Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#89 - 26 Feb 2006

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 consider the fine points of the controversy around how the internet companies operate in China.

Welcome

The challenge of China is now the biggest issue most affecting responsible businesses that aim to be part of a prosperous future. The internet companies have provided a flashpoint, since they have been at the melting point between the expectations of the powerful players that shape their different business environments. But they won't be the last. And between now and the 2008 olympics, interest in China and the compromises involved will be intense.

It would be comforting to think that there is one reality, and all the companies need to do is to fit in with it. One does not have to condone authoritarianism in order to recognise that the world is not like that. Many great companies through history, starting perhaps with the East India Company that was the administrator of empire in India, have fallen from apparent invincibility because of their inability to understand and adapt to very different cultures and environments. There will be a lot more debate around what today's corporations will choose to do faced with some of the most difficult grey areas of globalisation as they try to avoid the same fate.

As ever, we have put these dilemmas to the vote with a new poll on the website. The question reads as follows: Internet companies faced with demands of censorship by China:
* Should do whatever they are required to do by the Chinese government
* Should obey laws but do whatever they can to uphold their home values
* Should refuse to compromise even if this means not doing business in China

We will be fascinated to see your views.

The current vote therefore comes to a close. The vote closes on the following result:

Companies that make products that kill can be socially responsible

If they seek to reduce harm and manage their other impacts - 548 (39%)
If they diversify out of harmful practices - 237 (17%)
Under no circumstances - 604 (43%)

Many thanks to the 1389 people who voted.

News

Denmark: Prime Minister attacks companies aiming to profit from cartoons crisis

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has labelled as 'disgraceful' the attempts by certain European companies to disassociate themselves from Denmark following the controversy over the satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published in a Danish newspaper.

Australia: AWB Managing Director first to resign over Iraq kickbacks scandal

In the face of the Cole inquiry into AWB's payment of Aus$300m to Saddam Hussein, the AWB board has begun to take expected action to rebuild public confidence in the company, resulting in the resignation of managing director Andrew Lindberg.

Wal-Mart pledge on sustainable fish supplies

Retail giant Wal-Mart has said that it is aiming towards all of the fish it sells in North America being sourced from sustainable sources, certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.

Newmont settles Indonesian pollution suit for $30m

Newmont Mining Corporation has agreed to pay $30m to the Indonesian government to settle a lawsuit over alleged pollution of a bay with arsenic and mercury. A further criminal trial against the company is ongoing.

Liberia: Bridgestone / Firestone hit by rubber tappers' strike

Rubber plantation workers at Liberia's largest plantation have gone on strike over low wages and child labour. 6,000 workers at the million-acre site stopped work to demand improved pay and conditions.

Nigeria: Shell fined $1.5bn for environmental damage

Nigeria's Federal High Court has ordered Shell to pay a major fine for environmental damage to the homeland of the Ijaw in the Niger Delta.

US: Defence contractor pleads guilty on bribery

A US defence contractor Mitchell J. Wade of MZM inc. admitted that he had tried to illegally influence government officials, and had given more than $1m in bribes to the convicted congressman Rep. Randy Cunningham.

Microsoft faces new EU antitrust action

Some of Microsoft's key competitors have filed a new complaint accusing the company of a wide range of antitrust abuses. A group made up of IBM, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Nokia, Red Hat, RealNetworks, Opera, Corel and Linspire have said that Microsoft is continuing to abuse its dominant position in the marketplace.

New Zealand: Major action on destructive trawling announced

In a deal struck between the government and major fishing companies, around one third of New Zealand's offshore waters is to be declared off-limits to the practice of bottom-trawling.

New standards adopted by International Finance Corporation

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has brought in new environmental and social standards that will replace existing codes on the impact of projects.

UK: Bankers lose appeal against controversial extradition

Three British bankers have lost their appeal against extradition to the US for charges of conspiring with Enron executives. The case has attracted considerable criticism of extraditin arrangements where the US can pursue white collar crime suspects under a law designed to be used in the fight against terrorism.

Article

Google's growing pains

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 11 Feb 2006

According to Reuters, Yahoo has now provided evidence that has jailed a second Chinese dissident writer. Allegedly, Yahoo's co-operation with the Chinese police led to the arrest in 2003 of Li Zhi, who was sentenced to eight years in prison after trying to join the China Democracy Party.

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