U.S. Companies Leading by Example
By: Melike Ann Yetken, Senior Advisor for Corporate Responsibility in the Economic and Business Affairs Bureau
Ninety-nine percent of all firms in the United States are small or medium sized enterprises. As such, small or medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are the building blocks of our economy, employing 50 percent of private sector employees and generating 65 percent of new private sector jobs. U.S.-based small or medium sized enterprises are developing innovative solutions to tackle some of our largest global challenges both here at home and overseas.
For example, Andela, an SME in Lagos, Nigeria, has trained software engineers that provide software development and information technology services for global companies. Andela pays its developers above-market wages and provides accommodation, meals, and healthcare. Andela was incorporated in May 2014 and has been an immediate success: they have amassed over 250 developers across its Lagos, Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya headquarters and placed over 100 developers with company partners in 2016 alone. Andela’s innovative and inclusive approach, commitment to their workers, and community engagement is why they’re winning the 2016 Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE) in the category of Small or Medium Enterprise.
Since its creation in 1999, and through categories that reflect current U.S. foreign policy priorities, the ACE showcases U.S. companies like Andela that represent the American brand through the way they do business. As the State Department’s lead for responsible business conduct issues, I work with companies, labor groups, civil society, and others to promote implementation of high standards in global commerce. I have the great privilege to see first-hand how companies are working with stakeholders to make a positive impact and mitigate risks in the places where they do business, from complex sectors like extractive industries to complex supply chains like textiles and apparel.
This year, the awards will honor businesses in four categories: Inclusive Hiring Practices, Small or Medium Enterprise, Sustainable Oceans Management, and Transparent Operations.
Like others, I am looking forward to the holiday season and spending time my family, but I’m also already looking to January 2017, when Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken will host our ACE ceremony on January 5. I hope you’ll join us by watching via livestream at 10:30 a.m. EST at http://video.state.gov/live/.
A former colleague often said, “I’m not trying to make a point, I’m trying to make a difference.” This year’s ACE winners are indeed doing just that, and we look forward to highlighting their great work.
About the Author: Melike Ann Yetken has worked at the State Department for over twelve years and is currently Senior Advisor for Corporate Responsibility in the Economic and Business Affairs Bureau where she works with companies, foreign governments, and civil society on promoting best practices globally.