Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#141 - 24 Nov 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 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 make the case that CSR reporting is broken - and something fast and clever is needed to fix it.


Tomorrow morning I go head to head in a debate with Ernst Ligteringen, the CEO of the Global Reporting Initiative about the future of corporate social responsibility reporting. There will be some great knockabout stuff, I'm sure, to get Ethical Corporation's reporting conference off to a lively start. But of course, the issues are absolutely crucial. CSR / sustainability reporting is the most visible expression of what this movement is aiming to achieve. If it does a good job, then everyone is clear why companies should be engaging in this agenda, even when times are tough. If it doesn't, well it can do more harm than good.

Ernst and the team at GRI have done a lot of good work over the last few years getting more companies than otherwise would to see CSR as a wide-ranging agenda that goes to the core of how they make money. Obviously, I think what got us here isn't what will get us there - hence the debate. But we debate these things respectfully because they're important - there's no other reason for doing it.

For those who can't attend the session, the main feature for this issue touches on some of the key points that may be covered, at least from my side of the discussion! We may get a counterpunch for next time.

I've had some good feedback about the emailing system used to send the last issue, by the way - which is great. Under the old method, I started the newsletter rolling overnight, and six hours later it had all chuntered its way onto the internet. This way, it costs a little extra, but it's gone in, ooh, about ten minutes. When I left BITC to do this full time, I thought I would have masses of time - all those internal meetings you no longer have to do, right? But time remains the most limited resource even when it's all being used (mostly) productively! Darn.

Oh, and I checked the current website vote today for the first time in a little while. You'll remember it asks about how companies' CSR agenda will fare in the recession. Well, there have been 2,431 votes so far - a huge response, not surprisingly I guess. Still, even the best things come to an end eventually, so if you really want to have your voice heard on that question, you have just one more week.


Saudi Arabia: Government to sue tobacco importers

The Saudi Arabian government has said that it is to sue cigarette importers for around $34bn in an attempt to reduce the incidence of smoking-related diseases.

US: Wal-Mart names Mike Duke new CEO

Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott is to step down early next year, and Mike Duke has been named as his successor. Scott was widely credited with having taken Wal-Mart further and faster down to journey towards greater environmental sustainability in recent years.

Australia: Coal industry launches public engagement on climate change

Australia's coal industry has made a bid to win greater public support and understanding in the face of growing perceptions that it is one of the chief sectors to blame for climate change. The Australian Coal Association is running newspaper ads, and has set up a website aimed at spreading information and encouraging debate.

EU: Glass makers cartel fined for price fixing

Four manufacturers of car windows who between them control 90 percent of the European market, have been fined 1.38bn euros after they were found guilty of running a price fixing scam that cheated customers.

Finland: Union boycott brings Stora Enso's exports to a standstill

The Finnish Transport Workers Union (AKT) has carried out a two-day boycott of Stora Enso's paper and wood exports in protest of workplace policies at the company.

China: Baidu caught in scandal over false information

Chinese internet search engine has apologised to users of its service for its failure to police false claims made by some advertisers on its service, particularly medical service providers. Some companies have been using Baidu to post false information, and it has also been criticised for offering to remove negative stories for a fee.

Australia: Wool producers risk ban with change to mulesing promise

Australia's wool industry has gone back on a promise to phase out mulesing by 2010, and now runs the risk that retailers that have threatened a ban will follow through on their threats.

US: Environmental programmes provide financial returns for majority

Three-quarters of businesses that have solid corporate social responsibility programmes are seeing financial returns, particularly as a result of achieving environmental goals, according to a new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Germany: Former Siemens managers convicted in corruption charges

Two Siemens former employees have been given probation and fines when they were convicted of involvement in operating a 'slush fund' in order to win business.

UK: Primark pulls from PR Week event following protest threats

Fashion retailer Primark has pulled a presentation it was due to make at a PR Week conference following news that campaigners were targeting the event for anti-Primark protests. The company had been intended to highlight how it had survived bad publicity when TV broadcasters highlighted child labour in its supply chain.


What point the story with no plot?

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 24 Nov 2008

I read another review of a company's corporate social responsibility report today. The review is typical of the genre. It talks about whether the company sets targets. It talked about whether the report follows the GRI guidelines. It talks about whether the report is assured by an independent third party. The only thing is doesn't talk about is how that company is actually performing on a social, environmental or economic scale.

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