Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#110 - 13 May 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 consider whether private equity takeovers mean the end of corporate social responsibility.

Welcome

During the last two weeks, Business in the Community ran a major climate change summit hosted by the Prince of Wales and bringing together 1200 businesses, it launched the CR Index in the UK's Sunday Times with a reception of CEOs, and ran a two day conference in partnership with the good folks at Ethical Corporation. All of which should go some way to explaining why there has been a gap between this issue of the newsletter and the last one. Normal service will be restored when we can figure out just what normal service is anyway these days!

One of the subjects discussed at the conference was the growing focus on private equity. It's a theme we pick up in this issue, with some initial reflections on what people are saying in the rise of public concern about the sheer value and number of private equity takeovers in recent months, and what this might mean for the corporate social responsibility of the acquired companies.

For my monthly column at Ethical Corporation this month, I also spent a little time reflecting on the sad fate of Lord Browne whose impressive business career unravelled during the last month. Personally, I am convinced he will be remembered for the significant achievements at BP and his environmental leadership. There will be plenty wanting to work with him in the future to capitalise on the respect he carries still within the business community and to benefit by his qualities.

News

Australia: AGL to become first major company to take up carbon trading

AGL, the major energy company, is to join the Chicago Climate Exchange in order to benefit from steps it has already taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The move seems likely to embarrass the Australian federal government which has resisted policy moves on climate change.

BP under fire over safety culture

A new report has given the strongest criticism yet of the 'unsafe culture' at BP which led to the explosion in 2005 at a Texas refinery that killed 15 people.

France: Total chief executive investigated for corruption in Iran

Christophe de Margerie, the chief executive of Total, has been placed under judicial investigation as part of a review of alleged corruption involving the company in Iran.

Japan: Shinsei to be ordered to end misleading ads

The Fair Trade Commission is to instruct Shinsei Bank to end a series of misleading advertisements, the first time Japan's FTC has made such an order to a bank.

Rolls Royce to leave Sudan

Aerospace firm Rolls Royce has said that due to the worsening humanitarian conditions in Darfur, the company will pull out of the Sudan.

KFC wins trans fat lawsuit

A US federal court has thrown out a lawsuit brought against Kentucky Fried Chicken over allegations that it failed to tell customers it used oils containing trans fats.

China: Heavy industry drives pollution increase

China is seeing growing pollution caused by the burgeoning investment in heavy industry, according to a recent study in Washington. The growth of steel, aluminium and cement plants has started to reverse longstanding progress in energy efficiency.

Apple makes green pledges

Apple computer, which has been criticised by environmental groups over its green credentials, has announced that it is to stop using toxic and hazardous chemicals in manufacturing.

Starbucks reaches deal with Ethiopia

Starbucks has reached a deal with the Ethiopian government to recognise the importance of Ethiopia's speciality coffee beans in its marketing.

US: Purdue Pharma guilty of marketing deceit

Purdue Pharma, which makes painkilling drug OxyContin, pleaded guilty to charges that it misled doctors and patients over false claims that the drug was less able to be abused than other similar substances.

Survey: Americans disapprove of companies performance on CSR

A majority of Americans from all sides of the political spectrum have said that they would look towards legislators to correct poor CSR performance by US businesses, according to a recent survey.

Google shareholders reject censorship motion

A majority of Google shareholders has voted against a motion to end the self-censorship of the company's Chinese search portal.

Article

Private equity - Agents or destroyers of responsible business?

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 13 May 2007

It has entered the popular consciousness in some areas of debate around corporate responsibility that there is a new breed of powerful barbarian at the gates. Good, socially responsible companies are being taken over by private equity vultures and stripped of assets and any semblance of values for short term gain. But the debate is now being joined with some vigour in defence of private equity actors.

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