Practice English Speaking&Listening with: The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil | Christine Bader | Talks at Google

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SARAH MURRAY: Welcome everybody.

I'm really thrilled to be here to talk about Christine's book.

I just thought I'd show you this.

Because this is how--

CHRISTINE BADER: She's done her homework.

SARAH MURRAY: --interested I was in this book.

I'm not going to be reading every single excerpt from it,

you'll be pleased to hear.

But I kept running out of colors.

So every page I was like, ah, this is so interesting.

So, yeah.

I mean for me, having covered these issues for so many years,

this was an absolutely fascinating book for me to read

because I think as a journalist you, to a large extent,

feel on the outside of all these issues.

And so for me it was just wonderful,

and you do it so well Christine, to have this story told

from the inside of the big corporations

that I'm not normally ever allowed to go in and examine

at that sort of level of depth.

And the other thing that you did really well,

as a corporate idealist you bring

in all these other corporate idealists

sort of later in the book as well.

And Christine's kind of created with the book

a kind of amazing community of people.

And for me it was really wonderful because actually,

a lot of these people I've interviewed over the years.

And it was wonderful to kind of reconnect with these people

through your books.

So thank you for that.

CHRISTINE BADER: Oh good, Sarah.

You know, it was fun for me too to do all these interviews,

because a lot of them were people

who I'd known for a long time.

Professionally we all go to the same conferences.

But I'd never actually gotten to talk to them

about how they feel about their work and their ups

and downs and their struggles, and when their company's just

deeply disappointed them and what that was like.

So it was good fun for me too.

SARAH MURRAY: Well on that point there's

a really good line right at the beginning that I'll just read,

because it speaks very much to that point.

This is in the introduction and Christine

writes, "We believe that business

can be a force for good even as we struggle

with our own contradictions."

I think that's a theme that runs through the whole book

and is very powerfully expressed.

But I thought I'd start by, let's go back to the beginning.

Because you describe your relationship

with BP and the corporate world as something of a love affair.

And of course, it was a love affair

that was going to sort of fall apart

after the Deepwater Horizon took place.

So just tell us how that love affair started.

What was the spark that made you think that, gosh, business

might actually be a force for good in the world?


OK, that's good, Sarah.

That's a good place to start.

So I had done nonprofit and government work

and then decided to go to business school, first

of all like every good liberal arts graduate.

But then also I realized that in these jobs

I seem to be reacting to things that the private sector had


So when I was doing community service, when

I was working in the New York City mayor's office,

we were reacting to the conditions

that business had created.

So I was serving in communities that

had been devastated when companies had moved out

or they had actively done things bad,

like they had lobbied to replace a public garden with a parking


Or they had moved into an area and failed

to hire anybody from that city.

And then in the mayor's office, on the flip side,

companies were wooed for the jobs and for the revenue

that they bring in.

And so there was always this sort of balance of OK, well,

we clearly need to regulate business

but we want to encourage them.

So that's why I chose to go to business school

because I thought, OK.

Business actually seems to be pretty important in the world.

I should learn something about the private sector.

So I went.

But of course I had no idea what I wanted to do.

Did any of you go to business school?


And so you get there and people immediately

start asking you to throw your resumes in for investment

banking or consulting interviews.

And you get there and you're like, I don't know what this is

and I haven't learned anything new.

So I started to follow the herd and do that.

But then John Browne, who at the time was the CEO of BP,

came to speak at Yale.

And he had recently become the first head of a major energy

company to acknowledge the realities of climate change

and urge action.

And he was a really inspiring and thoughtful leader.

And I thought, oh.

This is what business can do.

That is intriguing to me.

So that's why I joined, because of this leader who

seemed to be a different kind of oil man,

trying to create a different kind of energy company.

And it was really intriguing.

So I joined and I went straight out to Indonesia.

And the thing that turned out to be my job in Indonesia

and China was investing in the communities living near big BP


Because everybody who I worked with

realized that what was good for those communities

was good for our business.

There were lots of other terrible examples

around the world of where community relations have gone

sour and communities have blockaded access

roads to mines, they've sabotaged equipment.

So people seem to understand that

what was good for them was good for us.

And that was my job.

So I was living this cliche of doing well and doing good.

I mean, what's not to love?

SARAH MURRAY: And was this something that came up

when you were at business school?

I mean, were these kinds of issues--

I mean, I know now business schools have been piling

on the courses about sort of sustainability

and corporate responsibility.

But back then was that something that was covered?

CHRISTINE BADER: Yeah, not specifically.

I mean, I chose to go to Yale for business school

because its mission has always been

to educate leaders for business and society.

So there's always been this sort of ethos there of, yes.

We go there in order to do some sort of service to the world.

And people who go there choose to do it

through business or working with business.

But no.

At the time there weren't sort of corporate responsibility

jobs or sustainability jobs.



But then now, so you've sort of met-- well,

not met John Browne, but seen him speak

and kind of bought into this idea

that BP could be a force for good.

And then you're in a helicopter flying

over the jungles of Indonesia.

Now, what is going through your head at that point?


So I went out to Indonesia.

I spent my summer internship between my two years

of business school in London headquarters,

and then my first assignment with BP was out in Indonesia.

But again, this wasn't a CSR job.

I was supposed to be a commercial analyst using

my new spreadsheet skills.

And BP had just taken over ARCO, the American oil company.

And so I was there.

A lot of the ARCO stuff was in Indonesia.

So I was analyzing those projects.

There were lots of different oil fields, gas fields.

There was some coal, some solar, chemicals.

What should BP keep?

What should it spin off?

What should it do with all this stuff?

So I was just crunching numbers and doing spreadsheets

because that's what you do when you've

graduated from business school.

I didn't know that this was a job.

But one of those projects was proving

particularly interesting, and not

from a technical point of view.

From a technical point of view it was very straightforward.

So there was a big gas field and BP was going to build a plant,

a liquefied natural gas LNG plant to process the gas.

And that's pretty straightforward.

BP's done that all over the world.

But never in a place like this where

we were going to have to work with the Indonesian military,

which is not known for their good community relations.

And a village was going to have to be

moved to make way for the plant.

It was 127 families.

SARAH MURRAY: Not to mention the forest

that you were flying over.


So my first trip out there, yeah.

And I was living in Jakarta in Indonesia's capital.

And so to get out to West Papua I

had to take an overnight commercial flight and then

a little seaplane-- it was like a twelve seater plane--

another hour and a half, and then a helicopter

the rest of the way in.

So on that last leg of the journey

there's this really dense rainforest

through flocks of birds bursting through the trees.

Not a lot of people.

And as we started to get closer I

could see the rig on the horizon in the bay.

And as we're coming in, I could just

see our landing pad and then the dormitories for the workers


And we're on the equator.

It was pretty hot.

I had never been in a helicopter before.

This was pretty exciting.

But I was starting to get really sweaty and uncomfortable.

And I realized that I was envisioning

the sketches of what the plant was going to look like.

And it was this gleaming, modern industrial complex and imposing

it on this not totally pristine, but relatively pristine


And I started to get really ill.

I just thought for the first time, oh.

This is what we do.

SARAH MURRAY: Not something they prepare you

for at business school.

CHRISTINE BADER: No, I mean, I understand conceptually.

Like, yeah.

We keep the lights on and we help keep the cars moving.

But that's when it really hit me.

And so we landed.

And you can't really talk in a helicopter

because it's pretty loud.

But I was there with one of the vice presidents

for environmental policy, and she immediately

saw the distress on my face.

And she said, that's why we're here.

We're going to get this right.

SARAH MURRAY: Now what does getting it right it mean?

Because I mean, I think it would be

interesting to talk a little bit about perceptions of business

and how business operates and what

the realities are on the ground.

Because I certainly get a sense often in the people

that I talk to that aren't in the business world,

that they think, well, business is

just this evil empire that comes in and lands, and that's it.

And the reality on the ground and the things

that you were then going to deal with

is sort of complex and messy.

And how much of that is the company's responsibility,

and how much are you dealing with the existing environment

and having to sort of negotiate all these

very complex trade offs?

CHRISTINE BADER: Yeah, that's exactly the question,

and this company knows that as well as anyone.

And we can get into that certainly as well.

So I guess the first fundamental macro concept is the point

that energy does keep the lights on

and it helps enable the lifestyles that we

want to lead.

And so I suppose there are plenty

of people who want to try to stop globalization and stop

development altogether.

And that's fine.

There should be some people who want to do that.

I mean, I can get a little bit snarky with them and ask well,

who keeps your lights on and how did you get here today,

and what made that possible?

SARAH MURRAY: We live part of the corporate world

as consumers and individuals, don't we?


I mean, one thing that I do once in awhile

is just a little game, which I invite you all to play with me.

But just stop and take an inventory, right?

I just stop and say, OK.

Head to toe, what am I wearing right now and what's in my bag?

And how many companies or brands have I

interacted with since I woke up this morning?

So I've got a coffee maker and I've got my alarm clock,

and I woke up in my sheets that were made here and bought here.

And I just go through, OK.

Well, what do I know about these companies?

And where does that put me on the

responsible to overconsumption spectrum?


And I think what's interesting, and this is particularly true,

I guess, of sort of apparel industries

and food which have very complex supply chains.

But even with energy you turn the lights on

and you don't think about that Indonesian villager that

had to move to another village or to a new village.

What were the real on the ground challenges

that you didn't expect and that certainly business school might

not have prepared you for?


SARAH MURRAY: Some of the sort of nitty gritty.

I mean, I think there was something

you mentioned about the fact that this was really

interesting to me, that you made it

so that the workers did not get paid on site.


That's right.

SARAH MURRAY: That for me reflected

a lot of the complexities that you're

dealing with on the ground.

So perhaps just explain that.

CHRISTINE BADER: Sure, I can explain that.

So we were building this big plant in a really remote area.

There was one village there but no other cities nearby.

So we stipulated in the contract with the construction company

that they would not hire or pay people on the site.

They would only do that in one of the three existing

towns that were a little ways away.

The reason is that if you let it be known that you're

going to be hiring people right at the site,

people move right up to the fence.

And then they usually, if they can't get a job because

there aren't that many jobs, than they

tap into the electricity.

They stay there because they've moved.

And that's how shantytowns pop up.

And then idol hands, right?

And that's how bad things arise, because then also,

if you pay people on site, imagine

if somebody's done a three week shift

and then they stand there.

They walk out of a plant and you hand them

three weeks worth of cash, and they're

not home with their families yet.

You might imagine what pops up.

So then brothels pop up.

Sort of ad hoc gambling parlors pop up.

And then what happens, then the police

feel like they need to move in for protection,

but they're actually taking their cut.

And then the military step up their presence

because they're like, wait a second.

The police are getting in on all the action, right?

So you can see how these things start to compound.

So that's why we didn't want to hire [INAUDIBLE].

SARAH MURRAY: It's really so complex, isn't it?

For so many industries.

One of the things I thought would

be interesting to ask you about was where you see-- you talk

a lot in the book about CSR and later we'll

talk a little bit about sort of careers in CSR

and how you move into that.

Personally I hate the term CSR.

I don't know about you.

Because I think it sort of silos these things

into some kind of acronym that half the world

doesn't know what that means anyway.

So where do you see the balance?

A lot of companies will talk about their sustainability

program or their business responsibility program.

And then you find that they're talking

about changing the light bulbs in the office or recycling


What you've just described on the ground in Indonesia,

to me that's corporate responsibility.

How do you see that sort of view in business,

that attitude having shifted?

Or has it shifted?

CHRISTINE BADER: Yeah, I agree with you.

I mean, the term corporate social responsibility

sort of drives me crazy because it can mean everything

and it can mean nothing.

So I definitely see the same thing.

And I think that the benefit is that so many more companies are

comfortable talking about that, whatever it is.

So it actually gets them to the table, right?

And so I have a nice quote in there

from Aron Cramer who runs BSR, Business for Social


And he says the trick is to get them to the table

and then move the table.


So the point is to get more and more companies

in talking about corporate social responsibility,

talking about sustainability.

So you get them into the conversation

and then try to explain it.


Actually this is what we're really talking about here.

We're not actually talking about sending out

employees in matching t-shirts to go

paint a wall for five hours a week.

Like, that's great as is recycling

and as are these other programs, but that's

actually not what we're talking about here, right?

We're talking about what are the impacts that your core

business has on society?

And I think here that's become clear

as people have realized the challenges to privacy

and free expression that your core business has on the world

and that you as a company have a responsibility to address.

And the other stuff that you do is really interesting

and it's really great and it's really important,

but I would be fine if all the other stuff sort of fell away

and companies put all of that time and energy and resource

into their core business.


Now the challenge there though is

that there are sort of perceptions

of this costing money.

And what is the payback for resettling an Indonesian


Just talk a little bit about working

within a big corporation on these issues that

are material to the business or at least,

that you've explained very well in the book,

are so material to the business.

You know, you may be surrounded by the skeptics who

go, well, you know, why are we going

to pay all this money for something that's

on the other side of the world?

And what are the challenges of being a corporate idealist

even within a company like BP which at the time

was really as you say, trying to do the right thing?

CHRISTINE BADER: Yeah, at the time it was on the projects

that I worked on.

But still, everybody, you need to justify your cost

and how much you're spending.

So I suppose in Indonesia I had the mixed blessing of there

being some really horrible examples nearby of how

much this can actually cost a company when it goes really


So on the other end of Indonesia in Aceh

there was a similar facility, a liquefied natural gas plant,

that had to shut down for four months because of basically

a civil war going on around it that some people accused

that company of exacerbating.

And I did some research for the book--

I couldn't find an exact figure--

but I found a bunch of estimates that

said that that shutdown, that four month shutdown,

cost Exxon Mobil anywhere from $100 to $350 million, right?

I mean, even for Exxon, like, that's kind of a lot of money.

In the same province as the project that I worked on

is the Freeport McMoRan Grasberg copper and gold mine.

That's one of the largest mines in the world.

And they spent something like $42 million

on security in one year.

And that keeps going up because when they came in,

they struck a deal with the national government.

They didn't pay much attention to local community issues.

And now they've realized that didn't work.

But it's really hard to turn these things around

once they've gone wrong.

So I think in oil, gas, and mining, it's pretty clear now

that you can't operate these projects well

if you don't invest in these issues up front.

And other industries are starting to see that too.

I mean in apparel, companies have

realized that if you treat your workers better

they're going to be more productive,

there'll be less turnover.

So we're seeing that.

And then in the tax sector too, I think the challenges

to privacy and free expression demonstrate

that you need the trust of users.


That's what your whole business is built on.

SARAH MURRAY: It's the license to operate.

CHRISTINE BADER: It's the license to operate.

That's exactly what it is.



And so, you're right.

That's still sometimes, it's hard to demonstrate

a very specific return on investment.

So I think it's fine to have a rigorous debate about that.

Well, do we need to spend this much or can we spend this much?

I'm not crazy about going too far down that road.

Because for example if I say, OK.

Well, I want to spend $11 million

next year to make sure that our security arrangements are

in line with international human rights principles

so that we won't be complicit in genocide, say.

I don't really want to have this conversation of saying, well,

I don't know if we have $11 million.

If we spend, like, $4 or $5 million,

is there going to be a 60% chance

that we're complicit in genocide?

And it's like, OK.

You know what?

This is not-- like, seriously?

I mean, you do have to have a little bit of that.

But I think it's OK to call it out when it's ridiculous.



Yes, yes.

But I guess, and again.

Something you mentioned in the book

which I thought was very intriguing

is the whole idea that in this work

that you're doing, even if you're not

having to sort of measure dollar for dollar

and what the return is, you're essentially doing work

to make something not happen.


And nobody gets rewarded for that.




So one of the people who I interviewed

manages supply chains for a really big company.

And she said that one of their internal awards,

which are really prestigious in a big company,

went to one of her colleagues who managed a big safety


And she was like, I prevented, like, 20 of those, right?

But again, nobody gets rewarded for something

that doesn't happen.

And one of the people who I interviewed,

Isabella [? O'Covey ?], who runs the Business and Human Rights

program at Yahoo.

And she was brought in after Yahoo was compelled

to turn over user information about the Chinese government

for Shi Tao, a journalist who was in jail.

And she was brought in after that.

But now it's been a while.

There's been a lot of turnover at the company.

And she said that part of the challenges of doing this work

well is that if nothing goes wrong,

then you get people sort of looking around and going,

well, wait.

What are you doing here?



CHRISTINE BADER: Why are you here

with all this budget, right?

And she's like, I'm the one preventing the bad things

from happening.

But you don't always know that.

SARAH MURRAY: No, that's right.

And those stories don't come out.

I mean, one of the things that I think also-- this

is sort of a topic quite close to my heart--

is the extent to which companies are or should

be more open and honest about both

their failings and their successes.

I mean, people are always pitching me stories saying,

oh come on.

We've just cut our carbon footprint by x million tons.

And they don't want to tell me that the problem they

had doing it I think because, you know,

there is very much this sort of corporate message

that has to controlled.

But do you think that given what's going on--

and I think this works both ways.

Because a., I think results in people

not seeing the real story and so they just

see when the bad thing happens, they think,

oh well, there's that rotten corporate sector again.

But by contrast, I was speaking to somebody the other day

and I was talking about what I write about.

And she said, oh, well I try and do the right thing

with business.

And she said, I never buy anything from Nike.

And I said well actually, the company's changed.

It actually is now seen as a gold standard

in managing labor rights and things like that.

So just how do you see the evolution of companies

when it comes to sort of telling their own story

about this stuff?


You've totally hit the nail on the head

because one of the challenges of many of the people

that I interviewed is I assumed that it would

be with their legal departments, because I had

some challenges in BP of commissioning

these human rights impact assessments

that I then assumed that we would publish.

And our legal department was like, oh no.

Can't talk about that.

Can't talk about that.

But actually a lot of people said

that the challenges were in their communications

departments because they only want to tell good stories.

And that's a real challenge, because being

open about your challenges is what first of all

creates a more informed public conversation, right?

I mean, I think that Google and a lot of your other

peer companies issuing transparency reports, right?

Like, issuing the challenges and the requests

that you're getting from governments for censorship

and for user data is really important, right?

It helps convey to people like, OK.

Oh, here's the scale of the problem.

And maybe we should be turning our attention to governments

as well.

So I think it's really important.

And I think, again, some companies

are starting to come around to that.

But it's still slow.

SARAH MURRAY: It's a challenge.

And of course, the danger is as well

that you stick your head above the parapet

and then you get attacked.

So I remember writing a piece years

ago about Gap's corporate responsibility report, which

was a sort of warts and all thing

where they listed all their suppliers

and they highlighted where they had incidents of child labor

in their supply chain.

And while most NGOs and a lot of the press and the piece

I wrote for the FT was a sort of fairly balanced piece about why

they were producing this report, one,

I remember coming home and watching a local news channel,

and it just said huge abuses uncovered at Gap factories.

And so the danger, I guess, is that they

misinterpret that story.

CHRISTINE BADER: Well, that's right.

But then you know what happened years later

when that story came out about The Gap

finding illegal subcontracting and there

were some kids that were making Gap Kids clothes.

But that story, I mean, people stood up.

People like Mary Robinson, the former president

of Ireland, a former a U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights

and other NGOs standing up, defending The Gap and saying,


The Gap has been working on these issues

longer and harder than any other company.

And frankly, if any company says that they've

eradicated the problem of sub subcontracting, they're lying.

So the story kind of went away.

So again, I think that's part of taking the long term view.



Honesty and openness builds your credibility,

even if a few stragglers don't get it.




And another thing that comes very strongly through the book

is the impact you're making as a corporate idealist

in these companies.

I mean, I don't know how you felt when you left your own BA

and headed out hoping to change the corporate world entirely.

But often there are battles one has to pick

and there are compromises to be made.

What do you see as sort of the balance for you and others

in this world of trying to achieve

incremental change versus complete transformation and

are they both laudable objectives?

CHRISTINE BADER: Yeah, I think they're both important.

And frankly that's the whole arc of the book

and what compelled me to write it in the first place

is that I did come charging out of business school thinking,

I'm going to change the world.

This is going to be awesome.

And then my first few years with BP I really felt like that.

I was doing amazingly innovative and progressive and helpful

work around these projects with the full backing

of senior management.

And I thought, this was amazing.

And then working with colleagues around the world in BP

who felt the same way, who were doing the same work.

And then it was after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

I had left BP at that point.

But that to me was the real sort of crisis

of confidence of that BP that emerged

in the aftermath of that disaster,

of this sort of reckless, callous, risk taking company.

It didn't at all resemble the BP that I

thought I'd gotten to know so well over the nine years

that I'd been there.

So my first reaction was, well, hang on.

That's not my BP.

And then my second reaction was, or was it?

So I started talking to friends who've

been doing similar work deep inside big companies

for a long time, like friends who work in apparel companies

after the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh who

similarly thought, I've been doing really good supply chain

work for 20 years and we just killed 1100 people.

So what does it really mean to do this work?

So it started off as this personal journey

of trying to understand, trying to reconcile those two BPs,

and trying to understand the work that I had done there.

And realizing that a lot of people

doing this work in big companies have these similar challenges.

And so what I came to, not to give away the punchline,

but what I came to was, yes.

If you're going to go work in a big massive company,

this work is really incremental.

And it's not going to change overnight.

But that doesn't undo good work, right?

Again, as long as it's not, like, a carbon

offset for-- right?

As long as it's not like, oh, I'm

doing really good philanthropy for the company

but it's harming people with its core business.

I really believe that the work that I was doing in Indonesia

and China was exactly the kind of work

that we want extractive companies doing, that we want

them doing around these big projects that

supply the world's energy.

So there are moments for transformative change, right?

When you can really move your company.

There are these moments, right?

And you can really move your industry.

Like, for example, Google's part of the Global Network

Initiative which is this really important initiative that it

was part of creating with Microsoft,

with Yahoo, with some socially responsible investors

and some human rights groups and some academics

to come up with a code of conduct

to better protect free expression and privacy.

And that's really important.

And I think that's transformative.

I mean, it's taken a while to implement.

But still, that kind of thing is transformative.

But the day to day work is much slower.




Now I mean, there are all these initiatives that you mention.

And in all kinds of industries there

are collaborations to address labor abuses in factories

from sort of human rights to environment collaborations.

Is this enough?

Where do we need to actually just turn to government to step

in and start-- you see, despite years of working on,

despite examples like Nike, despite companies that

have really worked on supply chain issues in the apparel

industry, we still have Rana Plaza.

At what point do we have to say, business can't do this alone

or can't be relied on.

Do we need government to just set stronger rules?

CHRISTINE BADER: We absolutely do.

And so, none of the things that I've talked about

relieve government of their responsibility.

I mean, if governments were fulfilling

their responsibilities, we wouldn't

be having this conversation.

I mean, we would.


There's no substitute for strong, smart, good, properly

enforced regulation.

But the problem I think is that when something bad happens

with a company, the conversation seems to be,

oh, there go those evil companies again.

We need stronger regulation.

And it's like, well, we've got a lot of regulation.

Like, how's that working out for us, right?

And so to me it's sort of like, if you're watching a basketball

game and the basketball players start throwing punches.

And everybody's like, where are the refs?

Where are the refs?

Well, hang on.

Why are you letting the players off the hook?


We can't just look at the refs.

We need the refs.

The refs have to be there.

So there is no substitute for strong, good regulation.

But regulation takes a long time to pass, right?

And the companies know better than anyone

else what's going on inside.

So that's the focus here.

But I do talk a bit about the role of government,

and in no way should governments be let off the hook, nor should

the rest of us.

Nor should consumers or investors.

SARAH MURRAY: Well, and in some ways

it's companies' responsibility to engage with governments

to develop the right kind of regulations that doesn't hinder

business but does the right thing as well.


SARAH MURRAY: I just wanted to talk a little bit about life

as a corporate idealist and how you get things done.

Because you didn't go in to be a CSR.

You didn't join BP as a CSR person or a sustainability


And we have lots of those people with lots of those titles.

But is it the case that actually everybody

can be a corporate idealist?

And how do you do that from within a position where,

I don't know, you're in operations management

or HR or communications?

What would you advise to people who

would like to get involved in this

but are not working in the CSR department?

CHRISTINE BADER: Yeah, well sometimes

I think people can be in a position of greater power

just by doing the functions that they're doing and doing them

well and thinking about the big picture.

I mean, in China I was on a construction team, right?

Because our biggest risk there, I

was sent out there to work on a BP--

SARAH MURRAY: Didn't know that you

learned building when you were doing an MBA.


Who knew that construction was my minor.

But no.

But I went out there because BP had a joint venture

with Sinopec, one of China's state energy companies,

to build a really big chemicals plant that

was going to bring in tens of thousands of migrant workers

into a town of about 30,000 people.

So, you know.

Could be some impacts there.

So my first week there I was in this meeting.

And it was like half BP guys and half Sinopec guys.

And we were going down the spreadsheet

of the latest estimates for the cost

and the timeline for the project.

And there was one label in the spreadsheet where

the number was eight but the label

hadn't been translated into English.

And so my BP colleague said, what's the number eight?

What's the label?

And Sinopec guy said, oh.

That's the projected number of fatalities.

He said, excuse me?

And he said, yeah.

Based on a project this big with this many man hours,

we would expect eight fatalities.

And my colleague said, the target is not eight.

He said, the target is zero.

And the Sinopec guy said, that's not realistic.

And he said, if you set expectations

that you're going to kill eight people,

you're probably going to kill at least eight people.

And they guy said, well, it's not realistic.

And I realized that he was right.

Based on their track record, it was probably realistic

that they were going to kill eight people.

So that's the kind of conversation

that I had to have there.

This was on the construction team, right?

So we managed not to kill anybody during construction.


But to make the case there for example,

it took me a while to figure out the right language to use.

So I went in there saying OK.

We're going to protect the human rights of the workers

and of communities.

And you know, that didn't work so well.

I mean, it just fell flat.

I didn't get thrown out or anything.

But it just didn't work.

And then I tried, OK.

These are the standards that BP uses for our projects

around the world and that's what we're going to use here.

And it was like, get out of here.

That's incredibly arrogant, right?

So I had to shut up for a couple of weeks

and just listen to what resonated, right?

What are people motivated by?

What drives them?

And so finally I came back with, OK.

I understand that you want this to be a world class model


And if that is the case, then these

are the standards, these international standards

on working conditions.

These are the standards that world class model projects use.

And they're like, OK.

Why didn't you say so?

SARAH MURRAY: It's so true, isn't it?

So many different parts of business

have their own language.

I remember talking to one-- no, I

think it was actually in the oil industry

and they were saying, take the word integrity.

If you say the word integrity when you're standing in the CSR

department, they probably think that you're

talking about being honest and open

and treating your workers right.

And if you say integrity to an engineer

he means is our oil pipe going to blow up?


It's [INAUDIBLE], yeah.

SARAH MURRAY: You know, those language, those terms

are very powerful.

And I think one of the things that comes out

very strongly in your book is how

you, as corporate idealists, how do

you connect with the rest of the company?

But just to go back to something I

mentioned at the beginning of this conversation,

how do you create your community as a corporate idealist?

You mentioned I think going to-- I think it was just after you'd

had the twins-- you mentioned you were determined

to get to this BSR conference.

CHRISTINE BADER: I couldn't see straight, but yeah.

SARAH MURRAY: And I think I remember meeting you there.

You looked great by the way.

But this need to be with other people in your community.

How would you advise people to try building those communities

so that you don't feel such a isolated person in this role?

CHRISTINE BADER: I think now it's easier.

I mean, every company has interest groups

and every company's got a green team.

And I think it's easier.

And I think for outside of the company

there are CSR sustainability meetups everywhere.

So I think it's a lot easier.

But I guess one thing that came through

in a lot of these interviews-- and again, they

were people who I'd known professionally for a long time

but never talked to them about how

they found their jobs in the first place.

And one theme that certainly was true for me

is that I did a lot of thinking out loud about what

I was interested in regardless of the job that I was doing.

But what's our company's role in society?

And oh, what's going on over there?

I mean, you still have to be good at your job

and focus on it, right?

But for a lot of these people, again, they

fell into these roles when corporate social

responsibility, CSR, was not really a function.

So like me, they fell into it because they

were asking lots of questions and talking

to other people in their company about well,

here's where I'm interested, and what are we doing on this?

And what should we be doing?

And shouldn't we be doing this?

And I just saw a documentary last night

and just read an article about this,

and how do we react to that?

So that when something opened up people

thought, oh, that person would be really good at this.

Very rarely does a job posting pop up on the board

and it's like, oh.

I should apply.

And then you apply.

SARAH MURRAY: You end up doing things

from within your existing job and probably

doing nothing in your spare time until somebody

comes along and says, hey.

This is something we need in the company.

CHRISTINE BADER: So I'm a big proponent

of thinking out loud about the things

that you're interested in.

And I have found certainly for me

that that tends to create space for opportunities to arise.

SARAH MURRAY: What does that mean though

for somebody who is thinking they would like to do this

but they're graduating from business school?

And where do you start?

I mean, as you say, the job that says

CSR and sustainability could sort of mean anything.



SARAH MURRAY: How do you go about that today?

CHRISTINE BADER: Yeah, well I suppose there are a few things.

I mean, within business school there's net impact,

which is the association.

And every business school has a net impact chapter now.

And they have their own job boards and things specifically

for these jobs.

But I suppose when I get all of these inquiries of people

saying, oh, I really want to get into this field,

I ask them, well, what do you actually want to do all day?

Do you want to be traipsing around villages?

Do you want to be sitting behind a desk creating policies?

So I guess like any job you break it down.

What are the skills that I want to be using all day?

What are the issues that I really care

about that I want to be working on?

Are there particular countries that I'm really excited by

or geographies that I have a specialty in?

And then like anything, and there's

a little bit of serendipity in finding the right position

with the right people at the right company

open at the right time.

But people talk about serendipity a lot,

and I think we give it too much weight, right?

SARAH MURRAY: You have to make your own opportunities

in some ways.

CHRISTINE BADER: You have to make it.


Because it drives me crazy.

I mean, you guys hear a lot of people speak here.

And I will bet you that whenever you hear illustrious

people talk about their careers, inevitably there was always

one moment when they say, and then

I just got this call one day.


There's some knowing nods.

I just got this call out of the blue one day.

And that's baloney, right?

So when they say that, ask them to trace the call.

Because people don't offer jobs to somebody

who they've never met before.

People offer jobs to people who, oh, I was just playing squash

with my friend and he mentioned that his friend's daughter

was looking for a job, right?

Or it's a conversation that you had with somebody

three years ago.

And something just opened up, right?

I mean, you can't control the timing of these things.

And that's where serendipity comes in.

But I actually think it does a great disservice when people

talk like that, when people say, I just got the call out

of the blue one day, because it makes you think that you're

just supposed to sit back and wait for the call.

SARAH MURRAY: Whereas in fact it's a lot of asking questions,

talking about the right things.


And thinking out loud and building your network.

SARAH MURRAY: Absolutely.


Well, on that note actually is a good moment

to see if anybody has any questions here for Christine.

AUDIENCE: CSI's very much like [INAUDIBLE] the company

when it tries to fix the problem because we're a good company.

What can consumers do to push companies

to change their practices?


That's a great question.

And I think consumers have to ask, right?

Users have to demand.

And so I think in this sector we saw

that here where users are saying, well, hang on.

Why was this information taken down?

Why am I getting different search results

in this country than in that?

I mean, I think users and consumers have to ask.

But frankly, I've gotten really depressed with how

little consumers demand.

And I site some of these studies in the book of how people

say that they will pay more for fair trade

or sustainable products, but there

are all these studies that show if you've

got two piles of socks sitting next to each other and one's

marked fair trade and one's marked not,

people will buy the fair trade one if they're the same price.

But as soon as you bump the price up

people don't buy them, right?

So there's a little bit of money where our mouth is.

But I appreciate that that's really hard.

But I think just asking the question.

So one of the times when I did one of those head

to toe inventories and I realized that there were

a couple of brands that I'm wearing that I didn't know

anything about, I tweeted and I just said, hey x brand.

What's your policy in the wake of Rana Plaza?

Two of them didn't respond.

And so I re-tweeted and I said, bummer.

You're not responding.

I'm not buying any more of your stuff.

One of them I posted something on their Facebook page

and they wrote this long, awesome response

of how well, we try to establish long term

relationships with our suppliers,

et cetera, et cetera.

And I hadn't verified it yet, but I

think it was a pretty awesome response.

And there were lots of other people who liked the comment.

So I think asking the questions again is really important.

We have to ask.

And it makes the job of the people inside the company

a lot easier to be able to say, look.

This isn't my imagination that this is important.

Well, there are a couple of interesting ways

that I talk about this in the book.

One of them, I interviewed a lot of advocates an activists.

And again, they're people who I've known for a long time

but I had never actually talked to them about their tactics

and how they think about their work.

So there were some human rights advocates

that said, actually, we see our job as creating space

inside the company for you to do your job better.

Which were so interesting.

And one other person inside a company

said, you know, I used to have to call up quietly one

of my NGO or socially responsible investor friends

to say, now would be a really good time

for you to write a letter to my CEO.

And you don't really have to do that anymore

because they're a hashtag, right?

You don't need to do that anymore.

But I think users and consumers absolutely have to ask.

SARAH MURRAY: And technology has made that so possible in a way

that it never was before.

I mean, you can immediately contact a company

and ask them a question.

CHRISTINE BADER: On Twitter, on Facebook, yeah.

SARAH MURRAY: I mean, years ago you had to write them a letter

and it probably ended up in some backwater.


Because nobody else ever saw that you wrote the letter.




So they didn't have to answer it.


And now it's out there.


It's all public.

So yeah.

Another question?

AUDIENCE: Thanks so much for being here first of all.

Appreciate it.

How do you deal with the-- my thought

process is it must be very disheartening at times

when you see something like BP oil spill happen.

And a couple of years on, zero conversation really happening

about it.

But with our ecosystems [INAUDIBLE]

disintegrated by all accounts I think during that time period.

So I guess for something like environmental issues or climate

change, something like that, it's kind of,

we're on a ticking clock.

Versus something like labor rights

which might take their time from a policy

level down to the grassroots.

How do you deal with something like the environment,

and do you get disheartened [INAUDIBLE]?


I mean again, that's a lot of what

compelled me to write the book.

Because it was after the Deepwater Horizon

disaster, it was like,



Like, what does it mean?

Are we making any difference at all,

or is this completely useless?

So again, not to give away the punchline,

but I don't think it's completely useless.

But I think that all of us as individuals

need to decide, what role do we want to play, right?

And so some of us need to be inside companies and fighting

that incremental, everyday, like trying just

to tweak some practices that take a long time.

And some of us need to be shouting from the rooftops

and being activists and protesting out on the street.

And obviously, those rules have their frustrations too.

But I do have faith that all of the people who

are doing this work do believe that they're

making a difference.

And one of the themes that really

came through loud and clear which was,

again, I didn't expect, it was the optimism

of people who are doing this work.

So one friend who's worked in supply chains

for a number of apparel companies, he went on a visit

to visit factories in India.

And then the guy who was showing him around said, let me just

take you to one factory that's not on your list.

It supplies the domestic market.

Just to show you what it's like.

And he walked in there.

He said, it was filthy.

There was a 10-year-old kid on one of the machines.

And it was horrible.

And I said, well, what did that feel like to see that?

And he said, well, he said, it opened up

this whole other question that I don't

know what to do with of what do we do with factories that

are supplying the domestic market that aren't

held to international standards?

And he said, but actually I left optimistic.

Because I thought if these were what the factories that do

supply us looked like 20 or 30 years ago,

we have made a big difference.

And it's that optimism that I saw over and over again.

One guy who works for a big mining company

and went to Papau New Guinea on his first day of work

and saw the extent of domestic violence there.

And was trying to think about, well,

what role could or should or does the company play?

Are we exacerbating it?

How could we make it better?

And I thought, and I said to him,

wasn't that incredibly overwhelming and disheartening

to see that this is what you're stepping into?

And he said, I thought this was an opportunity

to do really good human rights work,

that this is a place where we could actually

make a difference.

So yeah.

It's incredibly disheartening.

But what are you going to do about it?

Are you going to do nothing?

Like, we've all got to do something.

And it's just, what is ours to do?

SARAH MURRAY: And different people have different roles.

I mean, I think even within the NGO community,

it was interesting.

I was talking to somebody from Greenpeace the other day.

And he was saying, we pave the way for the NGOs

who are going to work with companies by giving them

the agenda to do that.

It makes it easier for us to show up at the door

when Greenpeace has been out there hammering away.

So I think there is this sort of ecosystem

of forces that will shift companies.

I think we have-- [INAUDIBLE].

Yes, that's right.

Another question there.

AUDIENCE: Thank you so much for being here.

So one thing that really struck me about your book

was this feeling of being isolated

as a corporate idealist in a massive company.

And I was wondering if you could speak

about creating a culture of accountability

in a huge company such as Google or BP.

The supply chain is just so massive.

So for the Gap example that you presented about the sub

subcontractor hiring these laborers as opposed

to corporate has that Gap saying let's hire.

How do you manage for accountability

in these huge supply chains and also,

if you could speak about your experience at BP or elsewhere,

just creating that culture of accountability among people?

CHRISTINE BADER: And by that, do you

mean a culture of taking responsibility for those issues

that previously somebody might have said that's not our--

AUDIENCE: Right. [INAUDIBLE] subcontractors

because it's no longer in our hands.



That's a great question.

Let me think to my own experience.

Again, I guess so in China it was

about trying to make the case that we

are accountable for those issues whether we like it or not.

And I think that's been a big theme in this field

for a long time of companies.

Every company's sort of going through this journey.

And it's like the seven stages of grieving, right?

Or that first there's this denial, right?

And we saw this with Nike with sweatshops

and we saw it with Shell in Nigeria.

And we even saw it, I think, with censorship

when the first wave sort of hit this industry and these cases

coming to the fore of companies saying, not my responsibility.

That somebody else's responsibility.

And then I think realizing, it's like, you know what?

That's not good enough.

And whether or not legally this is your responsibility,

the court of public opinion believes

that it's your responsibility.

So I think a lot of companies started taking responsibility

because they realized, well, I guess it is now.

So I think there are a few factors that make that happen.

One of them is external pressure.

And so we saw this with Apple when the big "New York Times"

expose came out about working conditions

in Foxconn factories.

And at first Apple sort of demurred.

I mean, they've been working on supply chain responsibility

for a long time.

This wasn't new.

But we really saw them step up after there

was so much public pressure and join the Fair Labor


Which is a big deal for Apple in particular, right?

To have third party auditors come in

and inspect their supplier factories.

And actually for Google to join the Global Network Initiative,

that's a huge step because that requires third party auditors

to come in and look at your processes.

And you guys know better than anybody.

I mean, do you let anybody in here

to poke around and look at stuff?

Like, that's actually a big deal.

But I think that your company's leadership realized, because

of what enough of you were saying also inside the company.

And be like, hey, we need to step up our game here

if we're really going to live out our values

and take responsibility for what we're doing

and be the most trusted company for people.

This is what we need to do.

So again, I think in every company

there are going to be different drivers and pressures that

will create that culture.

But I think in all of those cases a lot of it

will come from within, of people saying, folks,

this is simply what we need to do.

But I think it's different in every company.

SARAH MURRAY: And I think there are

a lot of-- I mean, shareholders for a start,

are starting, in some cases, starting

to push the companies that they own into disclosure.

And then you have the power of a company like Walmart

that can say, well, look here suppliers.

You've all got to meet certain environmental standards as

if you're actually going to sell to us.

So I think there's a range of pressures.

But you're right.

I mean, the internal is a very important one as well.

I think we might have time for one more.

FEMALE SPEAKER: One more question.


CHRISTINE BADER: If there is one.

SARAH MURRAY: If there is one.


Well, I just want to thank Christine and Sarah so

much for coming to speak with us today.

It was a great conversation and lots of issues

that Google's thinking about too in a very different context.

So interesting to hear all of those perspectives.

So thank you again.

I really appreciate it.

SARAH MURRAY: Thank you.

CHRISTINE BADER: Thank you, everybody.


The Description of The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil | Christine Bader | Talks at Google