Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#121 - 17 Feb 2008

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 emerging CSR standards help or hinder companies wanting to create radical change.

Welcome

IBM has released a report on corporate social responsibility, arising from a survey it carried out on 250 business leaders globally. Apparently, two-thirds of those surveyed said that they are focusing some of the CSR activities to create new revenue streams. However, this interesting insight is balanced by the revelation that fewer than 25 percent of them think that they actually understand what their customers CSR expectations are.

Believe it or not, I think this is a good sign. It is a good sign that so many are now starting to see the concept of CSR that goes towards their revenue streams. It is the beginning of putting it at the heart of the business, rather than on the periphery.

I would temper that insight slightly. One friend of mine who works for a comms agency said that they had experienced a number of companies seeking help to "do a Plan A" - the Marks & Spencer masterstroke of marketing. It is a masterstroke because it is based on a solid 100 point plan of concrete action. One small difference. It turned out that what they wanted was the marketing, but without the rather onerous trouble of creating the solid, company-wide commitment to action that went with it. I think there is still a long way to go before embedding CSR is the mainstream activity it needs to be.

On the other hand, it is no great surprise how few business leaders understand their customers CSR expectations. Stakeholder engagement remains a rather undeveloped art. I have seen it done a number of times. I have rarely seen it done well. Any company that has sent out a questionnaire or convened a panel and asked some pretty obvious questions - well, it's better than not doing it at all, but it's not going to deliver the real insights into how stakeholder engagement can help you be fit for the rapidly changing future expectations.

Have we too quickly settled into a rut about how we go about this business? If we need rapid change, will the emerging standards help us to get there, or will they actually hinder us by encouraging well managed incremental change instead? That is the question for this issue's main article.

Your thoughts, as always, will be welcome.

In the mean time, the vote on private equity has been on the website now for a few weeks. Out of the various things I wrote during 2007, I note that it was the piece on private equity that made it into Lifeworth's annual review of CSR this time around. It is obviously the hot topic of the moment.

As far as the voters are concerned, there is quite a strong view that PE firms have special challenges. As you recall, the question goes as follows:

Private equity companies are, by their nature, less socially responsible than plcs

Yes, they are less responsible 111 (49%)
No, they are more responsible 42 (19%)
There is no difference between them 73 (31%)

Many thanks to the 226 people that have voted so far. There is still time to make your own views known!

News

Google says it will invest to support green technologies

Internet giant Google has said that it will invest hundreds of millions of dollars in alternative energy technology projects that would otherwise have difficulty getting funds.

UK: Report questions how green are ethical funds

A new report has said that many ethical investment funds are extremely light on environmental issues, backing major oil companies such as BP and Shell whilst ignoring many of the new cleantech companies that are focused on producing solutions to climate change.

Nokia attacked for failing to justify its environmental leader status

Nokia, which has just unveiled a fully recycled 'concept' phone, came under attack from Greenpeace which dropped the company from its number one position in its 'Guide to Greener Electronics' due to "ineffectual takeback" mechanisms.

Venezuela: Government breaks links with Exxon Mobil

Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA has said that it is to stop sales of crude to Exxon Mobil following demands by the company for compensation for renationalised assets.

Nigeria: Imports of old computers targeted

Nigeria is to work towards a ban on the import of old computers because so much of the spare parts are being dumped and causing problems of toxic waste.

Office supply company drops Asia Pulp & Paper over environmental concerns

Office supply company Staples has announced that it is ending its relationship with Asia Pulp & Paper over concerns about its environmental performance.

Israel: Company tries to get tax exemption for bribes

A district court in Tel Aviv has turned down a request from a company, name withheld by the court, that had requested the right to deduct just under $900,000 paid in bribes from the company's tax bill.

UK: Ryanair website taken off line over misleading prices

Ryanair, the budget airline, has had to take its website off line for three days after it missed a deadline to remove misleading prices.

US: Hewlett-Packard settles over spy scandal

Hewlett-Packard has brought the spying scandal to a conclusion through a settlement with the New York Times and BusinessWeek journalists.

Shell calls for government intervention over climate change

Royal Dutch Shell has said there needs to be massive intervention by governments across the world to achieve sufficient reductions in greenhouse gases.

Article

When the competent become the enemy of the good

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 17 Feb 2008

The challenge - our rapidly changing world is creating the need for businesses to make a step change in how they do business. The systems companies use to manage their social responsibility are maturing, and this is seen as a good thing that will help them to address the challenge. But what if that's wrong? What if those systems are becoming the enemy of change, not the mechanism for it?

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