Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#165 - 15 Mar 2010

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 ask how well Marks & Spencer's new promises shape up.


I get sent a significant number of press releases from PR agencies talking about some wonderful CSR programme their client is running. I scan the topline for these messages, but pretty much never use them. Why? Because most of the programmes they describe are perfectly ordinary, perfectly unremarkable, and perfectly commendable initiatives.

You will have noticed that the news I cover in Business Respect is just that - news. It is about what is happening that is worthy of interest in terms of the relationship between business and society. I have never carried corporate press releases. Never will.

So why, you might ask, is this edition's main feature focused on a statement by a company about how good it's going to be? Ah, that's the joy of credibility.

Marks & Spencer has a major programme - one that is easily one of the most impressive of any company in the world. It is not a niche brand. And it has just announced that it aims to be the most sustainable retailer in the world by 2015. That is news because it is an ambition most others would shy away from, and it is detailing how it expects to get there. That's why I thought it was worth a closer examination for this time's main feature.

By the way, if you want to hear more from one of the prime movers, Mike Barry from M&S will be one of the speakers at this year's Responsible Business Summit for Ethical Corporation. And what's more, even though the early bird deadline has passed, Business Respect readers can get a 100 discount by quoting the code MBEBE when they register. See the ad below for details.

The next edition of this newsletter will look a little different. The format of the newsletter hasn't much changed since it began in 2001. However, when it started I wrote one article per fortnight - now I'm writing rather more commentary via the blog. Equally, the news summaries were designed to make short bite-sized updates easy to scan, but increasingly people want the option to go back to one or more of the original sources.

Plus - I need a way to provide the service in an even more streamlined way in terms of my own time input.

So the news items carried in this newsletter will no longer be write-ups, they will be summarised previews of sources on the internet, with links to the original sources. In time, there will be the option for readers and people registered at to suggest stories that should be carried (please - still no corporate PR!).

This change should mean that news updates appear on the website (and RSS feed) more speedily. And probably there will be more stories per issue. See what you think.


Bangladesh: 21 people killed in factory fire

21 workers died and 50 were hurt when a factory owned by Garib & Garib caught fire. The site at Gazipur saw workers trapped by the blaze, which took eleven fire engines several hours to bring under control.

US: GlaxoSmithKline could face $6bn risk over diabetes drug Avandia

Following biting criticism of its conduct by the Senate finance committee, GlaxoSmithKline is facing a possible flood of lawsuits - as many as 13,000 - with a potential combined liability of $6bn.

China: Row over World Cup sweatshop accusations

Shanghai Fashion Plastic Products has protested after it had its contract withdrawn for work being carried out in relation to the 2010 football World Cup, to be held in South Africa. The company has denied accusations that it exploited workers making the mascot for the games.

China: End in sight for Google's Chinese portal as tensions escalate

Google has drawn up detailed plans for the closure of its China-based search engine service and is reportedly certain to follow them through, as negotiations with the Chinese government have reached an impasse.


Marks & Spencer - how do its new promises shape up?

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 12 Mar 2010

British retailer Marks & Spencer used to be best known as a pillar of the establishment. No fiery wild-eyed radical, it would do a select number of good things for the community, and it would steadfastly refuse to beat its own drum about it. All that has changed, and the measure of just how much could be seen with the retailer's recent pronouncement that it is aiming to become the world's most sustainable retailer by 2015.

Previous edition - No 164 | Following edition - No 166

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