well, good morning, ladies and gentlemen. And I’ll ask our guests to be seated. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the 18th annual Secretary of State’s Awards for Corporate Excellence ceremony. My name is Ziad Haider. I serve as the Department of State’s Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs. I’m here on behalf of Assistant Secretary Charles Rivkin, who heads our Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. Unfortunately, he sends his regrets. He had a last-minute flight cancellation and I know he sorely misses his last ACE ceremony. He is a big supporter of this ceremony and instrumental in its success. And so, again, his regrets to you all for not being able to be here.

I’d like to thank those of you who are gathered here in the historic Benjamin Franklin Room for being with us in person, and I’d also like to welcome the hundreds of folks from around the world joining us on livestream as well. This award ceremony is actually one of my favorite events of the year as well, because I believe it supports one of the most encouraging business ideas of the 21st century: That profitability and sustainability, that doing well and doing good are no longer polar opposites. They are, in fact, part of the same exact equation.

In my role here at the State Department I have the privilege to meet with U.S. companies operating around the world and to support them directly in their businesses. And I’ve learned in a very direct way that many of our corporations, many of our American companies operating around the world understand that doing good and doing well should be part of the same mission. This is not just about being moral, or just, or fair; it’s about good business. They know that winning at the expense of the communities where you operate is a short-term proposition. They know that employees and consumers who feel respected by businesses will respond in kind. They will thrive and create even more wealth. And they know that companies with high standards of governance, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility deliver strong returns and lower levels of volatility.

From our standpoint as U.S. government officials, as supporters of U.S. businesses, we are seeing more and more recognition of this value proposition from foreign governments as well. Foreign governments are asking, inviting American companies to invest in their countries, not only because of the wealth that they can create, but because of the standards that they’ll live and operate by. These range from demanding transparency and open competition in business environments to preserving intellectual property standards. They include hiring locally, investing for the long term, and respecting local communities and ecosystems. They seek to have supply chains that are free of deforestation, that do not aid and abet labor abuses, that do not support terrorism or other human rights abuses, and that do not destroy endangered species.

The companies that are on this stage are, it’s safe to say, some of our best ambassadors, and we don’t use that word lightly here at the State Department. They are so because they uphold our American values and they represent the American brand. And this ceremony is really quite simply an opportunity to thank them, this year’s six winners who demonstrate those values day-in and day-out.

Now, just a few weeks ago, Assistant Secretary Rivkin was in Riyadh where he had the privilege to tour a facility of one of this year’s winners for the Inclusive Hiring Practices category: GE Saudi Arabia. He spoke to several female employees who proudly told him about their commitment to their work and their rapid career progression from being a service team member to a senior project manager. And I’m very excited for you to hear firsthand about the story of GE Saudi Arabia in setting up a training center for a thousand women in that country.

In addition, last February, Assistant Secretary Rivkin was in Peru where he toured the operations of another one of our winners this year: Sociedad Minera Cerro Verde, this year’s winner for Transparent Operations. He was struck to learn about the work the company has done to incorporate community consultations into the company’s core decision-making processes.

At a personal level, I am also particularly delighted to acknowledge one of the other winners of this year’s awards, which is McDonald’s in Germany. My team and I personally have been working closely with the White House and with Deputy Secretary Blinken on this stage to spur our companies, U.S. companies to step up in the face of the global refugee crisis. We are witnessing one of the most unprecedented catastrophes, frankly, since World War II in terms of the displacement of people all over the world. And the fact is, is that a crisis of this scale does require all hands on deck. And as you will learn today, McDonald’s is part of that response and commendably so. When I was in Germany, I had the chance to see companies like McDonald’s in action, and the work that they are doing to help refugees integrate into the host economies and create a better life is really remarkable and inspiring.

So this is what the American brand is about and why countries around the world are seeking U.S. investment. Thomas Paine once wrote, “The mind once enlightened again cannot become dark.” And I believe these awards, and this being the last one of this Administration, are our way at the State Department of keeping alive the idea, keeping that idea illuminated that doing well and doing good go hand in hand, so that it is not just something we recognize one-off, but it is a practice that we hail and we hope will spread to other companies not just in the U.S. but globally.

So the point is every one of the companies on this stage is doing outstanding work. We are proud not just as State Department officials but as citizens of this country, frankly, to recognize the work that they are doing through the ACE ceremony. And so with that, let me thank you again for joining us in person over our webcast, and now I would like to welcome to the podium the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Cathy Novelli. (Applause.)

UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, thank you, Ziad, and I’d like to also thank the ACE Award team, Melike (inaudible) and her team, for the hard work that they put in to pull together this whole ceremony and the award itself. And just to say to all of you it’s such a pleasure for me to be here today as we celebrate the accomplishments of the winners of this year’s Awards for Corporate Excellence. And I’d like to also lend my congratulations to our winners for their absolutely fantastic work. We’ve never had six winners before, but the selection committee was so impressed by all the creativity and innovative work of our winners that we knew that all six of them needed to be recognized.

And I think as Ziad said, I think everybody who works on the ACE Awards feels the same way. The State Department has a lot of awards, but the ACE Award is a universal favorite because it really inspires us. And as chair of that committee, I look forward to – I was just saying this is one of my favorite events, but the second-favorite event is when we get to review all the nominations because they’re all incredible. And we see that the ACE Awards can recognize the best of what American companies bring to the marketplace, which is excellence, innovation, high standards, sustainability, and a commitment to a strong workforce and local communities. And as we discussed today with our award winners at a roundtable, we are so proud to have them as our best ambassadors. So it is an honor to be here.

A few weeks ago, I was pleased to join the White House in launching the first U.S. National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct. And this action plan was launched by President Obama and looks at ways that we as a government have and will continue to support U.S. companies in upholding high standards. And the ACE Awards are one of the ways we put that into practice, and we talked about today actually augmenting what we do and becoming maybe a clearinghouse for all of the good work that companies are doing embassy by embassy so that companies, U.S. companies, can build off the works of each other.

Each year, we update the ACE Awards and add specific award categories to reflect policy priorities. And I think we’re very well aware that government alone isn’t going to bring about opportunity and prosperity at home or abroad; it’s really the private sector who is the one who employs people and brings all those opportunities.

So this year, we included a Sustainable Oceans Category which aligns with Secretary Kerry’s Our Ocean Conference and the State Department’s continuing efforts to protect marine life, prevent marine pollution, mitigate the impact of climate change, and promote a blue economy, which is the recognition that conservation and environmentally sustainable management practices are – can be pathways and not roadblocks to enabling long-term economic development and growth.

And so it’s a really pleasure for me to see the nomination of and an award for one of the Sustainable Ocean Management winners, which is Bureo. And when I traveled to Chile in 2015 for the Our Ocean Conference, I met them. They founded a skateboard and surfing – a skateboard company to find innovative solutions to prevent ocean plastics. So what they do is they use recycled fish nets to actually make skateboards and other things, including very cool sunglasses, and they are expanding this from Chile to elsewhere. And the idea is to clean up the ocean by taking all the nets out of it that aren’t being used anymore.

Our other Sustainable Ocean Management winner, Interface, is another one of Our Ocean Conference participants, and it’s working to reduce ocean plastics by recycling fishing nets into carpet tiles. And from carpet manufacture to installation, Interface is exploring new ways to promote sustainability and lessen its impact on the environment. And it’s very striking – Interface’s mission to show that sustainability is better for business is the ACE Award essence.

The one category we haven’t changed from all of the previous ACE Awards is the one for Small and Medium Enterprises. And we know that that’s key because SMEs are the key to growth and development in the U.S. and everywhere around the world, and Deputy Secretary Blinken is going to tell us more about this year’s winner, Andela, and their work with young people in the technology sector in Nigeria and in Kenya. But to borrow a Silicon Valley buzzword, Andela is disrupting things in the best of ways by putting people first, and so it’s very exciting. And Ziad’s already talked about the other three deserving winners – GE Saudi Arabia, McDonald’s Deutschland, and Sociedad Minera Cerro Verde. So that sort of completes the lauds for the six companies.

Just in conclusion, the ACE awards bring together so many parts of our foreign policy goals, from transparency to environmental sustainability to the power of technology to grow economies, and these deserving winners are putting those policies into practice in their work. And so I’d just like to extend my congratulations to everyone for their amazing work and for the continuing wonderful things they’re going to do to represent the United States and make the world a better place.

And I’d like to now introduce Deputy Secretary Tony Blinken, who’s going to tell us more about each year’s winner and present the awards. Thank you. (Applause.)

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good morning to everyone, and welcome. Thank you so much for joining us here today. This really is a high point of the year for me, for all of us, as you already heard from Cathy and Ziad. There are days when we don’t get to do a lot of positive things; this is one day when we really do get to focus on the positive, and in a way – as Cathy said, in a way that inspires us to continue to do our work as well.

So it’s great to have all of you here. It’s particularly good to have so many distinguished guests from the diplomatic, congressional, and business communities with us today. And I too want to recognize an extraordinary team here at the department that works every single day to advance U.S. economic interests and support U.S. companies abroad. This is a key part of our mission, a key part of our mission that the President has made clear to us, and Secretary Kerry has made clear to us, every single day.

Cathy Novelli, Charlie Rivkin – who wanted very much to be here but had a flight problem, but every single day is working to advance this agenda – and Ziad Haider, three remarkable public servants. It’s a privilege to work with you and your teams.

So nominations for the awards today come directly from our ambassadors and chiefs of mission. They’re the ones who on a day-in, day-out basis get to see firsthand the difference our companies are making in their communities. With 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside of our own borders, we are proud of the examples that these companies are setting and their commitment to export the highest standards for protecting workers, preserving the environment, advancing innovation, defending intellectual property.

I have to say I can’t imagine a better room than the one that we’re in for this particular occasion. Because, as you know, it’s been named for a gentleman whose portrait hangs just above the fireplace, Ben Franklin. He, of course, was our nation’s first diplomat. He charted the Gulf Stream. He pioneered the study of electricity. He authored America’s very first treaty. He helped forge a new ethos of self-government, almost none of which he did sober. (Laughter.) He was an innovator – indeed, one of our nation’s greatest innovators. He understood and he preached the value of enterprise and entrepreneurship in shaping a world that could be just a little bit healthier, a little bit wealthier, a little bit wiser, and a lot more fun. Which is to say that if Ben Franklin were with us today, he would likely have been up for an award himself, because there’s not a chance on Earth he would have been confirmed for public office by the U.S. Senate. (Laughter.)

In my own role, I have had the great privilege of talking to people virtually in every part of our planet, individuals from all walks of life. And there is one thing almost without fail that attracts them to the United States. It’s not always our policies, and it isn’t even our politics, hard as that may be to imagine. It’s our culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, our desire to aim high that first took flight with Ben Franklin’s kite more than two centuries ago. It’s a culture that leaders like yourselves have shaped by inspiring a race to the top around the world, by driving prosperity and opportunity not only through good jobs and high profits, but also fair rules and honest values.

Today, young entrepreneurs don’t see anything at odds about making social responsibility a core part of their business plan and strategy. And that’s thanks to your leadership and your corporate excellence.

So it is now my privilege to recognize this year’s winners and invite each of them to come up and give brief remarks.

First up, the Award for Corporate Excellence in Inclusive Hiring Practices. Our first of two winners in this category: GE in Saudi Arabia. Now, we know that if women participated in the economy at the same rate as men around the world, global GDP would rise by $25 trillion – that’s trillion with a T – by 2025 – 25 trillion. Well, GE is doing its part to get us to that future. It’s supporting inclusive hiring through operations in Saudi Arabia. In September 2013, GE Saudi, Saudi Aramco, and Tata Consultancy Services announced a partnership to open the country’s first all-female business processing center. Today, it is a major hub, supporting GE’s worldwide operations, employing, as I understand it, 1,000 Saudi and non-Saudi women, setting to grow to 3,000 in the years ahead.

So please join me in welcoming from GE Mazen Dalati, COO of GE Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, to receive the 2016 Award for Corporate Excellence in Inclusive Hiring Practices. (Applause.)

MR DALATI: Good morning. Good morning. Thank you. It’s really a privilege. We are very honored to honored to receive this award. Congratulations to all my colleagues on this panel. It’s really an exalted company. On behalf of Jeff Immelt, our chairman, and the entire GE family, we’d like to thank the Secretary of State and the entire staff for this recognition, as exemplified by our business process outsourcing and IT center in Saudi.

This has been a focus for GE and will continue to be, so it’s a sustainable focus, more so now as it aligns with the Vision 2030 and National Transformation Program in Saudi Arabia that is transforming the economy away from only oil to a knowledge-based economy. We’re also thankful to the nomination coming from the U.S. embassy and the entire staff there. They’ve been a great support, great partners for us. So thank you for them as well.

Now, I’d like to leave you with a short video by Jeff Immelt, who unfortunately was not able to join us today, as he has a longstanding commitment. So for the video. Thank you so much. (Applause.)

(Video Begins.)

  1. IMMELT: I’d like to thanks Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Westphal and everyone really at the State Department for their prestigious ACE Award. I’m honored to receive that on behalf of GE.

I think it’s very important for American companies to work closely with our government around the world, not just to do a good job of driving economic growth, but also making a statement about what we think is possible from a standpoint of adding capability to countries and making them better places to invest over the long term.

One of the core reasons why we’re receiving this award is the business process outsourcing center that we really engineered and innovated around in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is an important company for GE. It’s a place where we have a long-term investing headset. It’s also an important relationship for the United States, and it’s a place that’s going through a tremendous amount of change.

One of the things – advantages we have in the private sector is we can move relatively quickly and we can be, let’s say, creative in the way we think about how to make investments and how to advance. The idea to do a business process outsourcing center really came almost five years ago, and the whole notion was that we could build a capability and put some of the great Saudi women to work, who are college-degreed, and allow them to have the capability to have great jobs, great careers, and do it in a setting that could really improve their life and their prospects.

We did it in partnership with Tata Consulting and with Saudi Aramco, so we had two other great partners. And we did it really with the mindset of creating both a good business but also reinvesting in capability in the country and really solving one of the country’s biggest challenges, which was putting great women to work.

So we appreciate being recognized for that. We want to say thank you to the State Department for your support and assistance not just in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but around the world. And again, I think this is a good example of the ways that companies can be innovative, not just for their own good and for their own investors, but more broadly to raise the values of the United States and make a lasting impact in the countries where we compete. So thanks again, and I accept this great award on behalf of all the people of GE.

(Video ends.) (Applause.)

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: We have a second winner in the inclusive hiring category, and that is McDonald’s Deutschland.

Today, more than 65 million people have been displaced by conflict and taken flight for their lives, and you heard Ziad talk about that a short while ago. We see Syria in the headlines, but it’s also places from around the world, from Afghanistan to Myanmar and a dozen countries in Africa. In many cases, they follow the same footsteps that many of our own parents, grandparents, great-grandparents took in search of sanctuary from war or persecution.

And as Ziad said, we throw around words like “historic crisis” very, very easily, especially in Washington. But this truly is a crisis of historic proportions. It is, indeed, the largest wave of human displacement since World War II, and it is remaking the world that we’re living in. It’s changing our labor markets, as so many of you know. It’s putting pressure on local infrastructure and national borders. It’s evolving the nature and makeup of our communities. It’s affecting our sense of security. Most of all, I think, it’s challenging us to live up to our common humanity.

We know that if simply given the opportunity, refugees can thrive, contribute, give back to their new homes. History proves that there’s not only a humanitarian, but also a business case to be made for diversity and for inclusion. In fact, more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or by the children of immigrants. One of every four high-tech startups in the United States and over half of the high-tech startups in Silicon Valley were co-founded by immigrants. Take that out of the picture, what does our economy, what does our society, what does our future look like?

McDonald’s Deutschland understands this. Since 2015, McDonald’s Deutschland has employed over 900 refugees across Germany. The company has also provided over 20,000 online learning course licenses to the German federal employment agency to help train refugees over the next two years.

So please welcome in joining the representative from Deutschland McDonald’s, the director of global government and public affairs, to receive the 2016 Award for Corporate Excellence in Inclusive Hiring Practices. Sam, please come on up. (Applause.)

MR TATEVOSYAN: Good morning, everybody. Deputy Secretary, Under Secretary, Special Representative, thank you very much for this great award. On behalf of McDonald’s Germany and McDonald’s Corporation, Global McDonald’s Corporation, we really appreciate your recognition.

McDonald’s Germany has already received incredible attention and approval within the German society for doing this work. It is a great honor to receive this from the Department of State as well. The refugee crisis is one of the biggest challenges facing the German society since World War II. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have come to Germany seeking a new life, a new opportunity, and often all they need is the dignity of a job.

Since 2015, as the deputy secretary mentioned, McDonald’s Germany has hired and trained over now 1,000 employees, or refugees, and provided over 20,000 learning licenses that helped refugees learn German and integrate into the workforce and the broader German society.

In the words of the McDonald’s Germany CEO, if we want this challenge to become a great opportunity for Germany, we have to accompany the new diversity with active measures. Speaking a common language is a foundation for a peaceful coexistence of different cultures.

At McDonald’s, both in Germany and around the world, giving back to the communities where we live is our core value. Whether integrating refugees into their host countries, helping hundreds of thousands of families with ill children to stay in Ronald McDonald Houses around the world, educating thousands of restaurant employees through programs like Archways to Opportunity, or hiring thousands of at-risk youth, McDonald’s is always there to give you a chance.

We really appreciate bestowing this award on McDonald’s Germany. We’re thrilled and humbled to receive it. Thank you. (Applause.)

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: So on to the next category, and this is probably the one that would have been Ben Franklin’s favorite: small and medium enterprises. Today, these businesses account for over 50 percent of all jobs in the United States. The percentage abroad is even greater.

This year’s award for a small and medium enterprise goes to Andela, in Nigeria. Now, this is a little bit more personal for me, because I actually had the pleasure of getting to visit with Andela last year and meeting some of its talented engineers. It trains them to provide software development and information technology services for global companies. It pays its developers above-market wages and it provides accommodations, meals, health care. Andela was incorporated in May 2014 and it’s been an immediate success, placing over 100 developers with company partners this year alone.

So please join me in welcoming Jeremy Johnson, CEO of Andela, to receive the 2016 Award for Corporate Excellence for Small and Medium Enterprise. (Applause.)

MR JOHNSON: At the moment I’m not sure if being Ben Franklin’s favorite is a good thing right now. (Laughter.) But I’m going to take it the way that we’re taking this entire day, as a huge honor. Thank you very much for having us.

We founded Andela on a very simple truth, and that’s that while brilliance is evenly distributed around the world, opportunity is not. Our mission is to find and empower the next generation of technology leaders, and we do that in a way that seems a little crazy to most people: we pay people to learn, literally. We actually invest over $15,000 in the training and support of helping an aspiring developer become a world-class team member of top companies around the world: Facebook, Microsoft, Google.

And we were able to do that – I know it sounds crazy – for three reasons. One is that that truth actually is real: brilliance is evenly distributed. And Andela developers are probably the most impressive people that I have had the pleasure of working with. They’re young men and women, average age 25, primarily from Kenya and Nigeria, but we now have fellows in the program who are, I believe, from four different other countries. And every chance I get to be with them, I am humbled a little bit. And not only because they probably would have run circles around most of my classmates at Princeton, but they’re wonderful people still.

The second reason it works is because, unlike what most people would assume about infrastructure across the continent of Africa, we actually – our fiber optic internet connection in Nigeria is probably better than ours in New York right now. Now, in fairness, it also is a little bit more expensive, but it can work. It does work. Thanks to the work of many people here and also many folks around the world, the infrastructure is there if you’re willing to put in the work. And for that, thank you to Christina, our COO here and cofounder, but also our amazing country directors who have made that happen.

And the third reason Andela functions is our partners, our partner companies around the world. And we have the honor of having a few of them here with us in the room. Thank you for being here. And it’s important to note that our partners, by and large, don’t work with us because they care about our mission. They do, but that’s not why. They work with us because they have their own really important missions and they understand that the most effective way to advance their mission is to be open-minded, to be willing to accept that maybe the best developer for their team isn’t somewhere within 20 miles of their office, and that maybe this young man or woman from Nairobi or Lagos, who may not look like their idea of a software developer, actually could be an invaluable team member. And because of that open-mindedness, because of that willingness to think a little bit more broadly, to recognize talent around the world, Andela is able to function.

So thank you for that, and thank you to everyone here for this award. It’s a huge honor.


DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Now, you heard Cathy Novelli speak to this, but to get into our next category, experts say that by 2025, plastics in the ocean could outweigh fish. Think about that for a second. Ocean pollution entangles sea creatures; it damages habitats; it drains vitality from our planet and from our economies. But today, businesses are stepping up to fight it.

So our first award in the category of Sustainable Oceans Management goes to Bureo in Chile. Bureo designs and manufactures, as you’ve heard from Cathy, a unique line of sunglasses, skateboards, and other sustainable products for the action sports industry, sourced from recycled fishing nets. They’ve launched a fishing net collection and recycling program, Net Positiva, to help tackle ocean plastic pollution. Through the program, Bureo has partnered directly with fishing communities in Chile and recycled more than 55 tons of fishing nets.

So please join me in welcoming Kevin Ahearn, Bureo’s cofounder, to receive the 2016 Award for Corporate Excellence in Sustainable Oceans Management.


MR AHEARN: Thank you to Secretary Kerry, Deputy Secretary Blinken, and obviously Under Secretary Cathy Novelli. It’s an honor to accept this award on behalf of my fellow cofounders and the entire team at Bureo. As a small business, it’s humbling to be standing among the giants of McDonalds and GE and Interface.

So this award for us is more than just recognizing the work of a few individuals, but rather it’s about recognizing a shift in the status quo. This award recognizes the tireless efforts of the many, many people who contribute to our program, and by doing so, help ensure that our marine ecosystems are treated with the respect that they deserve so that the oceans can provide for future generations the enjoyment and resources that our generation and the generations before us have enjoyed.

Bureo was founded as a passion project of three humble surfers who simply enjoyed the ocean and shared a passion for its conservation. I’d like to take this time to recognize the dedication and hard work of my fellow cofounders, David Stover and Ben Kneppers. What we saw three years ago, was an opportunity not just to create a sustainable business or an environmental business, but a way to do all three of those together: Create an environmental business with sustainable practices that didn’t affect the bottom line, rather improved it.

A little over three years ago, the three of us were given the nickname “Los Tres Gringos Locos” – (laughter) – as we traveled from one fishing village to the next along the coastline of Chile and explained to the fishermen that we not only wanted to buy back their old fishing nets, but we wanted to recycle them into consumer products.

Fully aware of how crazy we sounded, we worked alongside the fishermen in their workshops to sort, clean, and recycle our first one ton of fishing nets, which were used in the production of our very first skateboards. Upon returning to the villages and showing the skateboards to the fishermen, we realized at that moment that we had forever changed the way that they would view their net waste.

We’re happy to report that since that first day of our fishnet collection program, Net Positiva has expanded to over 20 different communities, and this year we’re on track to collect and recycle over 200 tons of derelict fishing nets. None of this would have been made possible without the support we have received along the way. First and foremost, I’d like to thank the Government of Chile for giving us the incredible opportunity to start our program in their beautiful country and the U.S. Government for recognizing our collective efforts through this nomination.

I’d also like to thank our friends at Patagonia for their unwavering guidance and support since day one and all of our friends at Interface Carpets, 5 Gyres, WWF, and all the other groups and individuals we’ve been fortunate to meet along the way who have provided us with inspiration and motivation to keep us pushing for what we believe in. We know we can’t solve these problems on our own, but by working together, we can help to ensure that the oceans we leave our next generation are cleaner, safer, and healthier than the ones they are today. Thank you. (Applause.)

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: And now to our second award in the category of Sustainable Oceans Management, and that goes to Interface in the Philippines. Interface is a Georgia-based manufacturer of modular carpet tiles and flooring working to decrease maritime pollution and marine pollution in coastal areas of the Philippines while improving lives in local communities. Interface launched Net-Works, a project to remove discarded nets from the oceans to prevent marine life from getting caught in those nets. Net-Works pays local participants to recycle the nets by sending them to Interface, which then uses the nylon to produce 100-percent recycled carpet yarn. The program is operated in 26 communities, directly benefiting more than 4,000 people.

So please join me in welcoming Dan Hendrix, Interface CEO, to receive the 2016 Award for Corporate Excellence in Sustainable Oceans Management. (Applause.)

MR HENDRIX: Hi, I’m Dan Hendrix, and thank you to the State Department. I never dreamed that the ACE awards actually existed. (Laughter.) So thank you for the recognition.

The one thing about Interface – I’m not sure many people in this room know Interface, but we are the largest global carpet tile manufacturer in the world on modular. We operate in four continents manufacturing-wise and we’re very global. And the one thing that we built the company on is there has to be a better way to do business. That started out by us inventing carpet tile, and then in 1994 we said there’s got to be a better way to manufacture our products. Mother Earth was in trouble and we felt like we had to reduce our carbon footprint, we had to reduce our dependence on virgin raw materials, and so we went – embarked on a way to go through what we call closed-loop recycling.

So you had to get very creative. We challenged our suppliers to do this. We had a supplier called Aquafil who went out and started harvesting fishing nets – commercial fishing nets. We had a young lady in our organization that said, “Well, why don’t we make this an inclusive business model? Why don’t we go to the villages in the Philippines who live on $2 a day and create a win-win-win situation?” Because the fishing nets really are the cleanest source of nylon out there that you can recycle.

So what we did is we got really creative. We went to the Zoological Society of London. We partnered with them, an NGO. We went and partnered with the local fishing villages. We created microfinancing. Today, it works. We’re now expanding that to other communities. We have impacted 600 families by cleaning up the oceans and recycling these fishing nets. We also have impacted over 55,000 people. We’ve recycled 100 tons of fishing nets. And the thing that came out of it is we realized that we had a shared value with our customers and that’s very important. Our customers really valued the fact that we had an inclusive business model and we cared about society and the communities that we did business in. So today, you talk to our salespeople, they will tell you that 50 percent of their business comes from the fact that we do have an inclusive business model, so it’s been a win-win.

So with that, I’d like to thank the State Department for this recognition, this fantastic award, and thank you. (Applause.)

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: And now to our fourth and final category this morning, and that’s in Transparent Operations. Conflicts between businesses and local communities not only cost money and time, but damage the well-being and livelihoods of those who live nearby. That’s why it’s so important for companies to involve local stakeholders in local decisions. Sociedad Minera Cerro Verde in Peru did just that. The company completed a $5.6 billion expansion in 2015, within budget, on schedule, because of its proactive, transparent consultation with local communities and all levels of government. The expansion included a $1 billion investment in water infrastructure that supplies not only the additional capacity required by the mine, but also potable water and waste water treatment for the residents of Peru’s second-largest city.

So it’s a great honor and also a personal privilege, as someone who’s spent some time in the United States Senate, to welcome former Senator Bennett Johnston, board member of Freeport-McMoRan, the parent company of Cerro Verde, to receive the 2016 Award for Corporate Excellence in Transparent Operations.

Senator. (Applause.)

SENATOR JOHNSTON: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, on behalf of the company, and I might also add, on behalf of our two senior advisors, Ambassadors Stape Roy and Bob Gelbard, who are here. They may be gone, but they’re not forgotten.

We produce copper in Freeport-McMoRan around the world. Copper, as we all know, is essential to infrastructure. You can’t have transportation, you can’t have electricity generation or transmission, or infrastructure in general without copper. Economists call it “doctor copper” because of its unerring ability to predict the prosperity, or lack thereof, of the world economy, because we rise or fall with the world. We may be essential, but we’re not always appreciated, because copper mining is an extractive industry and by its nature is somewhat disruptive.

So I must say, Mr. Secretary, it is a great pleasure to be the first mining company in the world to receive this kind of award. Long ago at Freeport, we decided that we were not going to be a disruptive company, but we were going to add to the prosperity and wellbeing and the economy of the areas in which we produce copper.

In Peru, our Cerro Verde mine is the third-largest in the world, the largest copper mine in Peru, and it also happens to be, as so many of our mines are, in an area that is bereft of wealth and, in Peru especially, water. So we determined, as part of a $4.5 billion expansion program, to try to solve this problem of water in Peru, at least around our mine. We’re adjacent to Arequipa, which is the second-largest city in Peru, about a million people, all without water and without this infrastructure.

So we undertook an extensive dialogue with the people of the area – had 36 public meetings, endless interviews, studies, dialogue. And at the end of the process, we came up with a three-part program to solve the problem of water around our mine.

First, we financed and designed and built a series of dams and water catchment in order that when it rains – there is a wet season – we could collect the water for use later. Secondly, they didn’t have potable water, a city of a million people without potable water. So we designed a system that provides water for three-quarters of a million people 24 hours a day. We use about 20 percent of the water in the mining process, but most of it is for the people of the area.

And the third part was sewage treatment, clean water. We provide treatment for this water for the whole area, including the city of Arequipa. It used to be put right in the Rio Chile. You can imagine what that did for the health and wellbeing of the people of the area. It was a very bad situation. Now the Rio Chile has fish. The health of the people is much, much improved. The whole area benefits by what we have done with water.

So let me say, Cerro Verde may be exhibit A in what we’re trying to do around the world, but we propose and hope and seek to be the standard by which mining companies around the world will add to and not be disruptive in the areas where they mine copper and other elements around the world. So thank you, Mr. Secretary, for this award. We much appreciate it as a mining company. Thank you. (Applause.)

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: So let me just say again, congratulations to all of this year’s winners. I want to thank all of you again not just for joining us today, but for what so many of you are doing every single day to, in your own ways, advance and exemplify what we have tried to give recognition to today. And it’s, as I said, truly a high point of the year for us.

So with that, thank you for being here. It’s my honor to conclude the ceremony, to invite our guests next door for a reception in the Thomas Jefferson room. That’s our equivalent of an after-party. (Laughter.)

Thanks very much. (Applause.)