Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#70 - 1 Feb 2004

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 social responsibility of media companies in the light of the recent Hutton Report's damning of the conduct of the BBC.

Welcome

The Hutton Report has pushed the UK's biggest broadcaster into a state of collective denial. However, what it has certainly raised is the question about the social responsibility of the media companies. This is a key question - and one which we scratch the surface of this issue! There is much mroe to be said - and perhaps the recent work by a number of media companies to produce a social responsibility framework for themselves will provide the future prompt for this.

In the mean time, Mallen has been busy for Business in the Community this week taking on the CORE bill (seeking to legislate for CSR reporting and directors responsibility), and the rather poor Christian Aid 'report' on 'Behind the Mask of CSR', which seeks to discredit the movement by making populist accusations against three companies.

You can see the Guardian's reporting of the debate at:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/story/0,3604,1131160,00.html

In the event, the government 'talked out' the CORE bill. This was always inevitable since - even for those who might have supported the essence of what the bill was seeking to achieve - it was so poorly framed it could never have made good law. The CSR movement could really do without the 'something must be done - this is something - therefore this must be done' approach.

However, perhaps you have a different perspective to offer. Feel free to send your views, which we will include here.

The latest vote on 'offshoring' has attracted a brisk turnover. The current position stands as follows:

Companies that seek to move jobs from the US / Europe to developing countries with lower costs
Can in no way be called socially responsible 55 (25%)
Are right to stay profitable, but should pay attention to how they make the change 152 (70%)
Should aim for maximum profitability, and not be hampered by unwarranted sentimentality 11 (5%)

218 people have voted so far. Still time to make your own voice heard, of course!

News

UK: Coca-Cola halts school advertising

Coca-Cola has stated that it is to end the practice of product advertising on vending machines in schools in the UK. The move follows a similar statement covering Scotland, and is seen as a response to the growing mood against product promotions aimed at children during a period of growing childhood obesity.

Microsoft partners UN to boost computer literacy in developing world

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has announced that the company is to partner with the United Nations Development Programme in seeking to boost computer literacy in developing countries.

Monsanto pleads not guilty to ill intent on wheat patent

Monsanto has said that it has no intention to exploit a patent for the wheat used for making chapati which it has just been granted.

US: Slavery reparations suit thrown out

A US federal judge has struck out a lawsuit brought by descendents of slaves against companies alleged to have benefited from slave labour.

Sweatshop accusations on IT equipment manufacturers

A report by the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) has claimed that companies such as IBM, Dell and Hewlett-Packard are purchasing components from firms subjecting employees to 'atrocious conditions'.

$7bn award marks latest stage in Exxon Valdez suit

US District Judge Russel Holland has ordered Exxon Mobil to pay $4.5bn in punitive damages for the Exxon Valdez incident, plus interest that brings the figure close to $7bn. It is the latest step in a series of legal moves that have pushed figures through the courts with little sign of achieving a final settlement.

UK: Most FTSE companies produce CSR reports

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) 80 percent of the top 100 UK listed companies report to some extent on their CSR performance.

Egypt: 17 firms to join Global Compact

The Global Compact has announced that 17 companies in Egypt have signed up to the UN initiative in advance of its formal launch on February 9th. The number is expected to increase quickly.

Japan: Toyota to boost hybrid car production

Toyota has said that it is to increase production of its Prius hybrid car following strong growth in demand around the world leading to sales targets being reset to 130,000 from the original 76,000.

Australia: Sino Gold pulls out from Tibet

Australian gold mining company Sino Gold has announced the cancellation of plans to start mining operations in Tibet, a move that has been welcomed by human rights groups.

Unocal wins Myanmar human rights ruling

A US Superior Court judge has found that Unocal to be blameless for human rights abuses attributed to the Myanmar military during the construction of a pipeline in the country.

Worldcom, Parmalat cases inflict damage on auditors

According to a new report, WorldCom could sue KPMG for bad tax advice and defunct Arthur Andersen for negligent auditing. In addition, industry commentators have said that Grant Thornton has similarly been damaged by the Parmalat scandal.

South Africa: Macmed fraud trial begins

The fraud case against fomer directors of healthcare group Macmed, which suffered South Africa's largest corporate collapse in 1999, has begun in Pretoria.

Engineering and construction companies join together to fight corruption

19 engineering and construction companies have signed an agreement with Transparency International and the Basel Institute on governance to work towards eliminating corruption.

Article

The Media and Social Responsibility

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 1 Feb 2004

The Hutton Report has placed the harshest possible spotlight on the social responsibility of media companies - a light that in the first instance has not been greatly flattering to the BBC. But what here is the real challenge of corporate social responsibility for media companies?

Previous edition - No 69 | Following edition - No 71