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Socially Responsible Business Is No Longer One-Size-Fits-All

Published 12-15-03

Submitted by Business Ethics

MINNEAPOLIS - From new forms of rigorous and honest environmental auditing, to ownership structures designed to support social mission, socially responsible business has evolved into a hopeful array of dynamic and diverse forms, each with a different way of addressing social needs. That¹s the lesson of this year¹s Business Ethics Awards, given by the Minneapolis-based publication Business Ethics for the 15th year in a row. Award winners for 2003 are a balance of large and small, public and private firms.

* Winning the Environmental Reporting Award is Baxter Healthcare Corporation, headquartered in Deerfield, Ill., which has sustained its leadership role at the cutting edge of the new field of environmental auditing and reporting. Baxter blazed a trail here, being bold enough in its reporting to go beyond PR and admit when the company falls short of its ambitious goals.

* Taking the Environmental Excellence Award is St. Paul, Minn. based 3M. Well-known for its waste reduction forays in the mid-70s, 3M is celebrated now by Business Ethics for sustaining its commitment over many decades - and for taking it into innovative new areas like design for environment, which means designing products to walk more lightly on the earth.

* Now in its second year is the Living Economy Award, designed to honor smaller firms that are locally rooted, human scale, stakeholder-owned, and life-serving. What¹s unique about this year¹s winner is that Organic Valley, headquartered in LaFarge, Wisc., manages to be both small and large. It¹s a cooperative of 633 family farms selling organic products nationwide, with $156 million in annual sales. Its farmer-owners set their own prices and put a cap on profits.

* New this year is the Social Legacy Award, created in response to recent concern in the socially responsible business community, as one after another entrepreneurial firm has been sold to a major public corporation - losing social mission along the way. The Antioch Company in Yellow Springs, Ohio, offers an alternative ownership model - the employee-owned firm - which enhances rather than diminishes social mission, so mission survives past the founding generation.

The Premier Sponsor of the Business Ethics Awards is Starbucks, which itself has been a leader in preserving social legacy, as new CEO Orin Smith maintains and deepens the social mission created by founder Howard Schultz. Additional support for the Awards was received from Hewlett-Packard, Granite Construction, Procter & Gamble, Intel Corporation, National City Bank, Wendy¹s, Springfield Remanufacturing, University Bank, Wainwright Bank, and White Dog Café.

Judges for this year's awards were Shelley Alpern, director of social research at Trillium Asset Management in Boston; Steven Lydenberg, principal with Domini Social Investments in Boston; Heidi Soumerai, director of social research at Walden Asset Management, the social investing division of Boston Trust & Investment Management Company; and Donna Wood, who holds the David W. Wilson Chair in Business Ethics at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

Business Ethics is a Minneapolis-based, 16-year-old publication focused on corporate social responsibility. For the complete awards story, including criteria, judges, and past winners, see www.business-ethics.com.

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