Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#77 - 24 Aug 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 ask whether CSR is equal to the challenges set out in the Millennium Development Goals.


It's always good to remind yourself that the audiences we usually see at events focusing on corporate social responsibility are a select crew - speaking a language of their own and largely believing similar things. Mallen took part a few weeks ago in a debate at the ICA in London with some of the critics of CSR. Unlike the rather similar platform a month or two previously, which took place at the Ethical Corporation conference, this one saw an audience largely composed of NGO / ex-NGO people and others for whom the legitimacy of business to operate was not to be taken for granted.

You always know when you're into a polarised debate when people start answering each other on points that they never actually said. Mallen (and John Williams from the Centre for Tomorrow's Company) were asked 'isn't there any action by business that you think it should be criticised for'? This seemed to suggest an uncritical approach to business that it was hard to understand having come from what had been said before. Another questioner (the former head of an anti-tobacco NGO) called upon Mallen to justify his 'approving comments' in relation to tobacco companies - not only hadn't he mentioned tobacco at all on that occasion, but he hasn't made 'approving' comments ever!

The question for debate was 'CSR - A movement for change or just greenwash'. There are few words to express how old hat this pro-corporate / anti-corporate dialogue has become! What is more interesting is to reflect just how far CSR as a mechanism for change should be expected to go. Is it about a company seeking to have an overall positive impact on society - where the main reference point is the company and its impact? Or is it to operate as a real corporate citizen to look at how far it can play its part in helping to provide solutions for the challenge of sustainable development?

Sustainability have recently released a report that - taking the latter as its essential premise - finds that CSR, whilst it is making some useful strides forward, has reached a ceiling which makes its potential usefulness limited. We review these arguments in this issue's article.

Mallen (sadly this year not Vanessa) will be at the Asian Forum on CSR in Kuala Lumpur this year in the first three days of September. If you will be as well, why not get in touch and let's see if we can meet up. Failing that, do go along to Mallen's breakout session in the morning of the first day and say hi. All being well, a conference report will find its way into the next issue.

The current vote on the website is still attracting attention. The current status is:

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

New legislation to force food companies to reform their ways 59 (13%)
People taking personal responsibility for themselves and their families - we don't need people telling us how to live our lives 161 (35%)
All organisations, public and private sector, working together voluntarily to change behaviour 235 (52%)

455 people have cast their vote so far, to whom many thanks. We will probably change this vote soon, so make your view heard before we do!


Jewellery body to set standards on corporate social responsibility

CIBJO, the World Jewellery Confederation, has committed to establishing a set of standards for the sector on corporate social responsibility.

Pilgrim's Pride fires staff after cruelty video

Pilgrim's Pride Corporation has fired eleven workers after being embarrassed by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) which produced a video showing the workers at one if its slaughterhouses grossly and gratuitously abusing the animals sent there for slaughter.

KPMG creates new Global Centre for Leadership & Business Ethics

KPMG International has created the Global Centre for Leadership & Business Ethics, an independent organisation that will recognise individuals who exhibit "extraordinary business ethics and leadership qualities".

MBA graduates value ethics higher from money

A survey of over 800 MBAs from 11 leading business schools has found that a substantial number say they are willing to forgo some financial reward in order to work for a company with a track record in corporate social responsibility and business ethics.

Indonesia: Timber companies crack down on illegal logging

Logging companies PT Daisy and PT Sumalindo Lestari Jaya are to trial a new system using bar codes to track the origin of timber put onto the international market as part of an initiative to combat illegal logging.

Shell fined over reserves scandal

Royal Dutch/Shell has agreed to pay 83m uk pounds in fines to settle action over its mis-reporting of proven oil reserves the disclosure of which rocked the company earlier this year.

France: Vending machines in schools barred in fight on obesity

A ban on vending machines selling soft drinks and sweets has been approved by the French parliament following the rise in concern over obesity in children.

Malaysia: Business should help to eradicate poverty

Businesses need to fall behind governments in their attempts to eradicate poverty, according to Datuk Abdul Wahid Omar, Group Chief Exectuvie of Telekom Malaysia.

Russia: Government lifts order on Yukos

Russia's Justice Ministry has lifted an order against the oil giant Yukos that threatened to stop them from pumping oil.

Australia: James Hardie 'treated asbestos victims with disdain'

James Hardie, the building products company, was accused of having done all it could to avoid paying compensation for victims of asbestos poisoning in a submission to a commission of inquiry.

Indonesia: Newmont Mining hits back at pollution accusations

PT Newmont Minahasa Raya, the Indonesian unit of gold mining company Newmont Mining Corp, has attacked NGO accusations that the company had polluted a bay creating local health problems for villagers.

Zimbabwe: Business group adopts Business Ethics Charter

The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) has announced a new Business Ethics Charter to be used by its members in dealing with moral dilemmas and ethical problems.

Parmalat to sue former auditors

Bankrupt Italian dairy company Parmalat has said that it is to sue auditors Grant Thornton and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu for their alleged part in the company's collapse.


Is CSR a movement for change that is underachieving?

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 22 Aug 2004

The corporate responsibility movement is hitting against real limits because of the distance of most initiatives from core business. In the face of the Millennium Development Goals, CSR is providing precious little in the way of a substantial business contribution towards tackling some of the most significant development issues facing human kind.

Previous edition - No 76 | Following edition - No 78

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