Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#100 - 30 Jul 2006

An email newsletter with news and discussion focusing on corporate social responsibility globally, looking at the companies in the news and the emerging issues. Linked to the website at http://www.businessrespect.net and produced every two weeks.

This web page provides news stories and articles from the newsletters. Newsletters also include links to features on the internet, Mallen's blog, and other resources.

In this issue, we review the OECD tool for businesses in weak governance zones, and we celebrate 100 issues of Business Respect!

Welcome

Welcome to the 100th edition of Business Respect! Nobody could be more surprised than me that it ever got this far. Apologies in advance that the editorial this time is consequently a bit longer than usual as I take a moment to reflect - if you can't bear it skip straight on down to the next bit.

The newsletters started going out way back in April 2001 - a full six years ago. I had become aware at that time that I needed something that would provide me with the incentive and discipline to keep up to date with researching what was happening in the wider world of CSR. In those days, my day job at Business in the Community provided very little that was international, issues focused or about core business activity - something that has considerably changed since - and it provided (and still does) a fast pace of activity that makes it all too easy to fail to invest in keeping knowledge up to date.

Having benefited from a number of good email newsletters on other topics over the years, it occurred to me that perhaps this would be a way to provide that discipline. The website had been up for a couple of years, and traffic had increased gradually. I had a go, producing an initial issue that would go up on the web, with an invitation to subscribe. After all, I reasoned, if there was no response I could take it down again in a couple of weeks and nobody would much be the wiser.

In that first two weeks, twenty five people subscribed. So issue 2 was sent out to email. The following two weeks another twenty five. And so it went. Now, there are 7,500 signed up subscribers, across over a hundred countries and from private, public and voluntary sectors. It has grown to a point where the system that has worked for some time is now truly creaking at the edges!

The website has a crude content management system designed to take the time consuming elements of producing the newsletter out of the equation. Every evening (when my time management is working!) I do a quick review and add a news story or two onto the site. At some point I will do the article that will be the main feature. When it's time to send out, I write the editorial, hit the button and the newsletter appears both in text, for the email, and formatted into html for the web page. Then I hit another button to produce the text file of the current mailing list from the web database, and the issue is produced by mailmerge via Word and the Mac version of Outlook, Entourage.

Wouldn't it be easier simply to automate the process so it is sent out directly from the webserver? Oh yes! But the current account for the website doesn't allow for mailing lists of 7,500. That would need a dedicated server which costs rather more, although the size of the operation is now starting to push inexorably towards. At that point, it may well be that my long editorial policy of not taking any kind of advertising / sponsorship to cover costs may have to be reviewed. So far, it has been a free service for the CSR community with all the space devoted to content. That is the way I would like it to stay!

However, I did think it was worth reviewing all this activity having hit the magical 100 number. For instance, quite a bit of the static content on the website has now been there for 6 or more years. Time for some of this to be refreshed and renewed, and I'll be looking at this over the coming month (guess how I'm spending my holiday!)

The most interesting bit is to come, however. I have often received requests from people wanting to promote their events either via the website or via the newsletter. The answer has always been, regretfully, no since if it is made available to one it should be available to all and there has simply been no space for that.

Within the next couple of weeks, however, I am hoping to launch a CSR Events calendar on the site that will enable exactly this facility. Events promoters will be able to submit their events (these will be moderated to prevent events not relevant to the CSR agenda or form spam from getting through) and have them appear on the site. Listing will be free, and visitors to the site will for the first time be able to register to get customised email updates or alerts focused on their area of interest. This is the first area that I hope now to explore where, without requiring extra input or burden on scarce free time, there may be additional resources provided that people may find useful.

Event organisers that want to be notified when the service becomes available, send me an email at mallen@mallenbaker.net. Others, watch this space!

Thanks to those that emailed with kind words to congratulate on the 100th issue. They all mean a great deal and help to keep the operation going!

News

Chad and World Bank reach agreement on oil revenues

The government of Chad and the World Bank have come to a final agreement on the management of oil revenues following the controversy caused when Chad tore up a previous agreement that channelled money to serve the poor and the World Bank froze the release of moneys.

Ford to put 1bn into fuel efficiency in the UK

Ford Motor has said that it will spend 1bn on research and development in the UK to improve the fuel efficiency of its cars. The move is an indicator of the seriousness with which the company is now facing challenges over its progress to date.

GlaxoSmithKline focused on breakthrough over bird flu

GlaxoSmithKline has said that it believes it has developed a vaccine for the deadly strain of bird flu that may be able to be mass produced by next year.

India: 160 children rescued from child labour

Police rescued 160 children from a train that was taking them to work as child labourers at a plant run by the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC).

BP focuses on tackling accidents

BP has announced that it is to boost its spending over the coming four years to upgrade safety at its US refineries and to replace pipelines in Alaska following a series of major incidents.

Brazil: Soya traders agree moratorium on deforestation

Multinational traders in soya beans have released a statement declaring a two year moratorium on buying soya from newly deforested land in the Amazon. The move follows action by some of the leading food retailers including McDonald's in response to publicity about the issue.

Worldcom former boss loses appeal

Former Worldcom boss Bernie Ebbers has lost his appeal against conviction and 25-year prison term for fraud and conspiracy leading to the collapse of the company.

UK: Law may be used to target companies over obesity

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that he is willing to use the law to encourage people to adopt a healthier lifestyle by targeting fast food advertising and requiring supermarkets to adopt government approved labelling schemes.

China: Wal-Mart gets its first labour union

The first labour union at a China Wal-Mart store has been formed after employees in Quanzhou voted to form one, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Malaysia: Prime Minister calls on companies to boost corporate citizenship

Prime Minister Datak Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has said that business needs to do more to improve its focus on corporate citizenship, particularly in order to help the underprivileged in society.

Article

A tool for the companies facing the worst dilemmas in the world

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 30 Jul 2006

There are business opportunities all over the world. But some bring higher risks than others. How does a company best navigate dilemmas in countries where governments are unwilling or unable to fulfil their responsibilities in relation to some fairly basic, accepted norms? In an attempt to answer this question, the OECD has produced a tool for multinational enterprises operating in what it describes as 'weak governance zones'.

Previous edition - No 99 | Following edition - No 101

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