Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Andrew Witty is the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline one of the drug companies accused by Oxfam a decade ago of "waging war on the poor." Witty makes a bundle of money heading up a drug company that makes a bundle of money. So Andrew Witty is bad, right? Well, not so fast.
Since Witty became CEO, seven years after Oxfam made this statement, he has fulfilled a promise to keep drug prices in poor countries at no more than 25% of what is charged in rich ones. Witty started out as a Glaxo trainee and spent ten years in Africa and Asia observing poverty firsthand. It changed his way of thinking and doing.
It is tempting in the church to yap away at big business, assuming that what corporations do is always destructive. I have been one of those yappers on occasion. We need to remember that businesses are run by human beings, persons who may have a strong moral code and may be guided by a faith in the God of justice.
I think of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet who have given away large portions of their personal fortunes to address poverty and poor health in Africa. And Ray Anderson, the head of a multi-national carpet company who has changed practices to be earth-friendly. Anderson is a Christian.
Is it important to pay attention to the good news stories of corporate leaders who have a social conscience? Are you suspicious or encouraged? Are they really all that different from us "reglar folk?"