Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#41 - 20 Oct 2002

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 first CSR report from Ireland's Musgrave Group and hear more arguments Oxfam's case on fairtrade coffee.

Welcome

Thanks to the good folk at Canadian Business for Social Responsibility for their hospitality during Mallen's visit to Vancouver and Calgary last week. They put together some pretty good events for their larger corporate members looking at trends in CSR and reporting - and then capped it with a great meeting in the pub with a group of small business entrepreneurs.

Lots of thoughts crystallised during the various rounds of meetings with leading Canadian companies in between - and these came together further at a Global Compact meeting which focused on the Global Reporting Initiative. Expect to see much more on this later. In the mean time, powerpoint presentations from some of these events have been posted in the resources section of the website.

Jem Bendell replied to Don D'Cruz's comments re. Oxfam in the last issue with a lengthy point by point reply. The following gives a flavour.

"Don is right to point out that the proposals made by Oxfam are those that have been tried before and failed. i.e. an OPEC-style agreement for producers of agricultural commodities, to regulate production and stabilize prices. What he doesn't mention is that these agreements were undermined through corporate lobbying of western and 'developing' country governments. Increasingly business leaders are recognising that markets have always needed regulation, and the global market is no different, so that the regulation of social and environmental aspects of production, and even of production levels themselves, should be looked at again, without ideological blindfolds.

"It is good that business is engaging with these issues, and is something I have been working on and toward for the past 7 years. However, most business leaders, including corporate responsibility professionals are on a steep learning curve when it comes to the theory, practice and historical experiences of international development and underdevelopment. Before one can learn, one needs to recognise there is something to learn... and to be prepared to "unlearn" what you already "know". My concern is that many in business will be tempted to turn to half-baked and disproven theories and assumptions about development as they seem, at first glance, more compatible with corporate goals."

The full response has been put onto the website at http://www.mallenbaker.net/csr/CSRfiles/oxfam.html and thanks to Jem for the considered comments.

As you will see below, the public's view of excessive corporate pay is in the news - with attitudes having shifted fast following the recent scandals. Very timely then, that the vote on the website should focus on this issue. 152 people have voted so far, with the result as follows.

CEO Pay and Perks - executive pay should be:
Whatever the market will bear 12 (7.89%)
As high as necessary, but linked to performance 57 (37.5%)
Restrained to a set amount of what the rest of the workforce earns 83 (54.61%)

There's still time to make your views known!

News

Exelon settles discrimination case

Exelon Nuclear Generation Co has reached a settlement in a discrimination case where the company was found to have passed over an employee who had previously raised safety concerns.

ExxonMobil and Shell under EU investigation for price-fixing

ExxonMobil and Shell are being investigated by the European Commission for alleged price-fixing in the asphalt sector.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan renews call for corporate responsibility

In a speech marking the 50th anniversary of the MIT Sloan School of Management, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for greater efforts by government, business and others to support global corporate responsibility.

Cisco, Nokia, Vivendi, BT, Deutsche Bank top list of UN's Global Compact

Cisco Systems, Nokia Corp, Vivendi, BT Group PLC and Deutsche Bank AG, are among the largest corporations to have signed the Global Compact, said Georg Kell, the head of the UN program.

UNEP: Financial sector has to act on climate change

Too few financial companies including banks, pension funds and insurance companies are taking the risks and opportunities posed by climate change seriously, members of the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) Finance Initiatives are warning.

Germany: Bertelsmann regrets omissions over Nazi-era behaviour

Bertelsmann expressed regret today for its conduct under the Nazis, and for subsequent efforts to cover it up, as an extensive report was released detailing the company's actions.

South Africa: Shareholders failing to hold companies to account

Shareholders are failing to hold companies to account for poor corporate governance, according to finance minister Trevor Manuel.

McDonald's cricitised for alleged anti-union activities

Members of the European Parliament have met with international trade union activists to review what they describe as the anti-union activities of McDonald's.

Corporate citizenship as vital as governance - Accenture

Companies should regard good corporate citizenship not as a “nice-to-have” add-on but as a fundamental element of good business practice and investment for the future, according to Vernon Ellis, international chairman of Accenture.

European Commission launches CSR stakeholder forum

The European Commission has launched what it describes as a multi-stakeholder forum - with a mission to create better understanding of corporate social responsibility.

Asia: Jobseekers rank CSR - but care about the money first

A recent survey has found that Asian job seekers rank the importance of corporate social responsibility higher than their counterparts in the US, Europe or Australia - but it is the money that comes first ahead of any other factor.

Australia: Muslim wins right to pray at work

A computer assembler Kamal El-Masri has succeeded in winning the right to pray at work from his employer TPG. The move came after the case was taken to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission leading to negotiations between the company and unions.

Nike seeks to reverse commercial speech ruling

Nike has sought to appeal against the state Supreme Court ruling that arguments made by the company in response to critics of its labour practices constituted 'commercial speech' and therefore are not protected by the First Amendment.

Americans angry over excessive corporate pay

According to a new poll, the majority of Americans believe that the nation's top executives are overpaid at the expense of other workers.

Article

Environmental and Social Accountability Report - Musgrave Group 2002

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 19 Oct 2002

Musgrave Group, which was founded in 1876 and is Ireland's largest food and grocery distributor, has produced its first CSR report - building from its first environmental report last year. The company believes that this is the first such report from a business based in the Republic of Ireland, and they may well be right.

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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.