MODERATOR: Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Secretary of State of the United States, Michael R. Pompeo, accompanied by Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Manisha Singh and the 2019 recipients of the Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence. (Applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SINGH: Ladies and gentlemen, honored guests, your excellencies, it’s my pleasure to welcome you to the Secretary of State’s Awards for Corporate Excellence. I’m very pleased to announce that this is the 20th anniversary of the “ACE Awards,” as they’re known.
We at the State Department work in partnership with American companies all over the world. In fact, we like to say that U.S. companies and American workers are some of our best global ambassadors. You represent American values; you represent the American brand. When you go into communities around the world, you care about the workers. You care about the environment. You take heart in everything that you do.
Today we’re very pleased to recognize companies in the categories of women’s economic empowerment and sustainability. We have small and medium-sized enterprises; we have large multinational corporations. And this recognition is also a recognition of the partnership that the State Department has with American companies and American workers. You make our jobs easier. When you go into a country and you exemplify the fact that Americans care about the communities they’re operating in, that they respect the sovereignty of governments, it provides a contrast to other entities in the world who do not operate similarly.
With that, I’m going to turn the podium over to our honored guest and our host today, who is America’s top diplomat. He is a champion for American values and for the American worker. He is a former small business CEO himself, and I’ve heard him talk at length about the workers in the state of Kansas that he cared about at Thayer Aerospace. He continues this tradition about caring for the American worker and encouraging small and medium-sized enterprises as well as large businesses all over the world.
It is my distinct honor and my pleasure to welcome Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo. (Applause.)
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Manisha. Thanks, everybody.
Good afternoon. The – talking about my old days in the private sector brings – like, there’s things I miss in the world. (Laughter.) But I love what I’m doing. It’s great to see so many amazing business leaders here today. I was – I was part of this before I lost my mind and ran for Congress. (Laughter.)
I hope that we have here, in my tenure as the Secretary of State, brought some of the sense that comes from risk taking every day, the things that the private sector does, about how to manage people and organizations and institutions. It’s a great value. I hope we’ve brought some of that here to the State Department.
I’ve certainly made an emphasis of making sure that our economic diplomacy here at State was real and strong and capable everywhere. I can’t imagine that you could go to one of our embassies anywhere in the world and you wouldn’t know that our team in the field understood those instructions and that priority. It includes certainly making businesses like all of yours successful.
And as often as possible, I like to say thank you to those businesses that represent our nation and its values so well around the world. It’s what this ceremony is about today, the Award for Corporate Excellence is indeed all about.
Today’s four honorees are ambassadors for the American way. As I travel the world, I’m constantly reminded how right we have it here.
These companies represent our free market values by creating good jobs here in the United States and around the world, investing sustainably, operating transparently, and offering the highest quality products and services in the world. By doing that, they create friends for the United States everyplace that they go. They serve as a powerful example of the character of our nation, for how to do business while doing good – a sharp contrast to how business is conducted in other places in the world.
Consider one of this year’s winners: Chambers Federation, an American NGO that’s created the first conflict-free chocolate and coffee processing facility in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That effort, housed in an area that is plagued by conflict, brings stability to the region by hiring, training, and empowering local women, who make up 90 percent of their staff.
Another one of our winners – and this will make the Ohioans in the room very happy – is an international arm of Procter & Gamble, Procter & Gamble Asia Pacific. Although she told me she’s from Lawrence, Kansas, so I don’t know about – I don’t know so much about the Ohio deal. (Laughter.) Procter & Gamble Asia Pacific supports and empowers women leaders by offering executive mentorship, flexible parental leave, and industry-leading childcare programs. As a result, women represent a strong 35 percent of company management in 16 countries across the region. That’s an industry best.
The Chambers Federation and Procter & Gamble prove the value of the American way.
In Africa and the Indo-Pacific, they are surrounded by companies from other nations surrounded – that do things differently – that work to enrich themselves at the expense of their host countries. Often those entities are state-owned or state-subsidized. Instead of creating jobs, these companies often bring in their own workers, not of a benefit to the host nations.
And too many times those companies, instead of hiring women, promoting stability, and setting the example through fair labor practices, they trap local communities in a death spiral of debt and corruption.
I want to give another contrast. We see a similar contrast in the example of our other two winners.
Today we honor one of PepsiCo’s regional arms, PepsiCo India. It is India’s largest purchaser of potatoes.
And it uses this to power good, sourcing sustainably from 24,000 small Indian farmers. It also has a program aimed at replenishing water in stressed areas, through which it has restored nearly five billion liters of water.
And next, finally, we want to recognize Agilis Partners, which has built a thriving agriculture business in Uganda. The company employs 650 Ugandans, pays higher than average wages, trains their workers in new technologies, invests in communities, and teaches sustainable farming practices.
Other countries operating in these two regions do business differently than PepsiCo and Agilis. Instead of operating sustainably, they brutalize the natural resources of their host country, cut costs, produce low-quality products, and leave behind pollution.
Our four winners today demonstrate the power of free enterprise. They demonstrate to our foreign partners that working with our businesses is a path to prosperity and stability.
That’s one reason that we at the State Department work so hard to support U.S. companies.
We build relationships that develop markets around the world, and we fight against any foreign efforts to undermine our businesses or to rig the global economy against the United States or its entities.
To all four of today’s winners, and to the 20 years’ worth of past winners in the audience today, I say thank you. Please keep up the good work.
You are truly proof that the American Dream is contagious, and that U.S. businesses can help spread it throughout the world.
Thank you for your leadership, and congratulations to you all. Thank you. (Applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SINGH: In our 20th year, I wanted to recognize that we have honored 53 companies, including those this year. And I want to welcome – I think some of them are here today, so I want to welcome our past ACE award winners and just emphasize how grateful we are to have you as partners in our efforts at global diplomacy.
I want to thank Secretary Pompeo for those wonderful remarks. As I indicated, this is an important issue to him. It goes to the heart of our economic diplomacy mission.
As I was mentioning, this year our ACE categories are sustainable operations and women’s economic empowerment. And we have on stage our winners here today, and it’s my pleasure to introduce them to make brief remarks.
Our 2019 winner for the ACE Award in women’s economic empowerment in the small to medium-sized enterprises category is the Chambers Federation for their work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Applause.)
Family run, the Chambers Federation is a social impact investment firm whose sustainable business model generates profit while empowering women, protecting the environment, and developing the local community.
It is committed to guaranteeing high-quality products through social enterprise, the Fair Congo Initiatives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Chambers Federation developed the Fair Congo Initiatives to demonstrate that responsible sourcing, ethical value addition, and women’s economic empowerment can be accomplished in some of the most challenging environments around the world.
This initiative has produced ethical and conflict-free chocolate, coffee, and gold, allowing the company’s values to transcend from its products to employees. Notably, their gold production is free of toxic chemicals. Even more impressive, both their chocolate and coffee are grown, harvested, produced, and packaged entirely by women.
This business model shows how Chambers Federation is a business that’s run on American values of integrity and accountability. They have identified and successfully navigated the powerful business nexus between women’s economic empowerment and successful business operations.
So, ladies and gentlemen, for their exceptional work in building an inclusive, sustainable business in a high-risk area, please join me in welcoming Matthew Chambers of the Chambers Federation – chairman of the Chambers Federation. (Applause.)
MR CHAMBERS: It’s good to see the Nats fans out here. (Laughter.) I’m not much of a baseball fan, but I could have been invited, perhaps, last night to the final game.
So, hello and good afternoon this Halloween. I’d like to thank Mr. Secretary, Mike Pompeo, and your colleagues at the State Department for this honor. It is a privilege to share this stage with other companies who are making a positive change in this world.
Now, it should be my wife who is accepting this award, Adele Gwet, who is our managing director, and really the one behind the work and success that we have. We are, though, expecting our second child within a few short weeks. Therefore, she decided to stay in DRC and not risk the extensive travel that it takes to getting here.
I humbly accept this award on her behalf and express our gratitude from the both of us. And while I’m at it, I’d like to say hi to my parents – my mother, in particular, who is watching this today from Michigan with her quilting group. (Laughter.) It is due to the role models that I had growing up, the women leaders in my own family, that led us into the roles we are now leading in our work overseas.
So, my name is Matthew Chambers and I am the chairman of the Chambers Federation. We are a family business with a focus on building inclusive and sustainable business in conflict-affected and high-risk areas.
The core and heart of our strategy is women empowerment, responsible sourcing, and value addition. We manufacture finished products, including DRC’s first premium chocolate, coffee, and our newest initiative, gold jewelry, all produced entirely by women, many of whom are survivors of gender-based violence.
So, the work we’re perhaps best known for as of late and the reason we’re receiving this award is for the work we’re doing in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Our initial investment in DRC, working in collaboration with USAID, was to create the first commercial, artisanal, small-scale mining gold supply chain from the region into the U.S., which we successfully did in 2018.
To be able to create a true responsible sourcing platform, we have been able to – we need to know who the miners are, to know the producers. We’ve realized that farmers who were farming cacao and coffee are also digging for artisanal gold. They are produced by the same community. They are the same producers. Knowing the producers, we’re able to engage with them into climate-smart production of cocoa, coffee, and gold, to take actions that can positively affect the environment by reducing the carbon footprint and bring down the rate of deforestation. By working with these communities and diversifying their economic development, we are creating resilient communities. We are building peace and stability.
But we want it to go beyond just responsible sourcing. We wanted to create local value addition. Value addition is where we can create innovation, jobs, and rebuild the confidence among our host community. We now produce the first premium chocolate and coffee products and are currently launching a jewelry line all made locally in the DRC, all made by empowered women.
Who’s our consumer demographic? Just as we are working with communities that are producing all three raw materials, just as we are empowering women to produce the finished products, our consumer for these types of products that are responsibly sourced and ethically produced are the same as well. Women are the primary consumer of premium chocolate and gold jewelry. This means our initiatives are means for women to empower women.
Now we came to DRC to invest into its people, its women in particular, not just as a frontier investment strategy but to make a statement. If we can produce not one, not two, but three premium product lines entirely in country, entirely by empowered women, from supply chains fully traced and, in the context of gold, without the use of any harsh chemicals, including mercury – if we can do this and do it in a conflict-affected area in the middle of a global health crisis and one of the most challenging business environments on the planet, you can too.
So, thank you again for this honor today. Please join our movement to empower women in conflict-affected areas: @originempowered. And one final statement I’d like to make – a thank you to our host country, the DRC. We have lived there, my wife and I, for a number of years. And we are there because of the warm reception that we’ve received, and we look forward to continuing to raise our children there as well. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SINGH: Thank you, Mr. Chambers. And I want to congratulate everyone at the Chambers Federation.
Now, it’s my honor to introduce the winner of the ACE Award for Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Multinational Enterprise Category. The award goes to Proctor and Gamble Asia Pacific for their work throughout the region.
P&G Asia Pacific is more than just a company you can depend on for your household goods. They’re a company whose voice and whose values you can rely on to promote gender inclusiveness. In an effort to empower its female leaders, P&G Asia Pacific has created an inclusive workplace through the integration of executive mentorship programs, as well as by ensuring flexible parental leave and onsite childcare for families.
Very importantly, they have improved female representation at every level of their company. Now women hold half of the company’s manager-level positions in the Asia Pacific region. Also, 35 percent of higher-level executive positions are held by women. These numbers are no small feat. If we look at other companies in the region, they maintain perhaps only about 10 percent of leadership positions in companies. So, at 35 percent, P&G Asia Pacific is setting an example.
It’s also an example of American values in action, doing what American companies do best – raising the bar for competitors and improving global corporate culture to spur economic growth.
For all these reasons, I’m very excited to announce the State Department’s ACE Award for Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Multinational Enterprise Category goes to P&G Asia Pacific. And now I want to turn the podium over to P&G’s vice president, Ms. Selina Jackson. (Applause.)
MS JACKSON: Good afternoon, everyone. On behalf of P&G and P&G Asia Pacific, we truly appreciate the recognition from the State Department. Receiving this prestigious award for our gender equality efforts is, indeed, a great honor, and I wish to congratulate also the other honorees.
At P&G, we aspire to build a better world for all of us, both inside and outside of our company, a world free from bias and with equal voice and representation for everyone. We know that gender equality contributes to stronger economies, healthier communities, and thriving businesses. It has been a longstanding value at P&G and a critical component of our citizenship work around the world.
For P&G, empowering women is a business imperative. Many of our products are made especially for girls and women, and women are the majority – make the majority of our household purchase decisions. So, as a company that serves women, we take our responsibility very seriously to lead change, and we focus where we can make the biggest impact through our brands, advocacy, and people.
On brands, P&G is the world’s largest advertiser. And our brands, like Secret Deodorant, Always or Whisper feminine care, and Tide or Ariel laundry detergent, they’re using their voice in advertising to help eliminate bias and promote equality.
Through advocacy programs, we are working closely with partners to support girls’ education and women’s economic empowerment. For example, we partner with WEConnect International to support women entrepreneurs within our supply chain, particularly in developing countries.
And finally, through our own people, starting with our commitment to create a gender-equal and inclusive workplace inside of P&G, where every employee can reach their full potential. And while there’s still a lot of work to do, I’m proud that our P&G gender equality program in Asia Pacific has made really meaningful progress.
As the assistant secretary just mentioned, in the past two years, P&G Asia Pacific, we’ve reached 50-50 female-male representation at the manager level. Thirty-six percent of our senior leadership roles are held by women. P&G Asia Pacific provides more maternity leave than is legally required, and our plant in Jakarta was the first manufacturing site in Indonesia to have an onsite childcare facility. This has allowed better access to technician roles, where today 50 percent are women.
These policies have resulted in a more gender-balanced workforce. We are truly honored that our P&G Asia Pacific gender equality program is being recognized. We hope that it can serve as a model for others in the region. And this reward just reinforces our commitment to keep working to achieve a truly gender-equal world both within and beyond P&G.
Thank you to the State Department, and in particular to the U.S. Embassy in Singapore, with whom we’ve had a tremendous collaboration. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SINGH: Thank you very much, Ms. Jackson. I congratulate everyone at P&G Asia Pacific.
Next, I want to turn to our sustainable operations category. It’s my privilege to introduce in the small-and-medium-size enterprise category the winner of the ACE Award for Sustainable Operations is Agilis Partners for their work in Uganda.
As seen on stage and in our audience today, it is clear that Agilis Partners is rooted in family. They take the concept of feeding your family to the next level. They have made it their mission to empower Ugandans to feed every family and person in Africa.
Agilis Partners was founded by two brothers, Benjamin and Philipp Prinz, and their close friend Eduardo Browne. It’s grown into the largest producer of grains and oilseeds in Uganda. Joined by other family members and friends, these two American brothers have developed a business that has released the power of Uganda’s rich soils.
Agilis’ motto is: “To feed Africa, we grow, transform, and we partner.” Agilis has grown a safe and affordable food supply using sustainable farming methods. They have transformed the lives of many Ugandans by creating over 650 jobs, as the Secretary referred to, for which they have hired primarily women. Finally, they partner with hundreds of food manufacturers that now depend on them to nourish over 500,000 consumers in East Africa annually.
For their extraordinary work, I’m delighted to announce that they will be receiving the ACE Award in Sustainable Operations. And now, I’d like to introduce Benjamin Prinz of Agilis Partners. (Applause.)
MR PRINZ: Good afternoon. On behalf of the entire Agilis family, our employees, investors, and partners, I’m really humbled to accept this award and congratulate our fellow awardees. Thank you, Secretary Pompeo and Assistant Secretary Singh, for welcoming us to the State Department, and for honoring our work.
Assistant Secretary Singh, I wanted to share our story with you. In 2009, I volunteered as a missionary at an orphanage and primary school in Uganda for a summer. With a vision of empowering the orphanage to be financially self-sufficient, in 2011 Eduardo, Philipp, and I teamed up to help the orphanage build a pig farm. Our idea was that a sustainable income source, rather than continued dependence on donors, could empower the orphanage to achieve its dreams.
The biggest challenge we faced at the pig farm was feeding the animals. The first time we bought 400 bushels of corn, the supplier showed up at 2 o’clock in the morning with a shipment of moldy wet grain with weights in many of the bags to exaggerate the amount of corn that was delivered. My dad – I was speaking to my dad over text message, and he said, “Get out of there. He’s going to rob you.” (Laughter.) This experience inspired us to research the grain value chains in Uganda, starting with the smallholder farmer all the way down to the end user. We found a system that is extremely small scale, fragmented, and underdeveloped. For example, Uganda produces about 100 million bushels of corn a year but has only 5 million bushels of storage in the entire country, and over 40 percent of its post – of its produce is lost post-harvest.
As we dug deeper, we found a really unique opportunity – millions of consumers that needed access to safer, higher-quality, and more affordable food, and simultaneously, millions of smallholder farmers who needed higher-yielding, more sustainable farming practices to feed that demand and to feed their family. So, in 2013, Philipp, Eduardo, and I founded Agilis with the goal of streamlining the production and trade of staple foods in Uganda. At our core, as Assistant Secretary Singh said, our mission is to empower Ugandans to feed Africa. This is our idea of sustainable operations: empowering communities to take ownership of their future. And this principle surely originates in our American roots. We are grateful for the opportunity to champion these American roots abroad.
Today, as Uganda’s largest staple foods producer and a leading grain wholesaler, we are realizing this mission of empowering Ugandans to feed Africa. We realize it in the face of the smallholder farmer who can double her yields on healthier soils by adopting best practices we develop on our farms and transfer to local farmers. We realize it in the female machine operator who earns as much as a Kampala-based lawyer and has been equipped with the critical skills required for a flourishing agriculture industry. We realize our mission in the 23-year old recent college graduate who’s just starting her career and has been trained with the professional skills for success but has also been trained to lead according to our core values that this award recognizes of integrity and transparency, anti-corruption, partnership, empowerment, reliability, and excellence.
These Ugandans, our 650 employees, and our 15,000 smallholder farmers are feeding Africa, and Agilis is creating the commercial pathway through which these individuals and their families can participate in the prosperity of self-sufficiency. I am cognizant that Agilis is really nothing more than a compilation of our many supporters and partners. First, I would like to thank Ambassador Malac and her incredible team at the U.S. Mission in Kampala for believing in Agilis and nominating us for this award. We are so energized by the way the ambassador and her team have stood by our side in our mission to empower Ugandans to feed Africa.
Thank you to our employees, who exemplify daily the values that this award recognizes. Thank you to our investors, who have entrusted Agilis with their hard-earned capital to build a flourishing enterprise. Thank you to our wonderful families, who are our rock. We wanted to especially recognize our wives and our mother, who have grounded our hearts as we are on this mission. Thank you to the Republic of Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, who has welcomed our business and supported our flourishing. And thank you to our great country, the United States, that has forged in us the values and commitment to excellence that we appreciate today. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SINGH: Thank you very much, Mr. Prinz.
Now it’s my honor to introduce in the multinational enterprise category the winner of the ACE Award for Sustainable Operations. And this goes to PepsiCo India for their work in India. Today we honor them for their investment in sustainable water programs. They are working with 24,000 farmers to source sustainably throughout India. In 2017 alone, PepsiCo saved more than 17 billion liters of water through its community-based water programs. That’s approximately 6,800 Olympic-sized pools’ worth of water. Imagine the quantity.
These programs focus on water replenishment and conservation through agricultural practices. For instance, through the Sustainable Water Resource Development and Management program, PepsiCo replenished over 5 billion liters of water alone. This program positively impacted over 60,000 community members. Operating in a region where water resources are often scarce, PepsiCo is ensuring water accessibility in the communities in which they work. PepsiCo demonstrates how companies can enrich overseas communities and their resources by encouraging prosperity for both their nation and for our own. For their very exceptional work in India, I’m very honored to present the department’s Award for Corporate Excellence in Sustainable Operations and introduce Dr. Phil Myers, who’s the senior vice president for PepsiCo. (Applause.)
MR MYERS: Well, thank you, Assistant Secretary, State Department, for this great recognition on behalf of PepsiCo worldwide, but especially PepsiCo India, and congratulations to our co-recipients of this award. The private sector plays a critical role in helping to build a sustainable world. At PepsiCo, we believe the success of our business depends on being a good citizen in the world in which we operate, in which we live.
We have a snappy phrase for this. We call it winning with purpose. We want to win in the marketplace, and we want to do it in the right way, and in a way which is sustainable.
At the heart of that is water. It’s a critical resource for us, across our value supply chain, from the farm, all the way through to the manufacturing plant. PepsiCo has done a lot to help farmers around the world reduce their environmental footprint. This is reducing the amount of water they use, using more sustainable agricultural practices. We help them to optimize their crop yields, but we also want to make sure that we’re protecting human rights, improving farmer livelihoods, and also securing a good supply of potatoes, corn, and oats for us to use in our products.
So, turning to India, we’ve had the privilege of doing business there since 1989, and water shortages are common around the world, but India really knows what a water shortage is. We’ve spent a lot of time working to address water challenges in India in water scarce neighborhoods. We work with local partners and communities to conserve water, replenish local watersheds, and provide safe access to water.
So, I’m going to repeat the figures because the figures kind of speak for themselves. Working with 24,000 farmers across India, in the 11 states where it’s possible to grow potatoes, we’ve worked with them and their local communities to save 17 billion liters of water. We’ve replenished another 5 billion liters of water, which has benefitted 60,000 people living in those neighborhoods.
And since 2008, we’ve spent nearly $20 million getting safe water to the inhabitants of water scarce neighborhoods, and that’s benefitted nearly 4 million people across India.
Now, we know that our work needs to continue. Water is a fundamental human right. We remain committed to helping communities in which we operate. But really it shouldn’t be me standing up here. We have two colleagues who have come all the way from Delhi. So, Juhi and Antara, they make this happen in India. They work doggedly around the clock, around the country to help communities help themselves and save water, replenish water, and use water responsibly.
On behalf of PepsiCo, I want to say a special thank you to you two. (Applause.) And thank you once again to the State Department. Thank you. (Applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SINGH: I want to congratulate all of our winners today and all of your employees. You really run world-class operations. And I can’t emphasize enough how much we view the corporate sector as our partners in global diplomacy. We appreciate your efforts. You can count on our support going forward. And when I say our support, I mean those of us here at the department, those of us in embassies all around the world.
You should know that each of the award nominations we got for your companies from our ambassadors were long. They were detailed. They emphasized just how important the work that you do in the relevant countries is tied to the mission of our embassies, as well.
I want to congratulate you all again. I want to thank you so much for attending. Thank you to those of you watching online, overseas. We appreciate everybody’s interest in this very important topic. With that, I’m going to announce the conclusion of our ACE Awards ceremony, and I invite you to join us for refreshments in the Jefferson Room. And I hope you’ll have a chance to talk more with our winners. Thank you all again for attending today. (Applause.)