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Citizen today, December 2011 - From prime minister to the private sector - EY - Global

Citizen today, December 2011

From prime minister to the
private sector

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"CSR belongs in the heart of business." Jan Peter Balkenende, Partner, EY

After eight years as prime minister of The Netherlands, Jan Peter Balkenende is now focusing on helping businesses adapt to the increasing demands of corporate social responsibility.

A new career stage

Jan Peter Balkenende stepped down as Dutch prime minister in October 2010, and recently began work as a leader with EY.

"Although I've dedicated my life to public affairs — in party politics, academia, as a member of the Lower House of Parliament and as prime minister — I don't feel that my move to the corporate sector marked a clear turning point," he says.

His role at EY will build on that experience as he works with international affairs, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the interface between the public and private sectors.

Corporate social responsibility is staying

Balkenende looks forward to helping businesses improve their corporate social responsibility (CSR).

"CSR belongs in the heart of business," he says. "The days when it was relegated to its own corner are in the past."

This change, he contends, has very much been driven from the top, with senior business leaders having come to recognize the significance of CSR to their business — and society as a whole.

"People realize that this is not just a marketing tool and it is now in the hearts and minds of the CEO and CFO. I'm very happy with this."

Supporting binding international agreements

When institutions make agreements to improve world finances they should stick to them, says Balkenende.

"It was the goal to finalize the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations on global free trade in one year," he says.

"But one year later, you had to conclude that the WTO agreements had not been completed, that Copenhagen was not a success and that many elements of the new financial architecture are still to be completed."

Balkenende says that world leaders should continue on this track, and hopes to contribute to their efforts through his new role at EY.

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