Oral Histories

Bruce Harrison

Interview Segments on Topic: Trust/Credibility

Bruce Harrison Biography

Bruce Harrison, author of Corporate Greening 2.0: Create and Communicate Your Company's Climate Change and Sustainability Strategies (2008) and Going Green: How to Communicate Your Company's Environmental Commitment (1993), has been called the pioneer of corporate greening.

Bruce has provided counsel on greening/sustainability matters to more than 50 Fortune 500 companies over the course of his career as vice president of Freeport-McMoran, CEO of his Washington-based consultancy, and founder/franchiser of EnviroComm International in the U.S. and Europe. He was the first executive director of the Arthur W. Page Society, comprising senior corporate communications executives, and has since 1998 worked as a team member creating Green Diesel Technology® products at Navistar International. Bruce assists companies in connecting with effective EnviroComm professional counselors.

Bruce is a frequent speaker on greening and sustainability. His lecture, "Factors Favoring Chief Communication Officers Involvement in Climate Change and Sustainability Issues", was recognized as the best paper presented by a practitioner at the 2008 Corporate Communication International conference at Wroxton College, England.

He was recognized by PRWeek in 2001 as one of the "Top 100 Most Influential PR People of the 20th Century" for his work with companies in environmental and social responsibility.


Ahern: Well, I think the final that I’d like to talk about [is the] overall role of ethics in the practice, and bring out a point you made in your book having to do with trust. The point you just brought up about the importance of building trust, and in your book. I will paraphrase here and correct me if I do it incorrectly that trust is more than just ethics, and more than just compliance. It’s a full set of communications efforts and tools that have to be employed. How do you think, ultimately, corporations can focus more in building trust and what are the main tools and activities I need to use in order to achieve it?

Harrison: Well, the way the companies can build trust is through fair dealings and honesty with stakeholders that matter. This doesn’t mean all stakeholders. I think a company, the first thing they have to do is kind of quantify who are the stakeholders that are a success and actually make a list of them and realize these are critical to us. If they are not with us, as Arthur Page says, in a society—a democratic society—if you don’t have public; he called it public. I’d say stakeholder support, then you don’t have permission to succeed. You don’t have permission to go ahead. So understanding that, that’s what we’re after, is to build trust, then it starts with folks having confidence that we will come through with what we said we’d come through with. That’s honesty, expressing a commitment, and then proving it by coming through. Again, back to my formula that over the long term a company has to show that it is financially accountable. That it is socially accountable and that it understands public policy and it is involved in that and will not be knocked over by competitors who are more involved in politics than they are. And trust comes from that; that is from delivery of what I thought you were going to give me. This was a deal. I, the stakeholder, the investor, the employee, the customer, the supplier, this is the deal I made with you and I’ll give you this which you need if you give me this which I need. And the customer is always evaluating that; the stakeholder is always evaluating that. Trust comes from that.