Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#116 - 9 Dec 2007

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 edition, we discuss the recent fine for UK supermarkets on milk prices, and the impossible dilemma it presents for the future.

Welcome

Change is in the air, and hopefully for readers of this newsletter, they will all prove to be positive.

Since the newsletter was first started back in April 2001, it has been strict editorial policy that there should be no sponsorship or advertising in the newsletter. The focus has always been on content, and the fear was that permitting advertising would begin to detract from that main focus.

However, the clockwork-like regularity of the appearance of the newsletter that was a feature of its existence during the first five years has been harder to sustain during the last year. There have been all sorts of factors involved with this, but the bottom line is that we need to be able to secure the resource to be able to put dedicated time into making the newsletter regular, and developing further the quality, content and focus of it to serve the CSR community better.

As a result, I have decided that from January 2008, the Business Respect email newsletter will take up a number of sponsorships, initially limited to no more than four. These sponsorships will be advertised through a strictly defined format, prominant within the body of the email text but limited in size to retain the primacy of content. They will be available for periods of 1 year - which will be a guaranteed 26 editions.

We are finalising the terms of reference for these sponsorships. They will only be accepted from organisations which are appropriate given the nature of the publication, and that have a proposition likely to be of interest to the audience of the newsletter. Note that the newsletter currently has an opt-in only subscriber base of just under 9,000 which is spread across the world, with significant concentrations in the UK and the US.

We are already in advanced discussions with our likely first sponsor, and we look forward to announcing them in January. In the mean time, if you think you might be interested to join them and would like more details of the sponsorship rates etc. please contact us at mallen@mallenbaker.net. Please note, sponsorship is at a flat rate and available purely on a first come, first served basis.

In addition to the four annual sponsorships, we will take no more than one time-limited adverts per edition. These may be to promote an individual event of global interest, or a new publication, etc.

These changes will mean two things. Hopefully, if successful, they will create the capacity for us to devote dedicated time to the future development of the newsletter. This should mean more research behind features, the potential to develop additional content such as interviews, commissioned pieces of other writers, etc. to increase the value of the content. Secondly, by limiting sponsorships and advertising to those that will suit the type of audience served by the newsletter, you should have another channel to find out about services that will directly be of interest, and to the benefit of you or your company.

We have tried to strike the right balance. I am not a great fan of CSR websites that provide a soup of animated logos from a multitude of cross-sponsorship deals. The aim will always be to provide a useful resource to the interested practitioner or researcher. Hopefully, this will provide the right balance to enable that to happen.

Back on content: Those of you that have heard me speak at events over the last couple of years will probably have heard me remark one thing about the challenges of stakeholder engagement - stakeholders can be capricious. They disagree with each other. And they can punish you today for doing precisely what they demanded yesterday.

I was reminded of this line this week as the UK supermarkets - having responded to pressure on milk prices some years ago - were fined for having done so. The topic is the focus of our main feature for this issue.

News

Australia: Telecoms companies set voluntary code to end text scams

Telecommunications companies in Australia are to sign up to a voluntary code to rebuild trust in the sector following a scandal over the mis-use of premium text services.

Consumer groups hand out 'worst product' awards

An international gathering of 220 consumer organisations has attacked a number of products for being socially irresponsible, with top prize going to sleeping pills marketed as beng targeted at children.

US: Yahoo attacked over jailing of reporter in China

Yahoo has been attacked by a US congressional panel for being "at best inexcusably negligent" in evidence that it gave over the case of a reporter jailed by China following evidence provided by the company.

Merck settles Vioxx claims for $4.85bn

Merck has agreed to pay to settle legal claims that its drug Vioxx, which it withdrew from sale in 2004, caused some users to suffer strokes and heart failure. The company is to set up a fund to compensate victims.

Gap planning 'sweatshop free' label

Gap is planning to label its products as 'sweatshop free' in a bold move to push the boundaries of the debate behind working conditions in the apparel industry.

Mining companies in Africa under attack

Mining companies have accused the campaign group War on Want of using inaccurate and out of date information in a new report attacking them for pollution in Africa.

US; British Enron bankers face jail

Three British bankers, controversially extradited to the US on charges arising from Enron, look likely to face a three year jail sentence.

Businesses call for action on climate change

150 businesses from across the world have called for a legally binding and comprehensive deal on climate change to encourage businesses to invest in low-carbon technologies.

US: Carmakers face deal on fuel efficiency

Congressional negotiators have agreed a deal that will require manufacturers of cars and light trucks to meet an average fuel efficiency performance of 35 miles to the gallon.

Nigeria: Companies face fines for gas flaring

Oil companies operating in Nigeria have attacked government plans for start fining them for gas flaring as focusing on an unrealistic deadline and likely to cause immense economic damage.

UK: Impact of advertising on children to be investigated

The UK government is launching an inquiry into the possible harmful effects of advertising on children as concerns continue to grow about the growth in society of such phenomena as anxiety, eating disorders and under-age alcohol consumption.

Major companies sharpening focus on human rights

New research on how the top FTSE100 companies manage human rights obligations has found that companies are making considerable progress in taking their responsibilities in this area seriously.

India: G-Star ends Indian contract over working conditions

Dutch denim brand G-Star has ended a contract with Indian manufacturer Fibres and Fabrics International (FFI) over problems with working conditions at the company's factories.

Article

Crying over spilt milk

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 9 Dec 2007

There is no greater myth in corporate social responsibility than the idea that there is always an obvious right thing to do, which will bring reputational and business benefits. And there is no better illustration of this fact than the way that UK supermarkets have been comprehensively stuffed over the recent milk price-fixing row.

Previous edition - No 115 | Following edition - No 117

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Special Feature

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Social responsibility and finance - on the precipice

In a recent article, the BBC's economics editor Robert Peston highlighted the fact that in 2012 the chances are that the economy - punch drunk as it is from the various flavours of debt crisis it has been pummelled with over the course of the year - will be hit by the collapse of a major bank and / or government.