January 20, 2022

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken at the Award for Corporate Excellence Ceremony

40 min read

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, DC

Department of State

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good morning, good afternoon, good evening, everyone.  Great to see you folks on the screen.  Greetings.  It’s a particular pleasure to be with all of you today, and I don’t know if I’m kicking it off or if we have one of our colleagues doing that.

MR MURRAY:  I’ll go ahead and get it started for you, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Great.  Go ahead, Matt.

MR MURRAY:  Yeah.  Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, everyone.  My name is Matt Murray and I’m the senior bureau official in the State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.  And we’re very, very pleased to be able to welcome all of you to the annual Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence, or ACE for short.

In this role here in EB as well as throughout my career as an economic officer, I’ve had the privilege of meeting U.S. companies operating around the world and have seen firsthand the positive impact they can have on their local communities.  That’s why for 22 years, the department has used the ACE Awards to honor U.S. companies that exhibit commendable leadership in their overseas operations and whose operational practices and decision-making exemplify American values and international best practices.

But I know we’re all eager to get the awards – to the awards themselves and to meet representatives from the winning companies, so to begin, it’s my pleasure to kick it back to the Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken to say a few words about ACE and to announce the 2021 winners.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Matt, thank you very, very much, and again, it’s great to see so many folks on the screen.

Four years ago, when I was last here at the department as deputy secretary, I got a chance to preside over this event.  And it’s something that stayed with me and I’m delighted to be back again to present the Awards for Corporate Excellence.

So Matt, to you, to the entire team at the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, thank you for your work to advance U.S. economic interests every day, support for our companies around the world, and the fight for America’s workers.  I deeply appreciate it.

And thanks to all of our guests, both from the diplomatic and business communities, who are with us today.

As we see it, corporate excellence is not just about doing right by our workers, our economy, and our planet.  It’s also about the pivotal role the private sector can play in helping tackle the challenges that are most important for us to meet.

As all of you know well, on every single issue – including ending COVID-19, including responding to the climate crisis, leading the global economic recovery – American businesses are critical partners.  And when they put their expertise and resources to work finding and also scaling solutions, there is no test we can’t meet.  It’s a major competitive advantage for us, and one of the ways in which we can demonstrate that democracies actually deliver for their people, which, in President Biden’s eyes, is really the test of our times.

The companies that we’re honoring today embody the unique strength of American business.

They’re ambassadors for American values like hard work and innovation.  Some are large multinationals; others, small-to-medium-size enterprises.  Many work in partnership with local communities around the world.  And they’re all debunking the false choice between profit and purpose – proving that good business can also serve the public good.

We’ve got chiefs of mission that I see on the screen with us today.  They’ll speak in greater detail about their work.  But first, let me just briefly say how what they’re doing is complementing America’s foreign policy goals.

The first award for corporate excellence is in climate innovation.

I was at COP26 in Glasgow last month, and as I said at the time, the climate crisis is not an issue that we can solve through government or civil society action alone.  We need companies to make the investments that will get us to net zero emissions so we can limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and prevent a climate catastrophe.  It’s also the smart choice for businesses, and I think they know it.  We’re seeing a major shift in investment practices – for example, in the banking industry, which has pledged more than $66 billion in assets toward climate investments.  That’s more than a third of total global banking assets.

The two winners in this category, Australis Aquaculture Vietnam and Patagonia Argentina, are showing that their leadership is making a difference.  Whether it’s by pioneering more sustainable ocean farming techniques, like Australis Aquaculture is doing, or partnering with local organizations to support land and water protection, like Patagonia does, both companies are making a positive difference in their communities and their customers are rewarding them for it.

Our second ACE category is on health security, an issue that’s top of mind for all of us these days.  The pandemic reminds us constantly that viruses don’t respect borders, and if we want to protect ourselves, we’ve got to work together, including across the public and private sectors.

And that’s exactly what our winners, 3M Singapore and Zipline Ghana, are doing.  Throughout the pandemic, 3M has worked closely with the Singaporean Government to equip thousands of health care workers with critical PPE.  Zipline, a company that I first became aware of about five or six years ago and is doing remarkable work, has partnered with the Ghanaian Government to deliver more than 250,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses, and it’s able to do this by getting to remote areas that otherwise would have great difficulty getting the vaccine or getting other medicines.  These efforts are literally saving lives.

Our third ACE category this year is economic inclusion.  Study after study tells us that when we bring more people into the economy – when we create more opportunities for people to access good jobs, education and training, start-up capital, the formal banking system – the economy grows for everyone.  And it’s the right thing to do.  That’s why our administration is focused on advancing equity, including gender equity, to unleash economic growth and build back better.

This year’s winners in economic inclusion, Purnaa Nepal and Mastercard India, are unlocking the talent of marginalized populations.  Mastercard is helping India’s farmers access formal credit, and Purnaa is providing victims of exploitation, including survivors of human trafficking and bonded labor, with meaningful, long-term employment opportunities.  They’re not only helping these individuals; they’re lifting up entire communities.

I also want to commend our two alternate winners.  Aerosol Slovenia has done leading air quality research and Whirlpool Slovakia has created innovative job training programs for the local Roma population.  So thanks very much to you both.

And that goes for all the companies today.  Thank you for your leadership; thank you for your partnership.

In the coming months, we’ll keep working to help more businesses follow your lead.  Earlier this year, I announced that the United States is updating our National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct.  That work continues.  Our new plan will provide a roadmap to help more companies promote workers’ rights, combat the climate crisis, advance democratic values, and build a more dynamic, inclusive economy.

So to tell us more about that effort, and to lead us to the next part of today’s ceremony, I want to hand the program back over to Mike – Matt, excuse me.  But, again, congratulations to all of this year’s awardees, and mostly, thank you – thank you for what you’re doing; thank you for the leadership you’re showing; thank you for the difference that you’re making.

Matt, back to you.

MR MURRAY:  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, and thank you for your leadership here in emphasizing the commitment that we all need to have for American values and also for corporate social responsibility around the world.

And so our first category today that we’re going to learn more about the winners is in the area of economic inclusion, which, as the Secretary just noted, is a very important policy priority at the State Department.  This ACE category recognizes a company’s commitment to advancing gender equality as a means to support economic opportunities for women and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, or adversely affected by poverty and inequality.

As the Secretary just announced, the 2021 winner in the small to medium enterprise category is Purnaa for its success creating sustainable employment opportunities in Nepal for marginalized communities.  So we’d now like to turn to a short photo montage of the company’s work, and then to U.S. Ambassador to Nepal Randy Berry, who will say a few words about Purnaa.

(A video was played.)

AMBASSADOR BERRY:  Namaste, and good morning, good afternoon, and from Kathmandu, good evening.  Secretary Blinken, Under Secretary Fernandez, Senior Bureau Official Murray, colleagues and friends, it’s a real honor to join you today for the 2021 Secretary’s Award for Corporate Excellence.

I’d like to congratulate all the winning companies today.  You’re truly representative about what is best about America.  This recognition is a real testament to be able to do good while doing well in business, and that’s always a possibility.

So let me start out by telling you how proud I am of Purnaa and their work in Nepal.  Secretary Blinken, colleagues and friends, the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu has been working closely with the Government of Nepal for going on 75 years now to enact legislation to take action to protect human rights and to promote inclusive governance and a good business environment in Nepal.

Our decision to nominate Purnaa for an ACE award was guided by our strong belief that the story of the company really needed to be told, especially in Nepal’s context.  Despite constitutional and legal protections, which Nepalis should be very proud of, discrimination in employment and occupations still occurs with respect to gender, caste, ethnicity, national origin, citizenship, disability, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, and HIV-positive status.  Victims of exploitation, especially women, face stigmatization in Nepal’s conservative, patriarchal society.

And that’s where Purnaa comes in.  Many of Purnaa’s staff come from marginalized backgrounds.  These include victims of human trafficking, bonded labor survivors, and people who have suffered from abuse and discrimination relating to caste, gender, religion, or disease.  By employing people from these backgrounds, Purnaa gives them opportunities for independent and healthy lives that might not otherwise be available in the social context here in Nepal.

So let me end here by congratulating Purnaa’s founders, Katrina and Corban Bryant, for their vision and their dedication to empower marginalized people and the survivors of exploitation right here in Nepal.  You exemplify the undeniable value that American companies can bring to Nepali communities.  So thank you and, Corban, over to you.

MR BRYANT:  Thank you, Ambassador Berry.  Secretary Blinken, Under Secretary Fernandez, and Senior Bureau Official Murray, fellow award-winners and friends, I’m delighted and honored to receive this award on behalf of the many dedicated people who work at Purnaa.  I am also very humbled that our company is included among the other distinguished recipients.  Congratulations to you all.  Seeing your good work motivates us to keep striving for excellence in the future.

Eight years ago, we founded Purnaa, a sewing factory in Nepal, believing that business can empower marginalized people to better lives.  Good jobs make it possible for survivors of exploitation and discrimination to exit abusive situations and to break generational poverty cycles.  At Purnaa, our employees are at the center of our mission.  They are also the driving force in our efforts to grow and offer more opportunities to people in need.

Purnaa staff, you all should be very proud today.  You demonstrate the best of Nepal with your commitment to your communities and your dedication to eradicating discrimination of all kinds.  I want to thank each one of you, past and present, for your outstanding contributions, which are making fresh starts and fulfilled lives possible for survivors here in Nepal.  I also know that many of you have made personal sacrifices to pursue this mission with us.  You all are my heroes, and I’m very proud to work with you.

To all our family, friends, community, and other organizations that share this social mission, thank you for your support for Purnaa.  We could not do this without great partners along the way.

I also want to thank our committed customers.  To the dozens of companies that trust us to make their beautiful products, I want to say thank you for taking a risk on manufacturing with a small social enterprise in Nepal and for prioritizing ethical and fair trade manufacturing in your brands.

Finally, I want to say a big thank you to the State Department for this award, especially thanking the staff at the U.S. embassy who nominated us and who demonstrate their commitment to economic development in Nepal every day.  We are so grateful and amazed to receive this award and we look forward to continuing to create opportunities for marginalized people through job creation at Purnaa.

Thank you.

MR MURRAY:  Thank you very much and congratulations.

It’s now my pleasure to introduce the winning multinational company in the economic inclusion category, Mastercard India.

You’ll hear in a minute from chargé d’affaires of the U.S. mission to India, Patricia Lacina, about Mastercard’s extraordinary work to increase Indian women’s access to markets and credit.

But first, here are some truly remarkable photographs from Mastercard’s many community programs.

(A video was played.)

MS LACINA:  We at U.S. Mission India are proud and excited that Mastercard is being honored with the Secretary’s Award for Corporate Excellence.  From empowering women entrepreneurs and small business owners with the skills to prosper, to developing specialized platforms to expand farmers market access, to creating solutions for smarter and more inclusive cities, Mastercard has significantly contributed to expanding economic inclusion in India.

Mastercard is forging new partnerships across sectors to better connect India’s micro, small, and medium enterprises; women entrepreneurs; and farmers to the critical networks that power the digital economy.  For example, Mastercard provides over 8 million acceptance points, or rails, including stores, ATMs, and service centers, where a digital payment can be accepted and processed in India using the company’s technology.

In 2020, the company committed $33 million to strengthen Indian micro, small, and medium enterprises, and set them on the path to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.  And in collaboration with USAID this year, Mastercard brokered an alliance providing tailored products and training to enable 100,000 micro merchants in India to succeed in the digital economy.

By cost-sharing with the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, DFC, Mastercard mobilized a $100 million credit facility in 2021 dedicated to helping Indian small businesses digitize.

In addition, to improve women’s financial access and unlock the economic power of women, Mastercard launched a program with USAID to help women shopkeepers expand their inventory, improve their margins, and strengthen their operations by addressing the cultural barriers that discourage and devalue women’s entrepreneurship.

Now I am honored to turn the floor over to Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach, and congratulate him and his company for their great work in India, which has made a lasting impact and helped women and small business owners, farmers, and millions of individuals gain access to scalable and trusted solutions for the exchange of payments and data.

MR MIEBACH:  Thank you, Chargé d’Affaires Lacina, Secretary Blinken, and Senior Bureau Official Murray.  It’s an honor to accept this award for our economic inclusion work in India.  Now truth be told, we share this award.  We share it with our partners across the State Department and U.S. Government, as well as non-profits and private companies in India, throughout Asia Pacific, and even beyond.  This award belongs to all of them.

Of course, a special thank you to our employees.  They kept pushing forward during a time of exceptional crisis, especially in India.  Thank you for your work to rebuild a more inclusive and sustainable economy both in India and around the world.

Now, small businesses are the beating heart of all economies – the core of the communities, as the Secretary said earlier.  India has over 63 million small businesses, employing 110 million people.  They contribute over 35 percent of India’s GDP.  Collectively, that’s not small business; in fact, that’s very big business.

When we support these entrepreneurs, we’re helping economies grow by giving more people digital tools to save and send money.  We’re expanding opportunities to all people.  That’s the right thing to do.  And when people thrive, Mastercard also thrives.  That’s why we do this work.

Now let me share with you some of the headlines from that work.  Mastercard has invested over $1 billion in the past five years to grow our workforce and capabilities in India.  We’ve committed another billion dollars over the next five years.  We’ve created new partnerships across sectors to help small businesses, women entrepreneurs, and farmers to tap into the digital economy.

In October, we teamed up with HDFC Bank in India and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation to launch a $100 million credit facility to help small businesses go digital.  We added to that work this month with another partnership to bring 100,000 micro merchants into the digital economy.  We’ve also grown Project Kirana, an initiative to give small shop owners access to digital payments and short-term credit.  It helps them build credit worthiness and more easily stock their shelves without having to rely on cash alone.

There’s still a lot of need in India; there’s so much work to do.  But for what we’ve been able to achieve so far, it’s a very great honor to be recognized for this work.  It’s an affirmation that we’re on the right track and that we should keep going.  And I assure you that’s exactly what we’re going to do.  Thank you.

MR MURRAY:  Thank you very much, and congratulations.

The next ACE Award recipients we’re going to hear from are in the category of health security, which of course has been much – very much on our minds as we grapple with a global pandemic.  This category recognizes a company’s contributions to increasing the security or resilient supply of goods and services critical to health security through its strategies and operational practices.

The 2021 winner in the small and medium enterprise category is Zipline Ghana.  Zipline has displayed extraordinary innovation in manufacturing and operating fixed-wing drones to deliver perishable medical supplies, including COVID-19 vaccines, to people far from distribution centers.  So let’s watch a short montage of Zipline’s work, and then we’ll turn it over to U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Stephanie Sullivan.

(A video was played.)

AMBASSADOR SULLIVAN:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary, Mr. Under Secretary, and Senior Bureau Official Murray.  Greetings from Accra, Ghana.  I’m joined today by Zipline Senior Vice President for Africa Daniel Marfo.  I’m really thrilled to be here to celebrate the success of Zipline in Ghana.  Zipline landed in Ghana in early 2019 with the goal of connecting people to the medical supply chain regardless of their geography.  That’s also when I first met Daniel Marfo.  We toured Zipline’s first distribution center and he shared Zipline’s vision.

I can say that Zipline has really delivered.  Today they have four distribution centers, making Ghana home to the world’s largest fleet of medical delivery drones.  Using its fleet of drones, Zipline can deliver up to four pounds of medical supplies to remote clinics up to 50 miles away in a matter of minutes.  I’ve been at a remote health facility when such supplies were efficiently delivered.

This has been a real game-changer for Ghanaians.  Zipline’s logistics network made it a critical element of Ghana’s COVID-19 response.  In the last two years, the company delivered over a quarter million COVID-19 vaccine doses, personal protective equipment, and COVID-19 test kits to remote locations throughout the country.  Zipline also innovatively delivered samples taken in rural areas to testing locations in urban facilities.  More than a quarter million COVID-19 vaccine doses have parachuted down from drones to rural clinics otherwise beyond the reach of traditional cold supply chains.  And those are only a fraction of the nearly half a million deliveries of life-saving medical products like blood, snake antivenom, and vaccines Zipline has delivered in Ghana in only two years.

Congratulations again to Zipline on this momentous achievement.  We wish you many more years of success in Ghana and beyond.

Over to you, Daniel.

MR MARFO:  Thank you very much, Ambassador Sullivan.  It’s a – Mr. Secretary, Under Secretary, Senior Bureau Official Murray, it’s a pleasure today to receive this award on behalf of Zipline.  I must say that it’s truly an honor to be recognized for the work that we’ve been doing selflessly over the last two years.  When the pandemic did hit in 20 – late 2018, for us, we were really concerned about what would happen in the health care space.  There was a lot that, because of social distancing, people couldn’t do anymore.  We had to – countries just had to decide on what needed to be handed over to health care workers, especially in rural areas.

Vaccine programs that had been in place for decades which were meant to eradicate certain diseases was hugely under threat.  And the delivery of vital medical supplies and PPEs was also under threat, especially to rural areas.  But over that period, what has happened has been truly remarkable.  The team at Zipline and especially the local partners and people we work with in Ghana dug deep, and over that period we have delivered over five million routine vaccines to children, and ensuring that decades-old vaccination programs were kept without breaking them.

Over the same period, we have delivered over 300,000 COVID-19 vaccines, and I am super proud of the fact that we have the first validated system to deliver ultra-cold chain vaccines from Pfizer anywhere in the world.  For us, this has been a game-changer, and over the last two weeks, one out of every four COVID vaccine doses that has been put into someone’s arms in Ghana was delivered by a drone.

I want to really go on to thank our country manager Naa, the team at Zipline in the United States, who worked day and night to ensure that we have the most reliable drones which are also working towards zero-carbon emissions to be able to really do this work here.  And I want to thank the embassy in Ghana for nominating Zipline for this award, and our dedication and commitment is we’ll continue to do this for many, many years to come.  Thank you.

MR MURRAY:  Thank you, and congratulations again.  And I’m delighted now to turn to the winning multinational company in the health security category, 3M Singapore.  3M has played a critical role in supplying critical personal protective equipment, including N-95 respirators and the equivalent, to the entire Asia-Pacific region throughout the pandemic.  This has supported the public health and government response to COVID-19.

So after a visual tour of 3M’s work, we’ll hear from Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Singapore Rafik Mansour.

(A video was played.)

MR MANSOUR:  Mr. Secretary, Mr. Under Secretary, SBO Murray, greetings from Singapore.  It’s a pleasure to be here with you today to celebrate corporate excellence and recognize a legendary U.S. company whose innovations and dedication to improving lives have been making a difference in the United States, Singapore, and around the world for more than a century.

In 2020, 3M Singapore found itself at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in Southeast Asia and astutely predicted the challenges the virus would present.  In early January 2020, 3M Singapore began ramping up production of N-95 respirators and other products critical for health care workers.  Throughout the pandemic, 3M has worked closely with U.S. Embassy Singapore, the Singaporean Government, and other Southeast Asian governments to assist first responders with training and professional support.  3M also worked extensively with logistics companies and governments to ensure supply chain resiliency for its many key products, ultimately saving countless lives.

As 2021 marks 55 years of diplomatic relations between the United States and Singapore, we are continually grateful to our Singaporean friends for being such gracious hosts to the 5,400 American companies registered here.  The Vice President’s recent visit highlights our strong partnership and shared values, which bring economic growth, safety, security, and prosperity to both of our countries.

With that, I would like to turn it over to Mr. Kevin McGuigan, vice president and managing director, Southeast Asia and country leader, 3M Singapore.  Thank you.

MR MCGUIGAN:  Secretary Blinken, Deputy Chief of Mission Mansour, on behalf of 3M Singapore, it is my honor to humbly accept this prestigious award which truly recognizes the effort that our employees have put forward.  And let me be clear that this is an award that is going directly to our employees for their unwavering commitment to improving lives through science.

3M’s journey in Singapore started in 1966.  We started with eight employees, and today I’m proud to say that we have over 1,800 employees, and we have three separate facilities.  They include two state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities as well as an R&D center that is used to drive new product innovation across Asia and around the world.

As a science company, 3M takes great pride in working to help support public health as well as the government.  As we continue to fight the pandemic, we are focused on areas such as health security and also making sure that we have a resilient supply chain.  And I can promise you that we will continue deploying our technology, our products, as well as our solutions to make sure that we do everything we can to protect health care workers that are on the front line each and every day.

I’d also like to offer my thanks to the U.S. embassy for their support of not only 3M, but other companies from the U.S.  They have done an exemplary job of offering their help and support along the way, and I can tell you I am very excited to continue this collaboration under the leadership of Ambassador Kaplan.

I’d also like to offer my sincere thanks to the Singapore Government for their partnership and their support throughout the entire pandemic.  Furthermore, I would like to offer my sincere thanks to our employees, our customers, and our partners.  The stakeholders that I have just mentioned helped us to make an even bigger difference out in the community.

So with that, I want to again say thank you.  This is a tremendous honor, and it will serve as great encouragement for all of our employees to continue their relentless effort in making a difference.

With that, it is my pleasure to announce our Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Office Mr. Mike Roman.

MR ROMAN:  Thank you, Kevin.  And thank you, Secretary Blinken and Mr. Mansour, for this distinguished honor.  3M’s response throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been guided by our purpose and shaped by three priorities: protecting employees, fighting the pandemic from every angle, and delivering for our stakeholders.  Everything we have done, from scaling up to produce more than 2.5 billion respirators annually to helping speed vaccine development, to helping economies reopen, is a testament to the dedication and resilience of our people.

I am proud of how 3Mers everywhere have stepped up to lead, especially here in Singapore.  This nation is a vital market for 3M.  We greatly value the partnerships we have developed here and the impact we have made together during the pandemic and over the last five decades.

I congratulate our Singapore team on this special recognition.  Going forward, we will continue to do what 3M does best: apply science to improve lives in Singapore, in the United States, and around the world.  Thank you again.

MR MURRAY:  Well, thank you, and congratulations to 3M Singapore.  Our final ACE category for which we’ll meet the winners this morning is one of our most pressing issues, climate innovation, which Secretary Blinken earlier described as front and center on our diplomatic agenda.

This category recognizes a company’s commitment to using methods, investments, and approaches to provide breakthrough solutions to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapting the effects of climate change.

The 2021 winner in the small and medium enterprise category, Australis Aquaculture, has not only pioneered climate-smart ocean farming in Vietnam’s marine tropics, but is also cultivating a novel seaweed species with the potential to remove methane emissions from cattle when included in their diet.  Please join me in viewing a short video of the company’s exciting work, and then we’ll here from Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Mission to Vietnam Marie Damour.

(A video was played.)

MS DAMOUR:  (In Vietnamese.)  Good evening, everyone.  Secretary Blinken, Under Secretary Fernandez, SBO Murray, colleagues and friends, greetings from Hanoi, Vietnam.  It is my great pleasure to introduce Australis Aquaculture, a company that has pioneered climate-smart ocean farming in the marine tropics here in Central Vietnam and grown to be the world’s largest producer of barramundi, a fish with important health and sustainable benefits.

The combination of ocean overfishing and climate change pose accelerating risks to our global food supply and to marine economies around the world.  Through its innovative approach to fish farming and processing, Australis has developed a new model for large scale ocean aquaculture in the marine tropics that creates economic benefits for workers and coastal communities, enhances global food security, protects wild fisheries, and builds climate resilience.

Australis has followed a science-based approach to ocean aquaculture that produces clean, traceable, and healthy fish without reliance on antibiotics or chemicals.  The company has achieved this through the development of world class husbandry techniques, specialized fish vaccines and feed formulations, and the application of technology to scale its operations in a highly sustainable manner.

Australis has relied on local workers at all levels to support its growth, expanding economic opportunities in the beautiful coastal region of Vietnam through its competitive wages, gender equity, and safe working conditions.

Earlier this year, the company achieved fair trade certification, Asia’s first and only aquaculture fin fish producer to do so.  To complement its sustainable fish production, Australis is also tackling climate change through greener grazing, an ambitious one-of-a-kind initiative to cultivate a novel seaweed species with the potential to virtually eliminate enteric methane emissions from livestock when included in their diet.  Methane released from livestock is responsible for almost four and a half gigatons of CO2 equivalent every year.  Therefore, if successful, greener grazing could dramatically reduce methane emissions from the world’s two billion cattle – one of the single most effective strategies to reduce global warming in the near term and support COP26 goals to limit global warming to one and a half degrees Celsius.

I’d now like to introduce Josh Goldman, CEO of Australis Aquaculture.  Josh, over to you.

MR GOLDMAN:  Thank you so much, Marie, and thank you, Secretary Blinken and State Department staff.  It is truly an honor to accept this award on behalf of Australis Aquaculture, and we are tremendously proud to have our efforts to bring a new model of sustainable aquaculture to the marine tropics recognized by the U.S. Government.  And we also wish to express our deep appreciation to the Government of Vietnam and Khánh Hòa Province for their abiding support of our vision for climate-smart aquaculture.

The oceans provide nearly one-fifth of human protein needs, and seafoods can have compelling sustainability and health benefits.  They’re a critical source of essential fatty acids and often have a much lower carbon footprint than land-animal proteins.  So they should, ideally, contribute a larger share of global diets.  But yet, overfishing and climate change are placing ocean ecosystems and the vital sources of food they provide at grave risk.  The oceans have absorbed fully 90 percent of the excess heat associated with climate change, and tropical capture fisheries are expected to suffer some of the greatest impacts, declining by as much as 40 percent by 2050 due to climate change.

So it is therefore essential to the human future that we develop and scale better ways to cultivate the ocean’s abundance.  Tropical marine aquaculture represents one of the largest untapped opportunities for sustainable food production.  Our efforts to forge a new model of tropical ocean farming and integrated cultivation of barramundi and seaweeds can be one of many examples that support a more stable, healthy, and prosperous future.

Thank you again for this recognition.  We truly appreciate it.

MR MURRAY:  Thank you, and congratulations.

And for our final awardee today, we’re going to go from Vietnam to Argentina, and we’ll recognize our multinational company winner in the climate innovation category, Patagonia Argentina.  Patagonia, known for its outdoor apparel, is a leader in environmental stewardship through its community engagement and initiatives that strengthen legal and environmental frameworks.  So after a short photo montage, we’ll hear from Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires MaryKay Carlson.

(A video was played.)

MS CARLSON:  Thank you, Secretary Blinken, and congratulations to Patagonia on this achievement.  I also want to thank the Patagonia Argentina representatives who are joining me here today.

Patagonia Argentina markets sustainable outdoor apparel.  The company started operating in Argentina in 2005, and, like its U.S.-based parent company, it prioritizes social and environmental issues at the core of its business model.  Patagonia’s attention to lowering its environmental impact makes it a pioneer not only in sustainable fashion, but also in corporate social responsibility.  Patagonia understands the consequences of climate change and is using its resources, business acumen, investments, and innovation to act.

The Patagonia team in Argentina works closely with local Argentine activists on climate issues.  Through site visits, trainings, and financial assistance, the company partners with grassroots organizers to protect biodiversity, raise awareness about salmon farming, and advocate for environmental preservation.  For example, through its Save the Beagle Channel initiative, Patagonia Argentina raised awareness about the importance of protecting wild habitats in the biodiverse region at the southern tip of Argentina and Chile.  Patagonia’s business model exemplifies American values and demonstrates international best practices of corporate social responsibility by extending its mission beyond the bottom lines to the achievement of shared prosperity and sustainability.

I am honored to join you today to recognize Patagonia with this Award for Corporate Excellence.

Now I would like to turn it over to Patagonia’s country manager for Argentina, Agustin Fox.

MR FOX:  Thank you very much, MaryKay.  Thank you very much, Mr. Blinken.  It’s an honor to receive this award.  And I would also like to thank the people in the embassy of the United – here in Argentina and our team all over the country.

In Patagonia, our mission is very simple.  We are in business to save our home planet, and I am very proud to introduce our CEO in Ventura, California, Mr. Ryan Gellert.

MR GELLERT:  Thank you very much, Secretary Blinken.  Thank you very much, Chargé d’Affaires Carlson.  And Oggy, Agustin, it’s good to see that you own a suit.  I wasn’t sure.  So it’s an honor to join all of you today here and to join all the other ACE winners to accept this award on behalf of Patagonia, truly, and so thank you all so much.

As Oggy mentioned, we’re in business to save our home planet.  That’s why we exist.  And so we know that we’ve got a responsibility to slow the climate and ecological crisis because our company and every one of the communities that we exist to serve are impacted by it every day, and every bit of our business contributes to it.  And so it’s our hope that the work that we’re doing in Argentina, led by our team, to protect 800,000 acres of land, 200,000 acres of sea, to ban fish farms in Argentina, and to change consumption habits can be replicated around the world.

We’re establishing a – Europe’s first wild river national park on the Vjosa River in Albania right now.  We’re working to expand marine protected areas in Australia.  And we’re working to protect old-growth forests in Alaska.  So that’s the work that we do, that’s the work we’ve always done, and that’s the work that we’ll continue to do.

We urge other business leaders to heed the call of Secretary Blinken and the warning about the climate crisis and the need to commit not only to reducing your carbon footprint, but also to driving systemic change collectively from the business sector.  This award is proof that local communities, nonprofits, businesses, and government leaders can work together for the common good and extraordinary outcomes can come from that.

So on behalf of all of us around the world with Patagonia, a huge, huge thanks to our team down in Argentina for the leadership on this.  Thank you so much.

MR MURRAY:  Well, thank you, and congratulations.

And a hearty congratulations to all of our winners who we’ve recognized today.  We’re very proud at the State Department to recognize the outstanding work of these U.S. companies, which demonstrates a commitment to the highest environmental, labor, human rights, and other standards.  And it’s a real honor for myself and for our team in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs to be involved in this ceremony every year.

I’d also add that not only is it tremendous to see the work that’s being done by private companies, but it’s inspiring to see the close collaboration between these companies and our embassies and our consulates in the field.  And I really would be remiss if I did not take advantage of this opportunity to thank our teams in the field for the tremendous work they do every day to advance our economic policy agenda.

So to wrap up the 2021 ACE Awards, it’s my great pleasure to turn now to Jose Fernandez, the State Department’s under secretary for economic growth, energy, and the environment, for closing remarks.

Under Secretary Fernandez, over to you.

UNDER SECRETARY FERNANDEZ:  Thank you, Matt.  What an honor to hear about these exemplary American companies.  It’s – frankly, it’s one of the best parts of this job, and it’s thrilling, and it’s inspiring to hear about your accomplishments.

From Accra to Buenos Aires to Hanoi, all of you are helping solve some of our most pressing global challenges and making a real difference in the communities where you do business.  Tonight’s winners demonstrate that business can indeed engage in the race to the top and prove the old adage that you can do well by doing good.

While we congratulate tonight’s winners for their excellent work and example, I’m proud to say that you’re not alone.  Around the world, U.S. companies are recognized as global leaders in advancing shared values, serving as ambassadors for positive change.  And at the State Department and across the U.S. Government, we encourage and support all American business to operate with the higher standards.

As the Secretary mentioned a few minutes ago, in 2014 we began the process of creating a National Action Plan for Responsible Business Conduct.  This is based on the idea that governments can and should create the conditions for promoting fair play, the rule of law, and high standards for global commerce in line with our democratic values.

We’re now beginning to update and revitalize this U.S. national action plan to further advance the business-society relationship.  And our goals include supporting a foreign policy that benefits all Americans by ensuring workers’ rights, protecting the environment, combating the climate crisis, promoting deployment of technology that respects individual rights, and helping U.S. businesses serve as credible and persuasive voices in promoting respect for human rights in the communities that they serve.

When American companies act responsibly, consumers and governments and – around the world seek U.S. products, services, and investments which in turn grows our economy and provides tangible benefits to American workers.

Updating and revitalizing the national action plan is not the only way that the U.S. is a global leader in promoting high-standard practices and high-standard norms.  I’m happy to report that the U.S. will co-chair next year a responsible business conduct ministerial at the OECD near the end of the year, because U.S. leadership at the ministerial will underscore the importance of high standards on responsible business conduct, showcase the high-quality way of doing business practiced by U.S. companies, and advance a right-respecting, enabling environment for businesses operating abroad.

The U.S. commitment to high business standards also drives another one of our initiatives: the Build Back Better World, or B3W, initiative.  It’s an initiative that President Biden and G7 leaders announced at the June G7 summit, and through B3W, the U.S. and likeminded partners are coordinating to mobilize investment that will help countries meet the infrastructure needs of the 21st century with a focus on climate, on health, and on digital connectivity and gender equity and equality.

This includes a major – a major – role for the private sector for a number of you on the screen, alongside development finance institutions and multilateral organizations, in order to create a values-driven, high-standard, and transparent infrastructure partnership for the developing world.

Finally, it’s important to acknowledge the critical role of the private sector in partnering directly with the U.S. Government to advance U.S. interests around the world.  Here at the Department of State, our Office of Global Partnership regularly works with American businesses to advance top foreign policy priorities.  This is an approach that’s allowed us to work with more than 1,600 partners and mobilize more than $3.7 billion in public and private sector resource commitments that have enhanced U.S. diplomacy and development outcomes.

Most recently, a couple of months ago in 2021, these efforts included the establishment of the Welcome.US campaign to help at-risk and vulnerable Afghans resettle in the U.S.  U.S. businesses have committed millions of dollars in financial and in-kind contributions to help this community access safe housing, legal assistance, medical services, food, and clothing, and I can’t tell you how proud we are of the work that they are continuing to do.

These are just a few examples of the many ways that the State Department supports responsible business conduct and helps promote investment that is not only economically viable, but it’s also consistent with the environment, with human rights, and with other high standards that all of you on the screen hold dear.

So businesses like the six outstanding winners today show that respecting these standards is not just the right thing to do, but it’s also the smart thing to do.

So today I join the Secretary, I join our ambassadors, and our chargés in congratulating each of our 2021 ACE winners.  We look forward to following your continued success and positive contributions to the communities where you work, and we thank you for the opportunity to recognize your extraordinary achievements.  Many thanks.

MR MURRAY:  Well, thank you, Under Secretary Fernandez, and congratulations again to all of our winners.  While it’s a Zoom call and it’s sometimes difficult to appreciate the corporate nature of this on a Zoom call, I would just ask that you would join me in a round of applause for all of our winners today.  (Applause.)

So great, thank you so much, congratulations, and this concludes our ceremony.

More from: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
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