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CR May-June 2013

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Editor's Letter Serb Your Enthusiasm I have just returned from Belgrade, Serbia, the sad site of so much carnage during the 1990s. The civil war is over, but the economy is an absolute mess. With a metropolitan region of 1.6 million people, Belgrade is one of the largest cities in southeastern Europe, and it still offers urban vistas of great beauty. Yet only a single construction crane can be seen on its skyline. My hosts were the United Nations Global Compact, the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, and Delta Holdings, the country's largest privately held company. (Full discslosure: Although my expenses were covered, I received no fees or honoraria.) Various dynamics are at work here. Chief among them is that the owner of Delta, Miroslav Mišković, has been in government custody since December on "corruption charges." Among many other things, the company oversees much of what little infastructure development is occurring in the country these days (it is responsible for that lone construction crane, for example); Mišković, his son, and some company board members are accused of sundry financial shenanigans in connection with such projects. More than a few third-party observers chalk up the affair to political persecution. Some analogize Mišković's incarceration to that of Mikhail Khordokovsky, the Russian businessman whose conviction for tax evasion is hard to assess from the outside, owing to the climate of oligarchism under former Prime Minister Boris Yeltsin and the subsequent regime of politcal reprisal under current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. But Delta execs are not pouting, instead pressing on with many ventures, while actually invoking a stoic fatalism: "We might not agree with what is happening," one told me, "but we must let the rule of law run its course." It is difficult, if not impossible, to handicap this case from a comfortable chair on America's eastern seaboard. But, whatever the accused executives might or might not have done, a broader point is that most commercial concerns in North America would have no justification in looking down their noses at Delta. The company is, in fact, more transparent than most of its Western counterparts. This conclusion doesn't come from a warm and fuzzy regard for company personnel. In the age of transparency, we do not fly blind. Indeed, I had arrived in Belgrade fresh from Amsterdam, where the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) had just unveiled its new sustainability guidelines. GRI, a partner of this magazine, is the world leader in promulgating corporate transparency through a methodologically rigorous system of reporting that deeply informs our own annual "100 Best Corporate Citizens List." The big news from Amsterdam was twofold. Although reporting is very much on the rise worldwide—including, finally, in North America—the enduring problem of "survey fatigue" cannot be ignored. Toward that end, GRI has made its standards and instruments significantly more accessible. Equally important is the organization's elevation of "materiality" as a cardinal principle. Under a doctrine of "report or explain," GRI has made it easier for companies to say "yes" to reporting (and harder to say "no"!) by infusing their system with greater suppleness. If a reporting element is not material to a given business, GRI only asks that the reporter explain why not. And guess what? Even under the ancien regime, Delta Holdings has not only been a GRI reporter, distinguishing it from the vast majority of North American companies; more than that, within the rarified air of GRI listees, Delta this year earned a grade of B+. Not bad, you say? A B+ average would get the average high school student into some pretty good colleges. But remember, we're already in the "fast class," because (shamefully), most North American companies don't report. And among those who do, only 15 percent, as of May 2013, could claim a transparency grade higher than that of Delta. The day before meeting with my hosts, I visited the tomb of Josip Tito. The anti-Nazi resistance leader, whose World War Two heroism led to a 35-year reign as national strongman, is viewed with a kind of intergenerational ambivalence among his former subjects in Serbia, Croatia, and other parts of the former Yugoslavia. From Gen X to the Millenials, a feeling of liberation obtains. Those older than, say, 40 tend to see Tito as a benevolent dictator whose demise (followed by disunion) has left a sense of lost greatness. Yet if Tito's strong-arm tactics were even partly necessitated by the country's proximity to the USSR during the Cold War, those days are over. The only path to restoration lies in openness and transparency. In that regard, Western commerce could take a page from Delta's book. Dirk Olin, Editor-in-Chief [4] CR MAGAZINE | MAY/JUNE 2013 CEO: Elliot H. Clark Editor & Publisher: Dirk Olin Managing Publisher: Gale Tedeschi Managing & Online Editor: Debbie Bolla Vice President of Marketing: Bill MacRae Reporter-Researcher: Mitchell Joseph Reporter-Researcher: Maria Feliciano Contributing Writers: Richard J. Crespin, John Elkington, Michelle Greene, Stephen Jordan, Mindy S. Lubber, Mike Wallace Webmaster: Michael Fernandez Subscription services: For subscriptions, renewals, changes, and back issues, email About CR Magazine CR Magazine [ISSN #1933-5903] is published bimonthly by SharedXpertise, LLC © 2013. All Rights reserved. URL: Editorial correspondence and press releases: Dirk Olin, Editorial Director, SharedXpertise, 123 S. Broad Street, Suite 1930, Philadelphia, PA 19109 or All letters should include the writer's email address and/or phone number. Business and advertising correspondence: SharedXpertise, 123 S. Broad Street, Suite 1930, Philadelphia, PA 19109. Subscriber services: SharedXpertise, 123 S. Broad Street, Suite 1930, Philadelphia, PA 19109, 215-606-9520, Fax: 276-800-2701 or e-mail Reprints: contact Foster Printing Service, 866-879-9144 or Postmaster: send address changes to SharedXpertise, 123 S. Broad St., Suite 1930, Philadelphia, PA 19109. Fax: 276-800-2701. Canada post: Publications Mail Agreement #40612608. Canada Returns to be sent to Bleuchip International, P.O. Box 25542, London, ON N6C 6B2. This magazine cover is printed on 80# Influence Recycled gloss and the inside pages on 50# Influence Recycled gloss, both with 10% post-consumer recycled content.

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