Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#35 - 28 Jul 2002

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 the role of BHP Billiton OK Tedi mine, and we review Oxfam's challenge to the pharmaceutical industry

Welcome

Thanks to all those who have contacted Mallen with compliments / comments on his recent web project the virtual conference (http://www.bitc.org.uk/anniversary/offsite). It was great fun to do, but it's rather good to have life back to normal!

Welcome to Simon Divecha from the Mineral Policy Institute, who contributes an article for this issue on the BHP Billiton OK Tedi mine issue, which we've covered in the news section of several previous editions. His piece underlines the rather harder edge that comes with the growing demand for corporate accountability.

No less challenging has been the contribution to the debate on the role of pharmaceuticals in a world of poverty and disease by Oxfam, Save the Children and VSO. Although space has been tight (we do restrict the size of each edition, in spite of what you may think!) we've tried to cover some of the key points and provide some thoughts in response.

Meanwhile, voting on the website for the most recent poll has begun.

The question: "Can a company be socially responsible if its main product is harmful to health or the environment?". So far, 82 people have voted, and the results roll out as follows:

Yes, if it works to reduce the harm and to run all other aspects of the business ethically 43 (52.44%)

Yes, but only if it aims to stop selling the harmful products and leave them to less responsible businesses 5 (6.1%)

No, under no circumstances 34 (41.46%)

As ever, we look forward to seeing your views!

Rupesh Shah was prompted to wonder whether such surveys are valuable. "The point I hear you making is that the issue is a hugely complex one that cannot really be narrowed down to three possiblilities; that there is no real "solution", since as is the nature of dilemmas - there are contradictory and paradoxical elements, which render it unsolvable. What the reductionist approach does here, it seems to me, is fragment the issues and leave them subject to appropriation through sound-bites."

It's a problem inherent with these kinds of surveys. The truth is that we've never promoted one of these votes as being a representative statement of the public view, or even the sole way of looking at the issue in question. They do, however, give an interesting barometer of opinion of the Business Respect readership on some of the questions covered in the journal. The instant votes so far are the most popular way in which people participate. We'd love to think we could have active discussion forums with the nuances of the questions being explored, but would such forums actually be used? Sites that have tried them, with the exception of technology sites, have generally found not.

It does occur to us though that a discussion forum that brought together CSR change agents from inside and outside of business would be a fascinating place to be. If we get a few requests for such a facility, we would be delighted to oblige ...

News

CSR shining lights are being hidden

Social responsibility has become a priority for many companies, according to a new study published by a consultancy company. Of 120 senior managers surveyed, 88% were “actively and voluntarily seeking to contribute to a better society and a cleaner environment”.

New Zealand: Telecom adopts tough audit policy

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, Telecom's auditors for 12 years, the company is tightening up more than any other New Zealand company in refusing to allow auditors to carry out non-audit work.

US: JP Morgan Chase defends role in Enron accounting

JP Morgan chief executive told a US Congressional Hearing that his bank did not knowingly help Enron hide debt.

Japan: IT companies in shift to eco-friendly transport

Many IT companies, including NEC Corp and Canon Inc, plan to shift from use of trucks and aircraft to trains and ships for domestic and overseas product shipments to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported, citing industry observers and company sources.

ExxonMobil to phase out MTBE in California early

ExxonMobil has set an early date for phasing out methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), a fuel additive that has contaminated ground water.

European Commission considers chemical company influence

The European Commission has launched an investigation into whether multinational companies have obtained undue influence on the committees that set standards for cooling equipment.

Johnson & Johnson under investigation

Johnson & Johnson says it's under investigation by the US Food and Drug Administration. The company says the probe is "presumably" related to a lawsuit filed by an ex-employee in which he made allegations about the company's record-keeping.

UK: Think tank argues for CSR link to business innovation

The corporate sector is well placed to produce new thinking on social problems but it must be part of core business development Companies should be as innovative in their approach to corporate social responsibility projects as they are in their core business if CSR is to deliver on its initial promise, says a new Demos report called Getting down to business.

Western firms look warily towards Sudan oil

Western companies are focusing on potential new opportunities from Sudan's undeveloped oil reserves following the agreement between the Sudanese government and main rebel groups that could end the civil war.

UK: Greenpeace and Npower criticised for misleading advertising

The UK's Advertising Standards Authority has criticised Greenpeace and Npower over a newspaper advertisement for its joint energy venture "Juice".

US: 3M relaunches

3M is relaunching the Scotchguard brand with an environmentally friendly product two years after voluntarily pulling it for environmental reasons.

Iceland: Environmentalists attack Alcoa smelter plan

Environmentalists are lobbying the Iceland government to prevent Alcoa inc from going ahead with the building of a smelter which will be fuelled by a huge hydropower plant.

Japan: Honda, Toyota in last lap of fuel-cell race

Japan's top two car manufacturers are in the advanced stages of the race to become the first company in the world to roll out a commercial fuel-cell vehicle.

Malaysia: MTUC hits 18 foreign multinationals for labour breaches

The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has said that it will be filing complaints against 18 foreign multinationals for breaching labour guidelines.

UK retailers blacklist harmful chemicals

Boots, Marks & Spencer, the Co-op, B&Q and the Early Learning Centre have said that they will eliminate potentially harmful chemicals from the products they sell within five years.

Article

CSR – Does It End At Home?

Author: Simon Divecha, dated 28 Jul 2002

Simon Divecha, the Campaign Coordinator for the Mineral Policy Institute, argues BHP Billiton's recent actions on the OK Tedi mine serve as a case study for CSR double standards.

Beyond Philanthropy - Pharmaceuticals challenged to go further

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 28 Jul 2002

Oxfam, Save the Children and VSO have released a new report that seeks to set out the terms of reference for pharmaceutical companies grappling with the issues around corporate social responsibility.

Following edition - No 36