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Elijah W. Sells and the Intersection of Compassion and Action

Elijah W. Sells, a cofounder of Deloitte legacy firm Haskins & Sells, produced a detailed peace plan during World War I that shared similarities with the plan for the League of Nations, established in 1920 as the first international organization dedicated to world peace. Sells’ dedication to helping others serves as a vivid illustration of how Deloitte people worldwide seek to take care of each other.

World War I, which was the most destructive conflict in human history at the time, sent politicians and other leaders on a quest for answers. Among them was Elijah W. Sells, cofounder of Haskins & Sells. He was not only an important figure in the field of accounting but also a forward-thinking progressive who sought to pool humanity’s resources to do the most good.

Sells formed Haskins & Sells with Charles Waldo Haskins in New York City in 1895. As the firm grew, stories abounded of Sells’ good works, from giving his overcoat to a staff accountant to handing out fruit to the needy. When World War I broke out in 1914, Sells devoted that same energy to pursuing a peaceful solution.

At the 1915 Meeting of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants, Sells proposed a 19-point plan for international peace. Sells’ boldest idea was the establishment of an international peace-keeping tribunal with its own military. President Woodrow Wilson’s plan for the League of Nations and, later, the United Nations, brought this idea to life.

The United States emerged as an industrial powerhouse during this period, and accountants were in high demand. Haskins & Sells exemplified the patriotic spirit that inspired citizens of the United States after it entered the war in 1917. More than three dozen Haskins & Sells accountants served in the U.S. military during World War I. Additionally, when the American National Red Cross needed help enrolling Red Cross employees for overseas service, Haskins & Sells volunteered to help.

The desire to make the world a better place remains a priority today. Deloitte seeks to have a tangible, measurable, attributable impact where it matters most. WorldClass provides a shared goal to make a “measurable, attributable impact” by helping 50 million people around the world develop professional skills and access opportunities to succeed by 2030.

Elsewhere, Deloitte Australia is helping to shape policy that will serve to protect the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living structure on Earth, with a value of $56 billion. Deloitte Global is also working with companies to help minimize their financing of conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. Another initiative is a collaboration between Deloitte Consulting in the USA and Free the Slaves, an international NGO dedicated to combating human trafficking.

I believe the solution of [resolving World War I] lies in the establishment of an independent tribunal endowed with the right to adjudicate international differences and provided with the power to enforce its decisions.

-Elijah W. Sells, Haskins & Sells founder