Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#38 - 8 Sep 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 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 review the latest official Global Reporting Initiative guidelines for CSR reporting and we conclude the vote on socially responsible companies and damaging products.


In a recent edition, we commented upon the interesting ways of some of the content-scanners your companies have to protect your email boxes from offensive material. All fair enough - since we have email addresses published on the website a wide range of really rather extraordinary spam is a common feature of our inboxes, and we sympathise with anyone who seeks to lighten the load.

This fortnight took the prize, however! In response to the mailing of the last issue, we received the following bounce from a company based in the Republic of Ireland.

"The following email you sent was not delivered to the intended recipients as it had restricted contents in it! The restricted content present was "financing". Action taken: The email was Deleted."

If anyone has an explanation as to why a company would have such a policy, we would be fascinated to hear it! We send a query to the postmaster of the address in question - only to get the message bounce back for the same reason.

Sorry to start with such trivia - but it's got to be lighter and more interesting that to begin by dwelling on the Johannesburg summit. Suffice it to say that having begun against a backdrop of dismally low expectations, it just about managed to meet them. The participation of business in the summit was welcome - by and large the coverage seemed to convey the message that the business leaders present were the most focused on co-operation to achieve outcomes. But there is a long way to go to achieve any kind of meaningful plan that will even begin to address the ambitions of the summit.

Finally, we're coming to the end of the current vote on the website. The final tally goes as follows:

Can a company be socially responsible if its main product is harmful to health or the environment?

Yes, if it works to reduce the harm and to run all other aspects of the business ethically 133 (53.63%)
yes, but only if it aims to stop selling the harmful products and leave them to less responsible businesses 22 (8.87%)
no, under no circumstances 93 (37.5%)

248 total votes have been cast - with a significant - but not overwhelming - majority for the view that yes it can. Thanks as always to those who took part.


Australia: Companies embrace CSR in ignorance

According to a recent Ernst & Young survey, 71 percent of companies say they have strategies - or are developing them - to deal with ethical, social and environmental issues but only 9 percent said that they really understood how corporate social responsibility was relevant to their business.

Czech Republic: Spolana factory head fired over chemical leak

Rodaslav Vek, the head of Spolena's chemical factory near to Prague, which became the worst environmental hazard during the recent flooding, has been sacked by the company's owners.

CSR must move into a truly global agenda: UNIDO

Carlos Magarinos, the Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), has said that the task of the UN system is to turn corporate social responsibility from a Northern preoccupation into a truly global agenda.

Japan: IT sector's CO2 emissions set to soar

Carbon dioxide emitted by industries involved in information technology in Japan could log a three-fold increase in the 10 years from 2000 to 2010, according to a recent study by Mitsui Knowledge Industry Co.

UK: Working hours rise sharply

One in six UK company employees are working more than 60 hours a week in spite of recent legislation designed to reduce working hours, according to a recent government survey.

India to press for Bhopal extradition

India is to press ahead with an extradition request against the former chairman of Union Carbide Warren Anderson over the 1984 Bhopal gas leak disaster that killed 3,000 people.

US: Possible community impact halts Hershey sale

The US chocolate maker Hershey has been forced to put plans to sell the company on hold following an injunction preventing the Hershey Trust from going ahead with the auction of Hershey Foods.

Japan: FSA promotes corporate disclosure

The Financial Services Agency plans to work out a package of measures to promote the disclosure of corporate information in the wake of scandals committed by leading Japanese companies, agency officials have said. The work is expected to lead to reform of Japan's auditor system.

New Zealand: Commerce Commission cracks down on price-fixing

The Commerce Commission is about to take legal action in two cases of price-fixing as the start of a drive against "hard-core" cartels.

US: Tobacco companies win flight attendant case

A Miami jury has ruled that RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co, Philip Morris and other cigarette manufacturers are not liable in a suit filed by Suzette Ahrendt Janoff, a retired flight attendant who claimed to have developed chronic sinusitis and other injuries as a result of her on-the-job exposure to secondhand smoke.

Australia: Rio Tinto promises to clean up uranium mine

Rio Tinto has vowed to clean up a contaminated part of its Jabiluka uranium mine and shelve plans to develop the area at Kakadu.

Germany: Siemens backs away from

Engineering giant Siemens has retracted its application to use the trademark name 'Zyklon' due to the vociferous reaction to the proposal from Jewish groups over the name's association with the Zyklon B poison gas used to kill millions in Nazi concentration camps.

Canada: Monsanto wins appeal GM canola

A federal appeals court in Canada has upheld a ruling that a Saskatchewan farmer infringed on Monsanto's patent on Roundup Ready canola.

Japan: Tokyo Electric Power Co. covered up nuclear plant problems

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) division chiefs ordered the falsification of reports relating to structural problems at nuclear plants, according to company sources.


The Global Reporting Initiative - Raising the Bar too high?

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 8 Sep 2002

The Global Reporting Initiative has released the latest version of its guidelines, drawing on the discussion draft of some months ago. It is published against a backdrop of some resistance to the framework from companies who see it as setting the bar unrealistically high. The draft introduced the move towards a larger number of core indicators, which companies seeking to report in accordance with the GRI are obliged to follow.

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