Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#40 - 6 Oct 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 ask whether or not we really expect businesses to save the world - by taking action where governments have failed? Also, we get feedback on the Oxfam campaign on coffee.

Welcome

This issue has been done with a little extra haste than perhaps is normal - hopefully not to the detriment of the content! Mallen is off the day before this issue is actually mailed on a short speaker tour organised by the good folk at Canadian Business for Social Responsibility. He'll be there for the week - see the CBSR site for details (http://www.cbsr.ca). If you happen to be at any of those events, do come up and introduce yourself!

The news article last time about the Oxfam coffee campaign provoked one or two reactions. Don D'Cruz wrote in with the following:

"Oxfam would have to be one of the least constructive NGOs in the world today. The coffee stuck is just the latest in a long line of advocacy attempts that actually hurt the very people that they purport to represent.

"There was the Fair Trade rubbish that they ran with. Any development economist will tell you that attaching human rights, environmental rights etc conditions to trade agreements is just giving the developed world an excuse to employ protectionism against these countries.

"You did an excellent analysis of their silly paper on pharmaceuticals. That paper wasn't a benchmark for CSR, it is a parody of the whole CSR industry.

"The coffee thing is just more of the same nonsense. Whoever, put their paper together is ignorant of economic history. We've had these marketing boards before. They were a failure.

"There is something seriously wrong with Oxfam."

Thanks to Don for the comments. It may well be that someone close to these campaigns will want to come back!

Interestingly, Mallen has actually had quite a lot of feedback from an article he wrote for Ethical Corporation on "putting your heart into it" - which was about the occasional need to recognise that the power of the business case can often be eclipsed by the urge of conscientious citizens to simply 'do the right thing'. Something seems to have touched a chord here that we may well return to in the future.

Voting has started with the new question on the website at http://www.mallenbaker.net. It says "CEO Pay and Perks - executive pay should be:

- Whatever the market will bear
- As high as necessary, but linked to performance
- Restrained to a set amount of what the rest of the workforce earns

There have been 53 votes so far, which counts as a slow start by the standard of these votes of late. The latter option is currently ahead, although it's not such a soaraway lead that couldn't be eroded away. Do stop by and make your own view known if you get the chance.

News

Ethics more important to job seekers

82 percent of career experts say that the ethics of business leaders is a key factor weighed up by today's job seekers.

Motor industry chiefs call for global environmental standards

Business leaders from the world's leading car companies came together at the Paris Motor Show to call for global standards on car safety and environmental performance.

Businesses celebrated for outstanding marketplace ethics

Four businesses have won the international Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics - which celebrates companies that demonstrate high standards of behaviour towards customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders and communities.

Retailers settle Saipan lawsuits

Seven U.S. retailers, including Gap Inc, have settled a federal and California state class-action lawsuit alleging violations of workers' rights in Saipan garment factories.

The Best and Worst Boards Named

3M, Apria Healthcare, Colgate-Palmolive, General Electric, Home Depot, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, Pfizer and Texas Instruments have been credited by BusinessWeek as having the best boards in a review of good practice on corporate governance.

Wal-Mart attacked for lack of diversity

The National Organisation for Women held a day a protest against Wal-Mart criticising the company for allegedly failing to promote women to managerial jobs, failing to pay women wages equal to their male counterparts and trying to force out pro-union workers.

Japan: Mitsui execs take pay cuts over scandals

Shoei Utsuda, the new president of Mitsui & Co. has said that he and seven other senior executives will go without part of their pay for three months to take responsibility for a series of scandals that have rocked the major trading house.

DaimlerChrysler signs labour code of conduct

DaimlerChrysler has signed a global labour agreement with the International Metalworkers Federation entitled 'Social Responsibility Principles of DaimlerChrysler'.

Shell hit by new litigation over Ogoniland

Shell is facing a new class action alleging violations of international law relating to its oil operations in Ogoniland in the Niger River delta.

South Africa: SRI Index proposals launched

The JSE Securities Exchange and the FTSE Group have released a set of draft proposals on the philosophy and criteria to govern a socially responsible investment index to be launched early next year.

Canada: Integrated CSR gaining momentum

Stakeholder expectations of business are rising exponentially following the recent corporate scandals - and this is leading Canadian companies to give CSR a more important role in their organisations according to a recent Conference Board survey.

Australia: Commonwealth Bank pushed on logging

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia has been forced by the Wilderness Society using the Corporations Act to include a formal motion at the commpany's AGM to ban the bank from investing in logging in Tasmania's old-growth forests.

UK: Government backtracks on corporate killing law

Directors of corporations that cause fatal accidents will escape personally being made to pay the penalty in the form of jail or disqualification, following a u-turn by the UK government.

US: Corporate sponsored volunteerism on the decline?

Despite a heightened focus on corporate responsibility, a new study released today found that American workers now believe their companies are pulling back just when they should be giving back.

European Union seeks action plan to avoid corporate scandals

The EU must rapidly tighten up accounting guidelines to avoid the kind of scandals that have shaken corporate America and fueled a stock market collapse, officials have said.

Article

Do we expect business to save the world?

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 4 Oct 2002

The definition of the responsibilities of business has evolved rapidly over the last twenty or thirty years. Initially, the expectation was that businesses would obey the law and follow basic ethical standards of behaviour. Other than that, it was pretty much anything goes.

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