I’m not quite sure how to describe the experience of being in the company of about 1,000 people from around the world who are recognized as leaders in sustainability and corporate social responsibility both in the business world and in the world of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Amazing, exciting and inspiring are words that just don’t seem quite enough to capture it.
But there I was, in a large room in New York City, listening to the speech Hugh Grant, the CEO of my company, was giving to this audience of global movers and shakers – hearing the laughter and applause, but also seeing crossed arms and concerned looks. Hearing the respectful questions, but also knowing the Twitter streams were adding their own commentaries.
I know some people were wondering why Monsanto would even be there. Some people have a low opinion of our company based upon either bad information or fundamental disagreement with technology in agriculture. I saw people from a few organizations there who actively work to discredit Monsanto every day–one of them was even a sponsor.
However, I also saw and met people who see the need for collaborative partnerships between NGOs and corporations. One person I was extremely honored to meet was Jason Clay, with the World Wildlife Foundation. In my opinion, he gets it. Plus, his TED presentation on big companies and biodiversity has a powerful message for everyone who wants to make a difference.
I am glad we were there. And I was not surprised. I’ve had the privilege of interacting with many people throughout Monsanto, at all levels, and they are inspiring people to know. They come to work wanting to make a difference. They remind me of the types of people I know in humanitarian organizations and non-profits. They are the type of people who are focused on others first, on making sure their work matters beyond a paycheck. And I believe it does.
The knowledge that the kind of dialogue I saw in NYC is taking place, and the winners at the end of the day are farmers and consumers around the planet, is the kind of stuff that gets me up in the morning. It’s why I came to work for Monsanto in the first place. Improving agriculture changes lives! And for farmers to have the opportunity to grow more, using less, and improving their lives and the lives of the people they feed is what this company is all about. And it makes me proud to call Monsanto my company as a result.
Bottom line for me – attending the 2010 Business Social Responsibility Conference, even for only one day, was encouraging. To know that there is room for respectful dialogue between groups that disagree with each other was encouraging. To know that businesses around the world are concerned about their responsibilities to their communities and to the world at large was encouraging. And to see such an active role being taken by the leaders within the profit and the non-profit communities was encouraging.
I hope this is more than just a nice conference for people to attend. I think it is. But the value of those meetings in New York will be in the work that happens afterwards in the fields of sub-Saharan Africa, or in the supply chains at major corporations, or in the labs of technology companies, or in the classrooms of the next generation of leaders.
Because together, we can make this planet thrive and grow and be able to feed our growing populations and improve the quality of life of people we will never meet. And that’s amazing, exciting and inspiring.
Mark Sutherland is a communications team lead living inMissouri.