Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#73 - 18 Apr 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 look at how corporate revenues can be misappropriated by corrupt governments, and ask what can be done.

Welcome

It has been a slightly longer break than usual between this issue and its predecessor. What can we say? For the first two years of production, Business Respect never took a holiday break at all. That can't represent healthy work-life balance!

Not that things have been quiet. Mallen has been provoking comment and debate following his recent article for Ethical Corporation (and on the mallenbaker.net website) on the Christian Aid 'Behind the mask: the real face of CSR' polemic. The one thing some of the campaigning NGOs seem to dislike most is criticism from anyone that can't be dismissed as being in favour of business as usual.

In fact, in a friendly discussion with one of the main critics of CSR recently Mallen was told that such writing was 'anti-civil society'. This is hardly the case, when the crux of the argument is that there is a valid role to be filled in holding laggard companies to account, but that the recent document simply didn't do a very good job. No doubt, the debate will continue further when Mallen shares a platform on legislation in the forthcoming Ethical Corporation conference with some of the anti-corporate critics.

A recent pamphlet on business produced by Friends of the Earth makes the following statement: "Because companies are so powerful we're never going to achieve a better world unless they are part of the solution. But it is clear they are not going to be part of the solution voluntarily." That phrase pretty much epitomises the gulf. Mallen is quite comfortable to stand on the alternative position, and to accept that there is a debate of real substance that follows about the role of business, and of legislation in achieving change.

By sheer coincidence, the article this time draws upon a rather more substantial piece of work by another NGO Global Witness. Their work provides food for thought on the dilemmas around corruption and showing that there is no inherent barrier to NGOs, with all the resource constraints they have, from producing quality contributions to the debate.

News

US: Ministers call for Hershey boycott over child slavery

Ministers in Harrisburg have called on Hershey Foods to do more to curb the incidence of child slavery in cocoa production, calling its current approach as "inadequate, sluggish and ineffective".

South Korea: Top companies focus on social responsibility

The major conglomerates based in South Korea have announced their intention to boost their approach to corporate social responsibility, particularly focusing on job creation and contributing to society.

Mistrial declared in Tyco case

The judge in the Tyco case has declared a mistrial following allegations that a jurer had received a threatening letter after she had been accused of being in favour of the defendents.

US: Companies often illegally alter employee timesheets

According to the New York Times, major companies in the US often alter electronic records of employee hours in order to avoid paying overtime. Quoting specific cases from Toys 'R' Us and Family Dollar, the paper said that although companies have policies against such practices abuse was common.

US: Survey finds Sarbanes-Oxley is making its presence felt

A survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers of chief financial officers and managing directors has found that 88 percent expect that board directors will have more influence, and 73 percent believe that boards will be more focused on risk management, as a result of Sarbanes-Oxley.

South Africa: Business approach to CSR still immature

In spite of the recent requirement by the JSE for 'triple bottom line reporting', many large South African countries are struggling to understand the importance of this approach to corporate social responsibility, according to a new report.

Tarrant Apparel Group under attack by sweatshop campaigners

A coalition of human rights groups has attacked US garment maker Tarrant Apparel Group for alleged labour law violations in Mexico. The coalition, including the Maquila Solidarity Network and Sweatshop Watch praised companies that had withdrawn their business from Tarrant.

Australia: Rio Tinto subsidiary workers given uranium-polluted drinking water

Energy Resources of Australia, Australia's largest uranium miner and a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, has flown a doctor from the UK to look at twelve workers who drank or showered in water polluted with uranium that was mistakenly channelled into drinking water.

US: SEC asked to clarify requirements on climate change risks

US public pension funds have asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to clarify whether companies will be required to disclose the risks faced from the onset of climate change.

US companies CSR 'deadbeats'

US businesses are now seriously lagging behind their counterparts in Europe, Australia and South Africa in embracing corporate social responsibility, according to a new study.

Philippines: GlaxoSmithKline awarded for community programmes

GlaxoSmithKline has won two 'Anvil' awards, one for health advocacy and another for community relations. The awards, made by the Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP) recognised the company's "outstanding corporate social responsibility projects".

UK: Coors ads promoting responsible drinking 'make impact'

Research in Scotland has shown that television adverts by brewer Coors, owner of the Carling brand, are effective in encouraging responsible drinking.

Article

Oil on troubled waters

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 18 Apr 2004

How much are companies responsible for the actions of governments in the countries where they do business? Often it comes down to the degree of collusion required. Companies may argue with some justice that their presence helps to improve the situation. In other cases, the revenues they generate can be clearly seen to go towards unfortunate ends.

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