Global Agenda: How to Talk to Protesters

Noisy demonstrations against global firms are here to stay. And savvy CEOs are listening to protest-group leaders

Philippe Desmazes / AFP / Getty

A few years ago, Dr. Daniel Vasella, the Swiss CEO of pharmaceutical giant Novartis, told an American interviewer that his firm was going to have to spend a lot more time talking to NGOs. The journalist's response: "What's an NGO?" Let's hope he knows now. NGOs--nongovernmental organizations--have won significant influence over global companies. The demonstrations against global capitalism at the G-8 summit in Genoa were the latest manifestation of a trend that--mostly quietly and behind the scenes--is defining our age. From Home Depot (criticized for its use of tropical hardwoods) to Starbucks (attacked for the treatment of workers on coffee plantations),...

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