Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#71 - 29 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 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 look at how much companies can be held responsible for the misuse of their products.


The MyDoom virus finally released its grip on the internet a little while ago, which was a welcome instance as far as we're concerned. Over 300 messages a day were being generated to our mailboxes during the height of it all - and the sad truth of it is that somewhere in all that no doubt some legitimate messages got deleted by accident. Sorry if you've not heard back from us as a result.

Mallen was invited to give the keynote for the conference on CSR in Vienna organised by the NPO Institut and, notwithstanding his shameful inability to follow those proceedings that were in german, it was an interesting occasion. The only downside was the relative lack of companies compared to not-for-profits. Coming from an environment where it's usually the reverse that's true, it certainly seemed that it is the presence of a business-led entity bringing businesses together to collaborate on their approach that seems to make a considerable difference to engagement on this kind of endeavour.

The other thing to note on the last few weeks has been the ongoing debate over the recent Christian Aid attack on CSR. Having been quoted for the defence, Mallen has been quite busy responding to requests for further comment. You can see the article on the issues written for Ethical Corporation on the website.

Voting has been brisk on the website poll. The current score stands at: Companies that seek to move jobs from the US / Europe to developing countries with lower costs
Can in no way be called socially responsible 125 (24%)
Are right to stay profitable, but should pay attention to how they make the change 362 (70%)
Should aim for maximum profitability, and not be hampered by unwarranted sentimentality 32 (6%)

519 people have voted so far.


Japan: Auditing firms responding to growth in CSR

The major auditing companies are increasingly responding to the growth in interest in corporate social responsibility in Japan by creating centres of speciality, according to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun.

Uganda: Business told that social responsibility means local shareholders

Companies in Uganda have been told that their operations must benefit the local communities within which they are based - and that this should mean making local people shareholders of the companies to give them a real stake.

Kofi Annan calls on Japanese companies for leadership in citizenship

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has told a group of senior business leaders in Japan that business has a key role to play in addressing the world's problems.

Most serious charge dropped in Martha Stewart case

The judge in the fraud case against Martha Stewart has thrown out the charge of securities fraud, suggesting that a reasonable juror could not find beyond a reasonable doubt that it was true.

Socially Responsible Investment indices hard to compare

A new report from the Nordic Partnership says that there is a limited role for the current SRI indices and evaluation questionnaires, largely due to a lack of standardised screening methods that make them hard to compare.

US: Tyson Foods challenges $1.2bn verdict

Tyson Foods, the major US beef packer, has called upon a federal judge to throw out a $1.2bn verdict against the company that it illegally used contracts with small numbers of ranchers to drive down prices paid to others.

UK: Best social and environmental reporters recognised

The Co-operative Bank has been named as the UK company that had produced the best sustainability report in the last year by the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA) awards. Shell International was runner-up.

Ireland: Companies should be more transparent

Businesses should be prepared to disclose bad news as well as good, a senior partner with PriceWaterhouseCoopers has told a group of business leaders.

Former Enron chief pleads not guilty to criminal charges

Jeffrey Skilling, the former Enron chief executive, has pleaded not guity to a range of charges, including that of directing a scheme to manipulate earnings whilst benefiting from illegal insider trading.

WWF pulls out of Asia Pulp & Paper agreement

The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) has pulled out of its agreement with Asia Pulp and Paper on sustainable forestry, saying that the company's action plan was inadequate. The group claimed that the company was now losing big customers as a result of its position.

Thailand: Bristol Myers Squibb pulls back on AIDS patent

Bristol Myers Squibb has dropped a patent dispute with an AIDS patient in Thailand, and said that it would dedicate the patent for the drug, didanosine, to the people of Thailand.

Corporate Responsibility Index launched in Australia

The Corporate Responsibility Index, the benchmarking tool that ranks companies on their responsible business practice developed in the UK by Business in the Community, has been launched in Australia.


Responsibility without control

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 22 Feb 2004

How much can a company be held responsible when its customers voluntarily misuse products which, used properly, are benign or beneficial? It may sound like an arcane question, relevant only to a few problem industry companies. But it is at the heart, for instance, of the recent controversy over food companies and obesity, and many others crises that no-one saw coming until too late.

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