Last week, I attended a conference that Fordham University and KPMG sponsored to discuss integrity in the global financial markets and the role that enhanced regulation might play in the economic recovery. More than 150 participants met at Fordham's Lincoln Center campus in the heart of New York City, arguably the capital of "global finance," and engaged in what turned into a very rich, timely and broad discussion of business ethics.
While Johnson & Johnson is a company known more for our baby powder and shampoo than for a role in shaping financial markets, we are well-recognized for having built an enduring values-based culture over our more than 120-year history. It was this topic that Dominic Caruso, our chief financial officer, addressed with the audience of business leaders, students and academics.
After telling the history of Our Credo, which Robert Wood Johnson wrote in the early 1940s, Caruso explained the importance of having a "purpose beyond profits" as a company's foundation. Caruso said:
"Over the course of our history, we have not been perfect, but we have been fortunate to have built a values-based culture where our employees know they are expected to do the right thing and to put the needs of our patients and customers first ... In an industry like health care, where people often place their lives and well-being - or trust the care of their loved ones - to our products, there can be no question, no doubt, about this primary responsibility."
Though Caruso stressed that Our Credo was a powerful "connective tissue" for our employees around the globe, he explained that it could not stand alone. Tying into the regulation theme of the conference, he said we must also take a "trust, but verify" approach when it comes to how employees uphold our values-based culture as well as other business compliance issues - and that there needs to vigilance. As he explained:
"We are not perfect and Our Credo - while a powerful tool - is not sufficient to ensure a corporate-wide culture of integrity. We, too, must take additional measures to introduce and reinforce this culture with our employees ... to hold ourselves accountable for our actions and decisions ... and to adhere to regulations and policies that support this values-based culture."
In concluding, Caruso challenged the audience to identify their higher purpose: "Ask yourself, what it is that your business - or you as an individual - are trying to achieve? And how committed are you to staying true to that goal in both good and bad times? ... In the end, the success of our businesses and financial markets must be anchored to a foundation of integrity, values and a purpose beyond profits."