Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#36 - 11 Aug 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 respond to attacks on business involvement in the Rio+ 10 Earth Summit, and we review the Corporate Accountability Report of South African Breweries.

Welcome

Every issue we send out, there are inevitably a few "bounces" that - for one reason or another signal that the email hasn't been received by its intended target. Sometimes people leave their company and forget to update us with a new email address. Sometimes a user has exceeded their storage allocation on their email set-up. Sometimes there is a technical problem at the other end.

Last issue we had something of a first though - one subscriber's company bounced Business Respect on the basis that it contained "dirty words" and had therefore been filtered out. Which dirty words managed to work their way into a CSR story, we still haven't identified. In fact, frankly, we're b**gered if we can work it out at all. Oh well.

For some people, of course, "business" itself is a dirty word.

As this issue is sent, the papers in the UK are carrying an attack on businesses who are sending senior business leaders in the delegation to the Johannesburg environmental summit. Certain NGOs - the papers name Christian Aid and Friends of the Earth - think that it's disgraceful that business leaders from Thames Water, Rio Tinto and Anglo American should go at all, and express concerns that changes to the draft agreement being concocted may have been unduly influenced by big business interests.

This is both predictable and extremely depressing. Since there can hardly be a solution to the challenges of sustainable development that don't include these companies - and many others besides - the fact of their attendance should be a cause for some celebration. So, too, should be the fact that - via the Business Action of Sustainable Development group - business has been better focused on the issues around this summit than most of the other players. There is real movement here.

Thames Water - part of the German RWE group - has made significant moves towards CSR reporting that reflects the committed work it is doing across the agenda. Rio Tinto has been engaged for some time in what it means to be a leader in its particular high-impact industry. Anglo American is featured in this very issue for its ground-breaking stance on supporting employees with AIDS. To suggest such companies should not be engaged in the agenda of the Rio +10 summit is frankly just absurd.

It doesn't mean everything's rosy. Each of these companies are in high impact industries, and need to stretch themselves to continuously improve their performance. All the more reason! More significantly, one could point to the fact that - although some leaders are engaged in the summit, rather more are not and should be.

But so long as we live in the comic book universe where sustainability will be brought about by "us" (decent, green-minded folk) from defeating "them" (nasty, selfish and stupid corporates) those other companies have every incentive to keep their heads down. And we will be a lot slower in building consensus around the common solutions that our common problems demand.

It is just frustrating that when - having promoted the cause of corporate social responsibility for some years, and seen companies increasingly paying heed - that positive behaviour is then punished by NGOs whilst the laggards (ExxonMobil notwithstanding) get off lightly.

On that note, Mallen is off for a holiday. Next issue's editorial should be suitably more mellow and refreshed!

News

US: Socially responsible funds boosted by corporate crisis

The recent crisis of corporate governance is encouraging US investors to move their money into socially responsible investment (SRI) funds, according to a new report by fundtracker Lipper.

Jamaica: Hoteliers encouraged to reinvest in the environment

The recent crisis of corporate governance is encouraging US investors to move their money into socially responsible investment (SRI) funds, according to a new report by fundtracker Lipper.

GE resists penalty for alleged air pollution

General Electric Co. yesterday said Ohio environment regulators were seeking $4.3 million for alleged clean air violations that were reported more than five years ago.

Ex-Executive Says Dynegy Asked His Help to Cheat

Bradley Farnsworth, a former senior executive at Dynergy Corp, has filed a lawsuit alleging that his firm fired him last year after he refused to play along with a plan to manipulate the company's profits and losses in the summer of 2000.

Anglo American to make AIDS drugs available to employees

Anglo American has announced that its operating companies are to make anti-retroviral drugs available to employees infected with HIV/AIDS at company expense.

US State Department seeks to puncture ExxonMobil human rights lawsuit

The US State Department is attempting to quash a human rights lawsuit brought by Indonesian villagers against ExxonMobil on the grounds that it could undermine the war on terrorism and create a "potentially serious adverse impact" on US interests.

South Africa: BHP Billiton says nationalisation fear overplayed

BHP Billiton's executive director, Chip Goodyear, said fears about the fallout from the new South African mining industry charter on the industry have been overplayed.

Italian seed companies probed over GMOs

10 seed companies are being investigated by an Italian court for allegedly using maize containing a genetic material in violation of the law.

Australia: Prime Minister warns about "corporate excesses"

Prime Minister John Howard has attacked business leaders who have been "getting away with murder" at a business lunch in Sydney, on the same day as the founder and former CEO of collapsed insurance company Ray Williams made his first appearance in the witness box at the HIH Royal Commission.

Japan: Nippon Food admits beef scam

Nippon Food Inc. has been caught ordering imported beef to be packaged as domestic so the company could receive government "mad cow disease" subsidies. Shunji Tanaka, chief of the marketing department at the company's Himeji branch, confessed that he had ordered the deception.

Black drivers settle discrimination case with Danone

Black truck drivers who deliver bottled water for McKesson Water Products, owned by Groupe Danone, are to share a $1.2m settlement following allegations of racial discrimination.

Xerox sued for 'blacks in a noose' discrimination

Xerox is being taken to court in Cincinnati by black employees who claim that black dolls with nooses around their necks were left in some of the company's branches. The move follows an equal opportunities finding against the company for discrimination.

Yahoo! urged to resist Chinese pledge on censorship

Yahoo! Inc. risks complicity in rights abuses if it remains a signatory to China's "Public Pledge on Self-discipline for the Chinese Internet Industry," the campaign group Human Rights Watch has said in a letter to Yahoo!'s CEO Terry Semel.

Christian Aid attacks business for influence at the Earth Summit

The earth summit has been hijacked by big business and the original goals of enhancing the lives of the world's poor are fast disappearing, according to Christian Aid.

Article

South African Breweries - Corporate Accountability Report 2002

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 11 Aug 2002

"In the complex, fast-changing global economy of today, well run, responsible business can be a tremendous force for good." Graham Mackay, Chief Executive, SABmiller

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