Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#49 - 9 Feb 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 discover the very first sustainability report - probably! - and we profile Australia's Westpac, recent top scorer in the reputation index.

Welcome

OK, so last issue we promised we would review the new WBCSD sustainability reporting portal - but for technical reasons (intermittent broadband access) it will have to be next time around. We tried again, and it really doesn't want to be viewed on a standard modem connection!

However, we did want to cover at least one aspect of social and environmental reporting. We believe that we have found the very first example of a social and environmental report - significantly predating the usual suspects. See the article below and prove us wrong if you can!

It's been a while since we profiled an individual company, so we thought we'd take the opportunity of its recent reputational accolades to look at the current practice and performance of Westpac. As a result you have two (shortish) articles this issue rather than the usual one.

We're glad to see that the boom in business integrity has fed the market for consultancy in this area. The growth in independent small consultancies specialising in CSR rather reflects the similar boom that took place for environmental consultancies before they began to consolidate into fewer, larger organisations.

Not all the newcomers are to be trusted, however. This week, Mallen came across one that had one of those paid-for ads when you carry out a Google search for 'corporate responsibility'. The ad promised a series of white papers on CSR. Being familiar with the Business for Social Responsibility white papers, but always interested in new sources, Mallen followed the link and came to a site that asked him to register his details before getting access to the white papers.

Having avoided typing in anything other than gibberish, the submit button was pressed, only to be relocated at the BSR website and its white papers. This consultant had basically set up a mechanism for harvesting potential clients by interposing itself between the customer and someone else's freely available material. Not good. Certainly not ethical. Could we have been mistaken? Well, a hidden field on the submit form was titled 'Business Opportunity' so probably not.

We won't name the guilty party here, although we've let BSR know how their name and reputation is being used. You might have to move quick to find the site for yourself if BSR are as quick as we would be to protect their reputation!

The moral: if you don't know people you already trust, always take up client references before hiring a consultant of this sort! Don't just trust the company's list of clients on its website.

That's enough for one issue. Feedback on the website poll next time.

News

Amnesty International warns business on operating in Russia

Amnesty International has used the Davos Forum to warn companies who do business in Russia to watch out for serious violations of human rights.

South Africa: GlaxoSmithKline faces new complaint

The largest AIDS organisation in the US, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), has filed a complaint with the South African Competition Commission against pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline seeking to enable licensing generic alternatives for lower prices.

Japan: Snow Brand aims to restore ethical credentials

Snow Brand Milk Products has made a pledge to restore its good name by ensuring future safety and ethical conduct. The company has been dogged by scandal over recent years.

Standard & Poor's grants Fannie Mae marks for governance

Standard & Poor's Corporate Governance Group has published its first publicly disclosed score, granting Fannie Mae a 9.0, indicating a high level of good practice.

South Africa: Harmony, Tongaat-Hullett offer retroviral drugs

Harmony Gold Mining and Tongaat-Hulett have said that they are to offer HIV-positive employees antiretroviral drugs, becoming the latest companies to take an active stance on the AIDS epidemic.

Newmont CEO: Gold's future depends on social responsibility

In spite of recent gains, gold will only have a future as a major generator of wealth if the mining companies get serious about practicing social responsibility, according to Wayne Murdy, Chairman and CEO of Newmont Mining Corp.

UN to meet alcohol companies on product health issues

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is to host a meeting with companies that represent over half world sales of alcohol to discuss health issues related to their product.

Italy: GMI to avoid genetically modified wheat

Italy's biggest miller, Grandi Molini Italiani (GMI), will avoid importing genetically modified (GM) US wheat, its CEO has said. Monsanto is now close to the final regulatory approval for the world's first transgenic wheat.

India: Many bottled water brands found to contain pesticides

Residues of powerful pesticides such as lindane and DDT have been found in amounts many times over maximum safe levels in a variety of popular bottled water brands in India.

Bulgaria: Businesses look toward Global Compact

Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov called for a new face of socially responsible business at a meeting of more than 250 CEOs, managers and representatives of the business community in Bulgaria's capital of Sofia. The meeting was convened to introduce the country's businesses to the UN Global Compact.

European sugar industry agrees on CSR minimum standards

The European Sugar Industry has become the first sector to voluntarily agree on minimum corporate social responsibility standards on a broad scale with the signing of a joint code of conduct.

UK: Littlewoods drops membership of ethical trading initiative

The Barclay brothers, who bought Littlewoods, the UK clothes retailer last year, have scrapped the company's programme of charitable donations and its membership of the Ethical Trading Initiative.

WWF ditches BP shares, but has troubles of its own

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has announced that it is selling its shares in BP due to its misgivings about the company's place within a socially responsible investment policy.

UK: Corporate Responsibility Index to be launched next month

Business in the Community is to launch its new Corporate Responsibility Index next month. The index will produce a ranking for 120 participant companies based on how each is managing its social responsibilities.

Article

Is this the First Ever Corporate Social/Environmental Report?

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 9 Feb 2003

If pushed, most practitioners within the field of corporate social responsibility will tell you that the first proper social report by a company was the first report of the Body Shop. That most remarkable of companies had, in the mid-nineties, set the standard that others would seek to follow. They would be wrong.

Westpac - A Case Study in Socially Responsible Banking

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 9 Feb 2003

The Australian banking sector has had an unmitigated hammering from politicians and public opinion alike for their failings in social responsibility. All the more remarkable, then, that the top scoring company in the recent Reputation Index compiled by the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age should have been a bank. Not so surprising when you look into the detail of how Westpac does business.

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