In Wake of General Motors (GM) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Scandals, Companies Gathered to Discuss Building Trust

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The Conference Board and The Consortium for Trustworthy Organizations at Fordham University Hosted Two-Day Forum on Building and Promoting Trust

The Conference Board and the Consortium for Trustworthy Organizations (CFTO) at Fordham University recently held a two-day forum on Building a Trustworthy Organization in New York on June 18 and 19 where representatives from TIAA-CREF, Lockheed Martin, IBM, Panalpina, Sysco, FINRA, General Electric (GE), Edelman, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation and AECOM among others discussed how companies can become more trustworthy.

These stakeholders came together as reports appeared that GM whistleblowers who had raised issues about faulty ignition switches were silenced (Bloomberg Businessweek, June 18, 2014, and the VA’s acting Secretary Sloan Gibson announced that the real wait time for veterans seeking medical care was more than twice what they had previously reported (U.S. News/AP, June 18, 2014,

Companies like GE discussed how they employ hundreds of people worldwide to specifically handle employee ethics concerns while also making those concerns transparent by showing which concerns were validated and what appropriate actions were taken. GE also shared how they train their leaders to proactively shape the culture of their business and ensure that GE’s compliance culture is upheld. Al Rosa, Chief Compliance Director and Senior Executive Counsel at GE explained, “Our people know that integrity and doing the right thing are in their self-interest because that is what their leaders expect and recognize.”

Some of the companies at the conference shared their anti-retaliation programs where they follow the careers of whistleblowers for a period of time to ensure their growth is not stunted by coming forward and doing the right thing.

IBM shared how their Trust and Compliance group helps to embed trustworthiness in the company culture by conducting training and meetings with local management in the over 150 countries in which they operate.

Other key takeaways on building trustworthy companies included creating strong cultural norms that reinforce going beyond the law to do what is right, the active pursuit of excellence and being open and transparent in communicating. Attendees also learned that leaders set the tone and establish the culture, but real trust comes only when all leaders in the company reinforce ethical behavior.

One additional point was how regulation is critical to getting an entire industry to focus on doing what is right. Sometimes trust violations by bad companies lead to more regulations and less safety (less common sense, more confusion and compliance rather than doing the right thing). Restoring trust requires more effective regulation.

There soon may be more headlines about another organization violating the public's trust, but some companies are hard at work learning how to build trust in large complex organizations. As Dr. Robert Hurley, the Director of CFTO at Fordham University stated, “The best employees want to work in companies they can believe in. Trustworthy companies do exist and we know how to build them. It takes time and a lot of work but the companies that have trustworthy leaders and processes will increasingly gain a competitive advantage in a world where the headlines seem to make us more skeptical each day.”

The Conference Board and Consortium for Trustworthy Organizations at Fordham University ended the forum by extending an invite to General Motors (GM) CEO Mary Barra to share the ways she is revamping the company’s corporate culture to make the concept of trust an integral part of GM’s day-to-day operations.

For more information on the Forum and the Consortium for Trustworthy Organizations at Fordham University, please visit For more information on the Conference Board, please visit

About the Consortium for Trustworthy Organizations
The Consortium for Trustworthy Organizations was created at Fordham University in 2011 to help expand the number of organizations that can legitimately be called trustworthy because they consistently demonstrate the values, practices, and processes that warrant stakeholder trust.

About the Conference Board
Founded in 1916, the Conference Board is a global, independent business membership and research association working in the public interest that provides the world's leading organizations with the practical knowledge they need to improve their performance and better serve society.

About Fordham University
Founded in 1841, Fordham is the Jesuit University of New York, offering exceptional education distinguished by the Jesuit tradition to more than 15,100 students in its four undergraduate colleges and its six graduate and professional schools. It has residential campuses in the Bronx and Manhattan, a campus in West Harrison, N.Y., the Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y., and the London Centre at Heythrop College, University of London, in the United Kingdom.

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Joshua Knoller
Nicholas & Lence Communications
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