Moderator: Good morning to everyone from the U.S. Department of State. I would like to welcome our participants dialing in and thank you for joining this discussion.
Today, we are very pleased to be joined by the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, Manisha Singh. Assistant Secretary Singh will discuss the Award for Corporate Excellence, also known as ACE.
We will begin today’s call with opening remarks from Assistant Secretary Singh, and then we will turn to your questions. We will try to get to as many of them as we can during the time that we have.
As a reminder, today’s call is on the record. And with that, I will turn it over to Assistant Secretary Singh. Ma’am, please go ahead.
Assistant Secretary Singh: Thank you, Cassidy. And good morning, everyone. I am very pleased to discuss with you today, as Cassidy mentioned, the Secretary of State’s Awards for Corporate Excellence.
On October 31st, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will honor four American companies who are doing trailblazing work in women’s economic empowerment and sustainability.
Since 1999, the State Department has recognized U.S. companies whose corporate responsibility has exemplified American values and the American brand. On this, the 20th anniversary of ACE, we are celebrating the past and present ACE award winners who have unleashed world-class innovation and ingenuity while simultaneously raising the bar on business integrity and ethical policies.
Now, after 20 years, 53 ACE winners have told the story of initiative that has helped U.S. businesses prosper while ensuring greater opportunity for all.
Past ACE winners have been recognized for their breakthrough work in the following areas: sustainable oceans management, inclusive hiring practices, transparent operations, human rights and labor rights initiatives, environmental sustainability and disaster relief, maternal health programs, education and livelihood programs.
The Award for Corporate Excellence has been honoring the important role U.S. businesses play in advancing democratic principles worldwide. We want to recognize U.S. companies that promote and uphold high standards as responsible members of their communities where they do business.
U.S. companies are some of our greatest ambassadors. They invest sustainably and set high standards of corporate responsibility throughout their supply chains, carrying the torch for American values overseas, implementing transparent practices, respect for community, and of quality result.
To showcase the great business models and initiatives that American companies are achieving in overseas communities, we also want to talk about sharing the stories of winning companies who exemplify the highest level of leadership in their overseas operations. These U.S. companies epitomize responsible business conduct through their internal operations.
The 2019 ACE categories are sustainable operations and women’s economic empowerment. We are very pleased to have four winners who will be honored by the Secretary this Thursday.
The winner in women’s economic empowerment in the small to medium enterprises category is Chambers Federation for operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Chambers Federation is a social impact investing firm building inclusive sustainable business in high-risk areas. They focus on creating stability and economic empowerment in the lives of women in conflict areas. They built the first chocolate processing facility in the DRC, which now produces the country’s first premium chocolate in country. This chocolate is grown, harvested, and manufactured by women.
The Chambers Federation established the first supply chain of conflict-free, mercury-free, fully traced, responsible artisan gold from a conflict zone, which is exported to the U.S. and European markets. Their newest initiative has developed an eco-friendly manufacturing process, and it trains women recovering from gender-based violence to produce gold jewelry components.
Our next winner in women’s economic empowerment in the multinational enterprise category is Procter & Gamble Asia Pacific for their operations in Singapore. P&G Asia Pacific is a leading voice in the gender-equality movement within 16 countries in the Asia Pacific region.
In their effort to empower women leaders, P&G Asia Pacific has constructed a workplace that ensures mentorship programs while also providing onsite childcare facilities and flexible parental leave. P&G Asia Pacific’s We See Equal Gender Equality Program improves female representation at all levels, with women now holding half of the country’s management positions in the Asia Pacific region; 35 percent of directors and higher-level executives are women.
The ACE winner in sustainable operations in the small to medium enterprise category is Agilis Partners for operations in Uganda. Agilis Partners is the largest grain and oil seed producer and one of the leading wholesalers of agricultural commodities in Uganda. It invests in local communities, sets high production standards, uses sustainable farming methods, pays competitive wages, and incorporates cutting edge technology.
Hundreds of food manufacturers depend on Agilis’s safe and affordable supply to nourish over 500,000 consumers in East Africa annually. Agilis employs 650 people, and women represent a major contingent of the operational and management team in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
The winner for sustainable operations in the multinational enterprise category is PepsiCo for operations in India. PepsiCo India is invested in collaborating with 24,000 farmers to source sustainably in India. This company saved more than 17 billion liters of water in 2017 through its community water programs focused on water replenishment and conservation and agricultural practices, such as direct seeding of rice and micro-irrigation.
Under its sustainable water resource development and management program focused on water replenishment, PepsiCo India has replenished over 5 billion liters of water, positively impacting 60,000 community members.
We are very proud to announce these responsible companies for their great business practices worldwide. And with that, Cassidy, I turn it back over to you.
Moderator: Thank you, Assistant Secretary Singh. We will now begin the question-and-answer portion of today’s call. For those asking questions, please state your name and affiliation and limit yourself to one question related to the topic of today’s briefing.
I will take moderator’s privilege to ask the first question and ask you, ma’am, how does the Department go about selecting companies to win the ACE Award and what criteria must they meet?
Assistant Secretary Singh: Well, thank you, Cassidy. We have a selection committee that’s comprised of diverse individuals from agencies which all have interest in the ACE Awards. We go through a rigorous selection process. I should back up and say we ask the embassies worldwide who know companies on the ground to nominate potential companies for the awards, and once when we get these nominations, then the committee that I mentioned goes through the process of taking a close look at which companies really exemplify the values we’re seeking to honor.
Moderator: Thank you. But while we wait for any other questions to join the queue, I’ll take another question with moderator’s privilege and ask you: Can you tell us a little bit about how the categories of awardees are chosen – so this year is sustainable operations and women’s economic empowerment – and why the Department chose those two categories this year?
Assistant Secretary Singh: Well, thank you, Cassidy. And I think over the years we’ve tried to look at what business’ practices are woven throughout a company’s operations. We don’t want responsible business conduct to be a side enterprise or something that only one portion of the company does, so we look at the fact that these various categories, as I mentioned, over the years, of sustainable oceans, inclusive hiring practices, transparent operations – we want to make sure that these qualities are evident throughout the company’s business, really are a part of their business model.
And this year we looked at sustainable operations and women’s economic empowerment because those are the qualities we think represent what American values stand for. When you do business with American companies, we want the world to know that we look at sustainability and environmental practices and what are we doing to the local communities when we operate there. So this is a very important and significant quality for the entire Department and for Secretary Pompeo right now.
Women’s economic empowerment, I feel, is a very important category to me personally. When I joined the bureau, I noticed over the years that we had a lot of great qualities that we looked for and a lot of great winners, but we actually did not have in the award’s 19-year history last year a category for the promotion of women throughout senior positions and encouraging women’s entrepreneurship. As the first woman confirmed to be the Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, I felt a responsibility to make sure that we highlighted companies that really did make women’s empowerment a part of their business model. So last year was the first year. We had greater winners in the category, a small company that really, really exemplified what this award means. And this year, again, we have excellent companies both in the small and medium-size enterprises and in the multinational corporation categories, where we feel they are doing exactly what we think the ACE Awards represent.
So thank you, Cassidy.
Moderator: Awesome. But if we don’t have any journalists join the question queue, I will take one last question as the moderator and I’ll ask: What business practices do you hope the ACE will encourage worldwide?
Assistant Secretary Singh: Well, I’m hoping that the ACE Awards will encourage companies to do exactly what I was saying in the beginning about having these practices be a part of your business model. I think over the years we’ve seen corporate social responsibility as a division or a part of, just a small part, of the company. Whereas, now I think when companies have seen that we are recognizing – this is the Secretary of State recognizing these companies for their global operations – and they’ll understand how important it is to us as the State Department that these practices be a whole-scale part of the company. That everyone from the CEO to senior managers to the working-level populations of the companies, that everybody feels that responsible business conduct is a part of their portfolio, it’s not just a separate part of the company.
So we’re really hoping that ACE drives home that message. We want all companies at all levels to operate in this manner. And every Secretary of State – I can tell you we’ve been doing this for 20 years, so that’s many, many Secretaries of State that have given this award. I know that this award is so important to Secretary Pompeo personally. This is something that he is very proud of that the Department does, and therefore he will be presenting these awards personally to the companies, recognizing these companies personally on Thursday.
Moderator: Wonderful. Thank you so much, ma’am. Before we wrap up, do you have any final words to share with our participants?
Assistant Secretary Singh: I just want to make sure and thank our great team led by Melike Yetken in our Responsible Business Conduct Unit. They do a lot of work with the embassies to identify these companies, to go through the process to vet all the companies, so I want to thank the entire team in the Economic Bureau, especially Melike and Kerry Humphrey, who is my public diplomacy officer who I believe is on the call as well today, to thank the entire Economic Bureau team and the State Department for their great work. And thank you, Cassidy, for hosting this call today. We really appreciate your time.
Moderator: Sure thing. All right, that concludes today’s call. I want to thank the Department of State’s Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs Manisha Singh for joining us this morning and thank all of our callers for participating. If you have any questions about today’s call, you may contact us at LiveAtState@state.gov. Thank you very much.
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