Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#37 - 25 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 look for a more mature definition of CSR post-Enron, and we review AngloGold's recent CSR report.

Welcome

As this issue goes out, world leaders and a huge circus of negotiators, NGOs, and other interested parties gather for the Johannesburg summit. A lot has been written about the role of business at this summit. The sad fact is that, in spite of the growing engagement of key companies with the sustainable development agenda, nothing decisive is going to happen until governments begin to pull their weight. There are already companies with huge global operations demonstrating by their actions that it can be more efficient and profitable to begin the process of reducing emissions.

A summit that promises no real breakthrough - which has the pointed absence of the leader of the largest economy in the world - at least has the opportunity to surpass expectations.

It is ironic that for some, businesses are the problem. And yet to date, businesses are leading the way on a solutions agenda - alongside some of the excellent initiatives that have arisen from the Local Agenda 21 aspect of the original Rio conference. Not governments. Not NGOs. But this is simply not good enough if sustainable development is to be seen in retrospect as anything other than a good idea never implemented.

That's not to say that all businesses get it yet, of course. Last issue's editorial on the attacks on business attending the summit got this response from Bob Willard.

"Your strong language and well articulated point of view was refreshing. I totally agree that excluding high-impact corporations from sustainability discussions is counter-productive. Only be using their language to get their attention, engaging them in a real dialogue, and working with them to help them see the business, social, and environmental benefits of their actions will we make lasting converts to the sustainability cause."

Bob, by the way, is the author of The Sustainability Advantage, which coincidentally formed part of Mallen's holiday reading, since it's one of the books he's reviewing for The New Academy Review. It's a good exposition of the business case benefits of corporate commitment to sustainability and is published by New Society Publishers.

On the website, voting continues on our question "Can a company be socially responsible if its main product is harmful to health or the environment?"

So far, the results come in as follows:

Yes, if it works to reduce the harm and to run all other aspects of the business ethically 102 (52.31%)

Yes, but only if it aims to stop selling the harmful products and leave them to less responsible businesses 16 (8.21%)

No, under no circumstances 77 (39.49%)

195 total votes have been cast so far, but there's still time to have your say!

Those that have had holidays - we hope you've had good ones!

News

South Africa: AngloGold top for sustainability reporting

AngloGold heads the league of South Africa's top 40 companies on sustainability reporting, whilst the luxury goods and tobacco firm Richemont comes bottom of the pile due to its refusal to answer questions and paucity of information made publicly available.

Hong Kong: Hang Seng companies missing out on SRI funds

Hong Kong's blue-chip companies are failing to attract investment from a new generation of fast growing global funds because of poor disclosure on environmental and social issues.

South Africa: Governance at top five banks to be examined

South Africa's five biggest banks, Absa, FirstRand, Investec, Nedcor and Standard Bank are to have their corporate governance reviewed by the Reserve Bank to see if they comply with banking legislation, the King committee's code of corporate governance and international norms.

Japan: Boycotts begin to take toll on Nippon Meat Packers

Nippon Meat Packers (known as Nippon Ham) is to slash production of processed foods by around 40 percent by the end of the month as a result of a boycott by retailers.

China: Corporate malfeasance charges brought against top banker

The Chinese government has announced that it is to bring corruption charges against a former top banker, Zhu Xiaohua. He becomes the most prominent corporate leader to face charges of criminal malfeasance in China in recent decades.

US: Philip Morris 'tried to limit patch use'

When nicotine gum and nicotine patches first hit the market in the 1980s US tobacco company Philip Morris tried to limit the number of smokers who knew about them, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Australia: Stock Exchange gets tough on corporate governance

The Australian Stock Exchange's new corporate governance council has told companies to come clean on their audit committees, auditors, option schemes and hidden costs. It said that if they don't meet corporate governance standards they will need to explain why.

Norway: Older workers unvalued by business leaders

Less than 50 per cent of Norwegian business leaders would consider hiring older job seekers, according to a survey carried out for the Center for Senior Politics, and one in eight admit having deliberately avoiding hiring people over 50 years.

India: Scandal tarnishes Tata's admired reputation

Tata, the Bombay-based conglomerate whose reputation for decades has been a byword for integrity, faces accusations that its subsidiary Tata Finance quashed a critical independent report.

Ford worries environmentalists with latest report

Ford Motor Co, which lost $5.5bn last year, has admitted that its economic struggles may provide a difficult test for its commitment to environmental sustainability.

Africa cocoa slavery 'exaggerated'

Whilst child labour is a major problem on farms in poor countries, very few of the children were traded or could be described as slaves, according to recent research by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

Australia: ANZ pays for pressuring employee over public statements

The ANZ bank has been ordered to pay the Finance Sector Union (FSU) $10,000 after illegally putting pressure on an employee who had talked to the media.

Russia: LUKoil sued over baltic sea extraction

LUKoil, Russia's largest oil company, is being sued for allegedly improperly conducting public hearings on a project to extract oil in the Baltic Sea.

Norway: McDonald's criticised for McAfrika burger

McDonald's has attracted furious criticism following its move to sell a McAfrika burger at a time when 12 million people are facing starvation in southern Africa.

Article

Looking for a more mature definition of post-Enron CSR

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 25 Aug 2002

In the wake of recent events, one of the most frustrating outcomes has been a certain amount of handwringing on the part of the CSR movement, as well as criticism from elsewhere, based on the presumption that CSR should have been able to highlight Enron and the rest as bad companies.

AngloGold - Towards Sustainability. A social investment report 2001 / 2002

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 25 Aug 2002

"In describing our approach and some of our achievements, we do not imply that we do not still face very substantial challenges in all of these areas or that we have done enough. On the contrary, the existence of the strategies and plans in this report indicates the extent to which the Board and management of AngloGold acknowledge the difficulty and complexity of the task ahead of us." Russell Edey, Chairman

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