CRO Responsible CEO of the Year Award Nominees 2009

For three reasons, this 2nd-annual CRO’s Responsible CEO of the Year Award is different than any other business honor. First, it recognizes individual CEO expertise in articulating the common good and then convincing thousands of others to make a good business out of it. Second, it’s a trophy for leadership in progress, because perfection in Corporate Responsibility is a goal that’s always moving just beyond our grasp. And third, it reflects the professional chauvinism of the corporate responsibility-
obsessed editorial team at CRO Magazine, the only publication solely focused on the four professional domains in Corporate Responsibility—GRC, sustainability, CSR and philanthropy.

Last year’s CRO Responsible CEO of the Year Awards only featured seven categories, but this year we added an eighth, Private Companies. We’re adding the Privates because the 2008-2009 stock market swoon is forcing a number of CR-savvy public companies to go private, a phenomenon that is permanently raising the bar for private company CR practices.

This year’s Awards will be presented at the Fall CRO Summit CEO of the Year Awards Dinner, Oct. 6, 7-9 p.m. at the Union League Club in Chicago. Our keynote at the Awards Dinner will be Ray Anderson, Chairman and Founder of Interface Inc., and inventor of the carpet square. Ray’s 1994 “spear in the chest” moment of inspiration upon reading Paul Hawken’s Ecology of Commerce caused him to reinvent his company and lead an entire generation of sustainability innovators. Whether you know Ray’s story or have yet to hear it, you’ll benefit mightily from seeing him deliver it live at the Awards dinner.

(Note: Tickets for the Awards dinner are separate from CRO Summit attendance, available by emailing Vince Albergato at or going online to and clicking on “2009 CRO Awards Dinner” at the top of the page or going direct to Tickets are $250 each for non-CROA members and $125 each for CROA members. There are only 150 spots, so get yours quickly.)

The 24 nominations on the following pages were made by the editorial team at CRO Magazine. The editorial team looked at 3 criteria in establishing the nominations. First, we looked at the scope of the impact of the nominee—have this person’s CR initiatives made larger-scale revenue, profit or size of population served relative to the other potential nominees? Second, the out-front role taken by the nominee—has this person truly put him or herself at personal risk if the initiative fails more than other potential nominees? And third, each category has its own criteria—large, mid-cap and small companies must be public, non-profits must be on, corporate foundations must be members of CECP, and social entrepreneurs must fit one of three types listed in The Power Of Unreasonable People by John Elkington.

One note about why the CRO editorial team took on the awarding task itself. When we went out to recruit a committee, several of the people we wanted were unwilling to serve because it would make them and their organizations ineligible. Perhaps we are naïve, but this outcome surprised us. As it turns out, the CR
community is hungry for recognition, and is unwilling to put anything ahead of its ability to earn a trophy.   
The final selections will be made from among the nominees by the CRO Magazine editorial team, and announced at the CEO of the Year Dinner on October 6 from 7-9pm at the Union League Club in Chicago. We made the decision this year that nominees and winners of previous year are eligible for re-nomination in the current year, so you may note repeat participants from 2008.

Following are the 24 nominees, along with brief statements that put context to each nomination. We look forward to seeing you in Chicago on Oct. 6 at the Awards Dinner to hear the announcement that completes the phrase: “And the winner is…”

Large Market (public companies with $2 billion+ revenues)

John Hess, CEO, Hess
John Hess has emerged from the shadow of his bigger-than-life father Leon as an energy industry leader with an impressive multi-faceted list of corporate responsibility achievements. With $41 billion in 2008 revenues, Hess ranked #15 on the 2009 100 Best Corporate Citizens List, bolstered by a #1 ranking in the human rights criteria and #2 in climate change. As Hess CRO Paula Luff tells CRO, “John leads by example, doing everything possible to ensure that our host countries know us as someone not here just to extract hydrocarbons, but as those countries’ best corporate citizens.”

Sam Palmisano, CEO, IBM Corp.
Consider the results of Sam Palmisano’s corporate responsibility stewardship of 410,000-employee Big Blue: He has received over 100 recent awards for everything from climate friendliness to governance, the launch of the Reinventing Education program, significant CO2 emission reductions, Green Grid leadership, and strong financial performance. To add to that, IBM climbed to the rank of #3 on the 2009 CRO 100 Best Corporate Citizens List, up from #21 in 2008.

Ken Powell, CEO, General Mills
As former head of General Mills’ Swiss-based joint venture, Ken Powell has more of an appreciation for European-style corporate citizenship than those who have spent most of their careers stateside. Powell’s leadership has manifested itself in the company’s #2 spot on the 2009 100 Best Corporate Citizens List, bolstered by a #3 rank in employee relations and #13 in human rights among the Russell 1000 companies considered.

Mid Market (public companies with $100 million-$1,999 million revenues)

Daniel Hendrix, CEO, Interface Inc.
As the long-time CFO who had learned sustainable transformation at the right hand of Interface founder, carpet tile and sustainable manufacturing pioneer, Ray Anderson, Hendrix became CEO in 2001 amid crisis.  With $550 million in debt and sales falling, Hendrix successfully led a disciplined strategy that included diversifying beyond the company’s core markets (corporate office), reducing the debt by selling businesses and returning the company to profitable growth, all while maintaining the company’s core focus on sustainability.  During this period,  Hendrix continued to invest in the company’s aggressive Mission Zero plan to reduce its environmental impacts, seeing it as a key source of innovation for the company and its products.

Tom Werner, CEO, SunPower Inc.
Having completed over 100 swim-bike-run triathlons, SunPower CEO Tom Werner knows a little about
pacing himself for long development cycles, which describes the company’s effort to cut the cost to implement a solar system by half from 2008 to 2012. A pioneer in managing optical and light-based energy technology companies, Werner also sits on the Board of Directors of Silver Springs Networks, the VC-backed smart grid
company recently honored by President Obama as critical to U.S. energy independence. 

Lawrence Blanford, CEO, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters
In 2007 and earlier years, when the 100 Best Corporate Citizens List company population included both the
Russell 1000 and the Domini 400, Blanford’s Green Mountain Coffee Roasters often appeared at the top of the List, powered by its extraordinary track record of environmental, citizenship and fair trade practices.
Blanford joined Green Mountain in 2007 from CEO slots at Royal Group building products and Philips Consumer Electronics, where he led fast-growth efforts. When the 100 Best Corporate Citizens List expands in 2010 beyond the Russell 1000 to include a Russell 3000 version, expect Green Mountain to once again be near the top.

Small Market: (public companies with <$100 million in revenues)

William Saxelby, CEO, Landauer Inc.
Making a healthier workplace for employees is the stock in trade for Landauer, which makes radiation detection monitors for the workplace and analyzes the findings. Under Saxelby’s leadership, Landauer, a leader in the field, set new revenue and net income records in the three and six months preceeding the end of the second quarter.

James Herbert, CEO, Neogen
With the percentage of imported food on the upswing, amid concerns about lax regulation overseas and safety and sustainability of the U.S. food supply, Herbert has steered Neogen, which makes food and animal safety products, to a leadership position in the industry.

Neil Eckhart, CEO, Climate Exchange PLC
As CEO of Climate Exchange PLC, which owns the Chicago and European Climate Exchanges, Eckert and his Chairman Richard Sandor have been instrumental in popularizing the CCX and ECX models for GHG cap-and-trade among corporations and government policy-makers worldwide. While voluntary carbon contract volume dropped in early 2009, complex carbon contracts on the Chicago Climate Futures Exchange climbed 1,889% in the first half of 2009, including 5 consecutive monthly volume records for the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in 2009’s first half.

Private Companies

Scott Lang, CEO, Silver Spring Networks
Lang leads the Silver Spring, the emerging standard in smart grid technologies, hailed by President Obama in early 2009 as a critical element in America’s sustainable and independent energy future.  Considering that
utilities spend 15% of their total annual costs and use their dirtiest plants to feed demand for the 2% of the days when demand is highest, Silver Spring’s smart metering technology gives utilities the data to better manage those peak costs and CO2 emissions. The company has attracted $175 million in venture capital to date and sports Al Gore and superstar VC John Doerr on its board.

Ian Davis, Managing Director, McKinsey & Co.
Since 2003, privately held management consulting firm McKinsey & Company has been the driving force behind many of the Corporate Responsibility-related trends facing large enterprises, and Ian Davis led the shadowy private partnership during this period of tumult and growth.  From its work helping global firms navigate Sarbanes Oxley to helping create the Carbon Disclosure Project to pioneering cutting-edge energy efficiency strategies to helping companies navigate radical changes in measuring and managing corporate philanthropy, McKinsey under Davis has been instrumental to the evolution of the Corporate Responsibility professions. In his seminal 2005 Financial Times article The Short-Term Trap, Davis argued that a stakeholder-centric world view offers a far more sustainable corporate future than a quarterly results-driven approach.  

Al Gore, Chairman Generation Investment Management & Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers
Arguably the most important person in the environmental sustainability movement worldwide, former U.S. Vice President, Nobel Laureate and Academy Award Winner Al Gore has harnessed his passion to the
pocketbooks of Generation (which he founded with investor David Blood) and Kleiner Perkins (which counts him among their partners). His particular leadership has led both firms to make big bets on sustainability factors as the driver of company returns over the long term.

Non Profit/NGO

Mindy Lubber, CEO, Ceres
As campaign leader for former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis’ U.S. Presidential bid, Lubber earned her stripes in theme-based campaigns in the world’s toughest arena. Under the banner “advancing sustainable prosperity,” Lubber has created arguably the most intense and effective corporate advisory practice focused on climate change risk, with clients such as Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Dunkin’ Brands, General Mills, McDonalds, Nike and Sunoco. Like her co-nominee Paul Dickinson of the Carbon Disclosure Project (see below), she uses the power of investors to force company change by leveraging a climate risk-focused network of 78 institutional investors with collective assets of $7 trillion. 

Paul Dickinson, CEO, Carbon Disclosure Project
Using the theory that smoke follows money, since founding the CDP in 2000, Paul Dickinson has signed on 475 institutional investors with $55 trillion under management to encourage the world’s 3,700 largest companies to disclose their carbon emissions. Dickinson has also successfully used world leaders such as Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Angela Merkel to solicit companies to respond to the CDP’s disclosure questionnaires. While CDP’s annual reports have set the international standard for CO2 disclosure, perhaps the CDP’s biggest single victory to date is the July 16 2009 announcement that Walmart is instructing its suppliers to disclose to the CDP.

Tensie Whelan, President, Rainforest Alliance
Having joined its board 20 years ago and taken the reins as President 10 years ago, longtime environmental activist Whelan continues to lead the 35,000-member Alliance and grow its $33 million budget with a powerful business model incorporating both corporate member alliances and individual member activism. Whelan has shown entrepreneurial flair and vision in harnessing both the glamour of Hollywood endorsements and the power of corporate partners to drive her membership levels and mission success to improbable heights.   


Sheila Bair, Chairwoman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
In 2008 Forbes Magazine ranked Sheila Bair as the second most powerful woman in the world after German
chancellor Angela Merkel. Her reputation was made in the financial crisis of 2008-2009, when she oversaw the seizure of $32 billion IndyMac Federal Bank, the largest savings and loan in Los Angeles and the 7th largest U.S. mortgage originator. Subsequently, she has used FDIC’s power to guarantee bank debt, insure depositor accounts, inject capital into financial institutions, and reinforce lax governance in the financial sector.

Lisa Jackson, Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency
Appointed by President Obama in the early days of his new administration from her role as Chief of Staff for New Jersey Governor John Corzine, Lisa Jackson has moved swiftly to use existing laws within EPA’s purview to strengthen greenhouse gas and air and water quality regulatory regimes. With a staff of 18,000 working to protect American public health and environment, Jackson, the first African American ever to run the EPA, Jackson has assumed a leading role in establishing a much-debated CO2 emissions cap-and-trade system nationwide.   

Richard Daley, Mayor, City of Chicago
The 2008 winner in this category has not rested on his environmental sustainability laurels, continuing to green up Chicago’s municipal building code, introduce energy efficiency and recycling innovations, and quintuple bike lanes by 2015—all of which continues to put Mayor Daley up front as America’s Greenest Mayor and help Chicago grab the mantle as America’s Greenest Big City.  If Chicago is successful in its bid for the 2016 Olympics, Daley’s green successes will have had much to do with the victory, as the International Olympic Committee has put significant emphasis on environmental sustainability and leadership in its selection criteria.

Corporate Foundation (CECP member or must be endowed at $10 million annual level in cash or in-kind)

Stanley Litow, President, IBM International Foundation & Vice President Corporate Citizenship
Last year’s winner in this category continues to spin out strong results from Big Blue’s $200 million (assets)
Foundation. Litow’s largest initiative is the 80,000-teacher Reinventing Education program which touches 8,000,000 children worldwide and offers innovative technologies to spur reading. Alzheimer’s and AIDS research is also on Litow’s agenda. As the former COO of the New York City schools and aide to New York’s Governor and N.Y.C.’s Mayor, Litow is known for his tireless advocacy, a trait that serves him well in both his role as IBM’s VP Corporate Citizenship and as a member of the Board of Governors of the CRO Association.

Megan Smith, Executive Director, & Vice President, New Business Development,
In early 2009, Smith stepped into large shoes formerly filled by Dr. Larry Brilliant, who since’s founding in 2006 made cutting edge investments to fight global poverty, healthcare improvements, energy efficiency and environmental protection. And while the online search giant’s charity work takes much of her time, Smith is also charged with wrestling with Google partners such as MySpace and Facebook. As one of the highest profile and far-reaching corporate foundations, Smith’s actions as the charity’s new leader will be widely reported on and has the chance to set the pace for the future of digital-era foundation work.

Catherine Babington, President, Abbott Fund and Vice President, Public Affairs Abbott
Catherine Babington’s Abbott Fund is an example of an accelerating trend in corporate foundations: focus on a smaller number of business-impactful initiatives. Since 2001, for example, Abbott Fund has invested over $40 million in a unique public-private partnership in Africa to fight HIV/AIDS, touching 500,000 children and families in Tanzania alone. To support its local communities in the Chicagoland area, Abbott Fund has supported local science education and Millenium Park.

Social Entrepreneur (leveraged non-profit, hybrid non-profit or social business)

Jeffrey Skoll, Founder, Skoll Foundation
No single person has done more for the social entrepreneurship trend than Jeffrey Skoll, with his eponymous foundation’s $1 million-over-3-year grants to the most promising social enterprises, funded with nearly $1
billion from the proceeds of his stock as employee Number 2 of eBay. Two of this year’s nominees have been recipients of Skoll’s award—ACORE’s Michael Eckhart (see below) and CERES’ Mindy Lubber (see above). Skoll has also bankrolled the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University in London. And he’s backed up his belief in the power of stories to influence human behavior with his Participant Productions films “Syriana” with George Clooney and Al Gore’s Academy Award-winning “An Inconvenient Truth.”

John Mackey, CEO, Whole Foods Market
Why do we categorize the CEO of Whole Foods, a public company on NASDAQ, as a “social entrepreneur?” Well, in 2006, Mackey wrote a letter to his staff saying he’d work for $1 a year “for the joy of the work itself…and the call to service.” Mackey’s non-profit-like mission-driven approach to building Whole Foods won him a Social Entrepreneurship CEO nomination this year. It’s that missionary drive that made the company one of only two Fortune 500 companies on the “25 Best Companies to Work For” list in 2005, the same year Mackey got himself in FTC hot water by wisecracking under the pseudonym “Rahodeb” (his wife’s name backwards) on the online Yahoo Finance forum. But the FTC action never slowed Mackey’s blogging and company-building to promote his twin passions: being pro employee and anti-union (In his “Beyond Unions” publication he wrote “The union is like having herpes. It doesn’t kill you, but it’s unpleasant and inconvenient, and it stops a lot of people from becoming your lover.”), and promoting organic food (of which Whole Foods sells a lot).

Michael Eckhart, President, American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE)
Arguably Mike Eckhart has done more than anyone on Earth to promote the finance-friendliness of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, cogeneration and hydro. This former CEO of United Power Systems, venture capitalist and Booz Allen Hamilton principal has been a pioneer in making
renewable energy a good investment, recognized by governments as far and wide as India and South Africa for his groundbreaking work. Eckhart is a 3-time Clinton Global Initiative participant, and has driven ACORE membership to over 600 corporations, including most major U.S. utilities and energy companies. In the post-carbon economy, Eckhart’s leadership will continue to pay dividends throughout the world economy.

Posted August 26, 2009 in Social Responsibility