Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#122 - 2 Mar 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 review a report on what will be the new social taboos of the future.

Welcome

It is getting hard to keep up with the rash of surveys, studies and statistics on CSR these days. Many of these provide useful and interesting insights - the recent Grant Thornton survey, for instance, showing what are the primary drivers for businesses getting involved in CSR. In many countries, from Australia to the US, the key factor remains the attraction and retention of staff - still tops in spite of the huge amount of action and publicity there has been over climate change in recent years.

In addition, IBM have produced a review which shows that companies that outperform the rest have a solid approach to CSR - this is the way round I prefer the interpretation anyway. The headline that 'CSR boosts competitiveness' is just not possible to prove from an attitude survey, and we should always beware of overclaiming. It is the case, however, that many of the demonstrably best companies in the world now take a smarter approach to CSR and sustainability. All the hungry success-oriented businesses in the world watch what these guys do, so that is not a bad observation in itself.

We shouldn't need a business case that proves that 'CSR works' - as though it is as automatic as pressing a button or pulling a lever. Nobody can prove that 'marketing works' on the same basis - it's not that you do it, it's how well you do it that determines the results.

The same goes for stakeholder engagement. Having seen plenty of poor quality stakeholder consultation, you have to say that the missing piece is usually the active interpretation, the real work to take raw input and to turn it into meaningful insight, rather than simply reporting opinions. It is hard for stakeholders to really answer some of the questions companies ask of them. It is this issue that we cover in the main feature this time.

News

China: Factories moving away from coast to escape pollution scrutiny

Many Chinese companies are moving their most polluting processes away from coastal regions into areas where environmental scrutiny is lighter, according to the Chinese campaign group the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE).

UK: Tesco calls for government action on cheap alcohol

Tesco has said that it is keen to work with the government on framing legislation that would restrict the sale of cut-price alcohol in the UK.

Virgin Atlantic flies first biofuel powered flight

A Virgin Atlantic passenger jet has flown from London to Amsterdam with one of its fuel tanks filled with a fuel blend including biofuel made from nuts picked in the Amazon rainforests.

Wal-Mart and Toys 'R' Us release safety measures on imported toys

Wal-Mart and Toys 'R' Us have announced a new series of safety checks to be applied to imported toys, following the series of damaging recalls that dented confidence in the industry.

Microsoft fined after promises on software information doubted by EU

European Union regulators have fined Microsoft a further $1.3bn for abusing its global market dominance. The action came after the EU expressed doubts about the recent announcement by Microsoft that it would share more information about its technology to help third party software developers to make their products more interoperable with the Windows operating system.

Pfizer pulls Lipitor ads criticised as misleading

Pfizer has said it will pull controversial ads that used artificial heart pioneer Robert Jarvik as a representative for its cholesterol drug Lipitor. The ad campaign had been accused of misrepresenting Dr. Jarvik's credentials.

China: Companies need to show green progress to expand

The Chinese government has introduced a programme of 'green securities' to make it harder for polluting companies to raise capital without focusing on mitigation and to require them to provide more information about environmental performance.

UK: Major sugar firm becomes largest to go Fairtrade

The largest sugar cane refiner in Europe, Tate and Lyle, has announced that it is to switch to Fairtrade certified sugar supplies in Britain to benefit farmers in poor countries.

CSR helps competitiveness, according to IBM survey

Corporate social responsibility helps companies to be more competitive, according to a survey of businesses carried out for IBM. The review said that 68 percent of companies said that focusing on CSR helped them to make money, and 54 percent said that CSR helped to give them a competitive edge.

Article

In search of tomorrow's citizen and consumer

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 2 Mar 2008

Any marketer knows that his or her first duty is to understand the customer. Right? But the customer is not just a consumer. The customer is a citizen, and owns a whole bunch of confusing and conflicting impulses. How on earth can you get to grips with this - and particularly get to grips with how life for your business is going to change in the future?

Previous edition - No 121 | Following edition - No 123

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