In the Nation's Interest
CED Attends Meeting of International Counterpart Organizations
CED’s French counterpart, Institut de l’enterprise, in association with Le Monde hosted a conference on June 18 in Paris titled: “How Companies are Changing the World: Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century.” CED vice president and director of economic studies Elliot Schwartz represented CED at the conference. Schwartz was asked to provide a brief wrap up and summary views at the end of the conference’s first session. The session began with speeches by Xavier Huillard, Chairman of the Institute de l’enterprise and Chairman and CEO of VINCI, Esko Aho, former Prime Minister of Finland, and Alain Pons, Chairman of the Board, Deloitte France, all of whom emphasized themes that are very familiar to Trustees who have participated in or followed CED’s corporate governance work—the integration of business and society, the problems of short-termism, and support for the market economy. The session also included a discussion of the financial crisis with Charles H. Ferguson, Film producer (Inside Job) and Jean-Marc Daniel, Economist for Institut de l’Entreprise. In addition, there was a panel discussion with Paul Krugman, economist and Nobel Prize recipient; Christophe de Margerie, Chairman and CEO, Total; Denis Kessler, Chairman and CEO, Scor; Vineet Nayar, Vice Chairman and Co-Managing Director, HCL Technologie; and Gérard Collomb, Senator-Mayor of Lyon.
Schwartz remarked at how similar the concerns were between business leaders in France and the United States. The themes struck by the opening speakers and by the panel emphasized the important role of business in society and of the relationship between government and business, which should allow ample room for free enterprise and market-driven innovation. Schwartz recalled some of the history of CED and reviewed the findings and recommendations of CED’s working paper on business statesmanship. He noted that global business leaders had moved beyond Milton Friedman’s view that business should refrain from social engagement activities, that ‘the business of business is business.’ He emphasized, as had previous panelists, that business leaders recognized their ties to society and the need to sustain and nurture the societies that provide their license to operate. That recognition, he noted, was a hard-headed business recognition of self-interest, not derived from soft appeals to charity, ‘business conscience,’ or nostalgia for some ill-defined golden age.