By Christian Bonadio
The 2022 Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE)—organized by the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs’ Office of Commercial and Business Affairs—honored a seafood provider in Bali, an international clothing icon, an innovative drinking water company in Dhaka, and a multinational technology company, Dec. 9, 2022. ACE honors and highlights American companies committed to responsible business practices that create positive impacts in the communities in which they operate. Since 1999, ACE has been awarded to companies in various categories, such as Economic Inclusion, Women’s Economic Empowerment, Health Security, and Sustainable Operations. Companies are nominated by U.S. chiefs of mission, illustrating positive partnerships between U.S. diplomatic missions and American firms overseas. The award also highlights how U.S. companies are a force for good, acting as ambassadors for American values and fair business practices.
Winning companies are honored during a formal ceremony that includes leaders from across the public and private sectors, and members of civil society. The event creates an opportunity for the public to learn about these companies, recognize their efforts, and demonstrate how the government can partner with businesses to achieve shared goals. Speakers at the ceremony included Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose Fernandez, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Ramin Toloui, U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica Cynthia Telles, and senior executives of each of the winning companies.
Last year’s ACE ceremony continued the tradition of spotlighting American companies leading through innovation, ingenuity, and positive example in order to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges. The Responsible Business Operations category recognizes companies that exemplify American values abroad, such as human rights, democracy, and ethical sourcing. The Climate Resilience category stresses the importance of adapting to the impacts of climate change at the business and community level, as well as climate sustainable operations to reduce further contributions to climate change. Finally, the Inclusive Economic Growth category concentrates on efforts of sustainable development, economic equity, and increased opportunity for under-served populations.
Last year’s ACE winners demonstrate how U.S. businesses across diverse industries and regions are committed to the values of corporate responsibility, sustainability, equal opportunity, and democracy.
In the category of Responsible Business Operations there were two winners: Anova Technical Services, LLC, nominated by the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya, and Gap Inc., nominated by the U.S. Consulate General in Chennai. Anova is a small-sized enterprise in Bali supplyingfully traceable and sustainable seafood to grocery stores and restaurants across the United States. Anova is also the first organization to achieve the Fair-Trade USA Seafood Certification, which ensures that the highest ethical standards of supply chain management and labor rights are adhered to. Gap Inc., a multinational clothing company, worked in India to adequately train employees and prevent gender-based violence in their factories, a program boasting more than 100,000 participants. The company also acted to address supplier payroll shortfalls during the COVID-19 pandemic. When their suppliers were unable to pay their employees, Gap Inc. stepped in and negotiated payment of wages their suppliers owed to those employees, helping to protect the most vulnerable from the economic impacts of the pandemic.
The recipient of the 2022 ACE award in the Climate Resilience category was Drinkwell, a medium-sized enterprise based in Bangladesh, nominated by Embassy Dhaka. Drinkwell uses innovative technologies to provide clean and affordable water to thousands of people, all while greatly reducing energy usage compared to alternative methods of water purification. By partnering with the local government, Drinkwell has successfully expanded its operations and provided water to more than four million residents of Dhaka since operations began.
Finally, the winner of the award for Inclusive Economic Growth was the multinational technology corporation Intel. Intel, nominated by Embassy San José, has developed a successful “Skills 4 Life” program in Costa Rica, which gives underserved populations the tools they need and opportunities to become employable in the rapidly growing technology sector.
These four American companies, along with the 62 other ACE winning companies throughout the years, exemplify corporate excellence and set an excellent example for other companies to follow.
The 2022 ACE ceremony was the first to be held in-person since the COVID-19 pandemic began; it followed tradition by being held in the historic Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room in the Harry S Truman Building in Washington. During his opening remarks, Fernandez explained that Benjamin Franklin was not only one of America’s founding fathers, but also a successful businessman who was deeply committed to the communities in which he did business. Franklin funded loans for apprentices to start businesses of their own, donating a significant amount of his personal wealth to the cities of Boston and Philadelphia after his death. This small anecdote highlighted what may be one of the first examples of American corporate excellence. Today, American businesses are upholding Franklin’s legacy by creating a positive impact for the communities in which they operate—at home and around the globe.
Planning is already underway for the 2023 Award for Corporate Excellence, and nominations for this year’s winners will open in the spring. More information about the 2022 Award for Corporate Excellence, including a recording of the ceremony can be found online.
Christian Bonadio is the 2022-2023 Virtual Student Federal Service communications intern in the Office of Commercial and Business Affairs.