Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#97 - 18 Jun 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 newly launched International NGO Accountability Charter.

Welcome

One of the ongoing grumbles between business and NGOs has centred on the validity of each other's business model. It is certainly the case that challenges to the corporate world have been many and various - and reported extensively here. What has been lower profile, but still persistent, has been the belief that NGOs also need to practice what they preach in terms of corporate accountability. Now the NGOs have taken the initiative - a number of the most influential groups have released an international NGO Accountability Charter. The Charter is reviewed in this issue.

Talking about accountability, the Forest Stewardship Council responded to the review in the last issue about World Rainforest Movement critique of FSC certification of companies in Uruguay. It restated the information given in my article that it is currently carrying out a policy review in relation to the certification of plantations. As for the specific allegations over the companies in Uruguay, it is looking into these and, hopefully, we will learn the results of its enquiry in a few weeks.

Although my request for a response from the FSC for that article was not responded to in time to be included (it was, to be fair, one of those fairly short deadline requests) they also added that the original report writers at WRM had not given the FSC the chance to input into the report at all before its publication. This is exactly the sort of behaviour, of course, covered in the NGO Accountability Charter!

I also received an email this week from Bert Balducci who had obviously tripped over an old news story on the website (from 2002) about 3M.

"Your report on 3M's removal of Scotchguard from the market a few years back is in error in giving the impression that 3M did this voluntarily ...

"As is made clear on a nonprofit watchdog site (www.chemicalindustryarchives.org/dirtysecrets/scotchgard/1.asp), 3M acted only after (1) years of evidence of environmental impact and (2) the EPA's informing 3M that if it did not act, the EPA would."

The news stories, of course, are not editorialised, but drawn from published sources at the time, so it's a perfectly interesting observation that there is an NGO out there that disagrees with the reported version of events (one could make the same point on a number of stories I'm sure). Sadly, Bert then spoils it by going into 'rant' mode.

"I'm new to your site, and have made no effort to view it in depth, for what seems to me good reason: given this difference between your report and the other, much fuller, one, I would expect to find--perhaps subtly woven in--little more than an industry spin as the underlying purpose of your reports."

It does seem to me that if you're new, you should take a little more time and care before accusing somebody of peddling 'industry spin'. Of course, documents headed 'dirty industry secrets' contain no spin of any kind! Never mind.

In case anyone missed this, what I try to do through this newsletter and the website is to provide information and news about what's happening out there - good and bad. I like to encourage corporate best practice, and provide independent commentary on what anyone's doing that seems to be important and interesting. The commentary brings a point of view which is pro-business AND pro-responsibility, but hopefully the facts are broadly the facts whether they support the view or not. And I respond well to communications that challenge or correct facts, or offer alternative points of view. I'm less fond of name calling of any sort.

I am however, fond of gardening, and a sunny day is calling. Enjoy your week!

News

Insurance companies will become extinct unless they address climate change

Global insurance market Lloyd's of London has said that insurance firms face becoming extinct unless they begin to do a lot more to focus on the problems of climate change.

Norway: $200bn pension fund eschews Wal-Mart and Freeport

Wal-Mart and Freeport have been excluded from the Norwegian government pension fund on the grounds that the companies have been responsible for either violations of human rights or environmental damage.

BP faces criminal inquiry into Alaskan oil spill

BP faces a criminal investigation in the US following its massive oil spill in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.

Bill Gates to focus on charity

Bill Gates has announced that he is to end his day to day duties with Microsoft by 2008 to devote more time to the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Apple investigating sweatshop claims on iPod

Apple Computer has said that it is investigating a UK newspaper report that claimed that workers at a Chinese factory manufacturing iPods were working 15 hour shifts for money that was half what should have been the going rate.

Reporters without Borders criticise Yahoo for worst China censorship

The anti-censorship NGO Reporters without Borders has said that the Chinese portal for Yahoo! was the clear worst offender in terms of restricting access to sources not approved by the Chinese government.

US: KFC faces suit over cooking fats

Fast food chain KFC is being sued for cooking its fried chicken in oil containing trans fatty acids which have been linked to raised cholesterol.

Japan: Companies guilty of wartime slave labour, but suit fails

The High Court in Tokyo has dismissed an appeal brought by Chinese citizens against 10 companies that used them in wartime slave labour on the grounds that, although the defendants were guilty, the 20-year limit for filing a suit had long passed.

HSBC given 'sustainable bank of the year' accolade

Global bank HSBC has been named as 'sustainable bank of the year' at the Financial Times Sustainable Banking Awards.

Article

At last - an Accountabiity Charter for NGOs

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 18 Jun 2006

Over four years ago, I wrote an article calling for some sort of charter for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) - a suggestion that provoked some controversy at the time, but which proved merely an early expression of a theme that many others have taken up. Now, a group of respected international NGOs have produced just such a document.

Previous edition - No 96 | Following edition - No 98