Cargill’s ‘corporate transparency’

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

As nations wrestle with managing their natural resources to produce food and energy, agricultural firms have come in for some big changes.

These shifts—including environmental issues and rising food costs—demand leadership. Minnesota-based agribusiness Cargill is trying to rise to the occasion.

In the words of CEO Gregory Page, here’s a thumbnail sketch of how “transparency” works:

Openness lets you define yourself.
Cargill puts out lots of financial information for a privately held company, partly because its employee stock-ownership program is required by law to open the books.

“But I think the bigger idea was that if you don’t go out and explain yourself, you’ll be defined by your mistakes,” Page says, “whether you have a fire or an employee sues you, some negative event.” Better, he says, to be forthcoming about both
the problems that pop up and the employee-generated ideas “that benefit mankind.”

Trust is the engine of commerce. Page says his top issue is “trust-based trade.” Cargill’s main products—grain, meat and agricultural finance—require access across international boundaries.

Trust also is required in-house, of course. Page says it’s impossible for him to ride herd over the company’s loosely confederated businesses and 160,000 employees.

“At the same time, we share one balance sheet and one reputation,” he says.

— Adapted from “A King of Agriculture,” Richard M. Smith, Newsweek.

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