3 U.S. firms stood out in 2020 for their values

Women in aprons smiling in kitchen, with one using hand mixer in bowl (© Geovanni Hernandez/AES)
Panamanian women participate in one of AES's skills-training and entrepreneurship programs. (© Geovanni Hernandez/AES)

Abbott, AES Panama and Coca-Cola Azerbaijan have won the 2020 Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence, bestowed by the U.S. secretary of state.

Since 1999, the award, often called the ACE, has recognized U.S. companies representing the best in American business values as they foster prosperity abroad.

Keith Krach, under secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, announced the ACE winners December 31, noting that they exemplify the positive impact businesses can have on communities worldwide.

Krach, in making the announcement on behalf of Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, called the winning firms “worthy ambassadors for the strength of the American brand” and said each is committed to “hard work, innovation, promotion of equality and free enterprise in the service of their local communities.”

The winners

Abbott, a U.S. multinational medical devices and health care company with headquarters in Illinois, won this year’s ACE in the “Innovation” category, for its expansion of preventative health care in underserved rural areas of Rwanda.

Man washing hands in free-standing basin outside of blue building (© Andy Rugema/Abbott)
A man uses a hand-washing station at a health post sponsored by an Abbott pilot program, in partnership with the government of Rwanda, that brings quality health care closer to rural communities. (© Andy Rugema/Abbott)

Abbott has helped to build greater capacity in Rwanda’s health care sector, so that Rwandans will have the systems necessary to manage their health care over the long term.

AES Panama, a unit of the Virginia-based power distribution company, won in the  “Sustainable Energy Security” category for its leadership in providing diversity in the energy supply through the first natural-gas-fire-powered plant and reception terminal in Central America.

Night view of power plant (© AES)
AES Panama’s natural-gas-fire-powered plant (© AES)

The new plant and terminal will meet growing energy demands using a cleaner, resilient supply. Since 2018, the power plant has prevented over 100 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions that would have resulted from use of traditional fossil fuels. In addition, AES Panama has sponsored technical training and entrepreneurship programs in Panama, including some designed for women and youth.

Coca-Cola Azerbaijan won the ACE in the “Women’s Economic Empowerment” category for providing business training for rural women entrepreneurs, advancing women-led businesses in the tourism sector, and promoting entrepreneurship among young women.

Woman in white coat spraying plants in greenhouse (© Elmar Mustafayev/UNDP Azerbaijan)
Khalida Jafarova works at her greenhouse in Gizilagaj, Azerbaijan. She was helped by a local project to promote rural women’s businesses, with funding from the Coca-Cola Foundation. (© Elmar Mustafayev/UNDP Azerbaijan)

Coca-Cola Azerbaijan’s near-even split among male and female employees — including in leadership positions — reflects the importance the company places on diversity and inclusion. The Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Company considers comparatively higher representation of women in leadership roles as one of the factors driving its consistently strong business performance.

“Our award winners this year demonstrate that it is indeed possible to do well and to do good,” said Manisha Singh, assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs.

The 2020 winners show why community investment should be a priority of every business operating abroad, Singh said. “ACE winners are defining what it means to be responsible and successful enterprises around the world,” she said.

Learn more about ACE and this year’s winners.