Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#43 - 17 Nov 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 report the debate between senior business advocates and the chief CSR sceptics on the business case - and indeed the social case - for corporate social responsibility.

Welcome

A couple of issues ago we carried one story about an ethical benchmark for companies in Australia. It's always worth getting behind these sorts of tools to look at the detail. In this case, the organisers followed what we would consider to be good practice by putting the methodology of their approach onto the web. When you looked at that methodology, however, it really called into question how well thought-through and robust it actually was, since some of the assumptions it made about what constituted good practice were highly challengable.

The methodology was developed by a well-known NGO, and it goes to the heart of our contention that there are two 'flavours' of CSR - one NGO-led and one business-led. There may be legitimacy in both approaches, but the lack of common ground between them will lead to some controversy in due course if we don't find better ways of distinguishing between them.

If we're to use league tables and benchmarking systems to help us establish which are the well-performing companies, we need to know whether those systems are frameworks of stakeholder expectations (the NGO led ones, by and large) and which are benchmarks of quality of management (the business led ones, by and large).

We'll undoubtedly come back to this later!

Meanwhile, a domestic announcement. If you work for a UK financial institution, you may want tnto the habit of checking the website edition of the newsletter - every issue now we seem to get bounces from overzealous software defending your email box from material you need to be protected from. Each time we look, bemused, through the content of what we sent that time to try to work out just what triggered the reaction. No luck.

It's not always the same companies - but it's almost always a UK-based financial institution. So if you work for such a one, and you're wondering why this newsletter is so unreliable, take it for granted it was produced on time (as it has been since it began!) and check out the website.

We would be fascinated to know why it seems to be uniquely UK financial companies that have such an aggressive attitude to email content. Any thoughts on this - that will actually make it through your email filter - would be gratefully received!

We put a new vote on the website last time around, asking you to agree or disagree with the statement "What companies like Nike say in their CSR reporting should be protected by the same free speech rules as those covering their critics". 77 of you have voted so far, with the breakdown as follows:

Agree 45 (58.44%)
Disagree 23 (29.87%)
Not Sure 9 (11.69%)

Feel free to add your views!

News

Canada: Row over tobacco donation to university ethics programme

Calls are being made for a $150,000 donation to a Toronto University ethics programme from Imperial Tobacco to be returned.

World Bank president urges greater social responsibility

The president of the World Bank has argued for greater corporate social responsibility at a conference of corporate leaders in Chicago.

British American Tobacco defends Burma role

British American Tobacco has come under fire from human rights activists after the deputy chairman of the company, former chancellor of the exchequer Kenneth Clarke, said that he was "unformfortable" with investment in the country.

UK: Government drops immediate plans for corporate killing law

The government has shelved its initial plans to include a law on corporate killing for the latest Queen's speech. The proposed legislation would have made it easier to prosecute companies over disasters causing the loss of human life.

Nigeria: ExxonMobil Workers protest racial discrimination

Employees of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited have threatened to shut down crude oil production if the management fail to meet their demands on racial discrimination, anti-labour policy and welfare.

Companies targeted in US Apartheid Reparations Law Suit

A South African NGO, the Khulumani Support Group has filed a lawsuit against 21 multinational corporations and leading international banks for allegedly helping prop up the apartheid state.

US: 'Fur Scum' protest hits Victoria's Secret Fashion Show

Animal rights protestors invaded the taping of the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show to protest the contract between the leading American fur company Blackglama and supermodel Gisele Bundchen.

Firestone under attack again for tyre failures

The US government is to decide whether to reopen the investigation into Firestone Steeltex tyres following a new petition claiming evidence of catastrophic failures across the country. The tyres were cleared in a federal review earlier this year.

AngloGold commences AIDS treatment for employees

South Africa's largest gold miner, AngloGold, has begun the distribution of anti-Aids drugs to its HIV-positive staff, who make up about a quarter of its regional workforce.

India: Coca-Cola warehouse comes under activist attack

A Coca-Cola warehouse in Kerala has come under attack from activists protesting against the activities of multinational companies generally, and focusing on environmental pollution in particular.

Roche attacked for breaking AIDS drugs price promise

Roche Holding AG has been attacked by the French charity Medecins Sans Frontieres for allegedly not living up to its promises to cut prices for AIDS drugs in developing countries.

Staples makes a big step towards recycled paper

The office supplies retailer Staples has announced a new environmental paper procurement policy that sets a precedent for environmental stewardship in the sector. The policy commits Staples to increasing the proportion of post-consumer-waste and alternative fibre content in the paper it sells to 30 percent. The policy also promises the phasing out of paper derived from endangered forests and greater support of well-managed forests.

Talisman's legacy in Sudan an empty one, says report

A report into Talisman's time in the Sudan has concluded that the company's argument that its presence in the area benefited local people is false.

Companies and media rally around Nike on free speech fight

More than 40 companies and others have joined Nike in urging the US Supreme Court to overturn the recent Californian decision to brand all Nike communications on human rights and other issues as 'commercial speech' unprotected by the US First Amendment.

Article

But is there a social case for CSR?

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 17 Nov 2002

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) celebrated the launch of the 'Walking the Talk' book giving an up to date exposition of the business case for corporate social responsibility with a debate - an event bringing together the most eloquent sceptics to face two of the book's authors for a no-holds barred contest.

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