Business Respect - CSR Dispatches No#64 - 19 Oct 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 ask whether a company can practice corporate social responsibility AND relocate jobs to developing countries.

Welcome

Mallen recently spoke at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) event in Geneva on CSR reporting. Apart from being a great opportunity to raise awareness of some of the work UK companies have been doing in this area, it was a fascinating insight into how some of the institutions are either embracing or rejecting CSR - generally on the basis of how well it fulfils objectives (in this case development) that go somewhat beyond what most practitioners would actually claim for it.

That's not to say CSR can never relate to the development objectives of a country. Mallen's next article for Ethical Corporation (which will also appear on this website in a week or so) gives a case study of how the TBIRD initiative in Thailand has achieved just this (those with good memories will recall this story from Mechai Viravaidya was a highlight of the Asian Forum on CSR conference). But many of the unrealistic expectations of what companies can do through CSR are frankly fueled by the fact that the responsible agencies, government and the public sector, as well as international agencies, have failed to play their part. Companies that are not elected by anybody cannot be the prime agents for development.

The context-dependent definition of CSR seems to be something of a theme, with the article this time focusing on the UK unions' assertion that HSBC's relocation of 4,000 jobs counts in itself as corporate irresponsibility.

In the mean time, we asked you for your opinion on a similar such question - what should be the position of responsible companies towards doing business in challenging countries. So far, the results look 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
- 41 (24%)
Do business there - but use its influence to try to make things better - 121 (70%)
Do business there - and keep out of interfering in politics
- 11 (6%).

Thanks to the 173 people that have voted so far. There's still time to make your own views known!

News

US: Colin Powell recognises US Steel's corporate citizenship

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has presented the Secretary of State's 2003 Award for Corporate Excellence to United States Steel Corporation for its 'exemplary corporate citizenship, innovation and business practices in the Slovak Republic and for exhibiting the qualities of conscience, character and integrity'.

Coca-Cola settles whistle-blower lawsuit

Coca-Cola has agreed to pay $540,000 to a whistle-blower who had accused the company of punishing him for drawing attention to financial fraud and rigged marketing tests.

IBM target of cancer lawsuit

Former IBM employees have begun legal action against the company claiming that they contracted cancer from exposure to dangerous chemicals through their work making microchips and other electronic parts.

Corporate Conscience Award winners announced

SA International has announced the winners of its fifth Corporate Conscience Awards - giving profile for the first year to a fully international list of excellent companies.

Rio Tinto chairman: UK governance reforms are stifling

Sir Robert Wilson, the chairman of Rio Tinto, has said that governance reforms in the UK are now starting to stifle boardrooms, and will potentially drive new board candidates away when fresh talent is desperately needed.

EU: "American firms lie over GM crops"

Margot Wallstrom, the EU commissioner for the environment, has said that US biotech companies have tried to lie about the benefits of genetically modified crops to get them into European markets.

Anglo American extends AIDS support to local communities

Anglo American has announced a further initiative in its programme to combat AIDS in South Africa. Having focused previously on its employees and their families, the company is now to take action within the communities where it does business.

South Africa: Top companies pay lip service to ethics

According to a recent study, many top listed companies in South Africa pay only lip service to the management of business ethics - and are potentially at higher risk as a result.

China: Toy industry body to inspect factories

The International Council of Toy Industries is to begin inspecting factories, mostly amongst the 10,000 factories in China, to ensure they meet health, labour and safety codes.

Asbestos liability plan may fall to filibuster

US insurers and companies with outstanding asbestos liabilities have come to an agreement over a $114bn fund to compensate victims of asbestos poisoning - but the plan faces being scuppered by a Democratic filibuster in the US Senate unless the companies agree to pay more towards the deal.

GlaxoSmithKline rejects SA Competition Commission findings

GlaxoSmithKline has said it rejects the charge that its prices for anti-retroviral drugs are excessive, saying that its prices are the lowest in the world.

Pakistan: Call for sexual harassment at work to be made an offence

The National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) has called on the Pakistan government to add sexual harassment in the workplace to the Pakistan Penal Code as a punishable offence.

Article

The inherent value of jobs

Author: Mallen Baker, dated 19 Oct 2003

In the last few days, HSBC has announced that it is to move 4,000 jobs from the UK to a more competitive location - ie. in the developing world. The move has caused outrage amongst the trade unions, who have been quoted as saying that the company's claims to corporate social responsibility could effectively now be discarded. Is that right?

Previous edition - No 63 | Following edition - No 65

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Special Feature

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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.