Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#75 - 13 Jun 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 challenge some of the hysteria over the role of the corporate sector in the obesity debate.

Welcome

Corporate social responsibility has been at the source of a frantic debate over the last month - the focus of which has been the rising levels in many parts of the world of both child and adult obesity. What have the companies done to cause this? What should they be doing about it? To see recent coverage, you would think that it was all part of an evil masterplan of the burger and chocolate companies to destroy the health of the nation as the first stage of world conquest. We push back a little at the tone of the debate.

And we almost never do that, of course, without asking you what you think about it as well. So as of today, the website poll has now been updated to ask:

The rising obesity problems in many countries will best be solved by:

1. New legislation to force food companies to reform their ways
2. People taking personal responsibility for themselves and their families - we don't need people telling us how to live our lives
3. All organisations, public and private sector, working together voluntarily to change behaviour

Needless to say, these polls are just an indication of people's mood and interpretation - no poll this simple will capture all the available options!

That therefore brings the most recent poll to a close. You're remember, the question went: Why should businesses engage in corporate social responsibility?

The final tally is:

They should do only those things that are supported by a solid business case 100 (14%)
They should do a range of things relevent to their impact whether or not there is a business case 422 (60%)
They should only do things because it is the right thing to do - if there is a business case that's not CSR 188 (26%)

710 people voted and, as ever, thanks to all of you that took part.

News

Italy: Prosecutors seek to bring charges over Parmalat

Twenty nine individuals and three financial institutions potentially face trial over the collapse of Italian food company Parmalat.

China: Eleventh richest businessman jailed for stock market fraud

Zhou Zhengyi, one of China's most senior business leaders, has been given three years in jail for stock market fraud following a secret trial.

GlaxoSmithKline faces charges that it withheld key product information

GlaxoSmithKline has been accused of misleading consumers and effectively committing fraud by keeping quiet about clinical studies that suggested that the company's antidepressant Paxil may have issues around safety and effectiveness.

Japan: Nippon Credit Bank executives found guilty of hiding losses

Three former executives of the Nippon Credit Bank have been found guilty of hiding around 159 bn yen in losses, but have escaped with a suspended sentence.

Africa: Water Exchange project launched by World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum has launched a new initiative to bring together public-private partnerships for the creations of water projects in Africa.

Russia: Major companies struggle with social responsibilty

A corporate social responsibility seminar has been told that large Russian companies shoulder a "disproportionate" burden of social responsibility, with many being the only large employer in their towns and carrying a significant load in supporting essential services and infrastructure.

Colombia: BHP Billiton under fire on human rights

BHP Billiton has been attacked by a coalition of NGOs over its Cerrejon Norte coal mine in Colombia and, what the NGOs say is the imminent forcible displacement of inigenous communities.

South Africa: Anglo American disappointed with HIV support response

Anglo American has said that it is disappointed with a slow start to its programme of voluntary counselling and testing for HIV/AIDS offered to staff. In its latest social report, the company has said that only 1,500 staff are currently on the programme, even though there is an estimated one in four affected by the illness.

Canada: Zenon Environmental tops Corporate Knights list again

Canada's 'Corporate Knights' listing of the top 50 socially responsible companies has been released, and shows Zenon Environmental on top of the list again - the company has achieved the number one slot both years it has participated.

NGOs attack Equator Principles for being ineffective

The Equator Principles, the corporate responsibility framework for financial institutions for their project financing, has come under attack by a BankTrack, a group of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) for having made little difference to business behaviour.

Vietnam: Top oil and gas executives arrested for corruption scandal

The deputy general director of oil and gas company Vietsovpetro, Duong Quoc Ha, has been arrested for corruption - becoming the sixth senior executive to be held in the affair.

Article

Getting fat on a diet of righteous indignation

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 13 Jun 2004

Over the last month, particularly in the UK but elsewhere as well, a great deal of nonsense has been written about corporate social responsibility and obesity. It has been a debate that has shown many of the commentators at their worst.

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