Will Swope explains the truths and the misconceptions surrounding corporate responsibility.
Question: What does corporate responsibility mean at Intel?
Will: Well, it means a number of things, but at the highest level, it means that we operate in the way that we’re proud of. In our code of conduct that we have for our employees, I summarized the code of conduct by saying, if you think about the right-hand column of the Wall Street Journal, and if you’re doing something you don’t want to read about, don’t do it, and you can start taking that practice at the individual level and you can take it up to the business level. You can take it to the corporate level. So, I think being a responsible corporation does that in a completely transparent environment you’re proud of what you do. You’re allowed to make money. In fact, it’s preferable, because if not, you’re not making any money that you can return and you can’t do any good work, right? But we really think about this as a way to say in a completely transparent environment, are we doing things that our employees, our shareholders, all right, and our customers would be proud of.
Question: What does corporate responsibility mean vis-à-vis Intel employees?
Will: There are three things that the Intel employee deserves. They deserve a good boss. They deserve to know how their job specifically relates to moving Intel forward, and they deserve to work for a company they’re proud of. So I want to stay on that third point for a while. The reason we do so much communication internally at Intel is because it gives us 82,000 of the world’s best ambassadors to talk about who we are, what we do, why we’re proud of it, why we are proud of the actions that we take. So, we work at that really hard, you know, a variety of mechanisms to communicate there. But there’s another even deeper reason. It actually helps the employee a great deal. Not only does it make them proud of their job but we do a huge amount of volunteering at Intel. They get to feel a lot better about their work in volunteering to know that the corporation is supporting it and to know that others in other places in the world are also doing that and moving the society forward.
Question: What is your strategy for corporate responsibility?
Will: That’s a little harder. First of all, what does this strategy mean in that context? So, I’d like to take just a few specifics, one of which is coherence. So, if you’re building products that are just destroying the environment while claiming that you are trying to support the environment that kind of duplicity just doesn’t work. So the first thing you look for is consistency or the way you treat natural resources is the way that you’re treating your employees, is the way that you’re building products, right, are all of those consistent. That’s the first thing. Along with that, that means consistent across the world. So you need to have a code of conduct for employees so they know what to do, right? You need to have a clear way of dealing with governments that’s consistent government to government and still honoring the rights of the local government to control their own country, but we are in a lot of different countries, right? So, although, I know that sounds [pandemic] to talk about the structure of it first, that’s the first part of it, and then the second part for us is I think you need to focus. We’re focused on education. Most all the work we do is on education. Most all of our plan to be is about education that and disaster relief, you know, when people are really in [quandary] around the world, we try to help a little bit. But I think those are the two things for us or maybe the three things: the transparency of action, the consistency of action, and a common focus that we can rally our employees around.
Question: What mistakes do companies make in planning corporate responsibility?
Will: They think it’s about philanthropy. If you look at any market, any emerging market, developing country, I’m pretty sure this data… I got the data from [Mercy Corps], so if it’s wrong at least I can quote the source, 40 times the amount of money in trade that’s in philanthropic endeavor. So that would mean if you could get a country to be able to develop one more company to develop one more industry, you’re going to do that country far more good than by giving them things, because it really becomes, the word “sustainable” is overused here, but it becomes an ongoing enterprise and [IB] other ongoing enterprises. The second thing is we’ve gotten ourselves confused to think that making money is somehow bad or that if you’re also doing work in product development at the same place that you’re doing philanthropic work, that somehow that is just ingenuous or it’s too self-serving. I want to push back on that. We have some great products in the education space and we give the better part of $100 million a year in education around the world, but we give it in plenty of ways. We give it by training teachers. We give it by scholarships to higher education. We give it by helping companies build content development. So, we think about this as holistically as we can. Our focus is education, as I said, you know, people have different focuses, that’s fine. But when we’re done, we’d like to think that we’ve actually made a difference to the environment that we try to serve and… Let me take one more minute on that. There are really four things that are required to really help a school system, right? You’ve got to have access to technology. You have to be trained on the technology. The technology has to be connected and you have to have local content. Now, local content might just mean it’s in the same language, but you’ve got to have, those are the 4 things. In each one of those, think about now the businesses that would support that, so you could go in and give those four things to a school, or you could go in and work with the government to develop those four industries, so all the schools were served. That would be a significant difference on impact in the long term. It’s not as showy in the short-term, you know, it gets the same amount of press, but you make a much bigger difference in the long term.