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04.24.2011 - 10:36PM

Category: Corporate Social Responsibility

CSRwire Spotlight: Policy Matters

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By CSRwire Contributing Writer Jayne Flannery

On the eve of the Ceres Conference 2011, Kathrin Winkler, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer of EMC Corporation, talks to Jayne Flannery about the importance of corporate involvement in the public policy arena.

Public policy may have a key role to supporting a shift towards a more sustainable future and in creating an environment that nurtures innovatory practice, but what should the corporate position and approach be? This is the central question Kathrin Winkler, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer of EMC Corporation, hopes to address as a panelist evaluating public policy and corporate citizenship in the 21st century during the forthcoming Ceres Conference 2011.

"Working with Ceres, we aim to embed sustainability in the culture of capital markets. This Conference represents a rare opportunity for the investment and sustainability communities to come together, share experiences, learn from each other and demonstrate our commitment to all our stakeholders. It is in the profound interest of investors, society and the biosphere that our views become better aligned," she comments.

At the Conference, she aims to clarify when corporations should adopt a public policy position and why it can be advantageous. "Firstly, it is important to advocate in support of policies that reflect our own principles and strategies. For example, the Federal Data Centre initiative in the US is a driving force behind consolidation for more efficient operations and towards greater energy efficiency. Energy efficiency and the use of information technology to promulgate it are also core to our own sustainability strategy so that is an initiative we would clearly want to support in the public domain," she explains.

"Secondly, corporate influence can also be used to lobby for specific outcomes. As an example, legislation is anticipated in the US that will give citizens access to information relating to their use of the electricity grid. At EMC, we see this as a fundamental source of innovation and individual empowerment," she continues.

"Corporations can also influence the shape of legislation by bringing subject matter expertise to the debate to ensure that desired outcomes are actually achievable. The energy star standard in the US may not be enshrined in legislation, but we see these standards as very important and they require specific technical expertise that an organisation like EMC can offer."

She believes consistent policy positions make a clear statement to stakeholders, particularly employees, about underlying values. In this context, there is some potential for accidental conflict to arise, particularly in corporations with large and diverse interests where specialist expertise is focused in discrete departments. "Deciding which causes to support can be very challenging. Given that a new Bill can be extremely broad in scope, sections could impact different interest groups within the same organisation in very different ways," she adds.

Whilst policy positions are Ms. Winkler's chosen focus for the Conference, she sees the sustainability agenda in far broader terms for EMC. "We want to drive the transformation of information technology and communications in terms of how we build and make products, how they are used and to what end," she declares.

"This industry does have an environmental footprint, which it is working aggressively to shrink. We believe we have an important lead at EMC in some areas, especially the transition to cloud computing and we want to share our ideas on how we can reduce environmental impact across all sectors. We know that as an industry we mitigate far more carbon emissions than we create, but the balance can still be tipped much further. Taking that process to the next level is our mission at EMC," she concludes.

About EMC

EMC Corporation (NYSE: EMC) is the world's leading developer and provider of information infrastructure technology and solutions that enable organizations of all sizes to transform the way they compete and create value from their information. Information about EMC's products and services can be found at www.EMC.com.

For more information about the Ceres Conference 2011, please visit the events page. For more CSRwire Ceres-exclusive Spotlights, please visit http://csrwiretalkback.tumblr.com/Ceres.

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