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The summer of social responsibility

Editor's note

Marc Smith is acting editor of Families in Business

It might not have quite the same ring as the summer of love, but there is no doubting the fact that social responsibility is a hot topic in 2007. For businesses, it means evaluating working practices to take account of social, environmental and ethical issues. For investors, it means asking whether social good can be translated into healthy profits.

And when former US vice-presidents begin acting like Martin Scorsese and Sir Bob Geldof, people usually sit up and take notice. While An Inconvenient Truth and Live Earth – both masterminded by Al Gore – have been undoubted PR and, to some degree, critical successes, it is important to evaluate the very real issues behind the social responsibility hype – and Families in Business does exactly that in this issue.

We take an in-depth look at socially responsible investing and assess how seriously families should be treating it as an investment vehicle. Lisa Woll, CEO of the Social Investment Forum, argues that SRI is here for the long-term; Mike Scott investigates the most successful funds from around the world; Shari Berenbach, executive director of Calvert Social Investment Foundation, puts the case for community investing; and Paul Allen asks whether Fair Trade is the nirvana of the SRI movement.

While Al Gore hasn't (yet) made it into the White House, several notable families have. James W Ceaser and Richard Skinner look at the links between families and politics, as part of our special report on family business in the US. Patti McCracken analyses the impact that emerging economies are having on family businesses in the land of the free, and Mindy Rosenthal, the new managing director of Campden Conferences, North America, chairs a roundtable discussion on liquidity events.

This issue also sees exclusive feature interviews with
several leading business families. We talk to the Hoffmann, Stiefel and Servier families to find out how their companies are surviving in the pharmaceutical sector as it goes through a period of consolidation; the Lavazza family tells us how their coffee is gaining a socially responsible tag; and the Foss family from Denmark reveal the secrets behind the firm that analyses 85% of the world's milk and 80% of the world's grain.

Business education is a vital part of a young businessman's armoury, but it's no longer a one-size-fits-all approach, as we discover in our governance section. Gordon Cairns asks whether Family Business MBAs are a better bet than regular MBAs; Niall Firth discovers that financial education programmes that are not tied to product-selling are not as easy to find as you might think; plus we look at how teaching business ethics could help to avoid the corporate scandals such as
family-owned Parmalat.

In addition, we have our comprehensive roundup of family business news and trends; wise words from our resident family business experts; and if cigars take your breath away, our lifestyle feature presents the Padrón family who have defied
communist dictators, amongst other things, to produce award-winning cigars in Nicaragua.

We hope you enjoy this issue, and as always welcome any feedback you may have.

Enjoy the summer.

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