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Responsible business practices lead to success, economic analyst tells group

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By Sandy Barnes

 “I’m actually hopeful about the future,” economic analyst Laurie Bassi said while speaking to the Judaism in the Foothills group Friday evening.

Bassi was discussing the premise of a book she co-authored called “Good Company,” which focuses on ethical practices of corporations.

“It actually does pay to be good,” Bassi said. “We see a convergence of forces that are actually forcing companies to become good companies.”

Readily accessed information through communication technology is also playing a role in corporate accountability, she said. 

“We live in an increasingly transparent world,” Bassi said. “Companies are forced to deal with bad behavior.”

Chinese employees who were working in substandard conditions made videos of their circumstances, Bassi said. 

“There’s a definite movement in the right direction,” she said. “We have all this power now that is granted to you in technology.”

In “Good Company,” Bassi and other authors grade companies according to how well they treat employees, their stewardship and ability to sell.

“We did something bold and assigned a grade to Fortune 100 companies,” she said. 

The result was that only two of them received an A rating, Bassi noted.

Rating companies in this manner is also a good way to beat the stock market, she noted.

When asked which two companies received A’s, Bassi said the initial ones were Walt Disney and FedEx. Disney has dropped in its rating in the past two years because of a decline in its stewardship, she said.

When discussing the definition of a good employer, Bassi said it is one who is caring, exacting and inspiring. In this regard, Google has a high rating, she said.

“Google is an inspiring place to work. It is a very caring place to work. But it is also an exacting firm.”

Investing in firms that invest in their people has its payback, she said. 

‘The CEO must make these investments in people.”

Wall Street rewards the practice in the long run, while punishing in the short run, she remarked.

Bassi also discussed how Walmart fits into the equation. While saying that she does not like the company’s practices from an employee perspective, it does have positive aspects.

“On the stewardship front, environmentally they are making incredible changes, doing astonishing things,” Bassi said. “They are good to their customers but not to their vendors. It’s a mixed bag.”

While talking about socially responsible investing, Bassi said that is a rapidly growing minority in the market.

“The SRI is a charm that is evolving,” she said. “I think we need to update the concept.”

“My mission is to change firms for the better,” said Bassi, who is CEO of a consulting firm that specializes in human capital analytics. She is also an investment adviser, using principles described in “Good Company.”

Bassi has served as director of research for Saba Software, vice president at the American Society for Training and Development, a staff director of two U.S. government commissions and as a co-chair of the Board on Testing and Assessment at the National Academy of Sciences. The early years of her career were spent as a tenured professor of economics and public policy at Georgetown University. 

She has authored more than 80 published papers and has given talks throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. Bassi holds a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University.

Her presentation was part of the Friday night Shabbat and dinner series “9 Lectures on 9 Topics” offered by JITF, a Jewish cultural and outreach center serving Evergreen and surrounding communities.

 

Contact reporter Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042.