Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#145 - 19 Jan 2009

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 Microsoft is still the monopoly the EU thinks it is.

Welcome

Any successful business only becomes so by being prepared to compete hard (or dumb luck, but that is rare, and usually short-lived). But at what point does competing hard become anti-competitive behaviour? It is one of the most difficult areas to draw a hard and fast line. Every now and then, you can see an example of good practice - such as when Pepsi alerted its main competitor Coca-Cola to an attempt to sell its trade secrets.

But more often, we tread a fine line, and companies are content to let regulators to draw that line.

Such questions come to mind because the EU is preparing another legislative tussle with Microsoft over its monopolistic behaviour. But is it as straight forward as it was last time? This is the subject for this issue's main feature.

On last issue's question of what lessons can we learn for 2009 from what happened in 2008, reader Nigel Haskins offered these additional two thoughts.

"First, I foresee a shift away from the generalised and hard to defend CSR agenda, to climate change as the primary activity in this space: since the consequences of climate change are so broad based, reducing their impact will tick a very significant number of 'CSR' boxes, so why have a CSR programme? At the same time there are identifiable direct benefits to be had from tackling climate change for the business, which makes it much easier to make the prime focus.

"Second, I think we need to be very vigilant about the development and operation of the market based mechanisms being created to support the climate change agenda. We have ample evidence that the actors that we currently entrust with operating an effective financial market are spectacularly capable of mis-pricing risks even for well established instruments. Can we allow them to dominate once the scale of the market becomes clear, given that the payoffs are going to accumulate over terms significantly longer than individuals' careers?"

Thanks for a couple of interesting points, Nigel. Personally, I am not wholly persuaded that climate change will become an 'instead of' CSR - but it will certainly be a dominant theme.

News

India: Gujarat drops planned CSR requirement in law

Four months after it had first floated the proposal in its draft industrial policy, the government of Gujarat has withdrawn its planned requirement to force companies to contribute towards local community infrastructure projects in the name of corporate social responsibility.

US: New congress to push harder on tobacco

Tobacco companies in the United States have become resigned to tougher measures on cigarettes by the new Congress, including increased sales taxes and giving the Food and Drug Administration authority over the sector for the first time.

Turkmenistan: Chinese oil firm sacks workers over protest

The Chinese National Petroleum Corporation has sacked ten employees who led protests over the company persistently paying them late, according to Radio Free Europe.

Corporate frauds and fines - update

Satyam Computer Services made the biggest headlines this fortnight, but Lloyds TSB, Aon, China Harbour Engineering and Shell also joined the role call of shame for companies that have been fined, prosecuted or otherwise found to be engaging in criminal behaviour.

UK: Primark hit with new accusations on supply chain

Low cost retailer Primark has said it is investigating claims that one of its UK suppliers, TNS Knitwear, has been employing illegal immigrants from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan and paying workers well below the legal minimum wage for 12 hour days, seven days a week.

Sudan: Global Compact rejects calls to expel PetroChina

The UN Global Compact has replied to calls from a coalition of 80 different campaign groups to expel PetroChina from the Compact's list of signatory companies on the grounds of its operations in a number of conflict countries.

France: Sarkozy calls on banks to suspend bonuses for top bosses

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said that the banks should not give bonuses for top executives for last year, following the 360bn euros bailout they received from the government and consideration of a second wave of funding.

US: Coca-Cola sued for claims on VitaminWater health benefits

Coca-Cola is being hit with a lawsuit contending that the marketing for its VitaminWater product is 'deceptive' and makes 'unsubstantiated claims'.

China: Tobacco adverts criticised for ambiguous patriotic message

Billboard adverts for a tobacco brand belonging to Shanghai Tobacco have been criticised by local government officials for playing on a straight patriotic message, with the link to tobacco only made due to the carrying of the tobacco health warning.

Article

When is a monopolist not a monopolist?

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 19 Jan 2009

Some years ago, there were few reasons to love Microsoft. It had achieved a near monopoly position for operating system and office software, and it behaved like a monopolist.

Previous edition - No 144 | Following edition - No 146

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