Author Christine Bader On Corporate Idealism

Aug 8, 2014

When an oil rig explodes, a factory building collapses, or a water supply is tainted, the finger pointing often starts and stops with the multinational corporation behind the operation.

In recent years, big business has been implicated in a plethora of scandals and accidents that have cost lives and damaged the environment. We tend to think of these corporations as monolithic entities that march in lockstep and have singular goals, but as today’s guest points out, that’s hardly the case.  

In every major company are women and men who are pushing hard for more responsible practices – and while their work often is invisible, it is making a difference.

In a new book, titled "The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil," Christine Bader recounts her nine years working for the energy giant BP, as well as her subsequent work at the United Nations.

Bader had left BP by the time a company oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, killing 11 workers and causing the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

But the disaster still sent her reeling as she wondered if she had severely misjudged the company she had loved working for.

In her book, Bader explores the challenges facing so-called "Corporate Idealists" such as herself, weaving in the stories of like-minded colleagues at other companies to present an insider’s view of how social responsibility is practiced in today’s corporate cultures.

Christine Bader is a lecturer and visiting scholar at Columbia University and an adviser to BSR, the global business network focused on sustainability. She joins us by phone from New York for this interview.

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