Your cover story was very insightful [Sept. 21]. Western conglomerates can increase their sales exponentially by reinvesting tiny percentages of their profits toward savvy corporate social responsibility. However, in Asia's context, companies are lagging behind in the social-responsibility stakes. It's without question that Asia holds the key for the future growth of many corporate multinationals and they ought to invest more meaningfully in community service and social uplift.
I've always thought environmental problems were of no concern to most people, but I was pleasantly surprised after reading this article. The profit-seeking mind-set of the general populace that I've always thought was completely ingrained in humanity looks like it is actually changing. It seems the mood surrounding most consumers has shifted to a more ethical one. I was so happy to read this article and I'm starting to see hope for a greener future.
Two quotes stand out in your section on responsibility pioneers. Amy Domini says, "The future of the planet is as important as an earnings report." I had hoped the planet ranked a bit higher. Trash-free Melissa Schweisguth says, "I live my life in a way that aligns with my values." So do the rest of us, Melissa. That's the problem.
Engadine, Mich., U.S.
Re your article on Germany, "Divided They Stand" [Sept. 21]: No longer. The country has been reunited for 20 years now, and most people under 35 cannot even remember that Germany and Europe were once separated into two political blocs. The Iron Curtain and the Wall are long forgotten episodes that young people only know from history books. They do not distinguish between East and West, North and South. They think of the future, not the past.
Recently in Germany, particularly in the run-up to the elections, there has been an unfortunate discussion about justice in the former G.D.R. The hard-left party Die Linke is driving a campaign to reject the term state of injustice when talking about the regime in East Germany. This is another attempt to play down a dictatorship that destroyed families and careers, killed people in jail and at the Wall, and built a monstrous system of control and terror with access to all sectors of daily life. Young Germans learn a lot about the crime and terror in Nazi Germany. Unfortunately, their knowledge of the inhumanity of the former G.D.R. regime is often close to zero.
Maik G. Seewald,
You're too hard on Germany. If North and South Korea were ever to reunite, then Germany would provide the benchmark of success. Just contrast America 100 years after the end of the Civil War with German progress of the last two decades. While Germany has its own racial and immigration problems with sporadic outbreaks of violence, they are nowhere near the magnitude of those in the U.S. The "wounds" seem to me to be healing much faster than you claim.
In the postwar period of the German economic miracle, thousands of guest workers from southern Europe were integrated without major problems. Times have changed. The integration of Turks is not primarily due to economic conditions as your article might suggest, but it is the cultural responsibility both of Germans and Turks. For whatever reason, Turks are often not anxious to learn German, thus missing out on the most important tool for integration. I do not blame the Turks for their habits and lifestyle, I just want to emphasize that there is still a long way to go to achieve full integration, and that some of the obstacles are not necessarily purely economic.
Standing Up to Taliban Corruption
In your article "How the Taliban Thrives," you state that a local businessman, Hajji Lala Jan, was subcontracted by a local firm working for the German government's aid agency GTZ to build a road in Kunduz, in Afghanistan, and that Jan handed some cash to a Taliban middleman [Sept. 7]. We would like to point out that the project mentioned is not a GTZ project, and no one of that name has ever worked as a subcontractor for us. Neither we nor our partners make any payments to antigovernment groups. All of our projects are monitored very strictly.
Anja Katharina Tomic, Deputy Head, Corporate Communications, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GTZ),