Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#92 - 9 Apr 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 review the 'Social Footprint', a new tool aiming to measure corporate social impact.

Welcome

I always worry slightly about the tendency to want to see corporate social responsibility as a science, where carrying out a certain action should always deliver the same results. Businesses are, after all, made up of people. People change their minds. They do something different today to what they would have done yesterday. Poke them, and sometimes they'll jump one way, sometimes the other.

The scientific view also insists that everything can be measured and quantified. Certainly for as long as I've been involved in CSR, there has been a search on for the best way to measure performance and impact for community investment.

It is fair enough on the one hand. Any fool can give away a large amount of money to no great effect. You need to know that your programme is being well executed and achieving the desired benefits. But at the same time, sometimes there really are things that can't be measured without disproportionate cost, and it's a judgement call as to whether the ends are being achieved.

Not that people will stop trying. This issue we review the latest tool aiming to tackle the issue of corporate social impact - the 'Social Footprint'.

Voting continues on the website on the China question. The current position is as follows:

Internet companies faced with demands of censorship by China
Should do whatever they are required to do by the Chinese government 33 (8%)
Should obey laws but do whatever they can to uphold their home values 209 (54%)
Should refuse to compromise even if this means not doing business in China 147 (38%)

That places quite a lot of you in the fundamentalist 'no compromise' camp, although not the majority. That may, of course, change after a bit more voting!

Thanks to the 389 people that have voted so far.

News

Nigeria: Oil worker hostages released

Militants have released three oil workers that have been held hostage for over a month as part of a protest against how Nigeria's oil wealth could benefit poorer communities more.

Australia: Telstra tells government compulsory CSR reporting would be a burden

Telstra has claimed at a parliamentary committee in Canberra that formal requirements for CSR reporting would be an unwelcome extra burden on business that could put Australian companies at a disadvantage.

US: Zurich Financial Services settles claim over bid-rigging

Zurich Financial Services is to pay $153m over charges by New York, Illinois and Connecticut of bid-rigging. The company, which has not admitted any illegality, was alleged to have conspired with other insurers to fix prices for policies.

South Korea: Hyundai exec faces corruption charges

Lee Ju-eun, the chief executive of Hyundai Motor's subsidiary Glovis, has been arrested on charges arising from the alleged embezzlement of 7bn won for use in political lobbying.

UK: Catering firm hit by public concern on healthy school dinners

Major catering company Compass has said that its business providing school meals in the UK has suffered from the sudden explosion of criticism of unhealthy school dinners following the high profile TV series on the subject by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

Bangladesh: Government aims to punish fire hazard factories

The Bangladesh government is to carry out a concerted push against factories that are flaunting safety rules following a rash of factory fires that have led to loss of life.

Hong Kong: Controversy over cut price cigarettes

Philip Morris has provoked criticism in Hong Kong over its recent steep price reductions on some of its key brands, a move which some are saying is driven by the desire to attract new young smokers before a ban of smoking in public places comes into force.

Parmalat to be sued by Bank of America

Bank of America has secured permission from a US judge to bring a $1bn fraud suit against disgraced dairy firm Parmalat.

China: Shenzhen city government to build CSR into public spending

The Shenzhen city government has said that it may soon refuse to give contracts to companies that operate sweatshops or otherwise do not meet their social responsibilities, in a first indication of how CSR is influencing decision makers in China.

Alliance of global companies to develop energy self-sufficient buildings

United Technologies and Lafarge Group have joined together with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to create an alliance to show how buildings can be designed and constructed to run effectively without using energy from external power grids and with zero carbon emissions.

Japan: Food companies abandon whaling industry

Five major food companies have dealt a blow to the Japanese whaling industry by pulling support from the company that runs most of the country's whaling ships.

BP recognised for carbon leadership

The Environmental Markets Association (EMA) has announced that BP is to be awarded its first Leadership in Environmental Markets Award, to celebrate the company's early action on carbon and climate change.

Russia: Yukos condemns arrest of Vasili Aleksanyan

Russian oil giant Yukos has condemned the arrest of Vasili Aleksanyan, one of its senior executives, saying that it is yet another stage in the politically motivated persecution of the company that has driven it to bankruptcy.

Article

Measuring corporate social impact - art or science?

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 7 Apr 2006

For years, people wanting to measure and report real performance in corporate social responsibility have been frustrated over one area in particular - the apparent impossibility in making any kind of real objective measurement of the company's social impact. Now, a new tool claims to solve this problem - the Social Footprint.

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