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William Lauder Speaker Summary

The KPMG Peat Marwick / Stanley R. Klion Forum on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 featured William Lauder, Executive Chairman of Estée Lauder Companies, and Professor Kathy Phillips of Columbia Business School. The discussion focused on The Estée Lauder Companies’ commitment to corporate responsibility (CR). The evening began with a brief presentation by Mr. Lauder which highlighted The Estée Lauder Companies’ CR initiatives, among them The Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, M∙A∙C AIDS Fund, a plan to decrease the company's environmental impact and increase the natural ingredients within its products, as well as a commitment of continuing to cultivate a company culture of diversity. 

Mr. Lauder also spoke about how CR is something that the company cannot ignore, to achieve its sustainability goals, and also to attract the next generation of employees who expect more from employers than producing profits. CR initiatives have become a key ingredient in attracting the most innovative and creative talent, which, in turn, enables The Estée Lauder Companies to more effectively serve its consumers, stakeholders and the communities where it does business. The conversation also touched on the global nature of the company and how the concept of CR changes in each country’s market with different cultural influences. 

This global perspective means that it is critical for The Estée Lauder Companies to have a diverse workforce. There was much discussion about the need for diversity of gender, ethnicity, culture, and ideas amongst The Estée Lauder Companies employees. 34% percent of the company's global general managers are women and 51% of the company's upper management in the United States are women. This drive for diversity is something, Mr. Lauder said, that is stressed at all levels of the organization and creates a company culture of the most talented individuals.

The event ended with questions from the audience which touched on a range of topics, including the responsibilities of the company to its internal and external stakeholders, the effects of changing demographics within the United States on product lines, and the role of The Estée Lauder Companies’ CR policies in improving the impact of the beauty industry as a whole.


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This event was presented by Fred Friendly Seminars in partnership with the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center for Leadership and Ethics, and was part of Columbia Business School’s Individual, Business and Society (IBS) curriculum.

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