Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#166 - 11 May 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 if there might be a more powerful and simple way to tell is a business is socially responsible.


The longer I spend working in the field of corporate social responsibility, the more impatient I get with things that seem designed to make stuff unneccessarily complicated.

I thought it was just me - a sad relic of a simpler age. Increasingly irrelevant as the industry was 'professionalising'.

My airflight reading on my way to speak in Copenhagen last week was Malcolm Gladwell's 'Blink' - and it crystallised for my why so many of the over-complex systems come up with unreliable results. That became the main feature for this edition.

It doesn't have to be complicated - but it does have to go to the heart of the business. I did a video interview of the CEO and Senior Non-exec Director for energy utility Centrica recently. You can see the interviews here.

The conversation went straight to how the business model for providing energy is going to radically change. And what were the implications for what the company is choosing to invest in.

That, for me, is a sign of a company that is on the right journey. The CEO knows that corporate responsibility is about his job - the strategy of the company in how it makes its money in a changing world.

It's a sign that their CR team have done their job well.

Of course, the key context for change in the energy industry is climate change. And that difficult question - how does an energy company make profit through selling less energy?

Such questions may well be raised at the next Ethical Corporation conference in London on climate change. It brings together a group of leading companies that have made some real progress in developing the detail of their response to the new agenda.

If you see yourself in the firing line for new expectations as a result of climate change, you could do worse than get to that conference. See the details in the ad below.


UK unions and lawmakers criticize Kraft CEO

British union leaders and lawmakers lashed out at Kraft Inc. Chief Executive Irene Rosenfeld for failing to appear before an inquiry on the U.S. company's takeover of British confectioner Cadbury on Tuesday. The Unite union also criticized Rosenfeld for failing to meet directly with workers at Cadbury sites across the country to reassure them about the company's plans after it backtracked on a promise to keep open a local factory.

India Cites Violations at Vedanta Mine Project

Vedanta Aluminium Ltd.'s operations in Orissa state could suffer a setback after a government team said the company, a unit of mining giant Vedanta Resources PLC, violated environmental guidelines at its planned mining site in the Niyamgiri Hills.

Rio Tinto workers get China trial date

China has set a trial date for four Rio Tinto employees charged with bribery and violating commercial secrets, the Australian government has said.

EU firms 'exporting torture equipment', Amnesty says

Euro MPs have heard claims that EU companies are exporting equipment used for torture despite legislation aimed at preventing such trade.

US oil company donated millions to climate sceptic groups, says Greenpeace

A Greenpeace investigation has identified a little-known, privately owned US oil company as the paymaster of global warming sceptics in the US and Europe.

Daimler agrees to pay $185m after admitting bribery

German carmaker Daimler has pleaded guilty to corruption in the US and will pay $185m to settle the case. The charges relate to US Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission investigations into the company's global sales practices.

UK: ‘Unlawful’ tobacco pricing leads to £225m fine by OFT

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has fined two tobacco companies and nine retailers a total of £225m for "unlawful" tobacco pricing practices.

Foreign firms pledge not to give bribes in Russia

Dozens of international firms doing business in Russia have pledged not to offer bribes, in a move aimed at fighting corruption collectively.

Mining giant BHP Billiton admits it may have bribed foreign officials

The world's biggest miner admitted yesterday that it had uncovered possible corruption involving the bribery of foreign government officials at some of its exploration projects.

Macmillan faces World Bank ban over Sudan payments

A British publisher is facing a six-year ban from taking up any contracts financed by the World Bank. The move comes after Macmillan admitted making "bribery payments" to secure a deal to print textbooks in South Sudan, the World Bank said.

Nestle announces NGO partnership to verify palm oil

Nestle has said that it will work with the Forest Trust to review its palm oil supply chain to ensure it is not associated with illegal rainforest and peatland clearance. The move follows a vigorous campaign against the company by NGO Greenpeace.

Bhopal trial: Eight convicted over India gas disaster

A court in the Indian city of Bhopal has sentenced eight people to two years each in jail over a gas plant leak that killed thousands of people in 1984. The convictions are the first since the disaster at the Union Carbide plant - the world's worst industrial accident.

Monsanto GM seed ban is overturned by US Supreme Court

The bio-tech company Monsanto can sell genetically modified seeds before safety tests on them are completed, the US Supreme Court has ruled.


Spotting responsible companies - blink and you might miss it

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 10 May 2010

We have a lot of sophisticated tools out there now for spotting socially responsible companies. We have indices, and awards, and quality standards - you name it. Between them, they look at every management process you can think of, and cover every issue that might affect a company. But what if all that information gets in the way, rather than helps?

Previous edition - No 165 | Following edition - No 167

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