This article appeared in the business section of the Grand Rapids Press on Wednesday November 16. The article is a brief description of a speech given locally by an executive from the Altria Corporation on business ethics. Altria is the new name for Philip Morris, the largest producer of cigarettes in the United States. In the article the ethics expert, as the article labels him, is said to have discussed processes, policies and practices to make Altria ship-shape. The article does mention that Altria has been alleged to have deceived the public about the health risks of smoking. This claim is followed with a quote from the speaker who says that I do not believe there were evil people in the company (a decade ago), but I think we were out of touch. We didn’t see how people perceived us.” He then goes on to say in the article that the company had worked to change its image and to promote an ethical culture with top-down commitment to “do the right thing.” The article ends with the speaker saying “We created the job thinking that we need to focus not just on our product, but on our broader responsibility.” Considering Philip Morriss
Companies should promote ethics, expert says
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
By Matt Vande Bunte
The Grand Rapids Press
GRAND RAPIDS — For the first few months in his new position, David Greenberg had a hard time describing exactly what a “chief compliance officer” did all day. Then, the Enron Corp. fiasco made headlines.
“Once Enron broke, I didn’t have to explain anymore,” said Greenberg, senior vice president and chief compliance officer for Altria Group, Inc., the parent company of Kraft Foods, Philip Morris International and Philip Morris USA.
“Enron and all the scandals helped people understand why this is important.”
Greenberg brought his corporate lessons to the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan on Tuesday at Aquinas College, talking about “Marlboros, Oreos and Integrity: Global Responsibility in a $100 Billion Multinational Corporation.”
He detailed some of the processes, policies and practices that Altria implemented to make sure things are in ship-shape among its 160,000-plus employees in more than 100 countries.
Altria has been at the fore of state and federal lawsuits alleging a cigarette industry conspiracy to deceive the public about the health risks of smoking and the addictive nature of nicotine.
“I do not believe there were evil people in the company (a decade ago), but I think we were out of touch,” Greenberg said. “We didn’t see how people perceived us.”
So the company worked to change its image inside and out, he said. Greenberg was hired in 2001 to create a new compliance and integrity program.
Because Altria cannot employ a corporate police force to monitor its employees, Greenberg said the company has tried to promote an ethical culture with top-down commitment to “do the right thing.” The alternative is to let the government intervene, he said.
The company held focus groups to write a code of conduct and created ethical training for employees.
“We created the job thinking that we need to focus not just on our product, but on our broader responsibility,” Greenberg said. “Over the long haul, that’s a recruiting tool, a marketing tool and a brand-builder.
“You ignore that stuff at your peril. Both businesses and reputations will be broken.”