Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#107 - 11 Feb 2007

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 ask whether the motor companies are failing to meet the challenge of climate change.

Welcome

This time around, the attention turns to the motor companies. I am used here to carrying pieces that record controversies, but generally draw attention to the good initiatives that companies are taking in finding their way forward. In the case of the motor industry, however, it is hard not to question whether companies are really missing the scale of the challenge and are failing the test. This is the question for the main article for this edition.

Recent weeks have seen considerable movement by the supermarkets on issues around sustainability, with commitments by Wal-Mart, Tesco, and Marks & Spencer to put environmental concerns to the heart of their operations. The moves have been met by some commentators with genuine praise for what is seen as considerable ambition - whilst dismissed as a cynical ploy by others.

The vote on the website hasn't been changed for a while, so I decided now would be the time to take the temperature of opinion amongst readers of this newsletter. As a result, the vote has now been changed to read:

Recent announcements by the big supermarkets about environmental policy represent:

* A real shift towards sustainable practice
* A small, but important step with much more needed
* Nothing but cynical public relations with no substance

Please let us know what you think!

That means, of course, that we retire the previous vote. The final tally was as follows:

Companies that trade on their ethics such as the Body Shop should:

* Stay independent at all costs to preserve their brand 470 (29%)
* Accept offers from responsible buyers that may help the company to move forward 889 (54%)
* Operate purely by the logic of the market, it's a brand not a religion 285 (17%)

Thanks to the 1644 people that voted.

News

US: Business climate change coalition calls for action

A group of US-based companies and several environmental NGOs have created the US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) and are calling on the federal government to enact strong legislation to achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Germany: EU rejects automobile lobbying on emissions

The European Commission has rejected warnings from Germany's car industry that jobs would be destroyed by legal curbs on car exhaust emissions.

EU hand out record fine to cartel after ABB blows whistle

Eleven companies, including ABB, Alstom, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Siemens and Toshiba have been hit with a fine of 750m euros for fixing prices in electrical generation equipment. Over half was levied against Siemens for having been the leading force in the cartel, whilst ABB had its fine nullified due to its role in denouncing and documenting the cartel.

Korea: Hyundai boss jailed for embezzlement

The chairman of Hyundai Motor Company Chung Mong-koo has been sentenced to three years in jail having been found guilty of embezzlement.

UK: Masterfoods to end adverts aimed at under-12 year olds

Masterfoods, which produces confectionary bars such as Mars and Snickers, has said that it will stop targeting any of its advertising at under-12s in the face of growing concerns about childhood obesity.

Australia: Retailer hits back at paper alleging child exploitation

Retailer David Jones is to sue the Australia Institute and its director over claims that the company had eroticised and exploited children in its advertising.

UK: Ethical investment fund tops performance of UK stock market funds

The Co-operative Insurance Sustainable Leaders fund has become the best performing unit trust in the UK over the past year - the first time an ethical fund has achieved pole position.

Indonesia: World Bank bans fraud firms from its projects

The World Bank has banned around 40 Indonesian firms from taking part in projects that it sponsors for between one and five years due to alleged fraud and corruption.

China: Starbucks bans trans fats

US coffee chain Starbucks is to stop selling food containing trans fats at its Chinese stores within the next six months.

US: Wal-Mart civil rights case to go to court

Wal-Mart is to face a class action lawsuit that will be the largest civil rights action against a US firm - claiming that the company has exercised pay discrimination against over a million female employees.

UK: Avian flu company under investigation for breaking regulations over imports

Turkey producer Bernard Matthews is under investigation over suspicions that it imported poultry from inside an avian flu exclusion zone in Hungary.

Article

Running out of road

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 11 Feb 2007

Every now and then an industry is faced with the challenge to adapt and change at a scale and speed that demands imagination and commitment. Sadly, the response by many representatives of the motor industry to the news that the EU is to raise fuel efficiency standards suggests that industry is still in denial about the changes required.

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