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Corporate Civic Responsibility: Balancing Profitability with Ethical Business Practices

2015 Annual Roundtable Report

US Congressman Hon. Kevin Yoder addresses attendees at the AACR conference held on May 8, 2015

US Congress man Hon. Kevin Yoder addresses attendees at the AACR conference held on May 8, 2015

The Association of Americans for Civic Responsibility (AACR) organized its 2015 Annual Round table with co-sponsorship by the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Kansas City.The theme for 2015 was "Corporate Civic Responsibility: Balancing Profitability with Ethical Business Practices." This event was well attended by leaders including a US Congressman, a mayor, elected state officials, academic leaders, CEOs of corporations from different parts of the country, and trade organization representatives It was held in the banquet hall of the Overland Park Sheraton Hotel on May 8, 2015. AACR has held similar conferences at the Kellogg School of Management at the North western University, Park University, and Syracuse University among others. The 2015 event was a tremendous success in terms of content, presenters' credentials, and key participants that represented a broad cross-section of the target audience that the AACR reaches out to. A noteworthy feature of this event was that there were more panelists and entrepreneurs engaging in highly productive deliberations. The panelists and speakers included business leaders from the Kansas City area, Chicago, Washington DC, Milwaukee,Tampa, and Miami, as well as various philanthropists and community service leaders.

Hon. Carl Gerlach, the mayorof Overland Park, Kansas, welcomed the invited guests. He praised the effortsof the AACR and the local Asian American Chamber to elevate consciousness onthe importance of balancing profitability with ethical practices. Joseph Melookaran, Chairman of the AACR Advisory Board, introduced the panels of the two round table discussions, 1. Balancing Profitability with Ethical Practices, and 2. Corporate Civic Responsibility of Small and Medium-Size Businesses(SMEs) and Enhanced Benefits to the Community.

Panels were moderated by Yijing Bertrano, Managing Director of Green Tree Advisory and Young Sexton,President of Asian American Chamber of Commerce. The presenters on Panel 1 included Dr. Sanjay Mishra, Professor of Entrepreneurship & Marketing from Kansas University; Antonio Suave, Chairman of Capistrano Global Advisory Services, and Dr. George Thomas, Former Chairman of the Florida Board of Medicine; and Dr.Sid Gautam, Professor Emeritus of Methodist University in North Carolina. The speakers represented various fields of expertise and the presentations addressed the history of corporate ethics in business, learning from the past, ethical dilemmas in health services, and ethical practices in conducting business in foreign countries as more and more small and medium-size businesses expand their operations abroad.

The presenters on Panel 2 were Rev. Dr. Robert Lee Hill, Pastor of Community Church; Rudy Pamintuan, CEO of Sherman Consulting; Dr. Piyush Agrawal, CEO of APS Technologies and VP of GOPIO; and Benny Lee, CEO of Duracom and a Kansas City philanthropist. The speakers exhorted audience members to establish an enhanced linkage with the community through "giving back" and closer engagement. While larger corporations have better framework for civic involvement, small and medium-size businesses have less of that. The community will be a great beneficiary if we unleash the potential for a higher level of civic involvement by SMEs. Events like this are certainly impactful in respect of encouraging small businesses to be civic minded, being generous as they become prosperous.

Congressman Yoder (Kansas- 3rd District) was very impressed with the exemplary community involvement of Asian American business leaders in the Kansas City area. He emphasized the fact that many of their contributions, some of them in the millions of dollars, are voluntary initiatives of these individuals with the objective of simply "doing good works." The Congressman said, "Had there been a better framework and more structured approach to engage SMEs to 'give back' to the communities,that would have really opened the floodgates of resources - financial and otherwise - in communities around the country." He expressed openness to the idea that government and mainstream corporations can boost the community involvement of SMEs by developing a civic responsibility evaluation framework to apply invend or selection.

Followers of Adam Smith staunchly believe that maximization of profit is the life blood of any successful enterprise. It is undoubtedly true that the march of man kind from steam engines to search engines, designer jeans to designer drugs, black rotary phones to iPhones and iPads, was made possible by the creative processes of entrepreneurs. All successful enterprises have thrived and prospered becauseof their high profitability. However, growth for the sake of growth has been compared to the proliferation of cancer cells. Keeping in mind the wisdom of Gandhi, one should never forget that all civic-minded responsible business enterprises must produce and distribute for the greater good for a greater number of people.

Former US President Theodore Roosevelt reinforced the importance of corporate civic responsibility when he said "great corporations exist only because they are created and safeguarded by our institutions; and it is therefore our right and our duty to see that they work in harmony with those institutions." Dr. Thomas elaborated on ethics in the context of the medical profession. With the Affordable Care Act being implemented, adding a large bureaucracy and a whole slew of new service providers, it is high time to get to the right balance of profitability and ethics. In the absence of that our new arrangement will not only create economic loss, but will cost many lives that are so dear to all Americans. 

According to Dr. Sanjay Mishra, a business cannot rightly isolate itself from society. It is part of it; it is accountable to and has to work with all the players in the society - e.g., local communities, employees, consumers, suppliers,shareholders, and the society at large. He enumerated the shining example of JRD Tata of Tata Steel for his exemplary head start on corporate civic responsibility when he set apart 65% of his corporation's profits for community service. Lately business schools in the US and abroad have adopted the new mantra of balancing ethical practices with profitability, stepping up their course offerings related to civic responsibility.

Rudy Pamintuan, CEO of Chicago-based Sherman Consulting Inc., emphasized that the traditional community engagement model has transitioned into a new dynamic in community engagement. This new paradigm focuses on more strategic and outcome-based community involvement. He observed that there is still a long way to go in the integration of corporate civic responsibility in the small and medium-size business community. There must be a conscious and deliberate attempt to engage and enhance corporate giving because it is "good thing to do" and it also must be a "corporate value" for each entity to cherish until it becomes ingrained inits DNA.

For more information or to facilitate a similar event at a chosen location, please contact Joseph Melookaran, National Program Chair, at 913-706-0759.

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