As we celebrate the Fourth of July, I am reminded of what makes America such a great nation of innovation. I am reminded also that “Made in America” means something very special in the United States and around the world. And, I am reminded that the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness bestowed upon all Americans are at the heart of the “American brand.”
American companies sell innovative, high-quality goods and services that are highly valued. In 2011, Interbrand, the world’s largest brand consultancy, determined that all of the top 10 brands were American: Coca-Cola, IBM, Microsoft, Google, GE, McDonald’s, Intel, Apple, Disney and Hewlett-Packard. Whether working at home or abroad, these companies, and many others, demonstrate ideals that are paramount to the success and value of their respective brands – they engage with local communities and civil society, recognize the importance of broader social and environmental issues, and create economic growth and upward mobility for employees through on-the-job training and ongoing workforce development. The most successful American brands truly do well by doing good.
American companies are innovative and adapt to change quickly; that’s why people in so many countries look to our companies for state-of-the-art products and services. U.S. businesses thrive on the free flow of ideas and information with universities and research institutions, and through interaction with customers and suppliers.
They are the stewards of a culture of innovation and invention that dates to Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, and extends to Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and beyond.
A vast majority of U.S. businesses produce their goods and services with a workforce that is racially, culturally and religiously diversified. As a nation that has benefitted enormously from waves of immigrants, with rich and diverse origins and cultures, our workforce reflects the world in which our companies operate.
Our most dynamic companies place a high value on talent and hard work, looking to all employees to inject creative ideas and new ways of thinking and doing business. These companies are meritocracies that respect and value their workers as their most valuable assets, providing significant training, career development and opportunities for upward mobility – in the United States and wherever they operate in the world. This culture of opportunity and fairness is, in part, why men and women from all over the world strive to work for many leading American companies.
Strong business values are also synonymous with the “American brand” in many parts of world. For America’s most respected companies, profitability and doing the right thing go hand in hand. This means adhering to the law; operating in an ethical manner; practicing transparency; and being accountable to customers, shareholders, and society. It also means holding high internal standards and complying with regulatory and safety requirements, so that consumers can have confidence in the effectiveness and quality of American goods and services.
Similarly, a large and growing number of American companies share strong commitments to sound environmental practices at home and take that commitment abroad in the products they sell and the investments they make. They view these practices as good business, good for their brand and good for the planet.
The “American brand” features the United States as an incubator of creative goods and services, and of entrepreneurial companies, many of which spread their best practices through their products, trade partnerships and investments around the world. Last year, the United States exported an all-time record of $2.1 trillion in goods and services – a strong testimony to the success of American brands and the “American brand.”
President Barack Obama’s pledge to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014 is within reach because so many American companies offer high-quality goods and services and are committed to building shared value – finding win-win solutions for customers; improving the lives of people around the world; and building dynamic networks of suppliers, buyers, and investors. And, that’s why American companies are, and will continue to be, valuable international trade and investment partners.
The Fourth of July is a celebration of the birth of America. And the values that helped forge our country then remain at the heart of what we call the “American brand” today.Robert D. Hormats is under secretary in the Department of State. (McClatchy-Tribune)