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Jeffrey Hollender is the co-founder and CEO of Seventh Generation and the author of "The Responsibility Revolution: How the Next Generation of Businesses Will Win." He currently serves on the[…]

The car company was running ads about the Prius and their commitment to the environment while secretly lobbying in California against increased gas mileage standards.

Question: Which companies need to focus more on corporate rnresponsibility?
rnJeffrey Hollender: There are, of course, the examples that you rnopen up and see in the newspaper every day, like British Petroleum, and rnGoldman Sachs, and Toyota.  Those companies are a warning flag to every rnother business that’s not doing the right thing.  You now, those rnbusinesses happen to have gotten caught in the mess that they’ve rncreated.  They are not alone in doing some terrible things.  But they’rern unique in that they’ve gotten caught. 
rnIf you go back in time and you think about a company like Toyota, rnseveral years ago, while they were running all these ads about the rnPrius, and how sustainable the Prius is and how much the cared about thern planet and the environment—at the same time, secretly they were rnlobbying in the California against increased gas mileage standards.  So,rn you know, on the one hand they wanted to appear as this sustainable rncompany while, you know, with the other hand, they’re actually fighting rnthe changes that are required to make the world more sustainable for rneveryone else.   That is the kind of duality that I see at too many rncompanies.  Too many companies who want to talk about... I mean, I rnremember four years ago, General Motors put up billboards all around Newrn York and the country advertising the Volt car.  Now, the Volt car was rnnot being made.  They had no idea if it was going to be made, they had rnno idea when it was going to be made, but that didn't stop them from rnadvertising a car that didn't exist as a way to bolster their image as arn responsible business. 
rnThings like that are destructive to your reputation.  And many companiesrn don’t understand that this new world that we live in, the transparency rnthat is created by the Internet raises the stakes for companies getting rnaway with stuff that they used to be able to get away with.  rnTransparency will be forced upon you if you choose not to be transparentrn yourself, and you will get caught doing the wrong thing—whether you getrn caught by your own employees, whether you get caught by a blogger, rnwhether you get caught by an NGO, or the government—you’ll get caught. rnAnd businesses need to be proactive in, a) disclosing the problems that rnthey have, which they’re scared to do, and committing to the path that rnthey’re going to take to make change.

Recorded on June 11, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman