President Obama uses State of the Union to Emphasize America's CSR Goals

by Aman Singh Das | January 28, 2010

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Most of us are still dissecting all the proposals put forth by President Obama yesterday in his State of the Union address. While the majority of the speech focused on job creation, he managed to highlight several things that we can be hopeful about in 2010: Energy, Climate Change legislation, Women & Leadership, and the controversial issue of gay men serving in American military. Here, then, is the crux of the almost-70 minutes speech in his own words: We need to encourage American innovation. And here are the issues broken down:

Energy

energy efficiency in Washington D.C.

As he went on to say, energy presents the perfect industry to begin with to encourage innovation. His point is well taken: In the last few weeks, several lists have been released that rank companies on their sustainability, their green initiatives, and their anticipated growth in the field of energy efficiency. While U.S. companies featured on all the lists, they were a minority on all. Last week, Portfolio 21, a mutual fund that deals exclusively in green companies predicted 2010's Top 10 Green companies, featuring three American companies. Yesterday, Global 100 announced their 2010's Top 100 Sustainable Companies at the World Economic Forum currently underway in Davos. The list featured 12 American companies with General Electric taking the top spot and utilities giant PG&E taking No. 2. But then the list tapers off.

Kudos to the President then to highlight this. "We need more production, more efficiency and more innovation: A new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country, tough choices of opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development, investing in clean coal and biofuels technologies, and yes, passing a comprehensive climate change and energy bill with incentives that will make clean energy the only profitable way in America."

Climate Change Legislation

He continued to address the overwhelming issue of climate change legislation in detail despite chuckles and guffaws, emphasizing that even naysayers of global warming need to get on board because pursuing a clean energy economy is the only way forward in the global economy. In his own words, with a good deal of sarcasm thrown in, "Even if we doubt the overwhelming scientific evidence of the dangers, providing incentives for clean energy and energy efficiency is still the only way profitable and innovative to go forward because the nation that encourages energy efficiency will lead the global economy and America must be that nation."

Women and Leadership

Indra Nooyi and Chanda Kochhar

He went on to discuss passing a bill related to equal pay for women in the workplace. Today, New York Times brings us a report stating that more women lead investment banks in India--HSBC, JP Morgan Chase, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS, ICICI (see picture on left) and Fidelity International are some examples--than America's Wall Street--actually none are led by a woman on New York's famous financial street.

On compensation interestingly, the article cites Usha Thorat, one of two female deputy reserve governors at India's central bank Reserve Bank of India (RBI), saying, "Here salary is totally nondiscriminatory." The idea that women might be paid less for the same job as men in the United States "came as a surprise to me," she adds. Certainly, an "equal pay laws for women" will bolster continued advocacy toward developing women in leadership positions and increasing their involvement in corporate America's executive suites. Sometimes legislation is the one needed plug to get things moving.

"Don't Ask Don't Tell"

The first-ever African-American President yesterday chose the angle of diversity and civil rights to impose a deadline on doing away with the "don't ask don't tell" act for serving in the military. While he did not elaborate on next steps, a good decision according to diversity academicians who were worried he might not present it with enough emphasis, his terming as part of the 2010 agenda is promising. What might delay action on this though is the fact that since it is a law created by the Congress, it can only be repealed by the Congress.

Filed Under: CSR

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