Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#80 - 24 Jan 2005

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 ask whether the business response to the tsunami disaster went too far.

Welcome

In its latest issue, the Economist has chosen to make a cover feature out of its scepticism over this thing called corporate social responsibility. Nothing new in the scepticism - the editorial line there has been consistent and clear for some time. The timing, of course, is something else, since the main trigger in this case is a response to the overwhelming and widespread business response to the tsunami disaster in Asia. Those commentators that have held steadfastly to the mantra that "the business of business is business" have obviously felt strongly enough about recent events to aim to make their mark. This could be the beginning of a concerted backlash.

In the view of these events, we thought we would update the website vote to take the temperature of views out there. It now reads:

When a world disaster strikes, business should consider whether to give support and conclude:

* Extraordinary events call for extraordinary generosity
* Whether they should divert part of their existing community budget
* That it is shareholders' money and not theirs to give

The previous vote which went up last time had generated rather little traffic - possibly a reflection on how few people are reading CSR reports in a way where their quality is really that important. The final tally was:

The quality of Corporate social responsibility reports:

Is good - they generally have the information I need 39 (31%)
Is variable - more robust quality standards are needed 71 (56%)
Is poor - they don't need my needs at all 17 (13%)

127 people voted. Thanks to those that took part.

News

Unocal agrees in principle to settle human rights lawsuits

Unocal has said that it has reached an agreement in principle to settle a longstanding action based on allegations of corporate complicity in the use of enslaved labour for constructing the Yadana gas pipeline in Burma.

Alcan awards $1m prize to Forest Stewardship Council

Alcan has awarded its first year's Alcan Prize for Sustainability to the Forest Stewardship Council, saying that the FSC is an example of how businesses, NGOs and governments can work together to achieve sustainability.

General Motors and DaimlerChrysler take on the challenge of hybrid technology

General Motors and DaimlerChrysler have announced that they are to collaborate to develop fuel-efficient hybrid technology to challenge the current supremacy of Japanese motor giants Toyota and Honda.

Canada: Imperial Tobacco accused of involvement in smuggling

According to court documents, Imperial Tobacco is alleged to have been involved in a cigarette smuggling network in the early 1990s and to have defrauded the government of more than $600m in taxes.

Japan: NHK aims to restore trust following scandals

NHK, Japan's public service broadcaster, has screened a special show with a live appearance of the NHK President Katsuji Ebisawa, as part of an attempt to win back public trust following a series of scandals.

US: Pfizer ends advertising of Celebrex following heart concerns

Pfizer has announced that it is to end the advertising around its top-selling drug Celebrex, following a study that suggested that high doses may lead to an increased risk of heart attacks.

Australia: James Hardie to pay $1.5bn over asbestos

James Hardie Industries is to sign a voluntary agreement to pay $1.5bn to asbestos victims, ending an extracted period where the company had been severely attacked for its stance and its impact on seriously ill people suffering from exposure.

Kraft to curb advertising to children under 12

Prompted by the growing debate on childhood obesity, Kraft Foods has announced that it is to curb advertising of many of its snack food products to children. The company will phase out ads that currently run on television and radio shows.

South Korea: Probe launched over chemical poisoning in sweatshop

Reports that eight Thai workers had been exposed to toxic chemicals at a plant run by Donghwa Digital have led to the arrest of two officials and the disappearance of the company president.

Chile: Sexual harassment in the workplace outlawed

The Chilean Senate has approved a law against sexual harassment in the workplace, bringing to an end a process that has taken over 13 years. A large number of women in Chile are believed to be subject to such abuse.

Nigeria: Shell could miss key deadline to end flaring

Chris Finlayson, the chief executive officer for exploration and production in Africa for Shell has said that the company may miss a key Nigerian government deadline to end the practice of gas flaring by 2008, according to the Financial Times.

Europe: Chemical companies fined for illegal cartel

Chemical companies Akzo Nobel, Atofina and Hoechst have been fined by the European Union to the amount of $283m after the companies were found to have formed an illegal cartel over a 15 year period through which they rigged the market for MCAA, a chemical used in herbicides, plastics and textiles.

Article

Did business go too far in responding to tsunami?

Author: , dated 24 Jan 2005

The business response to the tsunami disaster in Asia has been swift, substantial, and has provoked the kind of soul-searching debate over the role of companies in extraordinary times that gives an important taste of things to come.

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