Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#63 - 28 Sep 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, we review events as the Asian Forum on CSR in Bangkok and the Ethical Corporation conference in Singapore.

Welcome

It was a great privilege to attend the Asian Forum on CSR in Bangkok and to meet many of the great characters promoting the rise of social responsibility in Asia. Highlights undoubtedly included the presentation by Mechai Viravaidya (if we mention his nickname dozens of corporate email filters will automatically reject this issue!) whose inspiring history of development work with businesses in Thailand provided the best story of the event.

Mallen's breakout session turned out to be one of the few (actually we counted just two) that focused on business behaviour rather than on company investment in social issues. It was a lively session, focusing on how companies communicate with stakeholders, and had some good questions and discussion.

The Ethical Corporation conference in Singapore was very different in style and approach. See the article this time for some initial thoughts around both.

We have now taken off the website vote as promised last time. The final tally was:

When it comes to lobbying on matters of public policy, companies should:
Lobby away and / or pay donations - legislators are grown-ups 26 (6%)
Lobby and / or pay donations - but they must disclose what they do 253 (63%)
Do nothing - corporate lobbying should be banned 124 (31%)

403 people voted in all. Thanks as always to those who took part.

We now have a new vote on the website - in part inspired by the story this week about JJB Sports, but really focused on the dilemma faced by companies such as British American Tobacco and - before they caved in to the pressure - Talisman Energy, who operate in companies with controversial human rights situations. The vote runs like this:

In countries like Burma or Sudan where there are huge human rights challenges companies should:

Withdraw - no company with a conscience should do business there
Do business there - but use its influence to try to make things better
Do business there - and keep out of interfering in politics

We look forward to hearing your views!

News

Former Enron treasurer jailed

Ben Glisan, the former treasurer of Enron, has been sentenced to five years in jail after pleading guilty to criminal conspiracy - making him the first Enron executive to be sentenced.

Nike settles Kasky lawsuit

Nike has agreed to settle the lawsuit brought by Marc Kasky over claims that statements it made relating to conditions in some of its suppliers' factories constituted 'false advertising'.

South Africa: BAT donation controversy for Cape Town University

The University of Cape Town has created a storm of protest from anti-smoking groups by accepting a R120,000 donation from British American Tobacco.

Bayer succeeds in fending off Baycol class action move

German drugs and chemicals firm Bayer AG has won a key legal victory as a US Federal Court has denied a proposed class action on the impacts of the company's withdrawn drug Baycol.

Merrill Lynch executives indicted for fraud over Enron

Three former Merrill Lynch executives, Daniel Bayly, James Brown and Robert Furst, have been indicted on fraud charges arising from the company's involvement with the scandal around Enron.

RJ Reynolds cuts workforce by 40 percent

Tobacco company RJ Reynolds has announced that it is slashing the size of its workforce, cutting approximately 2,600 full time jobs over the next year.

India: Coca-Cola threatened with Kerala plant closure

Coca-Cola has been given two weeks to defend the continued operation of its bottling plant in Kerala, which has been dogged with accusations of over-using water and producing toxic waste.

Statoil CEO resigns over Iran corruption probe

Statoil has announced the resignation of its CEO, Olav Fjell, just days after the departure of its chairman, Leif Terje Loeddesoel, following the continuing uncertainty around the corruption probe into the company's contract with Iranian Horton Investment.

Australia: Workers have no faith in bosses

Around 52 percent of Australians have little trust in their employers, according to the results of a survey of 5,000 people by Kelly Services.

China: Unsafe practices highlighted in firework plant explosions

According to the China Labour Bulletin, four separate explosions took place in fireworks factories in various parts of China in the space of a single week, leading to the death of at least 31 people. The report came as the State Administration of Work Safety reported that the number of fatal accidents in some industries has increased, in spite of government actions to seek to reduce these.

Malaysian Airlines says passengers want 'young and pretty' stewardesses

Air hostesses over the age of 40 have been grounded by Malaysian Airlines on the principle that passengers want to be served by 'young, demure and pretty stewardesses', according to media reports.

GlaxoSmithKline clears way for new policy on pay-offs

GlaxoSmithKline has indicated that it is to move towards a remuneration policy for its executives that would avoid recent controversies over perceived pay-offs for failure.

Antitrust suit to proceed against Monsanto

An antitrust lawsuit against Monsanto has been given the green light to go ahead by a US District Court judge. Other companies are also in the firing line, including DuPont, Bayer AG and Syngenta.

UK: JJB Sports withdraw goods from Myanmar

JJB Sports, the UK's largest sports retailer, has announced that it is withdrawing stock manufactured in Myanmar, formerly Burma, and is to implement a policy to ensure stock will no longer be sourced from there.

Article

Corporate Social Responsibility in Asia - a tale of two conferences

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 23 Sep 2003

During the last week, we have seen the Asian Forum on CSR in Bangkok, and the Ethical Corporation Asia Conference in Singapore. You could not have had two more different events had one of them taken place on the moon.

Previous edition - No 62 | Following edition - No 64

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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.