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2006 Award for Corporate Excellence Ceremony

Remarks at the 2006 Award for Corporate Excellence Ceremony

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
November 6, 2006

(12:00 p.m. EST)

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you, Josette. Thank you very much for the kind introduction and also for your very hard work on behalf of business and its support of goals of democracy and empowerment abroad.

I'm very pleased to have everyone join us here, and a special welcome to those who are joining us via satellite. I'm also very pleased to see Brazil's Minister of Development, Industry and Trade, Luiz Furlan. Thank you very much for being here. There are also a number of members of the Diplomatic Corps. Welcome.

Today is my great pleasure to present the State Department's 2006 Award for Corporate Excellence. This award honors American companies operating abroad that have the vision to build lasting bridges in their host countries. In doing so, they embody the principles that the United States seeks to promote around the world, innovation and leadership, conscience and compassion, freedom and opportunity. Through their efforts, the companies we honor today are nurturing democratic institutions and strengthening the foundations of freedom, the ability to earn a living, to support a family, to educate a new generation and to build a robust economy.

Perhaps nowhere is the compassion of American business having a greater impact than here in our hemisphere in Latin America. As Josette noted, almost half of our finalists this year are companies working in Latin America. Our relationship with the people of Latin America is based on shared values and enduring ties of culture and family. So today we honor not only three American companies that are doing extraordinary work in Latin America, we are also honoring the partnership in our entire hemisphere. Together we are building what President Bush has called a hemisphere that delivers hope and opportunity for every citizen. And with that, I would like to announce this year's winners.

This year's small or medium-sized enterprise winner is Sambazon of Brazil. Sambazon is an outstanding example of the positive impact that a small company can make to the economy, the environment and the society of its host country. Sambazon was selected for its efforts to promote sustainable development in the Brazilian rainforest while improving the conditions of indigenous people through creative marketing of the açaí fruit.

Last year, Sambazon's purchases of açaí supported nearly one thousand grower families who worked more than 66,000 acres within the Amazon estuary, but the company is doing even more for these people. It has created training workshops for growers of this unique fruit, and it offers them guaranteed contracts and micro-credit programs. In addition, the company is supporting social, environmental and scientific programs that preserve the Amazon and benefit the people of Brazil.

I am pleased to recognize Sambazon with the 2006 Award for Corporate Excellence and I'd like to ask Sambazon's CEO, Ryan Black, to step forward. (Applause.)

(The Award is presented.)

MR. BLACK: Wow, thank you very much. It's a wonderful ceremony. Thank you, Madame Secretary and Under Secretary Sheeran. It's an honor here today to represent organic agriculture and social responsible business. I want to thank my mother and my brother for being here, and it is with great pride that I accept this award on behalf of Sambazon's employees in the United States and also in Brazil.

I also accept this award on behalf of all of our small family farmers in the Amazon rainforest as well as our NGO partners who have helped us these last six years, especially Luis Menezes at the World Wildlife Fund in Brazil and Tammy Newmark and Steve McCormick at The Nature Conservancy. Last but not least, I would like to thank OPIC and Robert Mosbacher, Jr. at OPIC for all their support to our project this last year.

The mission of a social entrepreneur is to promote positive social change through using business. In 2000, my partners and I discovered that a tiny açaí berry from Brazil possessed the power to support thousands of small family farmers, protect biodiversity of our Amazon rainforest and provide health and wellness to the world. We committed to making sure that this discovery did not simply spread an economic boom. We saw an opportunity to create an industry which would help people and at the same time support the environment. We saw an opportunity to use açaí as a vehicle to promote sustainable development. With this in mind we established Sambazon, which means sustainable management of the Brazilian Amazon.

Save the planet, go organic. We're very proud to promote organic agriculture and to carry on the work of the pioneers who have come before us like Steve Demos, formerly of White Wave; Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farm; and John Mackey at Whole Foods Markets. We hope that Sambazon will inspire the next generation of leaders just as we have been inspired. The definition of success and business has evolved; the future is based on the principles of a triple bottom line business model which promotes social, environmental and economic success. More directly, triple bottom line businesses promote economic efficiency, ecological conservation and social equality. Triple bottom line businesses offer us, as citizens, the opportunity to become powerful policymakers by voting with our dollars. Through active participation and responsible citizenship, we have the ability to build a community and a future based on sustainability. Active participation is the rent we pay for being in this democracy. Responsible citizenship means more than just showing up at election day. Responsible citizenship is being conscience of what we are spending and who we are supporting with our everyday purchases.

Ideas don't just come to mainstream by themselves; they need entrepreneurs and responsible citizens to actively engage and work day in and day out, year after year, until what was an idea of just a small group becomes the norm. And don't think that a small group of determined individuals can't change the world. In fact, and we only need to be reminded for the man whom this room is named, it is the only thing that ever has. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much for those inspiring remarks. Now I'm pleased to announce the first of two winners of the Award for Corporate Excellence in the multinational category. The first winner is General Motors of Detroit for its steadfast example of good corporate citizenship in Colombia. In addition to its numerous environmental, educational and crime prevention programs, General Motors is also helping demobilized former members of Colombia's paramilitary self-defense forces to reintegrate into civil society. It is for this work that we honor GM today. The company has trained and employed demobilized fighters giving them not just a steady paycheck but a new beginning to their lives. Even as we speak, General Motors is working with the government of Colombia's Peace Commission and other organizations to create a production facility to make uniforms that will be used by GM employees across the Andean region. The production facility will employ military widows and demobilized conflict members. But it will do more than that, it will have a lasting positive effect on the ongoing peace process within Colombia.

I am pleased to present the Department of State's Award for Corporate Excellence to Robert Lutz, Vice Chairman of General Motors. (Applause.)

(The Award is presented.)

MR. LUTZ: Well, thank you very much, Secretary Rice. It's a tremendous honor for General Motors and our Colombian operations GM Colmotores to receive this award, and it's also a great honor for me personally to be allowed to accept it on their behalf.

General Motors has a long history of commitment to the community wherever it does business. GM remains committed to being a good corporate citizen in communities around the world by creating jobs, by investing in training and education, by skills development and seeded technology and growth and improving the standard of living of literally millions of people around the globe.

We have adopted and adhered to the global Sullivan principles which aim to help improve "the quality of life" for communities, workers and children with dignity and equality. These principles guide all of our global activities in such areas as diversity, health, safety, human rights, education, employee training and employee satisfaction. Now, in Colombia we recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the founding of General Motors Colmotores. So frankly, this honor couldn't have come at a better time as we look back on the success and the good works of the past half century and, of course, looking forward to a future filled with more of the same.

Our people in Colombia have worked very hard and in a number of different ways to earn this award. And as Secretary Rice said, perhaps the most important is our strong support of the non-profit organization Juan Bosco Obrero, which does seek to reintegrate demobilized former paramilitary members into Colombian society. Now, these former members of illegal squads are often young, often untrained, and they need a lot of help in readjusting to being able to participate in normal society, a society without war. And the Juan Bosco Obrero provides assistance and job training to these young men and women. And Colombian society as a whole reaps the benefits of their reintegration.

GM Colmotores has also supported through funding and volunteer work the needs of families and children who have been touched or displaced by violence. The Colombian Government and now the U.S. Government has recognized our efforts as having a lasting positive effect on the peace process in Colombia and greatly contributing to the quality of life of people in need, and that's seems to me to be the essence of corporate social responsibility. That's exactly what we're doing because it's exactly what we should be doing. We don't need really awards to remind us of our obligation. Don't get me wrong, we take the award, we're very proud to receive it, and we thank you for it. But we take our responsibility very seriously, and we are committed to giving back to our communities all over the world.

In closing, I would just like to thank the State Department for recognizing our efforts. And I'd like to thank everyone at GM Colmotores in Colombia and congratulate you for your selfless efforts and hard work in making Colombia a better place. Thank you. (Applause.)

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. And now I would like to make one further award. In the past we've granted the Award for Corporate Excellence to only two firms, a multinational enterprise and a small or medium enterprise. But this year our selection committee determined that two large companies were equally outstanding. So I'm pleased to announce that the second ACE winner in the multinational enterprise category is Goldman Sachs of New York for its outstanding corporate stewardship in Chile.

Goldman Sachs was selected for endowing a gift of 680,000 acres of wilderness in the Tierra del Fuego to the Wildlife Conservation Society for a national preserve. The reserve is the size of Rhode Island and it contains rare and fragile ecosystems unique to South America. Goldman Sachs worked with the Government of Chile to obtain support for this nature reserve, and it created an advisory council that includes some of Chile's most distinguished experts. Together, these partners are working to educate the local community, to conduct scientific research and to promote sustainable development of ecotourism.

These efforts are helping to create jobs and a better quality of life for many Chileans. I am pleased to present the Department of State's Award for Corporate Excellence to Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO, Lloyd Blankfein. (Applause.)

(The Award was presented.)

MR. BLANKFIEN: Secretary Rice, Under Secretary Sheeran, Assistant Secretary Sullivan, Assistant Secretary Shannon and distinguished members of the diplomatic community, thank you for this tremendous recognition of the uniqueness of Tierra del Fuego and the work and creativity of the people of Goldman Sachs who helped preserve this extraordinary part of the world. You heard the Secretary describe the environmental wonder Tierra del Fuego represents and the fact that the people of Chile and around the world will be able to enjoy its natural splendor in perpetuity. This alone makes this venture special.

But I also want to acknowledge that the opportunity to preserve Tierra del Fuego came to life out of what appeared to be a routine business transaction. In 2002, we purchased a portfolio of distressed debt which included notes secured by 680,000 acres of ecologically significant forest land. Our people looked beyond the traditional options for this property and identified a rare opportunity to create value though not in the same sense commonly thought of in the world of finance. We determined that this environmentally precious land could and should be preserved.

With the Wildlife Conservation Society we announced a partnership to protect much of the wilderness at the southernmost edge of South America. Through this unprecedented private-public alliance, Goldman Sachs and the World Conservation Society are working with Chilean conservationists and other partners to establish a world class nature preserve that preserves and protects this land's unique ecological characteristics. This undertaking made possible by the expertise and vision of the people of Goldman Sachs and the diligence and passion of WCS illustrates in a compelling way that the private sector can play an important role in helping to protect the environment.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the contributions of some specific individuals. John O'Leary was the former U.S. Ambassador to Chile who sadly passed away last year. John and his business partner Kathy Barclay, who is here today, did a brilliant job in guiding Goldman Sachs through this donation. I'm delighted that John's wife, Patricia Cepeda is here to see the fruits of his hard work. Craig Kelly, the current U.S. Ambassador to Chile was a strong advocate from the beginning. And finally, Steven Sanderson, President of the Wildlife Conservation Society, and his team are diligently working to create one of the great conservation projects in South America.

So on behalf of the people of Goldman Sachs and our partners at the Wildlife Conservation Society, I am privileged to accept this honor. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Thank you very much Lloyd.

Well, this is quite a trio and quite an inspiring trio from different aspects of business that have found different and creative ways to partner with the people of Latin America for sustainable development, for prosperity and indeed in support of democratic values. These awards signal the influential role that American business can play in ensuring the continuing evolution of peaceful and democratic and open societies.

On behalf of the men and women of the State Department, I want to thank you again for your hard work and compassion. I want to thank you for your attendance at this very special event. And I would now like to turn the program back to Josette Sheeran who is going to lead to the interactive portion with the embassies. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

2006/1006

Released on November 6, 2006

ENDS


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