Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#135 - 31 Aug 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 companies can conduct business with integrity in Zimbabwe.

Welcome

A tricky question to ask of any individual. Would you ever quit your job because you decided your business was unsustainable or somehow unethical? Indeed, did you do such a thing? I was in a discussion recently with someone who did just that - see the blog posting later in this issue. I would be interested to hear from any others with your stories (anonymous if it helps!) about doing this, or knowing that you should have, but couldn't take the consequences.

One of the trickiest questions for a company is whether to stay working in a country when the government of that country follows policies that the rest of the world finds abhorrent. And it's especially hard if you've been there for many years. The issue was raised again in relation to British firms operating in Zimbabwe, and this provides the focus for this issue's main feature.

Whilst you've been enjoying your holiday, I've been working hard on the next phase for the website and the newsletter. I'm sure I'll get a holiday sometime soon ...

The big surprise when reviewing the results of the readers survey was just how large a percentage of people stated a preference for the newsletter to come in html format, with a little design to make it easier to navigate and more attractive. I knew there would be some, but I hadn't thought there would be so many.

On the other hand, others pleaded for the status quo. One respondent for instance, said 'I read this on my blackberry on the train - moving to html will make this harder to do'.

I'm surprised this was a big deal, because every single issue of the newsletter has a 'want to read this in html? You can here' link to the relevant page on the website. But obviously that's not done the business for most readers - which is why you ask readers what they want in a survey!

So change is coming - and it will be optional change, so those who like the status quo will be able to continue to get it. More about this soon.

One thing that I will announce though. Those who like instant notification can now follow the news updates on Twitter twitter.com/BusinessRespect and the blog updates as well twitter.com/mallenbaker. Twitter is very much a minority sport amongst the readership, but it has been the work of moments to set up an automatic feed when posts are added, so that's something to offer those that do.

Those of you with newsreaders who get headlines through RSS feeds probably already know that both the news stories and the blog have their own feeds.

News and articles are at:
http://www.mallenbaker.net/csr/xml/csrnews.rss

Blog entries:
http://www.mallenbaker.net/blog/xml/mallenblog.rdf

Lots of ways to make it easy to stay up to date. A lot more to come later, when everyone will be back from holiday!

News

Japan: Details of carbon labeling confirmed

Japan is to introduce a range of carbon labels to be carried by a selected range of consumer products. The label will aim to make visible the amount of carbon emitted through the product's production and distribution.

US: Climate change resolutions making impact on companies

Companies are responding to shareholder resolutions on climate change with increasing degrees of action, according to socially concerned investors coalitions Ceres.

India: Tata Motors threatens pull-out from West Bengal

Tata Motors has responded to the ongoing violent protests around the site of its proposed new plant in West Bengal by reflecting that it may pull out from the state and relocate its new Nano car elsewhere.

Australia: Business lobby group warns over carbon trading

Australia's key business lobby group, the Business Council of Australia, has said that plans for carbon trading would hit key company earnings and called on the government to provide more compensation.

Merck accused of dressing marketing up as science

A study carried out by Merck on its now withdrawn painkiller Vioxx that showed whether the drug was easier on the stomach than an alternative was actually conducted as part of a marketing programme by the company, according to a recent report.

US: Proposed Alaskan mine survives people's vote

A ballot question that would have prohibited a proposed gold mine from proceeding due to fears it will disrupt the key fishing industry, has been defeated.

Nepal: Relatives of killed workers sue US firm KBR for trafficking

A Nepalese man and the families of 12 others who were kidnapped and killed in Iraq are to sue KBR over allegations of human trafficking. According to the suit, the company made the men work against their will at a US air base in Iraq prior to the kidnappings taking place.

Canada: La Maison Simons pulls catalogue over 'too thin' models

Fashion retailer La Maison Simons has pulled its latest fashion catalogue following complaints that it used images of models that were unsuitable because of their extreme thinness.

Malaysia: Government calls on corporate support for house building programme

Invoking corporate social responsibility, the Malaysian government has called on companies to contribute to the Amal Jariah programme, with matching grants provided for each contribution up to a budget of RM100m.

Indonesia: Suit against ExxonMobil focuses on human rights abuse by Indonesian troops

A US federal court has ruled that ExxonMobil has a case to answer in a suit over alleged killings and torture by Indonesian troops acting to protect the company's property.

Article

Can you conduct business with integrity in Zimbabwe?

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 31 Aug 2008

British companies doing business in Zimbabwe were asked by the UK Government to sign up to an ethical code to ensure they were not giving support to Robert Mugabe's regime. The companies said no.

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