After an insider trading scandal rocks the company, Cargill’s president is inspired to clarify values—later becoming known as the Guiding Principles.
In 1938, President John MacMillan, Sr., discovered that three of his best grain traders had not only been trading for the company—but also trading for themselves. It was a practice that created a conflict of interest, and was strictly prohibited at Cargill.
Fifteen years earlier, John Sr. had clearly stated his high expectations regarding the ethical practices of Cargill employees. He summed up his beliefs in a 1923 letter to an employee, which reiterated “the policy on which our business has always been conducted.” In the letter, John Sr. explained that “we do not permit any sharp practices of any character and that our word is just as good as our bond.” With these principles in mind, the company leader denounced the behavior of the grain trade employees publicly in the December 1938 issue of the Cargill News.
He replaced his traditional Christmas greeting with an announcement of their dismissal, stating that “one of the saddest things that can happen to any of us is the loss of our good name and reputation.”
It wasn’t simply a moment for discipline, but an opportune time to remind Cargill employees of the company’s values. The incident reinforced the idea that Cargill’s success depends on the integrity of its reputation.
The publication was the first formal statement on the company’s bedrock values. In later years, Cargill would evolve them into formal statements, first in an official Code of Conduct, and again in 1995 with a set of Guiding Principles that emphasize themes of integrity, honesty, respect and responsibility between employees, customers and communities.
Today, the Guiding Principles serve as a foundation for employees in 67 countries across the globe. Following these principles, Cargill’s network continues to grow responsibly, meeting the needs of a diverse, expanding and interconnected world.