Top newsmakers and best practitioners highlighted a riveting conference.
By the editors
At Boston’s historic Harvard Club in April the CRO Summit advanced three themes in the evolution of the newest corporate profession: capital markets reform, progress on sustainability practices, and the rapid evolution of the CR professions themselves. While those themes were newsworthy, it was the headliners who really turned heads.
The one-day lineup included a riveting exploration of the financial crisis with former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and TARP “pay czar” Kenneth Feinberg, moderated by CR Magazine Editor-in-Chief Dirk Olin. Spitzer, the former New York Attorney General who made his reputation prosecuting corporate malfeasance (before his fall from grace), began by extolling Feinberg’s career. Spitzer expressed appreciation for the mediation service that Feinberg has provided in the TARP case, and before that in deciding payouts for 9/11 victims. “Nobody knows how hard Ken Feinberg’s job is because he’s the ultimate pro and makes it look easy,” Spitzer said. “CROs could do much worse than to imitate how Ken both listens and hears.” (Subsequent to the CRO Summit, Feinberg was named by the U.S. government to be special master for victim payouts from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and CNN announced that Eliot Spitzer will be replacing Campbell Brown in a nightly 8pm TV news and politics show.)
Beyond the headliners, the Summit’s primary mission was to deliver on the promise of accelerating improvements in CR professional practices in GRC, sustainability, CSR/stakeholder relations and philanthropy. On that score, the Boston program boosted the level of understanding across domains with today’s leading practitioners.
NYSE Chairman and former State Street Financial CEO Marshall Carter hit hard on how impactful the CR movement has been on the speed of capital markets reform. “Every several years, we’re reminded how important regulatory regimes are in the health of the capital markets,” Carter told the crowd of 250. “The 2009 credit crunch was another example. Hopefully, the new regulations coming out of Washington will help us avoid repeating the same excesses.” Carter’s appearance was a facet of NYSE Euronext’s partnership with CRO, which also recently resulted in the world’s largest-ever study on the state of CR practices in large companies. The preliminary results of that study were previewed by CROA Executive Director Richard Crespin.
Separately, EnerNOC’s CEO Tim Healy, a darling of the sustainability movement, described the emerging market for energy conservation. With $200 million in revenue and an $800 million market capitalization, EnerNOC goes beyond the message that “a-kilowatt- saved-is-a-kilowatt-earned.” Healy stressed that every business model today will be dependent on energy savings to stay competitive. “The days of free carbon are over. Just as the title of CRO Summit Chair Jay Whitehead’s book The Post-Carbon Economy implies, each business faces a new regime of smart management of energy demand at the site and supply levels and of carbon emissions. While it may start in the C-suite, it extends to every corner and cubicle.”
Professional best practices sessions across all CR domains continued, with top practitioners weighing in. In GRC, Integrity Interactive’s CEO Tom Anderson hosted the General Counsel panel, featuring Scott Blair of Panera Bread, Howard Malovany of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Kristin Caplice of Analog Devices. In Socially Responsible Investing, NYSE’s John Merrell ran a panel of investment advisors including Bennett Freeman of Calvert, Tim Smith of Walden Asset Management, and James Salo of Trucost. In a session that explored the crossover among three CR domains, CRO Summit’s Jay Whitehead interviewed Harvard Chief Sustainability Officer Heather Henriksen, Northern Trust’s EVP CSR and Corporate Services Connie Lindsey, and Adobe’s Chief Compliance Officer Michael Ward. And in sustainability, Hara’s Chief Green Officer Michel Gelobter led a session including Alcatel-Lucent’s Richard Goode, Constellation Energy’s Brett Feldman, Tyco’s Ardis Vaughan and MWH Americas’ John Norton.
Once again, in just eight hours, CRO Summits delivered an impossibly high-value content package for its 250 attendees. Next stop for CRO Summits in 2010: Paris on October 29 and Chicago November 3 and 4.