Corporate Responsibility & Shared Values

Boston Consulting Group
Berlin, November 13, 2014
Ambassador John B. Emerson

Frau Rauchfuss, Herr Gubelt, meine Damen und Herren,

ich freue mich, heute Abend bei Ihnen zu sein. Das weltweite Engagement der Boston Consulting Group spiegelt sich in ihren Beziehungen zu Organisationen auf der ganzen Welt wider. Es freut mich sehr, heute Abend einige Ihrer Partner hier in Deutschland zu treffen.

Ms Rauchfuss, Dr. Gubelt, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a pleasure to join you this evening.  The global commitment of the Boston Consulting Group is documented by the relationships it has with organizations around the world.  I am very pleased this evening to meet some of  your partners here in Germany.

The Boston Consulting Group is an American company, but it is a global citizen.  Last year BCG celebrated its 50th anniversary.  Over the course of those 50 years, it has had an impact on industries and issues around the world.  I read that Bruce Henderson, the founder of the Boston Consulting Group, counselled the young consultants who were part of the start-up 50 years ago, that they could “change the world.”  And on the business side, BCG has pioneered a number of management concepts that indeed have had a profound impact by changing mindsets about how business sees business.  And here I am not just talking about concepts like competitive advantage, or the experience curve, or growth-share matrices.  I am talking about the commitment made by business to better society as a whole.  Impacting society is one of BCG’s core values; and it is one of the underlying concepts of corporate responsibility.

That belief in corporate responsibility is an integral part of the German-American partnership.  Both the public and private sectors are committed to sustainable economic growth, education environmental, consumer and labor protection, and fair and transparent commercial practices.  BCG celebrated that kind of commitment on its 50th anniversary last year by launching 50 social impact projects.  What a wonderful idea and what a great way to celebrate and share your anniversary.

There are many shared milestones on the chronology of the trans-Atlantic relationship.  We need to make sure that, just as you have done with your 50 projects, these are occasions to remember, to teach, to learn, and to move forward.

Inspirationally, BCG’s commitment to business and entrepreneurship is twofold: not only creating value for your clients, their stockholders and employees, but also considering the needs of other stakeholders in society.  More broadly speaking, the trans-Atlantic partnership also works to ensure that all the citizens of our countries enjoy the benefits we often take for granted, while at the same time advancing the values and goals we share around the world.

Today for example, I have just come from an anniversary meeting of the OSCE’s Berlin Declaration.  Ten years ago, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe met in Berlin to address the challenge of anti-Semitism, acknowledging that anti-Semitism had assumed new forms and posed new threats to security and stability in its 57 participating states and beyond.  Ever since, that commitment to address and respond to anti-Semitism and other biases has been part of the OSCE’s work in the very human dimension of security.  The meeting in Berlin today confirmed the necessity of these ongoing efforts.  This past summer, we saw in Europe evidence of a very ugly anti-Semitism that was falsely justified by Israel’s policies in Gaza.

Another example: earlier this week, Germany celebrated the 25thanniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.   The movement that ultimately brought down the Berlin Wall involved literally tens of thousands of peaceful protesters.  It was a very human solution to the tensions and threats that that defined the Cold War.  And it reflected the shared American and German commitment to freedom and self-determination.

The track record of German-American cooperation has been exceptional – starting from the early days after the end of World War II, through our solidarity in protecting the people of West Berlin, with the Luftbrücke, through the Cold War, through reunification, to today.  None of these events in our shared history would have been possible without the commitment and courage of many, many individuals.  These events and others in our shared history with Europe had an impact that was felt around the world – an impact measured by the way our governments and our citizens addressed the challenges and opportunities presented.  The question for today is how we can reinvigorate a vision for cooperation based on the recognition of our many potential areas of shared opportunity, our mutual interests, and our shared values.

Thanks to the integration of Central Europe and the Baltic States into the European Union and NATO, more than 90 million people have enjoyed relative safety and prosperity for more than two decades in a region whose historic instability helped launch two world wars.

But the European project was never simply a security or an economic initiative; it was a project based on common values.  And these values are captured in the first line of Germany’s Basic Law that, and I quote, “Human dignity shall be inviolable — as the basis for every community, of peace, of justice in the world.”

That fight for human dignity is ongoing in Ukraine, and Iraq, and Syria, and any corner of the world where freedom, rule of law, and human rights are trampled by forces which have their own divisive, violent and repressive agendas.

Many individuals are making a difference in these countries.  Every year, the U.S. Department of State shines a light on some of their achievements with the International Women of Courage Award.  As First Lady Michelle Obama said at the 2104 award ceremony this past March: “If a woman can fight torture and oppression and get her name on the ballot in Tajikistan; if she can break a glass ceiling and advocate for equality and tolerance as a bishop in Georgia; if she can go door to door, police station to police station, court to court to combat domestic and child abuse in Saudi Arabia — if these women can do all of that, then surely we can summon a fraction of their bravery in our own lives and communities — whether that means ending wage discrimination in the workplace, or fighting sexual violence on college campuses, or confronting any of the small injustices that we see every day.”

That is what standing up for human dignity is all about.

That struggle is also ongoing in Liberia and Sierra Leone and Guinea, where Ebola has overwhelmed public health systems.  In all three of these countries, economic growth has slowed dramatically.  If this epidemic is not stopped, this disease could cause a humanitarian catastrophe across the region that would reverberate around the world.  In an era in which regional crises can quickly become global threats, stopping Ebola and making sure that all of our children enjoy lives of opportunity and dignity is in the interest of everyone.

Germany and the United States are helping in all of the countries affected – and not only with aid and supplies.  Courageous humanitarians and health workers from both of our countries are working alongside community leaders to help turn the tide against Ebola.

These and other challenges we face may not pose the same existential threats that we experienced during the world wars of the last century or during the Cold War, but they are significant.  Consider: the Russian aggression towards Ukraine, undermining the rule of law and territorial integrity that has been emblematic of post-cold war Europe; the emergence of a terrorist threat in the Middle East, that threatens to destabilize an entire region and exports hateful extremism to the west; the alarming spread of the Ebola virus; the challenge of harnessing the impact of globalization, through creating the largest free trade zone in the world; and the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.  All of these issues demand collaboration – on all levels.

We must remember that while one nation can win a war, it takes many nations to win and maintain the peace.  And in addressing every one of these challenges, Germany is front and center in virtually everything that we do.

And so, in the context of both intelligence matters and other issues, one of my priorities since I arrived last summer has been strengthening the sense of conviction and confidence that has characterized our partnership since the end of World War II.

That is why, in the context of the debates regarding intelligence and other matters; concerns about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership; and the undercurrent of anti-American feelings that is stirring among some segments of German society, my top priority is to strengthen the conviction and confidence that has characterized our partnership since the end of World War II.

First, consider the dangers posed by globalization.  The ongoing discussion in both Germany and the U.S. about how to strike the right balance between Freiheit und Sicherheit has even more resonance in an era where non-state actors and metastasized terrorist groups use tools of terror to promote their hateful ideology.  Even as we reform, we must keep in mind that our collaboration on intelligence today is more important than at any time since the end of the Cold War.

But there are broader questions.  What is the meaning of privacy in the digital age? How do societies that share the same values, but have suffered through different experiences – the Nazis, the Stasi, 9-11 – work through the differences in approach those experiences might suggest?

And most significantly, how do we address the fundamental problem of young people, mostly men, who are so disillusioned that they become angry, and receptive to radicalization by extremists?

Second, consider the opportunities presented by globalization.  We are in the midst of a debate over T-TIP that seems to be dominated by fears rather than the realities of free and fair trade.  Opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has become a symbol around which those who are afraid of globalization and those who distrust the concentration of power in Brussels have rallied.  Yet as Wirtschaftsminister Sigmar Gabriel says, T-TIP is our opportunity to guide and harness the impact of globalization.

Candidly, those of us who support this transformational opportunity lost the first round of framing the public discussion; and not because we lost a battle of ideas – but because we were very late in even showing up.  Now I can talk about T-TIP ‘til I am blue in the face – and sometimes I do; but let’s face it – the U.S. has little credibility here.  First of all, we’re on the other side of the negotiating table.  Second, for a whole host of reasons, people are mad at us –and that hasn’t helped.  But fundamentally, Europeans need to hear from Europeans why this is so important.

We need to bust the myths that are taking root about T-TIP.  One prevalent myth is that T-TIP’s efforts to harmonize standards will result in a ’race to the bottom’.  The impression that the U.S. has lower standards than Europe in consumer safety and environmental protection is just plain wrong.  In some areas, European standards are higher; but in many areas, again as Minister Gabriel has said, American standards are higher.  When it comes to regulation to protect consumer health and safety, neither of us would accept a diminution of our high standards.

So let me be clear:  Americans don’t want lower standards. Europeans don’t want lower standards.  We won’t negotiate that kind of agreement.  And our legislatures wouldn’t approve such a thing.  And the only reason we are negotiating this agreement is because we believe that, on balance, we share a similar commitment to strong levels of health, safety and environmental protection – even if our regulators get to the answer through somewhat different approaches.

There are many other myths that have arisen about T-TIP, including questions regarding ISDS, GMOs, and transparency.  I will be happy to address any of those during our question and answer period.

This kind of project is only possible between two well-regulated systems such as the United States and Europe; and if we’re successful, T-TIP will position us, collectively, as standard-setters rather than standard-takers in the global economy. It will also enshrine our shared values as reflected by basic rules on transparency, participation, and accountability in the development of regulations, thereby setting a high bar for governance and democratic participation that will have to be adhered to by other countries seeking the same opportunities.

But one additional point about T-TIP: it will help to create a framework that will encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. Think about it. The United States knows how to encourage and cultivate startups, because not too long ago, our country was a startup.  Innovation isn’t just in our interest; it’s in our DNA.  But let’s not forget how many German companies, both large and Mittelstand, began as startups.  Innovation is also in Germany’s DNA.  We both have a tradition of tackling new challenges, adapting to new circumstances, and seizing new opportunities.  This is something the Boston Consulting Group knows all about.

And today, we need innovation and entrepreneurship more than ever.  No investment is about the past.  By definition, it’s about the future.  And the world, as we all know, is getting more competitive.  That means in both of our countries we will have to continue to make smart investments in research and development, education, and infrastructure.  And T-TIP will increase the capital for these investments.

So that’s another reason why we believe the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is so important.

But in addition to presenting the facts and explaining some of the myths that have evolved around T-TIP, we also need a more fundamental conversation about the opportunities and challenges presented by globalization.

Specifically, how can we help to mitigate some of the economic dislocations caused by globalization that generate the fears about T-TIP and big data, for example, that many have?  Unless and until we address that, we will always be battling fear-based opposition to such opportunities.

And one last question that is very important to the future of the trans-Atlantic relationship: How can we build lasting bridges with the younger generations of Germans and Americans?

At the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on the weekend, the question was “where were you when the Wall came down”?   I can remember vividly where I was.  It was daytime in Los Angeles and I was at work.  Having been through Checkpoint Charlie just a year earlier, I was riveted to the TV in my office.

What fantastic news; but at the same time I had a nagging feeling that things could still go dreadfully wrong.  I couldn’t help but think of what had happened in Tiananmen Square just five months earlier.  But things did not go wrong.  And what happened in the GDR 25 years ago, and Germany’s subsequent development as a strong and unified nation, sent the world a very powerful message.

When the Berlin Wall came down, it felt like anything was possible.  It still is.  But most of the young people who flock to Berlin were not even born when the Wall came down.

And therein lies my fear: namely, that those Germans who came of age after the fall of the Wall do not share the visceral connection with the U.S. of those who grew up during the days of the Cold War and Reunification.  Many of these young people not only question the value of the German-American relationship; they are questioning whether we even share the same values.

In the course of traveling through Germany, however, my sense is that the hopes, aspirations and concerns of young Germans are not so different from those of young Americans.  They share a distrust of big government, and big business; they share a passion for the same sports, music, art and film – the content they not only consume, but help to create.  They are worried about jobs, getting a quality education, the environment, and whether government is effectively exercising its role and responsibility regarding these issues.

And they also have concerns about what they saw on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, this summer; or as I mentioned earlier, on the streets of Düsseldorf and Berlin, when protests against the crisis in Gaza devolved into ugly anti-Semitic taunts.  In short, their concerns range from the domestic to the international; their interests from the economy to security; and their ideals from the deeply personal to a global mindset.

But there is one other thing: young Germans have an appreciation for the innovation and creativity that has made places like the Silicon Valley in my home state of California iconic.  There is a sense of the opportunity it represents for their lives, and therein lies the potential for building new bonds.  I said earlier that both of our countries have long been places where innovation is encouraged, where good ideas can thrive, and grow, and ultimately create new industries around them.  A trans-Atlantic relationship, based on shared cultural interests and a yearning for collaboration and innovation, could serve to bond the younger generations.

But we also need to address the question of shared values, head on.  Recent polls showing an undercurrent of anti-Americanism, and a sense in many that America is no different from Russia, are distressing.  America was founded on an idea, a concept of freedom and democracy and a set of ideals that crossed the Atlantic with the first European settlers.  The belief that power is derived from the consent of the governed, and that laws and institutions should be established to protect that understanding.  The belief in free assembly, a free press, the right to criticize one’s own government, freedom of speech and freedom after speech, rule of law, the right to self-determination, and the need for free and fair elections.  Those ideas – and the values upon which they are based – were written into the founding documents that govern America to this day.  And nearly two centuries later, they were incorporated into Germany’s Grundgesetz.

As the historical timelines of both of our countries have shown many times over and in many different ways, it takes hard-working and dedicated citizens to hold true to those ideals, and to turn the vision they represent into reality.  We sometimes take these realities for granted.  That applies, by the way, to people of all generations.  The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, of religion, and of the press.  How often do we forget how those  “freedoms of” translate into the “freedom to”: to live your life, to speak your mind, to start your own political party, to build your own business, to vote for any candidate, to pursue happiness, and to be yourself, whatever your sexual, religious or political orientation.

These ideas are not shared by many governments that are in the news these days.  And over the past year, they have been tested – in places like the Ukraine, Syria, and Iraq.  In all of these places, the United States and Germany and other trans-Atlantic partners are working together, in support of democracy, free expression, human rights, and basic dignity.

One thing is clear.  Whether it is the security of Ukraine, peace in the Middle East, the energy stability of Europe, creating a framework that will sustain economic growth well into this century through T-TIP, our collective response to climate change, or combating the threat of disease like the deadly Ebola virus, no one nation can make a real difference by acting alone.  That is why our partnership and our friendship are so important.  In the end, whether we are able to live up to our ideals comes down to us – and the choices we make in confronting these challenges together; and ultimately that will be the strength of our trans-Atlantic partnership.