Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#102 - 3 Sep 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 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 a critical attack on Prahalad's case for treating the poorest in the world as customers to alleviate poverty.


Last issue's article on the business case for CSR provoked quite a lot of response - just about all of which was sympathetic to the contention that it is time to become more sophisticated in this area, and to stop treating CSR as an 'it' - a single thing that can have one business case that will 'prove' the correctness of a proposed course of action in advance.

One of the most thoughtful responses came from Richard Brophy, the CSR Manager for Herbert Smith LLP. Richard contributed the following:

"I think the problem for some of us that not all businesses are yet capable of reflecting deeply enough for CSR to be considered a set of judgments with hoped for rather than expected outcomes. For example, ten years ago, business development in law firms may well have meant a trip to the golf course.

"Now those same firms employ large marketing teams delivering sophisticated client relationship management programmes or campaigns for brand positioning. That change must have taken a lot of pressure, probably, in the early days, from a small amount of people.

"The question is whether there is sufficient drive and energy within the CSR movement to force a similar change - not necessarily so that we suddenly employ teams of 50 when we used to have three, but where CSR is an accepted part of the fabric of the business (whether or not it reaps daily success, which is as impossible for marketing as it is for CSR)."

Thanks to Richard for those thoughts, and to all of you that wrote in.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a pretty positive review, in common with a lot of others, of CK Prahalad's influential work 'The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid'. This has proven to be one of the most influential business books of recent times, so I was interested to see the concerted, well-considered and argued attack on the work recently by Aneel Karnani. It seemed an important and timely debate, so this issue I have reviewed the key points.

The sharp-eyed amongst you may have noticed a three week time lapse between the last issue and this one. Well, even CSR geeks take a holiday sometimes! Although the sharp-eyed of you have probably been taking a well-earned break of your own and not in the least concerned when this newsletter appears! Hopefully all are refreshed and looking forward to a few months crammed with CSR-related achievement to come!


Pharmaceuticals: AIDS drug makers criticised for failing the challenge

Pharmaceutical companies are failing the communities they serve by their lack of collabroation over combination drugs, according to a new assessment by the Interfaith Centre on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).

World Bank sustainability restructure questioned by campaign groups

The World Bank's stated plan to fold its environmental and social development units into a department that oversees large infrastructure development has been criticised by some groups as potentially watering down its commitment to sustainability in favour of lucrative large projects.

US: Tobacco firms lose lawsuit on fraud

Leading tobacco companies have been found guilty by a US federal judge of conspiring to deceive the public about the risks of smoking, in violation of racketeering laws.

Apple produces report into sweatshop claims

Apple Computer has produced a report into operations at its suppliers factories in China that were recently the focus of newspaper sweatshop allegations. The report said that some discrepancies had been found, but there is no evidence of child or forced labour.

China: Most people assume bribery is normal

A survey of Chinese citizens has suggested that the majority assume that commercial bribery is a standard part of business practice.

BP was warned about Prudhoe Bay pipelines four years ago

According to documents revealed by the investigation into the oil spill at BP's oil field in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, the company received a report over four years ago raising concerns.

US: Political donations in the spotlight

American companies are finding growing levels of attention being paid to their political donations by investors concerned about the use to which corporate funds are being put.

Global institutions join up to focus on supply chain working conditions

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank, and the International Labour Organisation are to collaborate in developing a global programme for better labour standards in supply chains.

China: Foxconn cuts defamation claim against journalist

Foxconn, whose subsidiary has been recently caught in the iPods 'sweatshop' claims, has slashed a defamation claim against two Chinese journalists to a token one yuan from an initial 30 million.


Is there REALLY a fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid?

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 3 Sep 2006

The seminal work by CK Prahalad, arguing the crucial role of multi-national corporations in alleviating poverty by treating the poor as consumers, has been one of the most influential tracts in recent years. Now, a vigorous attack has been mounted on its underlying assumptions and conclusions.

Previous edition - No 101 | Following edition - No 103

Subscribe Now


The Business Respect email newsletter has been produced since 2001 to give news and commentary on CSR worldwide


See the archive of past issues