Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#51 - 9 Mar 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 review the history of corporate social reporting.

Welcome

As we approach the second year anniversary of Business Respect, we pause to reflect on the fact that during its life it has been produced - without fail - every two weeks. Not that we imagine that the 2500 or so readers sit poised by their computers every fortnight waiting for it to come through - but when so much on the internet promises "content coming soon" reliability seemed to be a key part of the package.

That reliability sometimes comes at a price - and Mallen has had a particularly lively time over the last fortnight, making the production of this issue painful indeed. There are sometimes just not enough hours in the day, and apologies to those who might have hoped for responses to correspondence this fortnight and found them not forthcoming. But here we are anyway. Still reliable by the skin of our teeth!

We were helped this time in no small measure by the excellent, thoughtful and informed response to the piece on the Shell Canada report from Alice and John Tepper Marlin. We knew that dropping that comment about whether the Shell Canada 1991 report was the first of its kind nothing would more quickly bring extra information out into the light!

Thanks to Alice and John for the response - and for agreeing to let us use their words for the main feature this time around.

No thanks, however, to the passing visitor to the website who found a way to bypass the 'only vote once' mechanism on the website poll, and proceeded to vote for one option 264 times. Needless to say, the illegitimate votes have been removed from the final count. We hope that person's search for definitions of social responsibility at the Ask Jeeves website was fruitful during the occasion of his or her visit - if a return visit is required, s/he will find the IP address of the computer used has been blocked from the site.

So the final - corrected - results are as follows:

How many social and environmental reports by companies did you read in detail last year?
Less than five 244 (69.91%)
Between five and twenty 68 (19.48%)
More than twenty 37 (10.6%)

There were 349 total votes. Thanks as always to those who took part. We asked for any comments last time from those who found themselves voting for the 'more than twenty' option. Jean Knight from South Africa responded. "Yes, I read over 20 reports and more. This was because I have just completed my MA degree and my topic was corporate social responsibility and HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Hence, the heavy reading for my research over the past 6 months or so. But now I have my life back (my dissertation is catching the night flight to the UK today!), so if you do a survey next year my response may be different, 'though I expect my heightened interest in the subject since my studies may still keep me in the middle to high bracket."

Jean adds "Thanks for all the Newsletters during my studies, they were very helpful". We've noticed a growing number of links to the website from academic institutions, and are glad that the resource there is useful. We do get approached from time to time with specific questions from students looking to identify resources. We try to help where we can, although questions involving detailed response are rarely able to be accomodated.

This week, of course, Business in the Community is launching the Corporate Responsibility Index - the first such voluntary public ranking exercise on the broader issues. The response to the index was a lot higher than the responsible bods at BITC had been expecting, and if it gains acceptance it could become extremely influential on how the issues are discussed at the boardroom level of the top companies.

You might want to nuzzle on over to http://www.bitc.org.uk around Wednesday / Thursday to see how it plays out. Whatever else it is - it won't be boring.

News

Taco Bell targeted on supply chain labour issues

US fast-food company Taco Bell is being targeted by activists for alleged "tolerance of labour exploitation by its suppliers".

No clear "owner" of CSR within companies

According to the Pielle Consulting Group there remains no clear centre within businesses of CSR-related activities. The findings, given in a report to be launched at an upcoming international conference of the World Council for Corporate Governance, surveyed around 200 companies on their corporate governance practice.

Corporate disclosure benefits needs to spread across the world

A coalition of non-governmental organisations, the International Right to Know campaign (IRTK), has called for the benefits of corporate disclosure legislation to spread across the world. Citing the impact of the US Toxic Release Inventory on the quantity of emissions produced by American companies, the group says that a global approach is needed to stop the potential for more disasters like the chemical leak at Bhopal.

Mattel's corporate compliance model spawns independent monitor

An Independent Monitoring Council created by Mattel to monitor the company's compliance with its Global Manufacturing Principles code of conduct is to become a new organisation offering a similar service to other corporations.

Nissan developing fuel cells for environmentally friendly vehicles

Nissan Motor Co plans to jointly develop fuel cells with U.S. aerospace group United Technologies Corp according to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun. The move comes after other Japanese companies, such as Honda, have led the charge in the race to develop viable, clean alternatives to the standard internal combustion engine.

Talisman insists its exit from Sudan is on course

Despite a series of delays and set-backs, Canadian energy company Talisman Energy has said that its proposed sale of its stake in the Sudan is to go ahead. The company is keen to bring to an end a chapter of controversy around its presence.

British American Tobacco under human rights pressure

Human rights groups in Asia are pressing British American Tobacco (BAT) to withdraw from a joint-venture partnership with the Myanmar government. Australia's Union Aid Abroad organisation has said that BAT's involvement comes against a backdrop of forced labour in Myanmar increasing.

Scottish Amicable fined for mis-selling

Insurer Scottish Amicable has been fined 750,000 for the mis-selling of mortgage endowment schemes during 2000 - a period that the Financial Services Authority says saw the financial firms all forewarned of the danger.

BT workers protest at Indian call centres

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has criticised BT for what it describes as "exporting" hundreds of jobs to planned call centres in India amongst a backdrop of staff protests at call centres across the UK.

Ryanair hit for misleading ads

Ryanair has been indicted in Denmark for publishing misleading price information in their adverts.

US: Illinois University concerned over Coca-Cola deal

The University of Illinois has said it has concerns over its exclusive contract with Coca-Cola to provide beverages on campus, in the face of complaints from students and activists around the company's alleged links to anti-union violence in Columbia.

Ahold problems mount as Deloitte Touche disavows early audits

Royal Ahold, the Dutch company that has sent shockwaves across a European establishment that had predicted that 'Enron couldn't happen here', has raised further questions about how far back its problems go.

Article

A brief history of social reporting

Author: Alice and John Tepper Marlin, dated 9 Mar 2003

We are together teaching a course for MBA students at NYU's Stern School of Business on "Models of CSR". We cover in our class and our textbook the subject of corporate reporting, so we were interested in the article describing a 1991 Shell Canada report as being the first-ever new-style social/environmental report (Business Respect No. 49). It suggested that this was the first combined social and environmental corporate report, a few years ahead of the Body Shop. It said that in 1991 the terms CSR and "stakeholders" were not in common use.

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