Oral Histories

Charlotte Otto

Interview Segments on Topic: Ethical Decisionmaking/Behavior

Charlotte Otto Biography

Charlotte Otto began her career with Proctor and Gamble as a brand assistant for Prell Concentrate and has remained with P&G to become the first female corporate officer as Global External Relations Officer.   She is responsible for a wide range of communication and public affairs activities from media relations and product publicity to government and community relations.

Charlotte Otto provides service and leadership to the Cincinnati area, serving as a Board Member of The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, as chair of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and past chair of Downtown Cincinnati. She recently was awarded the Arthur W. Page Society’s highest recognition, the Hall of Fame Award.


Interviewer: Good we can talk about another controversy. Proctor & Gamble has been grappling with the animal testing issue for years. And of course there are animal rights organizations that have made accusations and have called for boycotts over those years, and Uncaged would be one, and PETA People For Ethical Treatment of Animals is another. And in fact this coming Saturday is Global Boycott Proctor & Gamble Day. In your position as the global external relations officer, how do you respond to this ongoing problem. How what is happening around the world and how are you dealing with that?

Otto: Well the animal I guess goes back to the 80s and again I think it’s an example of the importance of the building partnerships as well as doing the right thing. A fellow named Henry Spira who was he’s passed away. He was one of the original founders of the animal rights movement in the United States and early on he came to Proctor & Gamble and said that I think you can make a difference in this whole area of animal testing by being a leader in the area of developing animal alternatives to animal testing. And we partnered with Henry and over the past more than 25 years, have been leaders in developing animal alternatives, and we’re recognized by just about every organization including folks like PETA as being a leader in that area. At the same time we’ve been a target by PETA, by In Defensive of Animals and others again.  I think the big tree catches the wind, we’ve been a target to try to influence a whole industry to make changes. And first of all we’ve been committed to doing the right thing so we have steadily decreased our use of animals. We ended finished product testing. We’ve made industry-leading changes in our pet nutrition area, which became a focus of PETA in the earlier in 2000-2003 after we acquired the Iams Company which is pet food. I think in some cases they challenged us to do better and we have. In some cases they helped us identify some practices of outside labs that frankly were sloppy and in some cases inconsistent with our own policies. So we’ve they’ve pointed out some stuff that has been helpful to us that we needed to fix. At the same time we think probably we have been unfairly targeted sometimes just because the big tree catches the wind. But overall we’ve tried to partner with groups like the Humane Society of the US, even with PETA to do things like joint lobbying to get the EPA to change their regulations requiring animal testing. We don’t think is necessary, or we think there are alternatives available that are actually more reliable, less costly, and reduce the need for animals. So again I think overall we’ve developed partnerships out of this adversity that have been good for animals, good for the company, good for the industry and that’s kind of how we try to go into this kind of thing is we try to look at what the facts are and if we need to clean our house okay we need to get after that. But also how can we build partnerships to advance what’s right. And almost always we can find some kind of common ground. Even with a group like PETA who has been on our tail for a long time.

Interviewer: What are the most important issues - those enduring truths that you’ve discovered as you’ve come along and grown with Proctor & Gamble.

Otto: I would say first of all it’s really important to know yourself and to know your values and be very centered in knowing right from wrong. It’s one of those Page Principles of ‘Telling the Truth,’ knowing what your truth is, is really important because having that clear and centered personal set of values then enables one to give better counsel, clearer counsel to not have to struggle with issues in your own mind. So I think that’s really important. I think it’s really important to have a mentality of generosity. There’s room for everybody to be right.  Now I’ve never met a person who believes strongly in something and articulates it believing that they are wrong. You know for some reason they believe that their view, their approach, has merit - even if others may not. So I think this mindset of generosity, of having room an abundance mentality. There’s lots of room for lots of different views is really important to building trust and earning the right to be a part of the community. I believe in lift as you climb. I believe we each have a responsibility to do unto others as we have benefited from mentors and coaches and people who have helped lift us up, so I spend a lot of time with women’s organizations and the leader of our corporate Women’s Leadership Task Force because I really believe in that whole notion lift as you climb.