The free email newsletter on Corporate Social Responsibility
The current edition: In this issue, we introduce the 'Getting to Grips with CR' online training course, and focus on the inherent lack of robustness in modern supply chains.
Arguments against CSR and some answers
Definitions of Corporate Social Responsibility
The Global Reporting Initiative - is it fit for purpose?
Companies in the News
|Supply chain integrity - life or death for your business|
Business Respect, 27 Mar 2013
Supply chains have, in one way or another, been much in the news recently. The wave of shock in a number of European companies on the revelations of horse meat contamination was one. In the UK, right now, people are fretting about the longer-than-usual cold spell resulting in possibly running out of gas. Oh, and as a side show profitable Laura Ashley have told its suppliers to pony up 10% of the value of any contracts with them to bolster those profits even further.
|Four emerging trends in corporate social responsibility|
Business Respect, 8 Oct 2012
By any count, the world is changing faster than ever before. Human numbers are growing faster, and the impact of our activities is being felt in more and more ways. This change has profound implications for business, and means that the world of CSR - or how businesses respond to society's expectations - is at the forefront of this change. So it's worth looking for what are the current trends and where are they heading.
|The Global Reporting Initiative is growing up|
Business Respect, 25 Jul 2012
Regular readers will know that even though I have been a strong advocate of CSR / sustainability reporting I have been a GRI-sceptic for as long as it has existed. Why? Well, in the early days the indicator range was a poorly conceived hotch-potch of measures that really didn't tell you very much.
|Why your CSR report should be immersive|
Business Respect, 9 Jul 2012
The vast majority of companies are missing a huge trick on the online communication of their social responsibility. They make a major investment in collecting the data of what they are doing, and then completely fail to get the value from that effort with the stakeholders that are most important to them.
|European voters choose nice things not nasty ones|
Business Respect, 7 May 2012
If you want to know how difficult it will be for businesses and governments to achieve sustainability, you only have to look at how the term 'austerity' - in the context of national policy - has become a label for an abusive ideology.
|The tricky task of measuring a reputation|
Business Respect, 21 Feb 2012
The latest Harris Poll has been produced purporting to give an update on the reputations of the 'most visible companies' to the US public.
|Health and Safety - reframed as a term of abuse|
Business Respect, 17 Jan 2012
UK Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to "kill off Britain's health and safety culture for good." Anyone looking from the outside might think this a remarkable statement - akin to promising to clamp down on nice things in order to spread nasty ones. But of course it is a statement that acknowledges how much the term 'health and safety' has come in the popular consciousness to represent something completely different.
|Making the sustainable supply chain puzzle simpler - five ways to start|
Business Respect, 14 Nov 2011
Companies like what they can control, for obvious reasons. It's why so many will be attracted to the corporate responsibility issues they can most easily affect, so that they can report on year on year improvements in a straightforward way.
|What can we learn from the dying throes of the Kimberley Process?|
Business Respect, 25 Oct 2011
In recent years there have been a number of multi-party agreements, designed to tackle a tricky issue that individual companies or countries could not resolve acting alone. One of these was the Kimberley Process.
|What should companies do when the riots break out?|
Business Respect, 10 Aug 2011
In the UK, the 1980s saw a wave of inner-city riots as the growth of long-term unemployment and urban deprivation meant that frustrations boiled over into an orgy of violent protest. There was nothing much noble or well articulated about the riots - but people in government and business recognised that they were a response to a situation that had to be addressed and remedied.
|The limits of sustainability reporting|
Business Respect, 8 Jun 2011
Last year, the oil and gas industry's associations IPIECA and OGP launched the revision of their sustainability reporting guidance for companies in their sector. For me, it highlighted how the most important and interesting stories are hard to capture in any kind of reporting framework.
|Is sustainable growth a contradiction in terms for the ethical company?|
Business Respect, 17 Feb 2011
Every ambitious small company wants the same thing - to grow. And small companies that produce a more sustainable product, or a healthier product, and does it with style can often find that the marketplace rewards them by giving the chance to grow quickly.
|The ever-changing currency of trust|
Business Respect, 25 Jan 2011
The language of trust is, as far as I can see, the common language between marketers and corporate social responsibility teams. By and large, they have very different perspectives on the dynamics of business but the one thing they will agree on - if you lose trust, your job just got a lot harder.
|2011 - This is the scale of the challenge|
Business Respect, 12 Jan 2011
The World Economic Forum has just published its Global Risks 2011 report, which suggests that global governance cannot cope with more shocks to the system, but that we should expect that such shocks will nevertheless be delivered.
|Five ways for a head of CSR to break in a new CEO|
Business Respect, 9 Nov 2010
Marc Bolland, the new chief executive of leading UK sustainability champion Marks & Spencer, launched his new strategy today. In so doing, he reversed certain things that had been started by his predecessor, Stuart Rose. Certain sub-brands. Positioning in regard to foreign expansion. One thing he didn't change, he mentioned pretty much in passing, was the company's commitment to Plan A - its sustainability programme.
|Integrated Reporting - The gulf between theory and practice|
Business Respect, 21 Oct 2010
The growing profile around integrated reporting is a good thing. It will take us into places on sustainability reporting we probably wouldn't have gotten to otherwise. But there's some wishful thinking going on that probably won't be part of the reality.
|Reply to the Case Against CSR - The Latest Version|
Business Respect, 26 Aug 2010
The Wall Street Journal recently carried a piece by Aneel Karnani, associate professor of strategy at the University of Michigan's Stephen M Ross School of Business. Karnani was the author some years ago of a thoughtful and trenchant critique of the 'Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid' work of CK Prahalad, which I wrote about at the time. Now he has turned his attention to an attack against corporate social responsibility generally.
|How good companies create bad outcomes in the supply chain|
Business Respect, 2 Aug 2010
It used to be all about blame. Company X uses suppliers that have abusive working conditions, or child labour. They are cynically turning a blind eye to evil practices to benefit their bottom line.
|Spotting responsible companies - blink and you might miss it|
Business Respect, 10 May 2010
We have a lot of sophisticated tools out there now for spotting socially responsible companies. We have indices, and awards, and quality standards - you name it. Between them, they look at every management process you can think of, and cover every issue that might affect a company. But what if all that information gets in the way, rather than helps?
|Marks & Spencer - how do its new promises shape up?|
Business Respect, 12 Mar 2010
British retailer Marks & Spencer used to be best known as a pillar of the establishment. No fiery wild-eyed radical, it would do a select number of good things for the community, and it would steadfastly refuse to beat its own drum about it. All that has changed, and the measure of just how much could be seen with the retailer's recent pronouncement that it is aiming to become the world's most sustainable retailer by 2015.
|Why even some of the best companies fail to keep cool in a crisis|
Business Respect, 16 Feb 2010
Next month, Ethical Corporation will be holding its conference on managing social and environmental risk. It includes a session that focuses on keeping cool in a crisis - what to do when it all goes wrong. Although the event is primarily aimed at the heavy industries, you can't help but feel that Toyota could benefit from booking a couple of places.
|Four factors that create irresponsible businesses|
Business Respect, 25 Jan 2010
It's possible that people become leaders of major businesses with the full intention of earning money in the most unethical, disreputable way possible. But more likely, they don't. Companies end up doing the wrong things for a variety of reasons - none of which necessarily begin with evil intent.
|Is it time to change the ownership of our best companies?|
Business Respect, 12 Jan 2010
It is completely impossible to prove that a commitment to corporate social responsibility has any effect whatsoever to a company's share price. I wish we would agree that, and move on to more interesting territory.
|A case study of a different approach to reporting|
Business Respect, 16 Nov 2009
Supposing you put to one side the rules about how you're supposed to produce a CSR or sustainability report. Supposing you started with almost a blank page and focused on what might make the people you most want to communicate with actually read your report. What would that look like?
|Are global CSR leaders failing to use the web effectively?|
Business Respect, 2 Nov 2009
A new report has suggested that global leaders in sustainability are failing to make the most of the potential of the web for their CSR reporting and general communications. It names ENI as the global leader that does the best. Many points are criticised across the board for not being up to scratch.
|How do we know whether our economy is healthy or sick?|
Business Respect, 28 Sep 2009
Is it time for a radical rethink on how we measure what is right with the economy? The measures that currently tell us we're in recession may not be the right measures at all.
|Bhopal - 25 years later the echoes are still loud|
Business Respect, 18 Aug 2009
It must rank as any CEO's worst nightmare. 25 years on from the tragedy in Bhopal, an Indian court has re-issued an arrest warrant for the former CEO of Union Carbide Warren Anderson. Protestors outside the court cheered at the news, and some beat his effigy with sticks.
|What Wal-Mart's Sustainability Index is ... and isn't|
Business Respect, 21 Jul 2009
Wal-Mart has released details of its Sustainability Index - its tool to engage its suppliers on key steps it is taking towards sustainability.
|Four common marketing mistakes that destroy trust|
Business Respect, 30 Jun 2009
Marketing is a high stakes game. It is the aspect of running a business that gets the speediest and most honest feedback - in the form of sales, buzz and reputation. But it is also a key factor in whether or not the company gains and keeps the trust of its customers. And there are lots of mistakes that marketers commonly make to lose that trust. Here are just four key ones.
|Can the green consumer single-handedly save the planet?|
Business Respect, 15 Jun 2009
A number of recent surveys have confirmed what others had previously stated - that a significant number of green-minded consumers have said that they are willing to pay more for greener products. It sounds like good news. But it's a red herring.
|How the campaign groups now lag behind business and need to catch up|
Business Respect, 2 Jun 2009
If you consider some of the reports of the recent World Business Summit on Climate Change side by side, you would think they covered two different events.
|Toyota launches a faster horse|
Business Respect, 18 May 2009
The new Prius hybrid car has been launched. It has a more powerful engine, rooftop solar panels and an even better fuel economy.
|Three key trends for companies responding to climate change|
Business Respect, 4 May 2009
Many companies are now setting targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They run from the faintly pathetic (say 10 percent) to the hugely ambitious (at least one firm is due to announce 90 percent). These announcements are good. They should be encouraged. But they are not where the really interesting story lies.
|What companies tell the Global Compact they are doing|
Business Respect, 20 Apr 2009
The United Nations Global Compact has just released its latest progress report. After a year that has seen journalists the world over asking whether the recession means that companies will put CSR on the back burner, it is worth reviewing what the Global Compact tells us about trends in responsible business.
|Procter & Gamble - how far does the sustainable product revolution go?|
Business Respect, 24 Mar 2009
Two years ago, Procter & Gamble made an interesting announcement - they were setting a sales target for "sustainable innovation products". $20bn by 2012, which sounds a lot. According to the company, they are on track to meet this. The story behind the figures is one of how a major products company grapples with the dilemmas inherent in the challenge of sustainability.
|Every CEO should write letters like Buffet|
Business Respect, 2 Mar 2009
Every year, legendary investor Warren Buffet writes a folksy, detailed letter to his shareholders. The latest has just been released, and there are some important themes for those concerned with socially responsible business.
|Leo Martin: The lessons from eight years of GoodCorporation|
Business Respect, 2 Mar 2009
Leo Martin is one of the founders of GoodCorporation, which arose from a group of like-minded people at KPMG some years ago. Having been asked by clients whether KPMG couldn't just audit them to show their social responsibility to a sceptical outside public, they had realised that they couldn't. But that was a need that somebody should meet.
|Five features of great socially responsible leadership|
Business Respect, 16 Feb 2009
The new CEO of GlaxoSmithKline Andrew Witty has startled commentators, campaigners, and probably a few shareholders, with his announcement that the company would slash the cost of many of its drugs to people that need them in developing countries. It was a perfect example of the difference that leadership can make. It raises the question - what counts as great leadership in socially responsible business?
|What's the real value of a good business?|
Business Respect, 2 Feb 2009
Supposing I offered you a job, where at the end of the year I flip a coin and if it comes down 'heads' you get a huge bonus, and if it comes down 'tails' you get blame, shame and the sack. Would you be OK with that?
|When is a monopolist not a monopolist?|
Business Respect, 19 Jan 2009
Some years ago, there were few reasons to love Microsoft. It had achieved a near monopoly position for operating system and office software, and it behaved like a monopolist.
|So what did we learn in 2008 that we can use in 2009?|
Business Respect, 5 Jan 2009
I don't know about you, but I have had my fill of articles and blog entries which aim to review the year 2008, or make predictions for the year 2009. All the reviews start the same - what a year it was, and whoever would have thought it - and all the predictions are statements of the obvious - it's going to be a tough old year to come.
|In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice|
Business Respect, 22 Dec 2008
How much blame should business schools take for the management thinking that has led to the current world crisis? Has it really all come down to the actions of a few greedy bankers who just happened to find themselves all in control of all the banks at the same time? Or were the seeds for the downfall being sown long ago?
|A new resource on corporate social responsibility in Europe.|
Business Respect, 8 Dec 2008
CSR Europe has launched its website toolbox on different aspects of corporate social responsibility. It is a huge resource for companies seeking information, standards, policies and practices in a number of key areas of responsible business practice.
|Looking for a book to read over the holidays?|
Business Respect, 8 Dec 2008
There are a lot of books out there about corporate social responsibiity. You should certainly read some of them. But if you only ever read works produced by people who embrace the concept and the language of CSR, you will only ever follow the received wisdom.
|What point the story with no plot?|
Business Respect, 24 Nov 2008
I read another review of a company's corporate social responsibility report today. The review is typical of the genre. It talks about whether the company sets targets. It talked about whether the report follows the GRI guidelines. It talks about whether the report is assured by an independent third party. The only thing is doesn't talk about is how that company is actually performing on a social, environmental or economic scale.
|How do you sell respect to roadhogs?|
Business Respect, 10 Nov 2008
Since the beginning of the age of film and TV, governments have tried to use this powerful medium to tell people how they should behave. One of the most famous attempts is the British advert that ran in cinemas in 1948 to tell us to cover our sneezes.
|Arguments against corporate social responsibility - redoubled|
Business Respect, 26 Oct 2008
It shouldn't be a great surprise that the financial crisis should prompt a bunch of the standard anti-CSR arguments to be rolled out with renewed vigour and determination. We are told that this will be the event that proves that CSR is 'just a fad'. But the arguments are flawed.
|All senior bankers are stupid and greedy - discuss|
Business Respect, 12 Oct 2008
Standing up for the heads of major financial institutions is something akin to campaigning for the rights of mass murderers at the moment. But tempting though it is to write off the last couple of weeks as the consequences of greed and stupidity, explanations that rely upon a belief in the shortcomings of a group of people are pretty unsatisfactory.
|Learning from chaos|
Business Respect, 29 Sep 2008
There are still some people that think corporate social responsibility is about giving stuff away. A bit of charity. Nothing to do with how you make your money. Some of those people will now have their names always attached to the story of the financial crisis of 2008, and there are more to follow.
|The end of the Chad experiment|
Business Respect, 14 Sep 2008
The World Bank president Robert Zoellick has finally pulled the plug on one of the most interesting experiments in recent years as Chad failed to live up to its side of the bargain over what would happen to money from the country's oil.
|Can you conduct business with integrity in Zimbabwe?|
Business Respect, 31 Aug 2008
British companies doing business in Zimbabwe were asked by the UK Government to sign up to an ethical code to ensure they were not giving support to Robert Mugabe's regime. The companies said no.
|How can companies resolve the dilemma of GM crops?|
Business Respect, 17 Aug 2008
If you ever wanted an example of how difficult it can be to interpret what you should do in the light of what your stakeholders think, you only need to consider the current state of play in relation to genetically modified (GM) crops at the moment.
|So what's the real impact of your business?|
Business Respect, 3 Aug 2008
If you pillage, you should make amends. Replace what you took out. People used to talk this way about corporate social responsibility - saying that the first reason you should do it was 'to put something back'. It begged the question - what is the real impact of a business on society? Was it a plus or a minus? It's a great question, with too few bothered to come up with answers.
|Making employees into allies|
Business Respect, 20 Jul 2008
According to a new survey of employees, most are enthusiastic about the principles of corporate social responsibility, and they are keen to work for a company that shares their values. But they are finding barriers at work to finding ways to express this enthusiasm.
|Can you have social responsibility without ethics?|
Business Respect, 20 Jul 2008
For some people, corporate social responsibility is about programmes. Stuff that you do where you can describe what you're trying to achieve, what approach you've taken to achieve it, and whether it worked. But it needs to include the other aspect - how you and your staff behave on a day to day basis. You could label this element straight business ethics - my version is that it's about what you do when you think that nobody's looking.
|What makes for leadership in CSR?|
Business Respect, 5 Jul 2008
Having run three workshops on corporate social responsibility across three very different countries in the South Caucasus during the last week, the key theme again and again has been leadership. Unfortunately, to be precise, the lack of it.
|Storming the marketing bastille|
Business Respect, 22 Jun 2008
Here's one thing that marketers and investors have in common. I heard tell today of one company whose CEO began to tell a group of mainstream investors, in the middle of their quarterly meeting, "and now I would like to tell you something about what we are doing in terms of our corporate social responsibility." The investors interrupted him with a curt "Not interested thank you".
|How to make friends and influence customers|
Business Respect, 10 Jun 2008
We all know that a company is responsible for the safety of its product - and for making sure it sells such products in an honest, non-exploitative way. But five years ago, nobody would have suggested that the company was responsible in any way for influencing consumer behaviour for the better. But that is now beginning to emerge as a theme in what might be described as responsible marketing.
|The marketing that dare not speak its name|
Business Respect, 16 May 2008
In 2002 Sony Ericsson paid actors to pose as tourists, who would ask passers-by to take their photograph with the company's new camera phone. Whilst doing so, the actors would rave about how great the phone was, without disclosing their affiliation. It was just one of the more blatant examples of what has come to be called 'stealth marketing'.
|Playing games with the Olympic sponsors|
Business Respect, 11 May 2008
Unpopular though it may be, I feel compelled to pitch a defence on behalf of the corporate sponsors of the 2008 Olympics. The battering they have taken has been very little to do with corporate social responsibility, and it's time the debate moved on.
|Getting to small companies through the supply chain|
Business Respect, 27 Apr 2008
When it comes to corporate social responsibility, one of the biggest challenges remains how to influence the practice of the millions of small to medium sized firms (SMEs). These companies don't go much on the corporate geek-speak of CSR. Many of them struggle to survive on a daily basis. But any multinational corporation knows that its reputation may be on the line if one of its SME suppliers fouls up big time - it is something that now has to be managed.
|Cutting out the fat|
Business Respect, 13 Apr 2008
We live in a fat society - and food companies are beginning to accept that although they do not bear sole responsibility for the fact, they have to respond to the issue. Now a new study has compared the responses by ten of the biggest food producers to sort out the leaders from the laggards.
|Will banks ever treat customers fairly?|
Business Respect, 31 Mar 2008
I am a great believer of the notion that if you serve customers well, your business will thrive. And yet most people that are customers of the financial services continue to complain about not being well served - and at the same time those providing such services are more profitable than some of the high profile flashpoints for social responsibility debates such as retail - so what's going on?
|Getting the guilt out of sustainability|
Business Respect, 16 Mar 2008
As a society, we know pretty well how to sell things to people - not just stuff, but ideas, behaviours, you name it. And all of our learning in this area tells us one thing overall - making people feel guilty generally does not do the business when it comes to promoting behaviour change.
|In search of tomorrow's citizen and consumer|
Business Respect, 2 Mar 2008
Any marketer knows that his or her first duty is to understand the customer. Right? But the customer is not just a consumer. The customer is a citizen, and owns a whole bunch of confusing and conflicting impulses. How on earth can you get to grips with this - and particularly get to grips with how life for your business is going to change in the future?
|When the competent become the enemy of the good|
Business Respect, 17 Feb 2008
The challenge - our rapidly changing world is creating the need for businesses to make a step change in how they do business. The systems companies use to manage their social responsibility are maturing, and this is seen as a good thing that will help them to address the challenge. But what if that's wrong? What if those systems are becoming the enemy of change, not the mechanism for it?
|Reduced harm tobacco - is it just smoke and mirrors?|
Business Respect, 3 Feb 2008
The debate on socially responsible tobacco has not moved on much in the last six years since BAT produced its first CSR report. At that time, I wrote that the real test was on product harm reduction - and that remains the message today. What progress have we seen in whether the promise of reduced harm products is any closer?
|Innovation for sustainability - can we meet the challenge?|
Business Respect, 20 Jan 2008
The business environment is changing dramatically. Climate change and poverty have become market shapers that will not disappear with economic hard times. Adaption and innovation is the successful business response to such changes, so how far can corporate sustainability become a feature of innovation within business?
|Predicting a Riot - Looking five years forward and back|
Business Respect, 6 Jan 2008
Now is the season for predictions for the coming year. However, single year predictions are for wimps - most are simple extrapolations of existing trends which arrive at fairly predictable results. Back in 2001, I made some predictions for the next five years - how well did these stack up against the reality, and what might the next five years hold for the world of corporate social responsibility?
|2007: A review of the year|
Business Respect, 23 Dec 2007
A lot happened in the world of Corporate Social Responsibility during 2007. Did the year really represent a 'tipping point' as some have suggested? Have all the arguments been won? Or is there still a long way to go?
|Crying over spilt milk|
Business Respect, 9 Dec 2007
There is no greater myth in corporate social responsibility than the idea that there is always an obvious right thing to do, which will bring reputational and business benefits. And there is no better illustration of this fact than the way that UK supermarkets have been comprehensively stuffed over the recent milk price-fixing row.
|The unnecessary suicide of the organic food movement|
Business Respect, 28 Oct 2007
The UK's Soil Association has announced that it will remove its organic certification from any foods which have been transported by air freight except for those whose production meets Fairtrade requirements. The move has created huge controversy, and with justification.
|Climate change: A frontier made of cement and steel|
Business Respect, 14 Oct 2007
So, to the delight of some and the irritation of others, Al Gore has been given the joint honour of the nobel peace prize, alongside the IPCC. Both have had a huge part to play in raising awareness. Awareness, however, is the easy part.
|So what is the state of responsible business in the world today?|
Business Respect, 30 Sep 2007
You've heard the hype, and the theory. But where is corporate social responsibility really strongest across the world, and which companies are really doing what? New analysis published by research firm EIRIS goes some way towards answering the question.
|Child labour in India – A moral red line set in stone|
Ethical Corporation, 1 Sep 2007
More and more people want their attractive gardens to be an oasis of peace for their children to play and grow up in.
|The invisible problem|
Business Respect, 8 Jul 2007
At first glance, you may not even see them, or notice them. But how you do business may do them desperate damage, or give them a lifeline. They are your vulnerable customers.
|How to keep your honour if not your job|
Ethical Corporation, 1 Jun 2007
The contrast could hardly be greater. Paul Wolfowitz has become embroiled in scandal around his private life and its impact on his business and, at the time of writing, is hanging on. Once he was in trouble, all those about him have queued up to stick the knife in. John Browne has become embroiled in scandal around his private life and its impact on his business and resigned. Those that know him have been quick to defend him.
|Private equity - Agents or destroyers of responsible business?|
Business Respect, 13 May 2007
It has entered the popular consciousness in some areas of debate around corporate responsibility that there is a new breed of powerful barbarian at the gates. Good, socially responsible companies are being taken over by private equity vultures and stripped of assets and any semblance of values for short term gain. But the debate is now being joined with some vigour in defence of private equity actors.
|Buying into carbon reduction|
Business Respect, 18 Mar 2007
In the UK, the Carbon Trust has launched a new approach to raising awareness and giving consumers information - carbon product labelling. The approach is to be trialled with Walkers crisps, several Boots cosmetics and Innocent smoothies via their website. With Tesco having separately committed to carbon labelling for a wide range of its products, it seems like this is the way of the future.
|Weighing the value of trust|
Business Respect, 25 Feb 2007
If one could show that achieving a great reputation for corporate social responsibility would automatically mean a higher share price and greater sales success, you would have your business case signed, sealed with a pretty pink bow, and delivered. It doesn't, however, happen like that. Instead it comes down to a more complex relationship of trust with the customer.
|Running out of road|
Business Respect, 11 Feb 2007
Every now and then an industry is faced with the challenge to adapt and change at a scale and speed that demands imagination and commitment. Sadly, the response by many representatives of the motor industry to the news that the EU is to raise fuel efficiency standards suggests that industry is still in denial about the changes required.
|The Marketplace Responsibility Principles - shifting the focus to how you make your money|
Business Respect, 3 Dec 2006
On December 1st, Business in the Community launched the Marketplace Responsibility Principles. This is the first framework that describes what leading businesses should aspire to in terms of responsibility in the ways that they make their money.
|Holding your company in trust|
Business Respect, 8 Oct 2006
In an ideal world, you would be able to show that the growing interest in the social and environmental performance of business had resulted in a direct sales benefit for good behaviour. In spite of the growing number of successful ethical niche products, this is not something that can currently be done - but there is one important correlation and it comes down to trust.
|Creating the climate for change|
Business Respect, 17 Sep 2006
It's been out for a while in the US, but in the UK we have just had a first pre-screen viewing of Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth'. It has been a timely reminder of how much the issue of climate change continues to dominate a key aspect of the agenda for corporate social responsibility.
|Is there REALLY a fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid?|
Business Respect, 3 Sep 2006
The seminal work by CK Prahalad, arguing the crucial role of multi-national corporations in alleviating poverty by treating the poor as consumers, has been one of the most influential tracts in recent years. Now, a vigorous attack has been mounted on its underlying assumptions and conclusions.
|So what's the business case for corporate social responsibility?|
Business Respect, 13 Aug 2006
One of the most asked questions within the literature on corporate social responsibility is: what is the business case for CSR? The fact that it is so often asked makes it all the more remarkable that it is so often so badly answered.
|A tool for the companies facing the worst dilemmas in the world|
Business Respect, 30 Jul 2006
There are business opportunities all over the world. But some bring higher risks than others. How does a company best navigate dilemmas in countries where governments are unwilling or unable to fulfil their responsibilities in relation to some fairly basic, accepted norms? In an attempt to answer this question, the OECD has produced a tool for multinational enterprises operating in what it describes as 'weak governance zones'.
|Corporate personality - does it help companies to play fair?|
Business Respect, 16 Jul 2006
Microsoft has had a tough couple of weeks in Europe, being fined by the European Commission for not playing fair with its competitors. At the same time, PepsiCo has been bathing in the warm glow of approval after it spurned the offer to benefit from industrial espionage at Coca-Cola. So what does it really mean, to operate within a culture of fair competition?
|The crucial role of business in saving the planet|
Business Respect, 2 Jul 2006
For decades, the science of sustainability has been obvious to anyone that cared to take an interest. The bit that requires courage and leadership - the politics and the economics of sustainability - has been a lot further behind. We know what we have to do, the question is how and what role does business have to play.
|At last - an Accountabiity Charter for NGOs|
Business Respect, 18 Jun 2006
Over four years ago, I wrote an article calling for some sort of charter for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) - a suggestion that provoked some controversy at the time, but which proved merely an early expression of a theme that many others have taken up. Now, a group of respected international NGOs have produced just such a document.
|Forest Stewardship Council - Facing a Crisis of Confidence?|
Business Respect, 4 Jun 2006
One of the longest established and best respected initiatives on business and sustainable development is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The growth over the last decade of FSC certified timber has been one of the positive signs about how collaborative standards can be set and change business practice. Now, a critical report of practice in Uruguay has attacked FSC accreditation of plantations there as covering up socially and environmentally unsustainable practice.
|The big supermarkets - now competing on price, quality ... and trust|
Business Respect, 21 May 2006
One of the latest cinematic blasts at business has just been released - Wal-Mart, the high cost of low prices - soon after the company unveiled its new focus on social responsibility. At the same time, the UK's dominant player Tesco has been attacked by the leader of the opposition in the UK Parliament in the same week as announcing a ten point 'Tesco in the Community' programme covering a range of significant CSR issues.
|Scratching a niche|
Business Respect, 28 Apr 2006
There has been a furious reaction to the shock news that HSBC is to take over the UK's Co-operative Bank in its attempt to reach a new ethical market segment.
|In search of responsible market leadership|
Business Respect, 23 Apr 2006
Corporate social responsibility remains a disputed term, but increasingly it is now defined by how businesses make money, not just by how they give some of it away. What we have lacked to date has been any kind of framework to map out what the objectives of responsibility in the marketplace should be.
|Measuring corporate social impact - art or science?|
Business Respect, 7 Apr 2006
For years, people wanting to measure and report real performance in corporate social responsibility have been frustrated over one area in particular - the apparent impossibility in making any kind of real objective measurement of the company's social impact. Now, a new tool claims to solve this problem - the Social Footprint.
|The first 100 days in the life of the responsible CEO|
Ethical Corporation, 1 Apr 2006
A recent report looked at what are the pressures on a new Marketing Director to achieve in the first hundred days. It got me to thinking what the equivalent advice for the new CEO would be in terms of the corporate responsibility agenda.
|In search of the business case for responsible tax|
Business Respect, 16 Mar 2006
How companies engage in tax planning has become one of the emerging issues in corporate social responsibility. Certainly the heat around the debate has risen in recent months, with NGOs, regulators, the media, investors and businesses engaging in heated debate.
|Mapping out the way ahead for business and human rights|
Business Respect, 12 Mar 2006
John Ruggie, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations, has produced his interim report.
|The Global Reporting Initiative - Leap forward or last gasp?|
Ethical Corporation, 9 Mar 2006
It was about four years ago that I first wrote an article focusing on the substance behind the Global Reporting Initiative. Whilst welcoming the mission of the GRI, and acknowledging the wide-ranging approval that had been granted to its multistakeholder approach, I felt that the quality of the actual indicator framework was poor. A great process that produces a duff product is not a great process at all.
|Exxon ponders the challenge of Chad|
Business Respect, 8 Mar 2006
ExxonMobil is a company that is probably used to the feeling that whatever it does, it can never win in the eyes of its many critics. It is used to difficult and controversial choices. It faces on of its most difficult ones now in Chad.
|Google's growing pains|
Business Respect, 11 Feb 2006
According to Reuters, Yahoo has now provided evidence that has jailed a second Chinese dissident writer. Allegedly, Yahoo's co-operation with the Chinese police led to the arrest in 2003 of Li Zhi, who was sentenced to eight years in prison after trying to join the China Democracy Party.
|Don't buy this product!|
Ethical Corporation, 1 Feb 2006
A recent UN Environment Program report poses the question: "Can a company incite customers to consume less?" Despite first appearances, it is not such a stupid question. We know that it would take around three planets worth of resources to sustain the current world population at the level of the average European lifestyle - and around five planets worth to match the US dream.
|If Roche sneezes, the Pharmaceutical Industry catches a cold|
Business Respect, 30 Oct 2005
Some years after the pharmaceutical industry first shot itself squarely in the foot when it tried to sue the South African government, the issue of patents for essential drugs is once again centre stage. This time it is predominantly flu drug Tamiflu maker Roche that has to resolve the dilemmas at the heart of the industry.
|Can companies that make products that kill be socially responsible?|
Business Respect, 18 Sep 2005
Killing people is wrong. That's one of the earliest principles established by any civilised society. So how can a company be considered socially responsible if its products - used as instructed - result in loss of human life?
|CSR Reporting faces its next challenge|
Business Respect, 29 Jul 2005
There is some discussion that a number of the people in the leading companies - the pioneers, the CSR enthusiasts, the committed - are getting pretty fed up of being on the hamster wheel of churning out annual CSR reports. They spend most of their time collecting data, and not coming up with new ways to improve business practice. Revolt is in the air.
|Corporate lobbying - Rising up the CSR Agenda|
Business Respect, 7 Jul 2005
Anyone with an eye towards where are the emerging issues in corporate social responsibility will have registered the question of corporate lobbying of governments. Indeed, it wasn't that long ago that we last dealt with the question here. Since then things have continued to move significantly.
|Standards of Corporate Responsibiity|
Business Respect, 15 Jun 2005
The International Standards Organisation has just completed a summit meeting in Korea on the future development of the proposed Corporate Social Responsibility standard ISO 26000. At the same time China has announced a new responsibility standard for the textiles and garments industry. Surely such standards represent progress. I wonder.
|Corporate Social Responsibility in Kazakhstan - a reflection|
Business Respect, 16 May 2005
How far as the movement for CSR penetrated into the consciousness and activity of companies based in Kazakhstan? A conference for business practitioners focusing primarily on community involvement that took place in Almaty reviewed some of the evidence.
|Profitable poverty alleviation creates a ‘new frontier’ for corporate responsibility|
Business Respect, 12 Dec 2004
Last week, the Financial Times carried a story about how GrupoNueva aims to target the world’s poor as a potential market by aiming to design and sell affordable wood and water pipeline products to this vast segment of the world’s population. The company, it said, was aiming to show how profitability and corporate responsibility can go hand in hand.
|Corporate Social Responsibility moves centre stage|
Business Respect, 20 Oct 2004
The question of the role of business in society has received a high profile in recent months with a couple of films that have sought to shine a critical spotlight on what many see has the dominant institution of our times.
|Is CSR a movement for change that is underachieving?|
Business Respect, 22 Aug 2004
The corporate responsibility movement is hitting against real limits because of the distance of most initiatives from core business. In the face of the Millennium Development Goals, CSR is providing precious little in the way of a substantial business contribution towards tackling some of the most significant development issues facing human kind.
|What's in an award?|
Business Respect, 19 Jul 2004
The annual Business in the Community awards, which took place on July 6th, saw the usual crop of examples of best practice from a range of areas relating to responsible business practice and community involvement. It was however the first time a CSR award made it onto the front page of the Financial Times, with the choice of Marks & Spencer as BITC's Company of the Year just as the takeover battle for the company was reaching fever pitch.
|Getting fat on a diet of righteous indignation|
Business Respect, 13 Jun 2004
Over the last month, particularly in the UK but elsewhere as well, a great deal of nonsense has been written about corporate social responsibility and obesity. It has been a debate that has shown many of the commentators at their worst.
|Finding the formula for responsible small companies|
Business Respect, 23 May 2004
One of the common arguments arising from the Corporate Social Responsibility movement - particularly in the developed economies - is that CSR is just as important for small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) as it is for the big boys. I wonder why.
|Oil on troubled waters|
Business Respect, 18 Apr 2004
How much are companies responsible for the actions of governments in the countries where they do business? Often it comes down to the degree of collusion required. Companies may argue with some justice that their presence helps to improve the situation. In other cases, the revenues they generate can be clearly seen to go towards unfortunate ends.
|Behind the Mask: How Christian Aid got it wrong on corporate responsibility|
Ethical Corporation, 23 Feb 2004
I am about to be mean to an organisation whose work I generally respect. But Christian Aid’s “Behind the Mask: The Real Face of CSR” has got my goat.
|Responsibility without control|
Business Respect, 22 Feb 2004
How much can a company be held responsible when its customers voluntarily misuse products which, used properly, are benign or beneficial? It may sound like an arcane question, relevant only to a few problem industry companies. But it is at the heart, for instance, of the recent controversy over food companies and obesity, and many others crises that no-one saw coming until too late.
|The Media and Social Responsibility|
Business Respect, 1 Feb 2004
The Hutton Report has placed the harshest possible spotlight on the social responsibility of media companies - a light that in the first instance has not been greatly flattering to the BBC. But what here is the real challenge of corporate social responsibility for media companies?
|The next five years of CSR - some progress|
Business Respect, 11 Jan 2004
In our first new year edition of Business Respect, two years ago, we made a number - nine no less - of predictions about what would happen in the world of corporate social responsibility over the coming five years. Two years in, and in the spirit of accountability, let's see how we're doing.
|Corporate Social Responsibility in 2003 - A review of the year|
Business Respect, 21 Dec 2003
2003 has been a fascinating year for those of us involved in the movement for corporate social responsibility. There have been scandals and setbacks, controversy and debate, paragons of good practice, and innovation in tools to manage and benchmark progress. It seems that none of the energy or momentum for improvement has diminished. And yet there is a gradual growing maturity in how CSR is described and put into practice.
|Korea explores the beauty of corporate community investment|
Business Respect, 30 Nov 2003
Corporate Social Responsibility in South Korea remains predominantly defined by philanthropy. The focus of the International Symposium held by the Beautiful Foundation, the fast emerging leading not-for-profit organisation in Seoul, certainly reinforced this.
|The accountability of NGOs|
Business Respect, 16 Nov 2003
Burson Marsteller, the major public relations firm, this week released a real 'dog-bites-man' story. Apparently, the majority of campaigning Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) who focus on issues around corporate accountability are sceptical of what companies put into their reports. That this should make the news at all just shows how easy it can be to turn surveys into headlines.
|Buying into social responsibility|
Business Respect, 2 Nov 2003
The importance of how companies manage social responsibility across the whole of their production process - including that part owned by their suppliers - has been stressed for some years now. Nevertheless, it remains the area where current practice remains pretty poor.
|The inherent value of jobs|
Business Respect, 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?
|Managing your indirect responsibility for free choice|
Ethical Corporation, 1 Oct 2003
The truth is, I need to lose a little weight. Some restraint on the old food intake is called for, and a return to the days when I expended considerable effort in the gym replacing fat with muscle. Of course, I could always sue instead. No doubt those occasional veggie burgers at London’s Liverpool Street station while waiting for a train have piled the pounds on. And the fish and chip shop in the next village has a lot to answer for. How was I to know such food didn’t constitute a healthy, balanced diet?
|Corporate Social Responsibility in Asia - a tale of two conferences|
Business Respect, 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.
|In the market for business responsibility|
Business Respect, 7 Sep 2003
How companies show social responsibility in the marketplace is the key challenge that will come to define the success or failure of CSR over the coming years. When journalists note in passing, as some have certainly done recently, the 'triviality' of much of what passes as CSR, they are usually reflecting the relative novelty with which the movement is getting to grips with issues around core products and services.
|Raising the heat on business over human rights|
Business Respect, 17 Aug 2003
On August 13th, the UN Sub-commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights launched its document bringing together the range of codes and guidelines to which business should adhere - the 'Draft Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises'. On the one hand, the document covers some well trod ground. On the other, some business organisations have reacted with concern that this is the beginning of the slide towards compulsion on some rather difficult areas.
|Doing it small|
Ethical Corporation, 1 Aug 2003
Some of the most inspiring examples of socially responsible business for me have been small companies.
|Redefining CSR as a process that starts at the heart of the company|
Business Respect, 27 Jul 2003
Mark Goyder has laid down a challenge to the movement for corporate social responsibility in "Redefining CSR", produced by the UK's Centre for Tomorrow's Company. Widely reported on publication as an attack on the "box-ticking" approach of some advocates, it is in fact a much more valuable review of the difference between companies who take the message into the heart of the company and those who simply comply with today's expectations whilst leaving the core untouched.
|Looking for business solutions on CSR reporting|
Business Respect, 13 Jul 2003
The recent Business in the Community annual conference saw the beginning of a fascinating exploration of how companies deal with their marketplace issues, as well as the launch of a whole new series of best practice case studies associated with the BITC awards.
|Are the drugs companies just addicted to pain?|
Ethical Corporation, 1 Jul 2003
According to a recent report by the CoreRatings agency, the global pharmaceuticals industry faces real danger to its entire business model as a result of health crises in the developing world. Interestingly, it is GlaxoSmithKline, the main focus for the protestors in this area, that is considered to have done the most to address the potential risks. GSK must be ruefully noting that the benefits of such forward-thinking seem to have been slow to appear.
|Corporate Community Investment in Japan|
Business Respect, 22 Jun 2003
According to a recent report, commissioned by Cable and Wireless, there is an urgent need for a revolution in how Japanese companies approach corporate community investment in response to rapid social change and the relatively late rise of the non-profit sector.
|Bringing corporate lobbying into the light|
Business Respect, 1 Jun 2003
The phrase 'the business of business is business' - familiar to the point of mundanity as it is - is believed both by sceptics of corporate social responsibility and some of those CSR champions whose principal focus remains the business case. Nowhere is it held to have more relevance than when it comes to a question of the role of companies in the formation of public policy.
|Corporate accountability or public vengeance?|
Ethical Corporation, 1 Jun 2003
To every complex problem there is an answer that is simple, elegant, intuitive, and wrong. I believe that companies should be held accountable for the damage that they do. In principle, most people would agree. But when you get into the detail, the line between accountability and liability is a difficult one to draw.
|Managing CSR in the workplace|
Business Respect, 18 May 2003
One of the last bastions of resistance to CSR programmes within corporates often seems to be the HR department. Given the significant range of issues owned here, that can be a real disadvantage. What are the corporate social responsibility issues that need to be managed in the workplace?
|Executive remuneration and Corporate Social Responsibility|
Business Respect, 4 May 2003
It seems that there has been something of a minor revolution in what shareholders are prepared to accept from business management. In particular, the protests about perceived excessive levels of executive remuneration have swept the recent round of AGMs like the corporate equivalent of SARS.
|GlaxoSmithKline - Seeking a cure for public mistrust|
Business Respect, 20 Apr 2003
There is a real dilemma facing a company like GlaxoSmithKline. On the one hand, the company makes demonstrably socially desirable goods - medicines. The company's products save and enhance lives. How absurdly easy, then, for the company to unite around a mission to improve the quality of life, and to fire up some of the best talent in the world to make a profit in this cause.
|A standard to build trust in company social reporting|
Business Respect, 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?
|Wal-Mart - From folk hero to corporate monster|
Business Respect, 23 Mar 2003
Few companies attract as much emotion as Wal-Mart. In a short time it has become the biggest and the most successful of its kind, striding across the world as a feared giant, the symbol of all that epitomises the uncaring corporation.
|Companies struggle with the difficulties of human rights|
Business Respect, 23 Feb 2003
Companies genuinely, and with the best will in the world, struggle with how they can incorporate human rights principles into their practice around the world. They struggle particularly with how they can measure their performance in this area.
|Is this the First Ever Corporate Social/Environmental Report?|
Business Respect, 9 Feb 2003
If pushed, most practitioners within the field of corporate social responsibility will tell you that the first proper social report by a company was the first report of the Body Shop. That most remarkable of companies had, in the mid-nineties, set the standard that others would seek to follow. They would be wrong.
|Westpac - A Case Study in Socially Responsible Banking|
Business Respect, 9 Feb 2003
The Australian banking sector has had an unmitigated hammering from politicians and public opinion alike for their failings in social responsibility. All the more remarkable, then, that the top scoring company in the recent Reputation Index compiled by the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age should have been a bank. Not so surprising when you look into the detail of how Westpac does business.
|What do the CEOs know about CSR?|
Business Respect, 26 Jan 2003
We usually report the headline results in brief of the various surveys that give snapshots of changing attitudes to corporate social responsibility. However, with some of the world's most powerful CEOs gathered together at Davos, now seemed like a good time to review the changing attitudes of this particular group.
|The next five years of CSR - some progress|
Business Respect, 29 Dec 2002
This time last year, we made a number of predictions about what would happen in the world of corporate social responsibility over the coming five years. It may not be five years later just yet - but it's worth nevertheless fearlessly casting an eye back on each of these to see whether trends since that time suggest the predictions will ultimately hold up or not.
|2002 - A Year in Corporate Social Responsibility|
Business Respect, 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.
|A tale of two definitions - the European Campaign for CSR|
Business Respect, 1 Dec 2002
"It Simply Works Better - Campaign Report on European CSR Excellence 2002 - 2003". Report from the European Business Campaign on CSR.
|But is there a social case for CSR?|
Business Respect, 17 Nov 2002
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) celebrated the launch of the 'Walking the Talk' book giving an up to date exposition of the business case for corporate social responsibility with a debate - an event bringing together the most eloquent sceptics to face two of the book's authors for a no-holds barred contest.
|A standard for goodness|
Business Respect, 3 Nov 2002
The International Standards Organisation (ISO) is moving slowly ever closer towards the decision to create an ISO standard for Corporate Social Responsibility. For some people, this will represent a coming of age amongst the movement - the development of a standard that can achieve the mainstream respectability of an ISO 14001. For others, it will be the kiss of death.
|Environmental and Social Accountability Report - Musgrave Group 2002|
Business Respect, 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.
|Do we expect business to save the world?|
Business Respect, 4 Oct 2002
The definition of the responsibilities of business has evolved rapidly over the last twenty or thirty years. Initially, the expectation was that businesses would obey the law and follow basic ethical standards of behaviour. Other than that, it was pretty much anything goes.
|The interesting demise of the legend of Jack Welch|
Business Respect, 22 Sep 2002
In the very first issue of this newsletter, I wrote a piece pondering the fact that - although we remain convinced that social responsibility is a symbol of true leadership - the two consistently "most highly respected" business leaders in the US were Bill Gates and Jack Welch. Neither had established much of a reputation for caring about their wider impact on society, and yet their reputations seemed iron clad.
|The Global Reporting Initiative - Raising the Bar too high?|
Business Respect, 8 Sep 2002
The Global Reporting Initiative has released the latest version of its guidelines, drawing on the discussion draft of some months ago. It is published against a backdrop of some resistance to the framework from companies who see it as setting the bar unrealistically high. The draft introduced the move towards a larger number of core indicators, which companies seeking to report in accordance with the GRI are obliged to follow.
|Looking for a more mature definition of post-Enron CSR|
Business Respect, 25 Aug 2002
In the wake of recent events, one of the most frustrating outcomes has been a certain amount of handwringing on the part of the CSR movement, as well as criticism from elsewhere, based on the presumption that CSR should have been able to highlight Enron and the rest as bad companies.
|AngloGold - Towards Sustainability. A social investment report 2001 / 2002|
Business Respect, 25 Aug 2002
"In describing our approach and some of our achievements, we do not imply that we do not still face very substantial challenges in all of these areas or that we have done enough. On the contrary, the existence of the strategies and plans in this report indicates the extent to which the Board and management of AngloGold acknowledge the difficulty and complexity of the task ahead of us." Russell Edey, Chairman
|South African Breweries - Corporate Accountability Report 2002|
Business Respect, 11 Aug 2002
"In the complex, fast-changing global economy of today, well run, responsible business can be a tremendous force for good." Graham Mackay, Chief Executive, SABmiller
|Beyond Philanthropy - Pharmaceuticals challenged to go further|
Business Respect, 28 Jul 2002
Oxfam, Save the Children and VSO have released a new report that seeks to set out the terms of reference for pharmaceutical companies grappling with the issues around corporate social responsibility.
INSTANT CSR VOTING!
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