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CEOs at UN Impressions 1 JUly 1993


JULY 1, 1993


By Ashali Varma

UNITED NATIONS: Conference Room 3 at the UN is usually host to soberly attired diplomats – with an occasional scattering of loose-garbed NGO types – but on Wednesday the chamber welcomed expensively attired executives from the corporate world

It was a relief to see many women in business suits representing some of the best known companies in the US and abroad, especially since UN events are usually male dominated. And whereas UN ambassadors will skirt around the real issues and seldom give away their country’s policies, this conference with its delegation of CEOs and Vice Presidents, with the authority of men in charge of multi-billion dollar businesses and carefully cultivated corporate images, spoke freely on company policy.

While some speakers spoke at length and quite proudly of the great strides made by their

corporations in the field of waste management recycling and cleaner technologies, Bob Garfield of Advertising Age took the opportunity of introducing some hard truths regarding corporate image. His slide show and talk received great attention and applause especially when he spoke of the mixed signals the public gets from advertisements that try to hard sell a corporation’s environmental concerns.

“Sincerity or the illusion thereof sells,”‘ he said and went on to explain that despite all the hype only 7 percent of the consumers think that business is doing enough for the environment.

The best line of the day came from Bill McDonough a leading architect with the belief that nature should be our mentor in design “We no longer have people with lives in America, but consumers with lifestyles.”

It was that kind of a day.