BSR 2013: In Conversation with Honest Tea

Catie Caborn

Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2013: The Power of Networks. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference here on this blog.

On the second day of the BSR 2013 Conference, I participated in a session featuring Seth Goldman, co-founder, President and “TeaEO” of Honest Tea, a Bethesda-based company with a “Mission in a Bottle.”

The company was initially started by Goldman and one of his business school professors, Barry Nalebuff, to fill the gap between the zero-calorie and the 100-calorie, sugar-laden drinks on the market. To that end, they created Honest Tea, with 20 calories.

Over the course of 15 years, the company has grown from a single niche product to offer beverages in five product lines – including a lower-calorie beverage for children. Since 1997, the brand has offered the first organic and Fair Trade-certified bottled tea, eliminated billions of calories from the American diet, supported the growth of organic agriculture around the globe, and promoted fair trade labor standards in the developing world.

But what’s particularly interesting to those of us in the social impact space is Goldman’s ability to scale a once-small company into a large, commercially successful one owned by a major global conglomerate – Coca-Cola – all while maintaining the company’s core social mission.

To take a step back, in 2011 Coca-Cola purchased Honest Tea after recognizing the growing consumer trend toward health and wellness, environmental consciousness and social responsibility. While on the surface it may seem like Goldman sold out to the big brand, the partnership has allowed the brand to scale the distribution of its beverages in a way that “democratizes” lower-sugar, organic, and free trade drink options. Goldman has also used the opportunity to influence Coca-Cola, by encouraging the company to offer its employees a 401(k) package that incorporates Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) options.

Goldman is one of the great examples of an entrepreneur who maintained the integrity of his brand by preserving a focus on health, the environment and social responsibility, while building a strong partnership with an organization that can help take that “Mission in a Bottle” to grand scale.

In close, Goldman evoked an old Chinese proverb, “If we don’t change the direction we’re headed, we will end up where we are going.” With any luck, Honest Tea’s story will inspire more entrepreneurs to use the power of business for social and environmental good.


Pop Culture as a Driver for Social Change?

Eric Bloem

Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2013: The Power of Networks. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference here on this blog.

How do we accelerate social change?

With movies.

According to Jim Berk, movies can be a strong catalyst for change. Berk is the CEO of Participant Media, a company dedicated to developing entertainment that inspires and compels social change. Participant Media is responsible for well-known movies and documentaries, including The Help, Food Inc., An Inconvenient Truth, Lincoln and Contagion.

At the BSR Conference this week, Berk outlined a framework for catalyzing social change based on what he’s learned working on major motion pictures. These key elements are applicable not only to the entertainment industry, but to businesses, NGOs and any just about anyone who wants to incite social change.

1. Tell a story. And make sure it resonates on a human level. In The Help, audiences learned about the fight for civil rights in very personal terms, through the eyes of African-American domestic helpers.

2. Enlighten. Simplify a complex issue. Contagion, for example, informed and educated its audience about health epidemics in a compelling and suspenseful way.

3. Inspire. Connect with the audience. With An Inconvenient Truth, Participant Media turned a PowerPoint presentation into a film, making climate change and its impacts a vivid reality to millions of people.

4. Collaborate. With the release of Food Inc., Participant Media built a coalition of more than 100 NGO’s to educate the public about nutrition.

5. Engage. The audience needs to feel part of the experience by offering them simple actions to take. At screenings of The Cove, Participant Media invited moviegoers to tweet their disapproval of Japan’s treatment of dolphins to the U.S. Ambassador to Japan.

6. Empower. Provide information in the context of a solution. In A Place at the Table, the issue of food insecurity is highlighted, but the focus of the film is how to inspire a solution.

7. Inform. With the release of Lincoln, Participant Media connected with a network of high schools to provide students with a discussion guide that taught them about the importance of the 16th president in American history.

8. Relate. Frame issues in ways that link them to people. In The Soloist, the audience becomes deeply connected to a homeless, Juilliard-trained musician.

By taking these cues from the movies, you too can inspire social change. 


Three ideas I fell in love with before breakfast

Megan Torres

Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2013: The Power of Networks. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference here on this blog.

On the second day of the BSR Conference, Marina Gorbis, Executive Director of the Institute for the Future delivered remarks during breakfast about “The Power of Networks.” Of her many thoughtful and moving comments, these three on education stuck with me.

The world as a classroom – Marina spoke of creating a disruptive, socialstructed movement to decentralize education (along with government and the way we work) and expand learning in a way that no organization can do. She shared the example of HyperCities a research and education platform where you can use your phone to travel back in time to explore the history of buildings and city spaces in an interactive environment.

Moving from episodic to continuous learning – Maria spoke enthusiastically about how content as a commodity leads to continuous learning and the rise of extreme learners. These are learners that are interested and motivated to soak up all resources available to them at any given time. She spoke of the rise of massive open online courses (MOOCs), which provide interactive user forums to build communities of extreme learners.

From institutions to learning flows – Maria spoke of learning no longer being confined to a place or an institution, but a flow. A river that you can dip in an out of. She referenced leafsnap, a free mobile app where the curious can take photos of leaves and visual recognition software can help identify tree species. Amazing. No hike will ever be the same.

This idea of open data as a means to move our work, learning and governance from institution-based to citizen-controlled was more breathtaking than the pastry bar. Maria asked the room, what idea have you fallen in love with this week? I think I just found it. 


Insights from BSR 2013: Launch Initiative Illustrates the Power of Networks

Catie Caborn

Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for the BSR Conference 2013: The Power of Networks. Our Social Impact team will be sharing insights from the conference here on this blog.

Discussions around some of the most pressing issues facing our society, such as climate change, global poverty, or lack of access to healthcare, can often result in a gloom and doom outlook – but one of the things I love about attending our client BSR’s annual conference is the positive conversation around how organizations have accelerated progress and made an impact through a future focus. I had the pleasure of attending one such session that featured speakers from Nike and USAID (in the interest of full transparency, both clients of Weber Shandwick).

The session introduced and discussed the work of the LAUNCH collaboration, which is a global initiative between Nike, USAID, the US State Department and NASA formed in 2010 to identify, showcase, support and accelerate innovative approaches to a sustainable future that meet those urgent challenges facing our society. Since it’s inception, LAUNCH has conducted challenges focused on issues surrounding water sustainability, health and human development, efficient use of energy, and waste. Through these four challenges, LAUNCH has identified 40 game changing innovations that at scale, help create a better world. Innovations from previous LAUNCH challenges include:

  • Carbon For Water: delivering the technology to provide access to clean water to 4.5 million people in Kenya
  • Gram Power: providing thousands of people in India with affordable, renewable energy
  • Bioneedle: a biodegradable, implantable needle that delivers vaccines and dissolves in the body, allowing for mass distribution and minimal waste.

Currently, the LAUNCH collaboration is focusing on systems innovation to uncover innovations that will transform the system of textiles and fabrics to advance equitable global economic growth, drive human prosperity and replenish the planet’s resources. When you consider that each year, about 150 billion garments are created by a textiles industry that employs 40 million people globally, it is clear that there are major gains to be made in this field.

Working together, the organizations that act as conveners of the Launch Initiative acknowledge that they are able to accelerate progress and positive change that simply wouldn’t be possible without the collaboration. In this way, the session very accurately illustrated this year’s conference theme, “The Power of Networks.”

To learn more about the LAUNCH Collaboration, visit To follow along with the conversation happening around the BSR 2013 Conference, follow the Storify stream at


Insights from Net Impact Conference: CSR Reporting

Victoria Baxter

Eric Bloem and I attended last week's Net Impact conference. One session left me with a provocative reframe of CSR reporting. Teri Trielle from Cisco Systems said that her team had always been focused on preparing the report, but now they think about it as stakeholder engagement with the report as the outcome.

It might seem like a subtle nuance, but reframing reporting to be about engagement rather than solely focused on the final product is helpful in two ways. The first is something all speakers acknowledged - there isn't a huge audience for any CSR report. It can be very disheartening for the team to calculate the amount of work necessary to complete a CSR report by the comparatively small audience who will read it.
While the audience isn't large in number, it is a important one. Steve Lippmann from Microsoft used the analogy of a Velvet Underground record that might not have had huge sales, but it seemed that everyone who bought it eventually started their own band. Despite meager sales, it influenced a generation of musicians.

The second reason is to avoid or limit reporting for reporting sake. Given the influential audience who consumes reports and increased demand by responsible investors for ESG data, reporting is now a mainstream practice. Approaching this as an exercise in engaging key internal and external stakeholders puts the emphasis back on using the data to influence or at least inform business decisions. It's not just about the PDF, but the impact on policies and practices. 


Escaping a Crisis With Your Reputation Intact

Lance Morgan

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of doing a presentation to our BAE Systems client about crisis communications. I wish I could have done it today for I’d have a really good story to tell – about my own personal crisis.

Earlier this week, the “oil low” warning light went off in my new car. That was a surprise since I had taken it in for an oil change less than two weeks ago. Turns out that when the dealership put in the new oil filter, they put it in wrong. It malfunctioned, started an oil leak in the car and may have ruined the engine or caused a fire.

My auto dealership made a huge mistake that was potentially damaging, physically to me and reputationally for them. It’s hardly a crisis of the magnitude of the Exxon Valdez, but it was a crisis in the moment. (And if I had told you at the outset this was about an oil filter, would you have kept reading?)

Anyway, my point isn’t about how to define a crisis but how to escape one with your reputation intact or maybe even enhanced.

Naturally, I was livid that the dealership couldn’t install a new oil filter properly. I called them up to register my displeasure. Here was their response:

Within 24 hours, they delivered a loaner car and took mine back to the shop to inspect the problem and repair any damage they may have caused. No cost or bother to me. They goofed and owned up to fixing it.

We tell our clients all the time that the essence of good crisis management is how you respond to the mistakes you make. In most cases, that’s how crises are resolved and reputations protected.

Now obviously many of the crises our clients face are more complicated and difficult. But the difference is often a matter of degree not kind. The essential issue is always the same: if you make a mistake, fix it, apologize (if the lawyers will let you) and take steps to make it right for those who were affected and prevent it from happening again.

Mark Twain famously said: “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

Earlier in the week, I told myself I’d never go back to the dealer. Now, I am a fan. They made a mistake, which will not be forgotten; neither will their response.


Cracking The Code: Six Secrets To Successful Byliners

Bob Brody

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by LucasTheExperience

All too many experts at organizations, whether corporate or non-profit, remain averse to pursuing the publication of bylined articles. That’s because in some cases they may have no idea how to go about doing one.

I’ve never written for a trade publication, they say. How do you even know if an editor might be interested?

Well, it’s actually easier than you may suspect. In my experience, trade magazine editors, often craving content, are generally amenable to guest columns, especially from those highly qualified. In recent months, just talking health, I’ve seen clients publish in The Harvard Business Review, Modern Healthcare and The Healthcare Blog, three highly reputable national media outlets.

Recently a non-health client invited me to deliver a webinar about bylined articles. The resident experts there had long expressed reluctance to try any or produced poor material that wound up rejected.

Some of the basic operating principles I put forward:

  • Respect differences. A byliner is different from an op-ed – it’s advisory in nature, more of a how-to or news-you-can-use proposition. As in: Ten tips for strengthening your relationship with hospitals. You’re counseling your audience, attempting to be of practical service. 
  • Stick to the facts. Byliners are based largely on fact, drawn from empirical evidence, as opposed to mere opinion. For example, here are certain lessons about a topic or issue that you the experts have learned firsthand and now wish to teach others how to apply. 
  • Be important. Maybe you have something important to say; or better still, something important nobody else has said before; or best of all, something nobody else is even remotely as qualified as you to say. In short, you’ve earned the right to be the messenger. 
  • Go broad. The topic should mean enough to enough members of your target audience to count. Think big-picture. As in: “Why healthcare reform will ultimately succeed.” Avoid niche issues, too narrow a focus or saying something of only marginal interest. 
  • Deliver the goods. Case studies are always a plus, complete with lessons learned. Citing an industry trend comes in handy, too. So does leveraging a regulatory issue or pending legislation. Original research – a study or survey, or even anecdotes that spell an emerging a pattern – is often the holy grail. 
  • Package it all as an action plan with, say, your top 10 tips. Editors love top-10 lists – or, as here, top-6 ones. A longtime friend who is a corporate writer recently posted a piece on his blog with 10 reasons to avoid top-10 lists. I wrote back with 10 reasons why I disagreed.

By the way, the webinar with our client turned out well. More than a dozen senior managers dialed in for the half-hour session. In the months since, they’ve volunteered more frequently to take on byliners, and submitted pieces of a higher quality, than ever before. Indeed, a few are to be published any day now.

So give it a shot. After all, you’re the expert.



How to Compromise a Friendship with One Pitch

Rachel Ryan

More than any other city in the world, Washington, D.C. is infamous for its “networking.” This is town where even the most sincere of friendships are often colored with ulterior motives.

After all, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” is a concept that extends well beyond the backrooms of Congress.

In our case, media and public affairs go hand-in-hand. Journalists, or “hacks,” rely on us “flacks” as much as we rely on them. For every hack that hangs up the phone on your pitch or immediately funnels all press releases into her junk folder, there are many more counting on us for good stories, angles and interviews.

But what happens, in a town like D.C., when hacks and flacks inevitably mingle outside of work and develop earnest friendships? Some might think this sounds ideal but, trust me, it has a high potential for awkwardness if you get too overzealous.

No one ever wants to feel used. Just because you’re good friends with a journalist doesn’t give you, as flack, the right to call them up and pull the dreaded Friend Card.

Flack: “Please, do me this favor, as a friend, and pick up my press release.”

Hack: “… But it’s not a good story.”

Flack: “PLEASE.”

A good flack’s reputation is on the line every time they make a contact trying to “sell” a story. Begging a friend to write a piece for friendship’s sake is a good way to compromise a friendship or, at the very least, relegate your pitches to the junk email folder. The long-term trust and credibility of the relationship is infinitely more important than the short-term benefit of any one-time media hit you might have managed to wangle. Not to mention, if you have to call up a friend to beg for the favor, you clearly don’t have much faith in your story.

That is not to say, however, that you shouldn’t leverage your friendships, when appropriate.

I put the question to one of Washington’s esteemed political reporters who also happens to have been a good friend of mine since well before I became a flack. Our conversation went like this:

“I just feel weird pitching you or anything,” I admitted.

“Why?” He asked.

“Because I don’t want you to get the impression that I’m using you.”

“Please, that’s how the game is played. And you’re not using me. We need you as much as you need us.”


The Keys To Executive Visibility Are Right In Your Pocket

Bob Brody

Let’s suppose the chief marketing officer of your organization came to you and declared, “Our CEO wants to get out there in the media. Here’s his bio and some talking points. Now let's go schedule that close-up with Maria Bartiromo.”

What to do (even allowing for that slightly exaggerated scenario)?

As it happens, I took a crack at that very question in a recent talk about how to generate executive visibility that I gave at the annual conference of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the leading trade association representing dietary supplement manufacturers and ingredient suppliers. Senior communications executives from a wide range of members, including Bayer and Procter and Gamble, attended the event.

First, a quick caveat. Contrary to popular belief, executive visibility is about more than getting public attention for an individual. Or at least should be. In its purest form, it means leveraging said individual to represent something bigger. A concept. A cause. A brand. Or maybe all three.

At its best, then, executive visibility has the opportunity to create value that extends well beyond mere media impressions. Ultimately, it’s all about personifying your organization and amplifying its messages. Your C-suite spokesperson has the potential to establish an identity for your brand and, most important, build a favorable reputation that will last.

Toward that end, Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist at our parent company, Weber Shandwick, recently conducted a survey on C-suite visibility via social media. Bottom line: CEOs should use social media – among other available options – for the purposes of communication, reputation and achieving business results.

As for my own basic guidelines for executive visibility campaigns, here you go:

  • Ask if you should do this in the first place. Seriously. Some CEOs would rather stay behind the scenes, and operate better there. Or prefer to deputize others to step into the spotlight. So be it. Just because executive visibility is on your checklist may turn out to be the least of reasons to pursue it.
  • Be strategic. Define, in specific terms, your intent and anticipated results. What’s in this for your products and services? Determine your target audience. Are you catering to Wall Street or The Hill or going B2B with a particular private-sector community?
  • Secure cooperation up front. You need to win the executive in question over to your mission. Hold a face-to-face briefing rather than a conference call. Only if you enlist support and create trust do you have a prayer of success.
  • Collaborate like crazy. You may have all kinds of good ideas about the right approach to take, but no doubt others will, too. Seek feedback from all quarters about your mission and likely positioning, then cherry-pick the smartest tactics.
  • Get personal. Any media profile of a CEO, for example, is going to get into what makes that person tick. So play reporter and ask a lot of questions, perhaps even enough for the CEO to wonder why you’re asking so damn many.
  • Get the story. What matters most to your CEO? Besides, how exactly did he or she transform your organization last year? Only then will your key messages rise above and beyond corporate boilerplate.
  • Be provocative, or dramatic, or newsworthy, or at least a little interesting. Please. Maybe your CEO has a surprising point of view to share, or a secret strategy or insight that no one has ever expressed before. It could happen. And once in a while it does.


Conflict Drives Media Coverage

Greg McCarthy

(Photo Credit: Paris on Ponce & Le Maison Rouge)


ABC News legal analyst Dan Abrams recently stated it well: “The media has a bias toward conflict, right? I mean in general, when there is a conflict, the media likes it.”

Media today is motivated to frame stories as the presentation of opposing views and opinions to stimulate conversations and engagements amongst audiences. Although facts get reported, they are a lesser priority to content that produces and provokes passionate responses and discussion.

In a thoughtful and concise recent article in The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates, explains that under Florida law George Zimmerman could not have been convicted for killing Trayvon Martin.
The article was remarkable in how clear the facts of Florida statute are and how absent these facts were from the majority of media coverage of the case and the trial. It was a sobering reminder for anyone involved in a high profile issue that receives significant media coverage: Emotion and debate are what drive media coverage, not the presentation of fact.
Corporations should take a lesson: no matter how compelling the evidence, plain facts alone will not help to tell the story in the media or online and rarely move the needle of public opinion. 

To make an impact, messaging must resonate emotionally. Effective engagement happens when allies and supporters are motivated and compelled to act — to share personal stories, to fight for a cause or to become a brand advocate. 

The key lies in presenting the facts of your case while engaging the emotions of your supporters, advocates and audiences. 


Bringing Creative Mornings to D.C.

Lesley Fulop

Powell Tate is excited to share that Joel Daly, senior vice president of experience design, was profiled in today’s Washington Post Express for leading the Creative Mornings lecture series in Washington, D.C. As head of the D.C. chapter of the monthly breakfast series, Joel invites members of the creative community for a conversation about their work and industry perspectives. Joel helped launch the D.C. chapter in January 2013, joining the legion of more than 50 chapters worldwide. The next Creative Mornings lecture will take place on July 26 at the local Beltway restaurant 1776, and will feature a NASA astrophysicist.

Read more about Creative Mornings and Joel’s role as host in Washington Post Express interview here.


Spreading the Message of Malala Day

Luisa Castellanos

Malala Yousafzai address the UN General Assembly on Malala Day, July 12th.

"On the 9th of October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullet would silence us. But they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices."

These are the words of Malala Yousafzai, the courageous 16 year-old girl from a rural village in Pakistan, as she addressed the UN General Assembly (UNGA) this past Friday, July 12th. It was her birthday, declared Malala Day by the UN to honor her courage and her mission, and she celebrated the occasion by addressing the UNGA and calling upon world leaders to fight for free compulsory education for every child. It was this very mission that labeled her a threat to Taliban leaders, who have terrorized her country, and who last fall attempted to silence her. Nonetheless, this brave girl persevered, and after an arduous recovery, refuses to be silenced ever again, for with hers, thousands of other voices have risen in her plight for universal education.

“The terrorists thought that they would change my aims and stop my ambitions,” she said, “But nothing changed in my life, expect this: weakness, fear, and hopelessness died; strength, power, and courage were born.”

In her address, she urged UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and UNGA President, Vuk Jeremic, to call upon world leaders to urge for peace and prosperity, to find opportunities to include safeguards for women and girls, those most often disadvantaged by lack of access to education. She pleaded for the world to recognize that “one child, one teacher, one book, one pen, can change the world.”

Selfless as ever, this remarkable young girl declared: “Malala Day is not my day; it is for every woman, every boy, and every girl who has raised their voice for their rights.” She highlighted her tenants of tolerance, freedom, and equality, underscoring that she does not wish revenge over her Taliban attacker, but wishes for “education for all the sons and daughters of the Taliban, and all terrorists and extremists.”

Through our Impact Project, we are thrilled to be supporting the work of Malala through the newly established Malala Fund, an organization set up to help girls go to school and raise their voices for the right to education. Working together with global and local partners, The Malala Fund will focus on three key objectives:

  • Investing in Girls Education through innovative solutions to deliver high quality education to disadvantaged communities around the world.
  • Amplifying Voices of Educational Advocates to tell the stories of those who are fighting for their right to education
  • Channeling Collective Action to make girls education and true priority.

On Malala Day and every day, we share Malala’s resolve. “We will bring change to our world,” she resounds, “We are all together, united for the cause of education. Our greatest weapon: knowledge; our shield: unity and togetherness.” With that, she presented the Secretary General and the UNGA President with an hourglass, a reminder that time is precious and that there’s no better time than the present to take action on such an important issue. 


The Power of Engaging Elected Officials

Greg McCarthy

David Ignatius wrote a must-read story about elected officials meddling in the U.S. Air Force’s attempt to retire “unneeded warplanes.”

It’s a must read because of the valuable lesson it offers for companies fighting to keep a defense-related program alive: Get Congress, Governors, and elected officials involved early and often.

While Ignatius is critical of “parochial politics” overwhelming the defense decision process, it is a wonderful case study in how regional coalitions can impact and reverse the decisions of the military.

The article underscores why defense contractors should proactively and consistently create educational campaigns for elected officials that illustrate the value of their program to national defense, the industrial base, regional economies and jobs. In a time of increased competition for limited defense funding, having the support of elected officials is essential.

For more recommendations on what defense companies should be doing to engage elected officials, check out one of my previous pieces:


Shedding Light on Child Sexual Abuse

Jennifer Hendrickson

One year ago, the trial of former Penn State Assistant Football Coach Jerry Sandusky awoke the nation to the terrible realities of child abuse. The tragic revelations provided an unexpected opportunity for one small non-profit to educate the public about its mission to end child sexual abuse. For organizations to succeed in injecting themselves into sudden, inherently unpredictable breaking news, it’s key to have a well-honed message, be nimble enough to take advantage of fast-moving media opportunities and willingly jump in to controversial territory.

On the evening that the Penn State jury reached its verdict, our pro-bono client, Darkness to Light (D2L), seized the moment to steer the conversation toward what people can do to combat predators like Sandusky. Darkness to Light President Jolie Logan was quoted at length in The New York Times’ Motherlode blog , USA Today and elsewhere about the importance of adult action on child sexual abuse. “Every adult needs to know the facts and know the signs, so they are more confident and empowered to speak up,” urged Logan. “Perpetrators are drawn to places where they have access to kids and they are very talented at building trust in other adults, which is another reason education is critical.”

Another unexpected event that the organization was able to capitalize on was the release of That’s My Boy, a film which made light of statutory rape. Through a partnership with, Darkness to Light issued a petition urging the film’s distributor, Sony Pictures, to acknowledge the film’s glamorization of child sexual abuse. The petition quickly garnered 6,000 signatures and 3,000 e-mail acquisitions, and was featured in The Washington Post’s On Parenting blog.

Today, a year after the media deluge surrounding the Sandusky trial, Darkness to Light is sustaining the public’s consciousness about the prevalence of child sexual abuse – and adults’ critical role in prevention – because they were prepared to act quickly when news broke.


Trade Talks Begin

Jim Meszaros

When it comes to trade policy, most media attention focuses on expanding U.S. ties with China, India and other large emerging markets. But what’s lost in this conversation is the importance of the economic ties between the United States and Europe —ties that are significantly larger, deeper and have far greater impact on growth, jobs and consumers.

This week, the United States and European Union begin negotiating the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) to establish a free trade zone across the Atlantic. The parameters of TTIP are ambitious and comprehensive. In short, TTIP will address the entire value chain of trade and investment issues that impact the bilateral commercial relationship between the European Union and United States — a relationship that today accounts for nearly 50% of the global economy, 30% of global trade and an estimated $3.7 trillion in cross-border investment.

If successful, TTIP will modernize the E.U.-U.S. commercial relationship and deliver sustained growth and job creation in both markets. Tariffs that make goods more expensive would be reduced. Regulations would be more consistent and aligned.

Of course, there are many difficult issues to work out, including the stark differences between Europe and the U.S. in agricultural trade, competition policies, and data and privacy issues, among others. This means it may take at least two years — and possibly longer — of negotiations, followed by a ratification process in the U.S. Congress and the European Council, before an agreement is officially implemented.

The outcome of what is starting this week will impact every U.S. and European company that operates or trades in each other’s market.

While it may seem a distant concern, companies must pay attention to these talks now. Doing so will enable companies to determine how their businesses may be impacted and will allow companies to engage with both Washington and Brussels throughout the negotiation process. 

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