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Awards For Corporate Excellence

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Shakes Hands With CEO Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars.

Award for Corporate Excellence honors U.S.-based companies that distinguish themselves as good corporate citizens in the communities where they operate.

Each year the U.S. Secretary of State hands out the Award for Corporate Excellence, or “ACE,” to U.S.-based companies that distinguish themselves as good corporate citizens in the communities where they operate.

Awards For Corporate Excellence
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This year’s recipient in the small business category is Taylor Guitars. Founded in 1974, Taylor Guitars made a commitment to producing its high-quality instruments with the best materials. That included the use of ebony, a wood that has become increasingly threatened with extinction. Ebony harvesters had historically used only pure black ebony logs -- leaving multi-colored ebony to rot on the forest floor. To address this challenge, owner Bob Taylor worked to change consumer tastes and the market itself.

He bought an ebony mill in Cameroon and made many of his company’s top-of-the-line guitars with multi-colored ebony. Other instrument manufacturers have adopted his practice, helping to ensure the availability of ebony for decades to come. His company also advocates law and policy reforms to improve the permitting process around ebony harvesting.

ACE’s large-business winner this year is Fruit of the Loom in Honduras. After a contentious labor dispute in 2009 at one of its factories, Fruit of the Loom decided to find a positive way forward. It worked collaboratively with its trade union and other civil society leaders to negotiate a groundbreaking collective bargaining agreement with its employees. It includes a commitment to ensuring freedom of association, investments in better machinery, free transportation to and from work, free lunches, wage increases and more. This approach is now a model for Central America.

The first ever ACE award for a medium-sized company went to Plantronics for its work in Tijuana, Mexico. Their Mexican operation contains the largest rooftop solar facility in Latin America, which generates enough power to meet 70 percent of the company's Mexican operating needs. But just as important, is what Plantronics does for their employees. Its employees receive not only preventative health care services, but also vocational training and career development. More than 2,300 employees have already received master's degrees and other formal education thanks to programs that Plantronics subsidizes.

As this year's ACE winners have shown, American corporate leadership isn't only about selling guitars, or headphones, or t-shirts. It's about bringing American values and standards to every corner of the world. And that's what these three winners and so many other American companies are doing every day.