Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#148 - 2 Mar 2009

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 Warren Buffet's latest letter to shareholders, and interview Leo Martin of GoodCorporation.

Welcome

Not many CEOs are looking good when they get around to announcing their annual results at the moment. And certainly not many are looking good when they announce that losses have been made, and that the CEO personally made mistakes that cost billions.

Not for the first time, Warren Buffet is the exception. In this issue, we consider his most recent letter to shareholders, and ponder some of the most relevant lessons.

We also preview a longer interview feature with Leo Martin, director of GoodCorporation (which, as you know, is a valued sponsor of Business Respect). The full five-part feature will appear on the website in two weeks time.

Unless things go horribly wrong ... next issue of the newsletter will announce the launch of the new website, and some stuff that goes with it. It's been a long time coming. Those of you that were kind enough to complete last year's readers' survey will hopefully recognise at least a few things that you said you wanted!

Exciting though that news may be, try to stay focused for the next two weeks doing good stuff for good people!

Tomorrow I get to speak on a phone-in discussion hosted by EABIS, and to talk to a group on sustainable supply chains at the British Quality Foundation. If you're attending either, I look forward to meeting you (even if only virtually in the case of the former) then!

News

US: UBS settles tax fraud case for $780m

UBS has settled a suit that alleged the company defrauded the US government through tax dodges. It is to pay $780m and, in a break with usual practice, has agreed to pass on the information of key US clients.

US: Philip Morris ordered to pay $8m to widow of lung cancer victim

In the latest lawsuit against a tobacco company, Philip Morris has been ordered to pay damages to the widow and son of a victim of lung cancer who, prior to his death, smoked three packs of cigarettes per day.

Larger firms more likely to have CSR policies - study

Companies with a turnover of more than 50m UK pounds are twice as likely to have established policies on corporate social responsibility and diversity, according to new research by KPMG on its own suppliers.

Netherlands: Philips changes recycling to take producer responsibility

Campaigners have welcomed a move by Philips to change its approach to the recycling of its products so that the costs of recycling are part of the overall product price, rather than being paid by the consumer as an additional fee. Greenpeace said it had been campaigning against the company's opposition to laws that would oblige producer responsibility for electronic products.

US: AstraZeneca emails show company buried unfavourable studies

AstraZeneca internal emails have shown that the company buried the results of unfavourable studies of its psychiatric drug Seroquel, with one employee being praised for having done "a great smoke-and-mirrors job" in hiding risks of diabetes and weight gain.

South Africa: King 3 Report focuses on executive remuneration and sustainability

The King 3 report on corporate governance has raised the bar again on expectations on businesses in terms of management practices. According to the CEO of the Institute of Directors, Lindie Engelbrecht, it recognises that "sustainability is the primary moral and economic imperative for the 21st century and is one of the sources of opportunities and risks for businesses."

Venezuela: Army ordered to seize rice mills

President Hugo Chavez has ordered the army to take control of Venezuelan rice mills, accusing them of hoarding rice in order to evade the government's price caps and causing food shortages. The move represents the latest attack on the private sector by the regime.

UK: Government expresses determination to claw back RBS former CEO pension

The deputy leader of the governing Labour Party, Harriet Harman, has said that the government is determined to snatch away the 693,000 UK pound pension of Sir Fred Goodwin, the former CEO of bailed-out bank RBS. The revelation of the size of the pension pot for Sir Fred, who was forced out of the company as its problems became evident, has been the subject of newspaper campaigns over the last few weeks.

Article

Every CEO should write letters like Buffet

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 2 Mar 2009

Every year, legendary investor Warren Buffet writes a folksy, detailed letter to his shareholders. The latest has just been released, and there are some important themes for those concerned with socially responsible business.

Leo Martin: The lessons from eight years of GoodCorporation

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 2 Mar 2009

Leo Martin is one of the founders of GoodCorporation, which arose from a group of like-minded people at KPMG some years ago. Having been asked by clients whether KPMG couldn't just audit them to show their social responsibility to a sceptical outside public, they had realised that they couldn't. But that was a need that somebody should meet.

Previous edition - No 147 | Following edition - No 149

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Special Feature

photo of cash

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.