Transcript: Copyright Now A Corporate Social Responsibility

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Interview with Michael Rasmussen

For podcast release Monday, July 30, 2012

KENNEALLY: Professional ethics should not be an oxymoron – that’s the contention of Michael Rasmussen, a business analyst who was the first to define and model the governance, risk, and compliance market for products and professional services. In the era of the socially responsible organization, he says, positive outcomes aren’t measured only by the bottom line. While ethical missteps and worse can be costly, arguably as important is the way that ethical behavior molds an organization’s reputation.

Hello and welcome to a special podcast from Copyright Clearance Center. My name is Christopher Kenneally. Today a growing number of business are recognizing that respect for copyright and intellectual property is essential to corporate social responsibility in ways familiar to why those same organizations now practice environmental and social responsibility. Joining me to discuss these points is Michael Rasmussen, President of Corporate Integrity, and welcome, Michael.

RASMUSSEN: Thank you, Christopher. I’m really excited to be able to spend this time with you.

KENNEALLY: Well, we’re looking forward to talking to you, because you really have a lot to say about this issue, and not surprising. It’s because you’ve had more than 15 years of experience assisting organizations in defining governance, risk, and compliance processes that are sustainable, consistent, efficient, and transparent. Corporate Integrity, your company, provides education, research, analysis, and advisory services for corporate governance, enterprise risk management, and compliance. And before starting Corporate Integrity, you were a Vice-President and top analyst at Forrester Research, Inc. So let’s begin the discussion, Michael, and talk about this notion of the socially responsible organization. We hear a lot about that, but your point throughout your work is that this is not just a matter of marketing or positioning, it has to be a reality. Tell us more.

RASMUSSEN: It certainly does have to be reality. In fact, if I had to define this in one word, it has to deal with organizational integrity. Do we live up to our promises and commitments? Are we an organization that walks our talk, or are we an organization that just talks a good talk? Organizations make a variety of commitments, from their board and executives, to their corporate filings, to their policies and procedures. These commitments might span their ethics and values, their commitments to the topic of corporate social responsibility, what we know as CSR, down into how they compile laws and regulations, and how they take and manage risk.

And I find, in my research, that a lot of organizations say a lot of things – that they talk a good talk, but they don’t always walk that talk. And so integrity is the essential piece of what I’m dealing with here. Are we an organization of integrity? Do the commitments to our values, our ethics, to the law itself – is that a reality in the organization, or do we just have a bunch of smoke and mirrors and paint a pretty picture to keep the organization out of trouble? And then as soon as it is, people start digging under the hood and find out just how bad our processes and information to even how malicious. It could be inadvertent or malicious – the organization gets exposed.

KENNEALLY: Right. It’s living up to what we say we want to be, and that’s always difficult, always a challenge. What do you do as an advisor to companies to get them to understand the real need for doing this, and the urgency for doing this, no matter what the particular issue is?

RASMUSSEN: With some of them, it’s dealing with what you see in the news and press. And so, on broad issues of compliance, ethics, and integrity, you might be dealing with things like anti-bribery and corruption. And we’ve seen two very different examples of that in the press in the last few months. You’ve seen Walmart, with their issues of bribery and corruption in Mexico, and how the board and others tried to sweep it under the rug, to be the negative example, to the Morgan Stanleys of the world, that the Department of Justice stated that Morgan Stanley had a great compliance program, and it basically was managing its policies and communicate them in such a way that the company itself got off the hook, and the Department of Justice is going after the individual and not the corporation.

KENNEALLY: Well, Michael, those are two interesting and contrasting examples of the need for corporate compliance around socially responsible issues. I wonder whether today, the exposure that social media offers, Twitter and Facebook and blogging and so forth, makes it even more urgent for business to be responsible around these issues – because, in fact, it’s impossible to hide.

RASMUSSEN: It certainly is. A lot of organizations, I find, haven’t really understood completely just how impactful social media can be, for the positive, and more often, the negative implications upon the organization – the exposure that it puts upon the organization. Not just from the aspect of, what are employees and others saying about the organization out there, but also the rapid dissemination. It used to be that we had time before things hit the press, and we can go and react and build out our crisis response plans, and figure out how we’re going to build our messages.

And now with social media, bad issues and events, negative things just get published out there and disseminated so rapidly, that the organization often has less time to react. Which means that we’ve got to be much stronger in our preventative care, to make sure that bad things aren’t happening, because when things do get exposed, the organization needs to be quick on its feet to be able to address that situation and whatever specific details and response is required, given the specifics of a given situation.

KENNEALLY: Right. Well, we are talking with Michael Rasmussen, the founder of Corporate Integrity, and a business analyst expert in the governance, risk, and compliance market. And Michael, you’re talking there about the reasons why companies would want to avoid doing something that might put them in a negative light, but let’s talk about the positive aspect of social responsibility across the board. There are benefits to an organization, correct?

RASMUSSEN: Oh, there certainly are. I mean, when we talk about social responsibility and its broader term, corporate social responsibility, we typically are dealing with three aspects, three legs to social responsibility – and one being the environmental practices of an organization, another being the philanthropic, the financial practices of the organization, but the third being the social aspects of the organization. And we can go into details in each of those areas. I think there’s still a lot to be explored in the social aspects, because some organization are focusing on international labor standards and things like that in those areas, some are focused on giving back to local communities. And we can explore that more in a few minutes, but in general, all three of these legs – whether it’s the social aspect, the financial and philanthropic, or the environmental aspects, they all impact the brand and reputation of the organization.

And the organizations I’m interacting with today, you know, the people that are coming into the organization, new employees as well as business partner and client relationships – more and more I’m seeing that these new extensions in the business, whether it’s employees or business relationships, they want to make sure that they’re getting involved with an organization of integrity that shares the same values that they do, and that those values align and don’t conflict with each other.

KENNEALLY: Right. And you make a good point about, it’s not only an internal matter, it’s an external matter, that corporate social responsibility is of concern to business partners and to staff.

RASMUSSEN: That certainly is correct. We don’t live in an era where we have the traditional brick-and-mortar organization anymore. Our organizations, whether they be small or large, are often comprised of an extended network of business relationships, whether it’s suppliers, vendors, contractors, consultants, temporary workers, outsourcers, service providers – you name it. There’s a variety of entities that make up the modern organization. It’s not just your employees. And how you manage different areas of risk and compliance, and making sure that you’re meeting your legal mandates and initiatives – that becomes quite complex in this extended business relationship.

KENNEALLY: Right. Well, what kind of capabilities are necessary to be successful in achieving one’s goals around responsibility in all its aspects?

RASMUSSEN: Understanding what you’re committed to, so it might be contractual obligations that put social responsibility commitments upon your organization. So maybe you’re doing some – you could be a manufacturing facility or something anywhere around the world, and you’ve got commitments to be socially responsible in your labor standards and practices, your standards for dealing with intellectual property and copyrighted material. There’s a lot of little pieces there, so I mean, it really starts with understanding what your obligations and commitments are, from your contractual commitments to the promises executives have made, and the board, to your corporate social responsibility reports themselves – but down to your specific policies and procedures.

Your policies and procedures set a duty of care for the organization, and it’s necessary to understand, what have we committed to in writing, in our policies and procedures, and is that a reality in the organization? So the first step is really understanding what those obligations, commitments, and requirements are, and then to build processes around communicating different policies and commitments, building training programs and awareness, and at the end of the day, having some monitoring process to assess, have we crossed our T’s and dotted our I’s? Have we made commitments out there, and made statements of social responsibility? Is it reality in the organization? Does it go beyond just our communications and training programs? Can we validate that, and put our money where our mouth is?

KENNEALLY: Right. Well, we are talking with you today, Michael Rasmussen, because, as you mentioned, one of the issues that now is a piece of this objective of being responsible, involves copyright and intellectual property. Can you tell us about some of the commitments that you’re aware of that some important companies have made around these issues, and how have they gone about achieving success there?

RASMUSSEN: Well, a lot of companies haven’t really thought much about that intersection of copyright and intellectual property as part of their social responsibility practices. And to me, that’s a big mistake. I think that the respect for the property of others is a fundamental value in democratic society that needs to underpin a lot of our corporate social responsibility practices. And so, there’s a lot to be developed, and a lot think through at this point in the game.

But that doesn’t mean that organization aren’t doing this. Now, most of your organizations – large organizations, have some type of policy in place to deal with copyright, intellectual property. Some go further to build very good training programs around that, and to monitor, are they compliant with their copyright and intellectual property policies? Others, it might be very loosely structured.

But you’ll find in a lot of organizations that they at least have policy that addresses this. The levels it’s integrated into a corporate social responsibility program and report will vary. One example that I’ve come across in my work, that I find to be a stellar example of the integration of the intellectual property and copyrighted material that touches on a corporate social responsibility program, would be Intel. With Intel, you can go out to their corporate social responsibility website under the Intel.com brand. And on that CSR website that is a subsite of the Intel site, you can see their code of conduct. It is publicly posted out there like any publicly traded company’s code of conduct is. But if you look right within their code of conduct, they have statements specifically in their code of conduct on intellectual property, and more particularly, copyrighted material, and how being a part of Intel requires a commitment to the protection of copyright and the property of others.

I think that’s an example a lot of other organizations can take right now into their programs, is making sure that in their code of conduct, which governs the organization itself, that they spell out the need to protect the property of others and copyrighted material. That should be a fundamental part of a code of conduct, and that’s communicated and intersected with their broader corporate social responsibility program.

KENNEALLY: Right. That’s a great example, because it addresses one of the points you’ve made, that you have to make this commitment, but then you have to have processes in place, and you have to ways to monitor the progress, or lack of. So transparency, reliability, auditing – all of these are pieces of this important question.

RASMUSSEN: They certainly are, but our monitoring programs – we can’t put the cart before the horse. And so while monitoring programs to go (inaudible) compliant is very important, but the horse that needs to lead the cart is their policies and training programs. We can’t come out and slap people on the wrist for violating policies around copyrighted material if we’re not actually communicating and educating them on what those expectations are.

So while the monitoring, auditing, and assessment programs are essential, we need to make sure that we have good policy on how individuals in the organizations are to treat and respect intellectual property of others and copyrighted material, and combine those written policies with training programs to actually educate them. Because we cannot hold people accountable unless we can demonstrate that we’ve actually educated them, and showed them what accountability means.

KENNEALLY: Right. And as you pointed out, if you’re going to hold people accountable, it’s got to be clear, and it has to be obvious to them all what’s expected of them. And that starts with the top – you have a phrase, tone at the top. Why is the leadership of a company – an organization, important to achieving success here?

RASMUSSEN: Basically, if management doesn’t care, why should the employees care? If management doesn’t see that corporate social responsibility is important, and that really all the corporate social responsibility reports and processes are a bunch of smoke and mirrors and they’re going to look the other way, the rest of the organization’s going to follow suit. If management doesn’t respect copyrighted material and the intellectual property of others, why should lower levels of the organization respect it? You can’t have different rules for different levels of people within the organization. There has to be consistency from top to bottom. And tone at the top is essential to make sure that we’re probably managing compliance and social responsibility from the top down, so there’s a consistent culture that the organization can get behind, and employees feel that they belong to, and everybody’s being held accountable to the same sets of rules and standards.

KENNEALLY: Right. And the kinds of companies that are really sort of in the forefront of this – you mentioned Intel. There are others, and a lot of them, I suppose, it’s because intellectual property, copyrighted materials, is part and parcel of their success. If they didn’t the ownership and control of their ideas, of their intellectual property, they wouldn’t have a business.

RASMUSSEN: They certainly wouldn’t, and so therefore not only do they need to respect their own property and expect respect for it, but they should also respect the property of others.

KENNEALLY: Yes. And so finally, I guess, it’s all about sharing, which is the strength of the digital age. And so, can you tell us about the ways you see Copyright Clearance Center licenses as offering a path to success for an organization?

RASMUSSEN: Well, there’s not a lot of guidance in this area of copyrighted material on what a good program looks like and should deliver. The combined offering, from what I see from the Copyright Clearance Center, helps organizations address a very specific and significant exposure to some legal risk around copyrighted material and in intellectual property of others by delivering on what should be in good policies. Some of your offerings – offering the training programs and things, to help educate individuals, as well as broader businesses, all on how to approach these programs to having tools in place for assessment monitoring, and the overall licensing for copyright materials, so that people can efficiently and effectively use it in the organizations without fear of breaking laws.

KENNEALLY: Right. And with that, Michael Rasmussen, I think we’ve covered the ground here very well indeed, and we appreciate your talking to us today. Michael Rasmussen is the founder of Corporate Integrity. He’s a business analyst who was the first to define and model the governance, risk, and compliance market for products and professional services, and Michael, really, we appreciate you sharing your expertise on these issues, which are important in so many ways with the business activity in 2012, but particularly, as we’re concerned about here at Copyright Clearance Center, with intellectual property. Thank you so much.

RASMUSSEN: Thank you.

KENNEALLY: Copyright Clearance Center, the rights licensing experts, is a global rights broker for the world’s most sought-after materials, including in-print and out-of-print books, journals, newspapers, magazines, movies, television shows, images, blogs, and e-books. Founded in 1978 as a not-for-profit organization, CCC provides smart solutions that simplify the licensing of content to let business and academic institutions quickly get permission to use copyrighted, protected materials, all while compensating publishers and content creators for the use of their works. For more information, visit us online at copyright.com. For everyone at Copyright Clearance Center, thanks for listening.

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