Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#53 - 6 Apr 2003

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 Business Respect celebrates its second birthday and reviews the new AA1000 Assurance Standard.

Welcome

With this issue, Business Respect is officially two years old! Every fortnight without fail so far it has appeared with a mix of news stories from the world of corporate social responsibility, along with opinion pieces and reviews on some of the key companies and the significant tools for change that have emerged.

Having appeared one day on the website, with no associated promotion through any media, the newsletter now has a subscriber list well over 2,000 and continues to grow at a rate of around 70 new subscribers per issue. We are grateful over that time for all the communications, the rave reviews, the constructive feedback and the engagement that has come through. It has made it constantly fun and interesting to do - which is just as Business Respect remains a purely voluntary effort.

Through the last couple of years, we have watched with interest to see which stories attract the most interest. When it comes to attracting the punters, nothing quite does the trick like a feature about a high profile company. And appropriately enough, it seems that the top company for achieving this is Wal-Mart, the world's number one.

Last issue's feature on Wal-Mart attracted a small flood of traffic, with 1818 people coming to the website specifically to read that article in the first week. Not only that, but 35 forwarded the article to a friend (many times more than recorded for any other story on the site) and the Wal-Mart focused vote racked up more votes in the first fortnight at 231 than any vote so far in the last two years.

The vote, as you recall, invited you to opine on the most important social responsibility a company like Wal-Mart can observe. The results so far:

Keeping its prices low 39 (16.88%)
Treating its employees well 63 (27.27%)
Minding its impact on local communities 129 (55.84%)

A clear view emerging there, but still time to make your own view felt.

In an earlier story, we talked about the flak the campaigning NGO WWF had attracted from its own side in its deal with Lafarge. If you remember, Friends of the Earth accused WWF of 'inappropriate behaviour' given the company's plan to quarry up to 600m tonnes of rock from Roineabhal mountain, and suggested the organisation has allowed itself to be used by Lafarge.

Ruth Thomas, the Business Communications Manager with WWF responded to the story, and told us: "Engaging with companies, vital to leverage corporate expertise and funds, presents significant challenges to NGOs who have identified the potential negative impacts on their reputation. WWF in particular needs to meet the needs of a range of stakeholders - from industry to supporters. It would certainly be easier to reject working with large companies in sensitive sectors. Herewith lies the paradox: it is precisely these types of partners who can help deliver sustainable solutions with maximum effectiveness and efficiency."

Ruth was also kind enough to add: "I subscribe to Business Respect with enthusiasm and interest - and look forward to your regular informative mails." Did we mention that we always value reader feedback - both positive and negative?

News

South Africa: Gold Fields extends HIV drugs to employees

Gold mining group Gold Fields has announced that it intends to extend its existing health programme to include the provision of antiretroviral drugs for employees with AIDS.

Lundin and OMV criticised for resumed oil exploration in Sudan

Sweden's Lundin Petroleum and Austria's OMV have attracted criticism for their decision to resume oil exploration in southern Sudan. The companies said that their action had been made possible by "positive developments in the peace process and the improved conditions in the concession area".

South Africa: Firms face apartheid reparations demand

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has recommended to the South African government that businesses such as Anglo American and De Beers should be made to pay reparations to the victims of apartheid.

General Mills heads list of top corporate citizens

General Mills, Cummins Inc and Intel have been named as Business Ethics Magazine's Best Corporate Citizens for 2003. General Mills achieved the top slot having originally come in at No 67 in the 2000 listing primarily for its service to the community and to women and minorities.

France: TotalFinaElf rejects competition ruling

TotalFinaElf has denied that it took part in collusion in setting fuel prices in France at its highway service stations following a ruling to this effect by France's Competition Authority levying a fine of 12m euros.

Most companies not disclosing more than legally required

A new survey of corporate governance transparency has concluded that most companies are not disclosing more than they are mandated by law to disclose. Large firms tend to have the most open approach to governance, with Pfizer in the top rank.

South American Coca-Cola bottler to stand trial for murder

Panamco, the main South American bottler for Coca-Cola, is to stand trial for allegedly hiring paramilitaries to kill union leaders in Colombia following a ruling in a US court.

Bayer fortunes improve after second court win

Bayer's fortunes seem to have improved considerably after a second court win over its cholesterol drug Baycol substantially revised downwards the expectations of its legal liabilities.

US: Tobacco companies hit at 'prejudicial ads'

RJ Reynolds and Lorillard are suing the State of California for TV anti-smoking adverts that the companies say vilify the industry and prejudice potential jurers in tobacco-related cases before they even step into the courtroom.

China: Mine explosion followed by beating for bereaved relatives

A disastrous coalmine explosion has taken place in the northeastern province of Liaoning, leaving 25 miners dead and the wife of one victim hospitalised by company security guards for asking about compensation.

Companies gear up for a share of Iraq reconstruction

Halliburton, the company formerly headed by US Vice President Dick Cheney, has been reported as being out of the running for place of prime contractor for the reconstruction of Iraq once the Gulf War has ended.

Article

A standard to build trust in company social reporting

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 6 Apr 2003

Accountability has released the AA1000 Assurance Standard in an attempt to put some degree of quality and rigour onto the growing process of social reporting. The question is how well does it succeed?

Previous edition - No 52 | Following edition - No 54

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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.