U.S. companies must do more to ensure the safety of imported products in the wake of recent events, according to H. Fisk Johnson, Ph.D., chairman and chief executive officer of S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc. Dr. Johnson was honored December 3 at USCIB’s 2007 Annual Award Dinner in New York.
“Blaming the Chinese is not the answer,” he said. “That will only create problems in our relations with China and push America into protectionism. And by blaming China, what we are really doing is letting ourselves off the hook. We here in the U.S. have the ultimate responsibility.”
Dr. Johnson was presented with USCIB’s International Leadership Award at a gala event at the Waldorf=Astoria, with some 250 USCIB members and representatives of the diplomatic community in attendance. The award is presented annually to a leading corporate executive who has made significant contributions to world trade, investment and finance, and to improving the global framework in which American business operates.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, scheduled to speak at the dinner, was called away for the UN’s climate talks in Bali, Indonesia. In his stead, Alicia Barcena, the UN’s under secretary general for management, read a statement from Mr. Ban congratulating Dr. Johnson and urging business leaders to take up the cause of addressing climate change.
“Discussions on climate change have reached a stage where the objectives and priorities of the international community and the business world are more aligned than ever before,” said Mr. Ban in his message. “So I urge every one of you to come join the increasing number of leaders who have already responded to this challenge.”
President Bush also sent a message of congratulations to Dr. Johnson that was read at the event.
In presenting the International Leadership Award to Dr. Johnson, USCIB Chairman William G. Parrett applauded his, and SC Johnson’s, commitment to international trade, environmental protection and corporate sustainability.
“Courageous leaders make brave decisions that propel their companies, their communities and the world forward,” stated Mr. Parrett. “Fisk Johnson is one of those rare and important leaders.”
Dr. Johnson has championed SC Johnson’s “Greenlist” process, a patented process which inventories and rates the impact of more than 2,000 chemicals on the environment and human health. He said the system had helped the company systematically select better raw materials for its products. He pledged to license the system free of charge to any company, including SC Johnson’s competitors.
On product safety, Dr. Johnson said U.S. multinationals must do more to improve conditions in China and elsewhere, helping their suppliers reach a higher standard. He said this was particularly important where products came through a long supply chain.
“We are the ones that must take the lead,” stated Dr. Johnson. “We can’t leave it to the Chinese. We can’t leave it to NGOs. We can’t leave it to the federal regulators. The government cannot test everything. The government cannot write regulations for everything, and we do not want it to. We must be responsible.”
Also at the dinner, USCIB President Peter M. Robinson thanked several members who had been especially active in representing American business views at important international gatherings during 2007. Among those recognized by Mr. Robinson were Joseph Alhadeff of Oracle, Ernie Rosenberg of the Soap and Detergent Association, Geoff Gamble of Dupont, Charlie Heeter of Deloitte, Ron Myrick of Finnegan Henderson and Brian Flannery of ExxonMobil.
“Every day, all year long, USCIB’s members and staff are out there, working to help make the world a better place, not just for American business, or even the business community as a whole, but for everyone,” stated Mr. Robinson.
“They are on the road, or in the air, attending meetings, working with governments, talking to overseas partners, making the case for open markets, explaining the ideas and solutions business can bring to common global challenges.”