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Change through maturity

Lisa Roner, Ethical Corp’s North America editor, checking in.

Just wanted to share some background thoughts and information on a story we’ve just wrapped up on Gerber’s (a Novartis company) adoption of the FTSE4Good breast milk substitute marketing guidelines. Gerber is the first company to implement the guidelines and the first to make the index. It’s a REALLY big step when you consider that the WHO code has been in place for more than a quarter of a century with little positive forward movement – until now – by companies to adhere to it. The FTSE guidelines are based on the WHO code, but go a step further by asking companies to show evidence of robust management systems and processes as well as verification.

A couple of notable things struck me as I worked on this piece. First, I am truly impressed by the level of commitment and maturity on both sides of this negotiation. The folks at FTSE and Gerber have been working toward this end for the better part of three years. For most of us, that’s an awfully long time to remain committed to anything without taking our eye off the ball.

Gerber was quick to admit that the give and take process with FTSE was an “education” for them. They say freely that they began without a clue as to what FTSE’s beef was with their marketing practices. And FTSE is quick to credit Gerber with being one of only a scant two or three who responded to their initial request for engagement with interest and a desire to learn more about how to comply.

It’s refreshing to realize that Gerber made step-wise improvements throughout the 3 year engagement without fully knowing whether they would eventually make it onto the index. A real sign, in my opinion, that they are more interested in doing the “right” thing than in the eventual payoffs.

And last, and perhaps most significant, I would point out that neither FTSE nor Gerber has issued press releases trumpeting this achievement. To me at least, that is the most telling sign that both parties were in this for all the right reasons.

Positive, mature engagement with longterm, mutual, clear commitments to a meaningful end result with little to no public fanfare and back-patting in the end – now that’s a story.