Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#45 - 15 Dec 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 look back on what happened during 2002 in the field of corporate social responsibility

Welcome

The end of the year approaches, and for many readers a festive season of some sort or another beckons! Best wishes to all for whatever celebrations may lie ahead ...

Our previous piece covering the debate at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development brought a considered response from Liz Crosbie, who also attended the event, on the issues of NGO stakeholders.

She says: "I am a strong supporter of good NGO/single issue campaigning but have severe doubts about building a corporate CSR movement on compulsory formal stakeholder engagement i.e. talking to NGOs/external verification. This is important when there is little indication that the major NGOs are any more than a bunch of individuals pursuing campaigns that rattle tins rather than working on the hard questions of resolving resource conflicts or defining sustainability on the ground. When the going gets tough i.e. how do we actually sort out the problems of sustainability in detail, not all NGOs want to stay the course and deal with the physical complexities of what is required. Often they move on when they get bored or can't find a simple solution.

"Even if NGOs were more accountable organisations themselves working to agendas agreed with their internal stakeholders, the growth of the corporate CSR community (we hope) will put impossible constraints on those NGOs. When you look at the NGOs' resources they don't have the personnel/money to engage with all the organisations that want their free advice/endorsement and we as CSR professionals have to discuss that as an issue.

"There is an danger in equating the NGOs with civil society and although right now it might be the best we can do, we need to have better mechanisms to reach people than use the NGO professionals to interpret and veto what is done. Especially in the developing world where their views are often very much in the minority. Lots of issues about NGOs as enablers etc. to be discussed in detail at some point. Right now many NGOs are not enabling in many cases and it is unclear who is making their agenda and whether they have accurate information on the questions they are trying to influence."

Liz's points chime quite well with the piece we ran near the beginning of the year on NGO accountability - and no doubt it won't be the last time the question will be raised!

Tomorrow (probably today by the time you read this!) we will find out whether the US Supreme Court will agree to hear Nike's appeal on the Kasky v Nike case reported on in previous issues. So the current state of the vote on this very topic on the website is highly topical.

The statement: What companies like Nike say in their CSR reporting should be protected by the same free speech rules as those covering their critics.

215 of you have voted so far. And of those, 134 (62.33%) of you agree with the statement, with 54 (25.12%) of you disagreeing, and 27 (12.56%) not sure. But perhaps the result - whatever it may be - will prompt you to come along and add your own view!

News

Investors press for Bhopal settlement

International investor funds, including Trillium Asset Management, Domini Social Investments and the Calvert Group have advised Union Carbide to settle claims of liabilities of over $500m arising from the Bhopal gas leak. They have suggested that the company risks losing billions of dollars in market capitalisation if it fails to do so.

Canada: Tobacco Act survives challenge from cigarette manufacturers

Canada's three biggest cigarette manufacturers have failed in an attempt to challenge the 1997 Tobacco Act as unconstitutional. The companies had argued against the legislation on the grounds that it prohibited them from advertising their brands to consumers.

Cracker Barrel finally bars sexual orientation discrimination

Cracker Barrel has agreed to bar sexual orientation discrimination following a decade of opposition after a successful shareholder resolution requiring them to act.

Sustainable Development concept gaining ground within business

The concept of sustainable development is gaining acceptance inside companies around the world, according to a new survey of 212 business leaders from 50 countries by Canada-based Environics International.

Survey highlights confusion over where CSR reporting goes next

A new report from SustainAbility and the United Nations Environment Programme has identified seven top CSR reporters from across the world, whilst also flagging some degree of confusion as to where the art of social reporting has to go.

Vendors accuse Microsoft of anti-Linux lobbying in the Third World

Linux vendors and US government officials have accused Microsoft Corp of carrying out a major lobbying and public-policy campaign to stop US government agencies and developing countries from using 'open source' software in general, and Linux in particular.

Canada: Government to crack down on corporate crime

Finance Minister has promised a review of the Criminal Code as a first step towards getting tough with corporate crime and following the US moves to boost investor confidence.

US: President Bush promotes corporate volunteerism

President Bush has launched a programme to draw 500 businesses into a volunteer service network, telling business leaders that encouraging such work is part of corporate responsibility.

Australia: BAT firms cleared in document shredding case

A court ruling that found that British American Tobacco's document destruction policy was designed to frustrate potential legal claims against it has been overturned on appeal.

Activist investors press GM, Ford for emissions cuts

Shareholder resolutions have been filed asking General Motors Corp and Ford Motor Co to reduce the level of emissions produced by their vehicles and operations.

Ecuador: Oil workers held by Achuar Indians in protest

Eight workers for the Argentine oil company CGC are being held by Achuar Indians opposed to oil exploration on their ancestral lands in the Amazon jungle.

India: Citizenship key driver for CSR

Indian companies see corporate social responsibility as central to corporate action, with "passive philanthropy" no longer a sufficient response to rising expectations, according to the CSR Survey 2002 - India report.

Article

2002 - A Year in Corporate Social Responsibility

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 15 Dec 2002

2002 was a year that inherited a good many rumbles from the previous year. The full implications of the corporate governance debacles of Enron and Worldcom were still working their way through the system, but awareness was high that all the rules had changed. The only thing people didn't know was just how far, or how quickly, things would go.

Previous edition - No 44 | Following edition - No 46

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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.