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Valuable Lessons to Remember There are several lessons to take away from the recent recession, says Marilyn Carlson Nelson. “Firstly, when competitors are fighting over a smaller piece of the pie, there is a temptation to cut corners on products and services, tamp down R&D investments, and retreat from growth opportunities,” she says. “In actuality, this may not be the time to pull in your horns. Certainly, more needs to be done with less, but when the competition is retreating, opportunities surface. It was during the recession that our travel management company, Carlson Wagonlit, grew to become the world’s largest travel management company and we invested heavily in introducing our overseas Radisson Blu brand to the U.S.” Carlson Nelson says another lesson is to manage to the inevitable. “One of the reasons that we were able to continue our growth trajectory is that we anticipated a downturn. This is not to say that we had a crystal ball when it came to predicting this specific situation, but Carlson, now in its 76th year, has weathered many an economic downturn,” she says. “We have always respected capital, maintained fiscal prudence in our operations, remained nimble in our decision-making process, and always prioritized the customer experience.” But perhaps the most important lesson of all lessons, Carlson Nelson says, is that the recession confirmed quite emphatically that this is an interconnected world. A world where the transgressions of business leadership can have devastating consequences for the average person—not just down the block, but many thousands of miles away and often times in developing countries where the population is just getting a toehold on capitalism and democratic systems. “This is one of the reasons I have been so motivated for the last few years to co-teach a course with Professor Myles Shaver on corporate responsibility for Executive MBA students,” she says. “Clearly, business must be a force for good in our world—now more than ever before.” 16 UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA Marilyn Carlson Nelson Former Chairman and CEO Carlson The Challenge Now is Increasing Food Production Immediately prior to the 2008 recession, the world saw a run-up in food commodity prices. The recession exacerbated the trend. This did two things, says Jim Prokopanko. First, it brought considerable governmental attention to the issue of food security in many regions of the world. Second, it incented more investment in the production of crop nutrient products. “As a result, we have seen an increased level of global competition as China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Morocco have intensified the competitive landscape with investors working to gain from the higher demand and prices,” he says. “As well, governments in many countries encouraged or incented local production of grain and oilseed production, along with the necessary means for agricultural production such as domestic crop nutrient production.” Prokopanko says the challenge remains to feed more than nine billion people by the middle of this century and to accomplish that without harming the environment—especially increasingly scarce land and water resources. “The lion’s share of the increase in food production will have to come from higher yields,” he says. Achieving higher yields by adopting next-generation seed varieties, feeding plants an adequate and balanced diet of nutrients, and using best agronomic practices on the most productive and environmentally sound land under cultivation today is more sustainable than bringing large areas of new and often environmentally fragile land into production. “Sustainable intensification, in many respects, simply is the application of the economic law of comparative advantage,” he says. “However, a commitment to free trade is a prerequisite to capture the full economic and environmental benefits of sustainable intensification. The future is not without new and old challenges.” Jim Prokopanko President and CEO The Mosaic Company


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