CEO Tower Russell Ellwanger

Culture and Trash

Message from Mr. Russell Ellwanger—TowerJazz CEO & TPSCo Chairman



In Japan, many snacks are readily available at the corner convenience stores. Buying “Pockys,” which are my favorite, and one or more other snacks is a nice way to begin a nature hike or a stroll through a historic village. The downside (along with increasing girth) is that trash receptacles are rarely found along the way! But, despite a dearth of receptacles, nature trails and streets are immaculate. It is difficult to find even one candy wrapper on the ground in the busiest city. How can this be? Easy. If there is no trash receptacle in sight, Japanese will simply put a wrapper in their pocket or bag to discard later.

In contrast, the U.S. and Europe legislate fines for littering. Yet, highways, cities and the countryside are speckled with litter. In many other regions of the world the cities are filthy and wanton dumping is prevalent in the countryside.

Trash is a Reflection of Culture: Respect vs. Fear

In Japan, at a very young age, children are introduced to Tao, “the Way.” Not in a religious fashion, simply as an understanding of respect for others, the workplace and the environment. A 4-year-old child begins a kindergarten school day by lining up his or her shoes in an orderly fashion outside the school room, because of course, no one would carry street dirt into a place of learning or into a home. Then they take the washcloth, an “oshibori” that is part of their uniform, and wipe off their desktop. The school day ends, as well, with wiping off the desktop. All parts of Japanese social culture are imbued with respect for society, the workplace and the environment. It becomes a cultural norm, the acceptable way of behavior, where there is no real need for laws or fines to enforce it.

Laws and fines might to some degree curtail littering, but they cannot eliminate it. Cognizant law-abiding citizens will adhere. People who fear being caught and fined will also follow suit, but anyone who thinks it is not their problem, that they won’t get caught, or that a fine is more appealing than an alternative will still use the world as their trash receptacle. Introducing legislation and fines shifts the focus from a question of should and should not, care or care not, to a cost benefit analysis. Only a culture of respect can eliminate the habit. Behavioral change is only sustainable when the motivation grows into a cultural “DNA.”

Emerging Voices

I am often puzzled by nostalgic thoughts expressed about the past being a better time with higher morals than today. I am a U.S. citizen. A half century ago the U.S., a nation proud to have been founded on Christian principles and values, first began its journey to treat all Americans with equal rights. Even with the progress over the last 50 years, to this day there are blatant gender and race inequalities.

I hope that the vast majority of U.S. citizens and the world are appalled and shocked at the recent revelations of sexual harassment and assault in the U.S. legislative bodies including in the Executive branch, in high tech companies, in the media, as well as in many other industries. However, in the midst of this abject evil, it is liberating that laws are now finally being enforced to protect women and give them courage and avenues to take action against powerful, morally bankrupt predators.

Empowerment vs. Legislation: A Culture that Doesn’t Rely on Legislation

At TowerJazz, our social charter is “Gender equality and minority integration with a focus on educational and vocational development.” We hold to this and it has become our culture. In Israel, technical roles are 50/50 female/male and technical management is not far below that. Our other sites continually increase in female and minority representation.

This, I believe, is the main reason why such widescale harassment cannot happen at TowerJazz. It is not because of laws being in place to prevent it, or because of an ethical and moral leadership team, both of which exist, but because women hold key positions throughout the company and hence have equal voice.

True “civil rights” are achieved through involvement of ALL the comprising populations and ensuring that all groups have equal opportunity and power not only to be heard, but to be listened to with an open mind and to be responded to. An empowered, properly represented group of people cannot endemically be victimized.

Those given corporate leadership opportunities have a special responsibility to create a corporate culture that extends beyond the low entry bar requirements of legality into one that is ethical and moral in every aspect, providing all employees opportunity to grow as individuals and to thrive. In the book, The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis states, “A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.” We must focus on objective, inclusive values.

John F. Kennedy defined himself as “an idealist without illusion.” The ideal of a civil society with equal opportunities and rights is not easy to achieve, but it is also not illusional. It begins with individuals who hold to high values and purpose, whose ideas and beliefs percolate through networks. It begins with each of us in our own home and in our respective companies. It begins with corporate leaders who live and enforce an ethical, moral and inclusive value system with no exceptions. It begins when each citizen carefully evaluates and selects ethical public representatives who will not lower themselves to act as apologists for behaviors that are not defendable. Representatives who adhere to the “Tao,” who respect creation and democratic principles; who know that an opposition party is an absolute requirement for a democracy and that such opposition should never be defined as the “enemy.”

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