The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in the Czech Republic connects more 1,600 top executives and business owners representing 450 companies and advocates policies that aim to increase economic competitiveness here. Its advocacy work, in terms of legal reform and economic development, has helped shape major Czech policies as regards investment incentives, bankruptcy, and the commercial registry.
Anti-corruption efforts, particularly in the realm of public tenders, is also high on the chamber’s agenda. AmCham held its traditional Thanksgiving Day ball in Prague, which raises money for charitable works it sponsors, on Nov. 19 at Palác Žofín. “The evening had a spirit of social responsibility: for the chamber’s charity project Kč 547,200 was raised and the first-ever AmCham Wings Award went to Daniel Weinhold of Weinhold Legal and Dan Ťok of Skanska,” the chamber said in a press release.
The chamber’s “One World, Many Voices” project is part of a larger Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative; the new AmCham Wings Award went to two members of the chamber who are heavily involved in the Platform for Transparency in Public Procurement (PTPP), which has lobbied parliamentarians for changes to the Law on Public Procurement (and succeeded, it says, in setting down stricter guidelines). Czech Positon asked AmCham’s executive director, Weston Stacey, about the chamber’s work in this regard.
Q: What is the aim of the “One World, Many Voices” project, when was it founded, how is it funded, and what kinds of programs or activities has it funded/aided over the years?
A: One World, Many Voices was founded in 2000 because we wanted to help prepare children for the increasingly international world they will live and work in. Until recently, it had one aim: to help elementary schools purchase language laboratories. We are now considering whether we should expand the program to include the training of language teachers. One World, Many Voices is funded through donations of our members, primarily at the Thanksgiving Ball.
Q: Are Czech elementary schools the sole beneficiaries? How are the schools chosen? Is the program expanding?) Do AmCham members donate services, equipment and know-how, for example, in addition to raising money for One World, Many Voices recipients?
A: We have selected some middle schools in the past, but most of the laboratories have gone to elementary schools. The schools are selected by a group of businesspeople and local officials, and approved by our executive team. Members such as 3M, Hewlett Packard and AV Media have given us significant discounts on the equipment we purchased. If we expand the program to include training, we expect that we will ask some of our members to provide expertise in that area.
Q: Does AmCham have other such targeted initiatives in the realm of charity/Corporate Social Responsibility?
We have just started our Truth and Trust program. This program aims to create a more open and constructive dialogue between various segments of society, and to help educate students on the importance of ethical behavior.
Q: How did the Wings Award idea come about, and what is its aim?
A: Ron Adams, who is our president, thought we should publicly recognize the exceptional contributions that some of our members make to our organization and the wider business community. These people put in a great deal of time and talent to improving all our lives, and this award is a small token to tell them we appreciate it.
Q: How are nominees — and the eventual winners — chosen?
A: Our members were asked to nominate individuals, and our board of directors decided from amongst those nominees.
Dan Ťok and Daniel Weinhold at an April meeting of the Platform
Q: Daniel Weinhold of Weinhold Legal, the non-voting chairman, and Dan Ťok (one of a couple of dozen members) were both honored for their work on the Platform for Transparency in Public Procurement initiative. Could you elaborate on how Mr Ťok, in particular, contributed to the effort beyond that of other members?
A: Dan Ťok was the chair of the Platform, which was composed of the top representative of all participating entities and which had to approve the recommendations made by the expert group, which Daniel Weinhold chaired. Dan spent a good deal of time meeting with various members of the platform preventing political and organizational conflicts and coaxing out an agreement on issues. He also pushed some members of the business community to support the reforms.
Q: Could you comment a bit on the work of the runners-up for the AmCham Wings award?
A: Peter Hájek [of PriceWaterhouse Coopers] has been an essential player in developing our programs to promote research and development in the country. Karel Janeček’s [RSJ Algorithmic Trading] fight against corruption [via the Anticorruption Endowment, or NFPK] has vitalized the business community. Lucie Melicharová [of learn2grow] helped to create our ethics program in schools. And Jan Valdinger [Managing Partner at Change Partnership] has been a longstanding force within our organization in such areas as ethics and the development of human resources.