- Hardcover: 264 pages
- Publisher: Routledge (April 10 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1937134881
- ISBN-13: 978-1937134884
- Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.2 x 21.6 cm
- Shipping Weight: 481 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #242,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil Hardcover – Apr 10 2014
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The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist is a quick read, effortlessly gulped during a long airplane flight. The writing is clear and concise, and if the book doesn’t leave one convinced that every multinational has suddenly developed a guiding conscience, it does offer some encouragement that many are on the way." The New York Times
Christine Bader's The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist paints a vivid picture of the changing world of business, the rise of sustainability as a value in many companies, and the author's own awakening to the complexity of corporate responsibility. Written as a lively and compelling narrative, the book goes beyond recounting Bader's ups and downs in a decade at BP to offer deep insight into the central importance of morality in any job, company, or life.” Dan Esty, Hillhouse Professor, Yale University; author, Green to Gold
Business must be part of the solution to the complex challenges facing our planet. This requires authentic and committed leaders at all levels within a company working together to help make this a reality. In The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil, Christine Bader gives us a firsthand account of what it takes to get this right and provides some salutary lessons about what it means when companies get it wrong.” Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever
Companies increasingly recognize that they have a legitimate interest in respecting human rights. Christine Bader has been on the front lines of both setting and implementing human rights standards for business, and provides an engaging narrative of what it takes to ensure that human rights are a reality for all.” Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland; former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
With insight and humor, Christine Bader sheds light on the inner workings of multinational business. The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist is a must-read for all of us who care about ensuring that ethics and morality have their rightful place on the business agenda.” William H. Donaldson, 27th chairman, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; co-founder, former chairman and CEO, Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette
"For all those who have seen what multinational corporations are doing and wondered, "What were they thinking?" read this book! Bader takes us deep inside big business, past the slick P.R. and newspaper headlines. Whether you resonate with the title "Corporate Idealist" or think it’s an oxymoron, this book is a fascinating read. Love Big Oil or hate it, you'll never look at it the same." Annie Leonard, Founder, The Story of Stuff Project
"Christine Bader writes as she is: genuine, funny, compassionate, on a constant search for truth and impact. The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil is a unique and valuable contribution to one of the greatest challenges of the modern era: how to leverage the creativity and drive of business to achieve a just and sustainable world." Aron Cramer, President and CEO, BSR (Business for Social Responsibility)
"Too many companies and the investors and consumers that support them still take a short-term, narrow view that is threatening our planet; the 'sustainability' movement has often felt like one step forward, two steps back. In The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil, Christine Bader gives us an insider's perspective on why that is the case. I relate to her struggle between optimism and pessimism, and suspect many others will too." Jeffrey Hollender, founder and former CEO, Seventh Generation
"The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist is a deeply personal reflection on a vastly neglected subject: the hopes and successes, disappointments and disillusionments, of corporate social responsibility practitioners in global companies. Christine Bader recounts her own journey, starting with infatuation and fulfillment, to feeling jilted, experimenting with taming capitalism through the United Nations, and ending up back in the private sector, a bit bruised but considerably wiser. This makes for an eminently readable introduction to the bourgeoning field of corporate social responsibility." John G. Ruggie, Harvard University; former U.N. special representative for business & human rights
"Girl meets Big Oil, Big Oil breaks girl's heart. So far, so predictable. But Christine Bader's extraordinary, warts-and-all memoir reveals what happens when idealism and business converge in both the heart and the mind." John Elkington, co-founder of Environmental Data Services (ENDS), SustainAbility and Volans; co-author, The Power of Unreasonable People.
"Bader’s memoir is a refreshing change from the many business booksincluding others on the same topic of corporate responsibility and related themesthat consist of faceless management frameworks and to-do lists. There is nothing abstract about her tale of an idealistic young woman falling in and out of love with the BP corporation, and coming to terms with its complexity." Ann Graham, contributing editor at strategy + business
About the Author
Christine Bader is a sought-after speaker, lecturer, and advisor on corporate responsibility. She is a Human Rights Advisor to BSR and a Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She serves on the boards of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and The OpEd Project. Her work with BP from 1999 until 2008 brought her to Indonesia, China, and the U.K., managing the social impacts of some of the company's largest projects in the developing world.
Christine has published numerous op-eds and articles and given talks to conferences, companies, and universities around the world, including a TEDx talk entitled "Manifesto for the Corporate Idealist." She lives in her native New York City with her husband and two children.
Top Customer Reviews
Providing some background information is in order. As she explains: "I fell in love with that BP. And BP loved me back, giving me the opportunity to live in Indonesia, working on social issues around a remote gas field; then China, ensuring worker and community safety for a chemicals joint venture; then in the United Kingdom again, collaborating with colleagues around the world to better understand and support human rights.
"BP was paying me to help the people living around its projects, because that in turn would help its business. I was living the cliché of doing well and doing good. and I was completely smitten. My beloved company even let me create a pro bono project advising a United Nations initiative to clarify business's responsibilities for human rights, aimed at creating international policy to help even more people."
These brief excerpts describe "the good BP" during Bader's "best of times." And then Big Oil broke her heart, "the worst of times." She left BP to work on the U.N. project full-time. Some of the most interesting material in her narrative provides stories and reflections from other Corporate Idealists, noting that "while my story may be unique in its details, it is not in its themes" nor in the nature and extent resistance that Corporate Idealists encounter.
These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Bader’s coverage.
o Papua: A culturally sensitive setting (Pages 2-6)
o John Browne: A Different Brand of Oilman (6-9)
o Security and Human Rights (20-29)
o On [Bader's] Personal Front (37-42)
o An overview of Bader's years in China (42-72)
o Human Rights and BP Values (78-89)
o A Global Debate (92-96)
o End of the John Browne Era (98-104)
o The Business and Human Rights Debate (109-115)
o Protect, Respect and Remedy (116-122)
o The End of the Beginning (134-137)
o The Power of Normative Standards (137-140)
o BP's "Perfect Storm" (164-166)
o Supping with the Devil: Kofi Anan with Phil Knight (179-186)
o A Sorting Function (201-208)
While re-reading The Revolution of a Corporate Idealist, I was again reminded of the fact that many of the companies annually ranked as the most highly admired and best to work for are also among those annually ranked as most profitable and having the greatest cap value in their industry segment. That is emphatically NOT a coincidence. Enduring principles and sustainable profits are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they are [begin italics] interdependent [end italics].
After all of the best and worst of times that Christine Bader endured, her basic values remain intact but she has also developed what Ernest Hemingway once characterized as a built-in, shock-proof crap detector. When concluding her book, she observes, "The Corporate Idealist community sees both the challenges and potential of big business. We realize that we can't save the world -- we can even save every finger and toe. We can expound upon but not fully explain the disasters of our companies and industries, which is deeply unsatisfying to those who want simple answers and assurances. But we can nudge our companies toward a vision of a better future, one in which 'responsible business' and 'fair trade' are redundant, not novelties or oxymorons."
I hope that those who read this book -- especially those now preparing for a career in business or who have only recently embarked on one -- will become an active member of the Corporate Idealist community. There is so much important work yet to be done. As indicated earlier, I fervently believe -- as does Christine Bader -- that enduring principles and sustainable profits are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they are interdependent.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com
Ms. Bader started at BP Oil as a starry-eyed business school graduate expecting to change the world. Her book provides a balanced account of both failures and hard-won successes as she struggled to promote corporate responsibility.
Her writing style is light and breezy, as she interweaves her BP experience with the experiences of other corporate idealists and the lessons she learned. But her message is deadly serious. In light of events like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the Rana Plaza Factory collapse in Bangladesh, the lessons in Ms. Bader’s book, and the ideals it embraces, have never been more important.
I came to the book a decided skeptic about whether major corporations ever see it in their best interests to commit resources towards socially and environmentally responsible practices, particularly when there is often such an obvious profit motive in ignoring such issues in favor of doing everything as efficiently (i.e. cheaply) as possible. Bader, as one would expect, makes a convincing case that corporations ignore these concerns at their peril, and does a fine job outlining the hidden costs of ignoring the social consequences of corporate actions. (She frequently uses the example of how much money can be lost when business operations have to be shut down, even just for a couple of days, due to protesters who are objecting to the business' practices.) The detailed accounts of her work for BP in Indonesia and China are fascinating and, at times, inspiring, as the reader sees how Bader and her fellow Corporate Idealists were able to achieve concrete successes that served both the interests of BP and the communities in those countries in which it was operating. I still count myself somewhat skeptical on the issue, but Bader shows that it can at least be done on a micro level.
By the time the Deepwater Horizon disaster thrust BP into the international headlines, Bader had moved on to a position at the United Nations. Although her disappointment in BP's response to that incident is palpable within the pages of the book, I myself was disappointed not to read a more detailed criticism of the way in which BP addressed the disaster and what it said about the company in general. It's possible I wanted more inside politics than Bader was willing to deliver.
The final chapter of the book, in which Bader surveys several of her fellow Corporate Idealists in a sort of State-of-the-Revolution summary, reads like a manifesto for anyone interested in this line of work, and indeed for anybody who is frustrated that more companies don't seem to pay attention to any motivation other than the almighty bottom line. The statements of Bader and her other CI's are candid about how difficult and frustrating it can be to battle against corporate policies and practices that have been in place for decades or even centuries, but these declarations are tempered with appreciation of how far this movement has come.
You don't have to be an idealist (corporate or otherwise) to enjoy this book. Christine Bader has a lot to say about how major corporations should operate and the obligations they owe to the communities in which they operate and the world at large. Even if you don't agree with what she says, she will force you to think about the role of corporations in contemporary society. It ought to be required reading at business schools around the country, if not the world.
In other respects, the book is a guide to people already working in business, and it is here that it truly excels. At a most basic level, it is reassuring to see how one person has found a personal story with meaning in a corporate career, which is not necessarily an easy thing to do. The book is also inspiring, and a call to arms, in showing how so many people have caused positive change in large, slow-moving companies. Finally, it provides some useful tools for thinking about issues, whether you work in apparel, natural resources or the most innocuous of industries, in growth economies or developed ones.
Christine Bader's engaging style makes accessible a topic that could easily be academic. All in all, a great read and important book.
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