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Hilfiger Presses Executives to Fight Poverty

Making his first public pitch to fight world poverty, Tommy Hilfiger challenged 1,000 chief executive officers Friday to rally around the cause.

John McArthur, Georg Kell, Tommy Hilfiger and Jeffrey Sachs.

Making his first public pitch to fight world poverty, Tommy Hilfiger challenged 1,000 chief executive officers Friday to rally around the cause.

As the freshly minted global leader for Millennium Promise, an initiative that aims to halve world poverty by 2015, Hilfiger addressed attendees at the United Nations Global Compact Leaders Summit at the Marriott Marquis in New York.

“I am asking all of you to join me in this crusade to end extreme poverty. We know the model works, and with additional resources, we know we can double our efforts,” he said. “I challenge each of you to use all of your resources to support the Millennium Villages Project with your help of any kind, not just donation. We cannot only end poverty, but affect generations to come.”

Having visited a community of 55,000 people in Uganda recently, Hilfiger told the business leaders that prior to Millennium Promise’s involvement there, 95 percent of households survived hand to mouth, food production could not be achieved, nearly two-thirds of the community were earning less than $1 a day and there was no access to health clinics. But the progress he saw in terms of safer water access, substantially better sanitation, the establishment of school classrooms, successful harvests for food co-ops and malaria-fighting efforts inspired him, he said.

Having been tapped by MP’s president and ceo, Jeffrey Sachs, last week to be MP’s front man, Hilfiger told the crowd, “It is hard to be the first, but I will do my best for sure.”

Hilfiger, whose corporate foundation pledged $2 million for the cause last year, said, “We’re doing our small part by donating direct funding, creating an employee engagement fund and a cause-marketing fund. ”

In his remarks Friday, Sachs noted that “life is a daily struggle” for 1.2 billion people in this world, and he encouraged attendees to get involved on a long-term basis as opposed to a one-year or three-year plan.

Afterward, when asked about Hilfiger’s appeal, Barbara Krumsiek, president and ceo of Calvert, a Bethesda, Md.-based investment firm, said of Hilfiger’s, “The fashion industry has an enormous opportunity to make an impact because the public knows them so well, follows them so well and views them as role models. What the fashion industry represents for the Millennium Promise is powerful beyond words. This is an industry that employs a lot of people and affects everyone’s way of looking at the world, particularly women.”

The panel discussion that followed had a few lighter moments, too — a gong that sounded to keep speakers on track and an impromptu World Cup analysis.