Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#47 - 12 Jan 2003

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 ponder the future of CSR reporting if no-one actually reads the reports, and we review CSR Europe's Impacts of Reporting.

Welcome

So the Supreme Court finally came through for Nike (see news item). There remains a chance that the crazy logic implied by the Californian court decision on Kasky v Nike will be overturned. Without believing one way or the other in the veracity of the company's statements regarding its previous practices, this has to be a good thing.

We know for a fact that a number of companies - some of whom constitute seriously committed CSR reporters - have been watching the Nike case with deep concern. There is little doubt that should the Supreme Court end up confirming the original decision, there will be less disclosure as a result. Hardly a desirable outcome.

Of course, the benefits of disclosure are all rather theoretical if no-one reads the reports, and there's no real consensus on what should be reported. This has been a regular theme in this newsletter - but this issue we take the opportunity of the recent publication by CSR Europe of its 'Impacts of Reporting' publication to revisit some familiar territory - that at last seems to be gaining attention on a broader scale.

Meanwhile, the Nike announcement probably marks the point when it's appropriate to close the vote we've had running on the website for the last few weeks. The final result stands as follows.

What companies like Nike say in their CSR reporting should be protected by the same free speech rules as those covering their critics:

Agree 181 (63.07%)
Disagree 72 (25.09%)
Not Sure 34 (11.85%)

There were 287 total votes. Thanks as always to those who took part.

Since the question for this time has moved to - just how many people read these CSR reports, we thought we would have an informal survey of website visitors / Business Respect readers. So the new vote from today is: "How many social and environmental reports by companies did you read last year?". Possible answers range through 'less than five', 'between five and twenty', and 'more than twenty'. We await the outcome with bated breath!

In the meantime, we hope you've all had a good start to 2003.

News

India: Corporate governance under scrutiny

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) is to review corporate governance practices, with particular focus on issues around company boards and reporting.

KFC targeted by animal welfare campaign

KFC, the US fast food company, has rejected allegations made by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which has launched a 'KFCcruelty' campaign.

Bristol-Myers Squibb settles antitrust claims

Bristol-Myers Squibb has agreed to a $670m settlement to claims that it used illegal tactics to suppress generic competitors for its patented drugs and therefore to inflate its profits.

Japan: Companies urged to cut links with gangsters

Police have urged four major Japanese companies to cut long-standing ties with firms linked to a major underworld syndicate that officials suspect effectively amounted to payoffs.

Small firms sweep the board at Business Ethics awards

For the first time in its 14 years of history, the Business Ethics Awards in the US has awarded recognition to three small firms, saying that none of the large company entrants had measured up with cutting edge initiatives.

Philippines: SEC welcomes corporate accounting bill

The Securities and Exchange Commission has praised a proposed bill seeking to improve the country's financial reporting system post-Enron.

UK: McDonald's switches to organic milk

McDonald's is to switch to using cartons of organic milk in its UK outlets. It said the move was a "natural progression", having already changed to free-range eggs in its breakfasts.

Fairchild CEO charged with misuse of funds

Fairchild Corp has said that French authorities have charged Chief Executive Jeffrey Steiner with allegedly facilitating and benefiting from the misuse of funds of the French oil company Elf Acquitaine.

UK: Imperial Tobacco denies accusations of smuggling

Imperial Tobacco rejected accusations by the House of Commons public accounts committee that it has failed to co-operate with customs officials to prevent smuggling. The committee's report found that the company had stepped up exports to "unusual markets" such as Afghanistan, Andorra and Moldova, even though there was no market for their cigarettes there.

Indonesia: NGO could be taken to court for cartel accusations

Monopoly Watch, a non-governmental organisation in Indonesia, could end up in a civil lawsuit over its refusal to retract its report of complaint to the Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) that four foreign cement companies in Indonesia were operating as a cartel.

US Supreme Court agrees to review Nike case

The Supreme Court has agreed to review the California decision holding Nike potentially liable for all statements it may make about its social and ethical performance by labelling it as 'commercial speech'.

US: California sues Wells Fargo for overcharging

State regulators in California have accused Wells Fargo & Co of willfully overcharging more than 15,500 customers to the extent of over $850,000 through hidden interest rates on so-called instant loans.

Pakistan Tobacco stuns critics with advertising ban

Health activists have attacked Pakistan Tobacco for its move to halt advertising in the electronic media, which they say is a cynical measure aimed at scoring social-responsibility points to dodge tougher regulation.

President Bush boost funding to fight corporate fraud

US President George Bush has said that his budget for next year will propose a 73 percent increase to help the Securities and Exchange Commission to fight corporate fraud.

Article

Addressing the crisis in CSR reporting

Author: , dated 12 Jan 2003

2003 promises to see more companies than ever before producing social and environmental reports. This promising growth masks the growing crisis around CSR reporting.

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