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June 11, 2013 7:24 AM Age: 4 yrs

If a TOMS shoe fits, wear it

Category: AC RSS Feeds, AC RSS, Ethics Commentary & Opinion, Featured Columnists, Eleanor Bloxham, GPG Commentary & Opinion, ESG Highlighted Commentary, ESG Highlights
Source:  Eleanor Bloxham is CEO of The Value Alliance and Corporate Governance Alliance

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"If people can't trust not only the executive branch but also don't trust Congress and don't trust federal judges to make sure that we're abiding by the Constitution, due process and rule of law, then we're going to have some problems here," President Obama reportedly said last week in response to leaks about government surveillance programs.

 

The problem is, Mr. President, we do have some problems here – and you can’t solve a trust problem unless you know you have one – and want to solve it. 

 

The President’s remarks are reminiscent of George H.W. Bush’s incredulity at first seeing a grocery scanner – and his cluelessness about the price of milk.  It’s a moment of wonder: is the President really this out of touch? 

 

Due process and rule of law have already gone out the window when the U.S. Attorney General tells Congress that big banks are too big to jail and three months later, it appears that’s the end of it.

 

Trust in government is very low indeed. Board members reviewing trust figures for corporations often laugh and say, well, at least we’re better off than the government. And others will quip: well that’s a low bar. Last month, one board member put it this way: “other than dogs, is there anyone we trust?”

 

Many corporate executives and board members are ahead of the President in the trust department. Board members believe trust among directors is a key ingredient to a high performing board. And some recognize that they should do more to build trust in their corporations.

 

Ideas from a brainstorming of directors last month on how to build trust that corporations will do what is right included: Have a staff that likes working for the company. Invest in the community [even though] investment bankers don’t care.

 

Inevitably, in these conversations, TOMS, a shoe company, is an organization that board members mention. If you aren’t familiar with TOMS, for every pair of shoes you buy, they give one away to a child in need. This has been the mission for the company from the start.

 

Although board members know that the companies they oversee didn’t begin with that kind of goal, some are beginning to recognize that “young people are more interested in companies that give back.” They understand that companies today must consistently work to build trust that they’ll to do the right thing. It’s a leadership imperative.

 

Eleanor Bloxham is CEO of The Value Alliance and Corporate Governance Alliance (http://thevaluealliance.com), a board education and advisory firm.

Copyright 2013. The Value Alliance Company. All rights reserved.

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