Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#86 - 18 Sep 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 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 companies that make products that kill can ever be socially responsible.


Welcome back to all of you that have been enjoying the holiday season over the last month. Not everyone has been so lucky, of course, and our support goes out to those of our readers affected by the hurricane damage in New Orleans.

Mallen was disappointed not to get to the Asian Forum conference this year in Jakarta. Hopefully, he will be back next year when the Forum moves to the Philippines - home of what is almost certainly the longest established CSR intermediary organisation in the world, Philippines Business for Social Progress.

This issue we look at one of the most difficult ends of the social responsibility debate - that involving whether or not companies whose products kill can ever be considered to be socially responsible. We know this will be an area where there are strong views. Feel free to share them! You can always send us an email, or we have now changed the vote on the website to read "Companies that make products that kill can be socially responsible ... " 1. If they seek to reduce harm and manage their other impacts, 2. If they diversify out of harmful practices, 3. Under no circumstances. Let us know what you think!

That means we are closing the previous vote. The final position on that one stands at: Management standards for CSR are generally:

A useful tool for my business 250 (71%)
Something to refer to but not follow in full 60 (17%)
Not relevant to our needs 43 (12%)

Thanks to the 353 people who voted.


India: Coca Cola ordered to close Kerala plant

The Pollution Control Board of Kerala in India has ordered Coca Cola to close its major bottling plant with immediate effect. The move comes after several years of protests against the plant by local campaigners.

Talisman Energy to face genocide lawsuit

A US District Judge has resisted pressure from the governments of the US and Canada to have the lawsuit against Talisman Energy for genocide dismissed. The case is to proceed.

UK: Wetherspoon squeezed both ways on drinking and smoking

UK pub chain Wetherspoons has suffered falling profits having been hit by the stigma of binge drinking on the one hand, and the impact of a unilateral smoking ban introduced by the chain on the other.

Wal-Mart gets praise for response to hurricane Katrina

Wal-Mart has attracted praise even from some of its critics for its fast organisation in the face of the devastation wrought by hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. In the first few days, the company delivered $20m in cash, 100 truckloads of free merchandise, and food for 100,000 meals. The company also promised a job elsewhere for every one of its workers affected by the catastrophe.

New York Stock Exchange criticised for listing delay on animal rights extremist fears

The sudden and unexplained postponement of listing on the NYSE for Life Sciences Research has been criticised for apparently caving in to fears of harrassment by animal rights extremists.

Canada: Nine out of Ten Canadians want climate disclosure

A recent survey of public opinion has found that an overwhelming majority of Canadians (89%) want companies to be forced to talk about what they are doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Japan: Asahi Shimbun executive resigns over scandal of made-up story

Shinichi Hakoshima, Asahi Shimbun's executive advisor, has resigned his post following the revelation that a fabricated report had been published in the company's daily newspaper.

China: Yahoo attacked for helping put journalist in prison

The campaign group Reporters Without Borders has attacked Yahoo for allegedly helping the Chinese authorities to identify and convict the journalist Shi Tao, who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for 'divulging state secrets abroad'.

UK: Reed Elsevier under fire from its own journal for arms link

The medical journal The Lancet, owned by Reed Elsevier, has launched an attack on its parent body for its part in organising an arms fair in London.

Oil companies overriding human rights says Amnesty

Legal agreements with African governments by a consortium of oil companies led by ExxonMobil have come under the spotlight from Amnesty International, which says that the companies are potentially over-riding the human rights of local populations in Chad and Cameroon.

Tax havens 'rob Third World'

Christian Aid has attacked offshore tax havens that the organisation says are helping to cheat the developing world of much needed tax revenues.


Can companies that make products that kill be socially responsible?

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 18 Sep 2005

Killing people is wrong. That's one of the earliest principles established by any civilised society. So how can a company be considered socially responsible if its products - used as instructed - result in loss of human life?

Previous edition - No 85 | Following edition - No 87

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