Mallen Baker's CSR blog

Nestle and the chocolate child labour lawsuit

Valentine's day approaches, and what could be a better present for your beloved than something containing the magic ingredient - chocolate?
Posted on: 5 Feb 2016 - Read full post

Why Lush wants to pay the tax that Google avoids

Google hit the headlines this week with the news that it has agreed a £130m payment to the British taxman, an amount that critics, and even some investors, have dismissed as derisory. It's just the latest chapter in an ongoing saga of revolt against the big corporations that organise their operations to pay as little tax as possible.
Posted on: 29 Jan 2016 - Read full post

Trust and corporate social responsibility

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in businesses has begun to recover after the low point following the financial crisis. But how significant is a growing "trust gap" between opinion formers and the broader population? What can we learn about how companies that have had a scandal can rebuild trust?
Posted on: 22 Jan 2016 - Read full post

Podcast: DuPont and the claims against Teflon that finally stuck

DuPont used a chemical called C8, or PFOA, in the manufacture of its world famous Teflon products. But when the company allowed the chemical to be placed in a poorly maintained landfill site, it had a devastating impact on the health of people living nearby. This episode is the story of how the company was called to account by a few individuals following a trail of lies and cover-up.
Posted on: 15 Jan 2016 - Read full post

Podcast: Fizzy drinks and obesity - Taxing times for food companies?

New research showing that putting a tax on fizzy drinks does successfully reduce their consumption has caught the attention of policy makers in different parts of the world. The growing determination to tackle the obesity crisis seems certain to take shape in a new assault on the business model of the likes of Coca Cola and PepsiCo.
Posted on: 8 Jan 2016 - Read full post

The Mast Brothers - a chocolate-coated crisis of ethics

Over the holiday season, controversy has been raging about revelations that the premium bean-to-bar chocolate producer the Mast Brothers may have been less than transparent in their early years about the fact they remelted high quality mass produced chocolate for at least some of their produce. Is this an example of a company trading on its ethics that has been caught out, and should now pay the price? Or is it a storm in a teacup, chocolate experts snobbishly looking down on the marketing success that has made the Mast Brothers a hugely successful brand?
Posted on: 1 Jan 2016 - Read full post

After the Paris summit on climate change - the big change we need to take the next step

With the agreement in Paris, the world took one step further forward. But the real work of reducing emissions doesn't happen in conferences, it happens in the policies governments implement, the practices companies follow, and the coalitions of common purpose that get built. We may see activity on the first two, but are we stuck in an "us versus them" mindset that will prevent us from building broad-based coalitions and therefore fail to create change that lasts?
Posted on: 18 Dec 2015 - Read full post

Urgently for your attention! We have nothing to report

I just received yet another of a long line of email press releases today breathlessly announcing the publication of yet another 'sustainability report.' In spite of the fact that the 'our report has been published' type headline didn't inspire interest, I thought I would delve into the list of 'report highlights' to see what sort of story the company was telling.
Posted on: 12 Aug 2015 - Read full post
(6 comments)

Should business leaders speak out more on social issues?

From time to time, business leaders will collectively, or individually, make some kind of public statement on climate change, or another key issue of the day. Often, these statements are aimed at government, to try to urge a greater degree of action. The Guardian newspaper recently announced a debate for its business-sceptic audience to discuss whether this should happen more. It's a good question.
Posted on: 5 Aug 2015 - Read full post

Why demonising fossil fuel companies is wrong


Posted on: 2 Jul 2015 - Read full post
(3 comments)

What do Walmart's woes teach us about the line between charity and self interest?


Posted on: 19 Jun 2015 - Read full post
(2 comments)

Is the GRI's new focus really a positive change in direction?


Posted on: 10 Jun 2015 - Read full post

What price would you put on the oxygen you breathe?

According to a recent report by WWF, the monetary value of the world's oceans is US$24tn. That's the asset value. If you valued the annual 'goods and services' it provides, you come up with a figure of $2.5tn.
Posted on: 8 Jun 2015 - Read full post

Chevron unashamedly puts its interests ahead of the public good by trying to buy a local election

Last year Chevron spent over $3m in advertising for its preferred candidates in the election of the town of Richmond, California. The town is the location for one of the company's major refineries, which in 2012 exploded and sent over 15,000 residents to hospital with various resulting ailments. The election support was for candidates that would be sympathetic to the company and inclined to settle on more amicable terms than might otherwise be expected.
Posted on: 27 May 2015 - Read full post

Corporate lobbying is legitimate. Corporate bullying is not.

According to Steve Hilton, founder of Good Business and former strategic advisor to British Prime Minister David Cameron, Microsoft threatened Conservative MPs that it would shut down a facility in their constituency if they supported proposals to move government business to open source document standards. Hilton mentioned the heavy-handed threats whilst arguing that the dominance of corporate lobbying in the UK was leading to bad policy-making.
Posted on: 22 May 2015 - Read full post

Actually, no. CSR is not dead. Again.

I've just read yet another article expressing the view that CSR is - or should be - dead. These come along every few months or so, and have done for the last ten years as far as I can recall. I'm never quite sure if the statement is merely intended to shock and gain attention (too often repeated to still be doing that, surely) or if the sentiments are sincere. Mostly, it is a reflection of how much fascination and energy we reserve for debating terminology.
Posted on: 18 May 2015 - Read full post
(1 comment)

Reckitt finds that planting trees to offset carbon can lose you friends

You would think that planting trees was the most universally smiled-upon activity a company could undertake. Even if there are people out there who think that carbon-offsetting is a distraction from reducing emissions, nobody actually minds if you plant trees. Do they?
Posted on: 14 May 2015 - Read full post
(1 comment)

Stakeholder engagement and why the UK 2015 election suggests you're doing it wrong

You would think that in this era of Facebook and Twitter that we, as individuals, now have such rich access to different perspectives and political persuasions that we would all be better informed on how the world really works.
Posted on: 8 May 2015 - Read full post

Four reasons why successful business needs to be the voice of reason when politics goes tribal

In the UK, the election and its likely muddled aftermath is the news of the moment. In the US, candidates are busily declaring themselves in the race to provide the next president. It's that time when politically committed people get most angry, the discourse gets most polarised, and everyone is encouraged to join in - to pitch their tent on one side or other of the partisan divide.
Posted on: 6 May 2015 - Read full post

BP seeks to regain a progressive role on climate change

At the BP AGM, the company's board supported a resolution calling for greater transparency on the company's responses to the move to a low-carbon economy required by climate change. The rationale for the motion was that it was all about the long-term success of the company. With the support of the board secured, the motion was assured of success, and it passed almost unanimously.
Posted on: 22 Apr 2015 - Read full post

Never knowingly underduped

UK supermarkets are, according to Which? magazine, "duping shoppers" out of hundreds of millions of pounds. The rationale for this conclusion is that some of the sales offers can be "baffling" and may offer "illusory savings."
Posted on: 21 Apr 2015 - Read full post
(1 comment)

In search of the socially responsible PR agency

The world’s largest PR firm, Edelman, has ended its relationship with the American Petroleum Institute. Its contract there had – at times – been worth more than 10 percent of the firm’s global revenue, according to the Guardian. The reasons for the move have not been disclosed, and it never pays to jump to conclusions about such things.
Posted on: 20 Feb 2015 - Read full post

Sustainability at the point of sale - is there an app for that?

Mobile technology has already transformed many aspects of how we live, and will do so all the more as the next generation of “digital natives” - those that were pretty much born with a smartphone in their hand - come of age. One of the big changes is that we now expect instant answers. Knowledge is seconds away at all times. Booking services, or buying products likewise. So why not sustainability information?
Posted on: 12 Jan 2015 - Read full post
(2 comments)

The fuzzy grey line between censorship and privacy

When Google acceded, albeit with some bits of trickery thrown in, to the Chinese government's demands that search results be censored, many commentators in the company's home market condemned it out of hand for agreeing to such a proposition.
Posted on: 15 May 2014 - Read full post

Creating Shared Value reconsidered

My friend and colleague Toby Webb recently drew attention to some topical contributions about the Shared Value heading often used now by companies and writers when talking about corporate responsibility.
Posted on: 2 May 2014 - Read full post
(4 comments)

The decline of oil will not be peaceful and gradual

Oil giant Shell has announced a 45 percent drop in profit as oil production drops - coincidentally at the same time as a court case has started in London brought against the company's pollution in Nigeria. It's an interesting time to ponder what the future holds for your typical oil giant.
Posted on: 30 Apr 2014 - Read full post

GlaxoSmithKline could be the Bribery Act testing ground

Back in 2010, the UK joined the US in having an anti-corruption / bribery act that would hold companies to account for the things they did in countries anywhere in the world. There was quite a bit of noise at the time - and a lot of work done by organisations such as GoodCorporation who regularly featured the legislation in its publications and business lunches. But we were still waiting for the big hit - the company that would feel the full force of the law as a result.
Posted on: 17 Apr 2014 - Read full post

Zero is the most ambitious number

Unilever have announced that all of its European factories have caught up with its plants in North America in achieving zero non-hazardous waste to landfill. That manufacturing operations that demonstrate that this can be achieved helps to raise the bar in terms of ambition for what should become a standard expectation of business process.
Posted on: 15 Apr 2014 - Read full post

The most ethical companies - maybe

The 'World's Most Ethical Companies' list has been produced once again by Ethisphere and promoted by Forbes. I've always been one to look very hard at the methodology of the various lists that get produced, and have often found them considerably less robust than they pretend. But this list is an interesting one as much because of its concept as how it's actually done.
Posted on: 25 Mar 2014 - Read full post
(1 comment)

The big, green testosterone-fuelled machine

There are certain symbols that get environmentalists hot under the collar. One of them is anything to do with flying. But another one - less high profile in terms of its importance, but right up there in terms of its symbolism - is Formula 1 racing.
Posted on: 14 Mar 2014 - Read full post

Can addictive products help you to know your limits?

The gambling industry in the UK has launched a new code of conduct that will require that players of gaming machines will be able to set limits on the amount of time and money they spend. The move has come as a response to the problems some people have with gambling - particularly with high-speed betting terminals that can be highly addictive to some.
Posted on: 3 Mar 2014 - Read full post
(1 comment)

The practical process of integrating sustainability

The most effective companies manage to find a balance between having smart, senior and credible sustainability practitioners to drive change and the reality of shared ownership for the issues across the business. It's easy to say, but tremendously difficult to do.
Posted on: 27 Feb 2014 - Read full post

Google's tax bill shows where power really lies

Apparently, Google doubled the amount of tax that it paid outside of America last year. One might reasonably suppose this to be the consequence of the multiple tax rows about how much it, and other internet companies such as Amazon and Facebook, have been paying in the countries where they do business.
Posted on: 15 Feb 2014 - Read full post

Is pandering to greed the way to encourage better values?

Business in the Community put a spotlight at its recent conference on the idea that senior business executives should have part of their bonuses paid for long-term 'responsible behaviour' not just financial targets.
Posted on: 7 Feb 2014 - Read full post
(1 comment)

Ikea and the drive for better cotton

Ikea has announced that it has doubled its use of more sustainable cotton - on course to meet its target for sourcing all its cotton this way by 2015. Ikea used 150,000 tonnes of cotton in 2012 - 0.8% of cotton produced worldwide - so this is a considerable landmark.
Posted on: 6 Feb 2014 - Read full post

Burberry makes quality and sustainability natural bedfellows

I've always believed that the luxury market sectors had the most to gain by paying attention to sustainability. Half of the battle is to get efficiency in performance and cleanliness in manufacture to become one of the true indicators of quality.
Posted on: 30 Jan 2014 - Read full post

Never mind how hard you worked - what did you achieve?

When I review companies' sustainability or CSR reports, I still see a lot of measures that are related to process, not outcome. You know the sort of thing. The company sets itself targets such as 'create a new policy on anti-corruption'. It then reports that this target has been achieved, and gives itself a big tick. Another common one is 'carry out environmental / bribery / whatever training for xx number of staff'. Tick.
Posted on: 24 Jan 2014 - Read full post

Should a web design company have an ethical policy?

I was involved in a brief twitter discussion recently around the idea that a digital agency might create an ethical policy - one which explicitly states what kind of clients the firm will decline to work with.
Posted on: 4 Dec 2013 - Read full post
(1 comment)

The 9 most common mistakes made by CR / sustainability reports

This video is the first in a series of three looking at the main - easily fixable - mistakes made in CR reporting.
Posted on: 28 Oct 2013 - Read full post

Getting your CEO video introduction to inspire and inform

In the last post, I talked about the six reasons why the CEO video introduction to your sustainability report is boring. I promised that I'd put forward some ways you could begin to address those problems.
Posted on: 10 Sep 2013 - Read full post

Six reasons why your CEO video introduction is boring

One of the things we know is essential about any credible sustainability report or website is evidence of top level commitment. Usually this is demonstrated by having the chief executive of the company providing an introduction - written for printed reports, but increasingly video for websites. The one problem with this excellent demonstration of top-level commitment? The CEO talking heads videos on the majority of report sites are just excruciatingly dull.
Posted on: 22 Aug 2013 - Read full post

Marketers who sell more by deliberately offending people

I read an article recently about 'Hyundai's failed ad' - the one that was pulled from YouTube recently when there was a huge controversy because it depicted a suicide attempt. The interesting thing is, it's perfectly likely that isn't a failed ad at all, and that the controversy, the withdrawal and the apology was all part of the plan.
Posted on: 6 Jul 2013 - Read full post
(1 comment)

Don't fall for junk research

I don't know about you, but I think the whole process of corporate responsibility and sustainability is pretty important. It's worth spending most of my waking time promoting in some shape or form, after all. And that's because I believe that there's everything to play for. If we win the arguments, there can be a powerful force for change. If we don't, well things will be notably poorer.
Posted on: 2 Jun 2013 - Read full post

Corporate theft is not the way to go

In the week that the Cyprus government sought to address some of its problems by snatching up to 40% of depositors' bank savings, Laura Ashley performed a similar smash-and-grab on its suppliers, announcing that it is asking its suppliers to give it a 10 per cent discount - including on orders already accepted.
Posted on: 27 May 2013 - Read full post

People ignore product recalls - that's a system design issue

In the last couple of days, the Electrical Safety Council (who?) has warned that “the majority of consumers are ignoring product recalls and as a result households are using electrical goods that could cause a fire or electrocution.”
Posted on: 18 Apr 2013 - Read full post

Looking for your next step up in Corporate Responsibility?

There are a lot of people trying currently to get into the world of CSR. You may be one of them. Or maybe you’ve been successful at making that first step and you’re now part of a CSR team, and you’re looking at how you can use this opportunity to develop your role and progress. This post is for you.
Posted on: 6 Mar 2013 - Read full post

The end of the cookie monster

If you’re a website owner, you may well be aware of the EU cookie law, which had lots of sites adding pop-up windows inviting you to smile warmly at the site’s use of cookies or, if not, doing something to block their use.
Posted on: 4 Feb 2013 - Read full post

AIG Executives - too stupid to be allowed to breed?

AIG, having just run an ad that thanked the American people for the bailout that saved it, is contemplating suing the US government over the terms of that bailout.
Posted on: 9 Jan 2013 - Read full post
(2 comments)

How tax put Starbucks into a no-win position

It’s the easy and fashionable thing to simply bash Starbucks at the moment for being a dreadful tax-avoider. I occasionally reflect on how much easier my life might be if I simply went along with the easy and fashionable thing from time to time, but how boring would that be?
Posted on: 12 Dec 2012 - Read full post

Does your online CR report have the ‘X’ factor?

At the recent Ethical Corporation Reporting Conference I had the fun job again for being on the panel of judges for a 3-way X-factor style contest where the contestants were CR / sustainability reports. The panel was chaired by the excellent Toby Webb, and my other colleague was investment-minded Mike Tyrrell.
Posted on: 30 Nov 2012 - Read full post
(1 comment)

The shareholder revolt quietly subsides

According to new research, the so-called ‘shareholder spring’ revolt over executive pay did not quite live up to its billing. Rather than signifying that shareholders en masse were reacting against excessive standards of pay for top bosses, rather it was simply focused on a very limited number of companies where specific issues or personalities were the catalyst.
Posted on: 19 Nov 2012 - Read full post
(1 comment)

Could another year of extreme weather kill off the US anti-scientists?

According to a recent survey, 74 percent of Americans now believe that global warming is affecting weather - up five percent in the last six months. It’s a fact worth noting, given the amount of anti-climate change rhetoric the nation has been exposed to, and the apparently unshakeable hold it has on one of the country’s major political parties.
Posted on: 10 Oct 2012 - Read full post

Should ethical investors be shamed for investing in oil?

The recent criticisms of certain ethical funds in the “Winners and Spinners” report has generated a significant amount of news coverage. For instance, the F&C Stewardship Growth Fund is on the ‘name and shame’ list for having investment criteria that allow it to buy stakes in oil companies, along with companies that have a small percentage of sales of fur-based products.
Posted on: 8 Oct 2012 - Read full post
(12 comments)

IKEA’s Saudi catalogue apology - right and wrong

The challenge for international businesses is what you do when the customs, legal requirements or cultural values of a country in which you do business lead you to do things seen as unacceptable in your home markets.
Posted on: 4 Oct 2012 - Read full post
(1 comment)

Fossil fuel companies today mimic yesterday’s Big Tobacco

The Big Tobacco companies became pariahs because they developed a long history of sowing confusion and denial around the health impacts of tobacco that was entirely cynical and designed to defend the industry from the likely implications of the truth.
Posted on: 24 Sep 2012 - Read full post

Paying the market rate for morality?

As we know, Barclays Bank has been at a bit of a low point in recent years having become a watchword for corporate greed, cheating and market-fixing. The new chief executive of the bank, Antony Jenkins, has underlined his intention to be a new broom. He has announced that the size of staff bonuses will be linked to the values and behaviours with which they do business.
Posted on: 18 Sep 2012 - Read full post
(2 comments)

Video: The what and how of immersive reporting

Why should you think about more innovative and immersive approaches to how you report your approach to CSR / sustainability online? This video, the first of a series of three, looks at what you’re trying to achieve. It comes down to taking all that hard work you already do on reporting and getting more value from it.
Posted on: 13 Sep 2012 - Read full post
(2 comments)

Three things to learn from the consumers' shift to more sustainable fish

According to UK supermarkets, the sales of alternative and more sustainable species of fish have risen significantly over the last year. This, of course, is very good news. For many years, cod, haddock, tuna and salmon have been about all the British consumer would happy buy - and stocks of these fish have been under serious strain as a result.
Posted on: 6 Aug 2012 - Read full post

CSR reporting - should there be an app for that?

There's a growing trend that the web design community is buzzing about that few of the producers of CSR or sustainability reports seem to have cottoned onto. And that is just how rapidly the mobile phone is growing as the device that people are using to access the internet.
Posted on: 31 Jul 2012 - Read full post
(2 comments)

Jack Daniel's shows that trademark disputes can be gentle

Mashable / Jack Daniel's

For a US-based company to have its lawyers writing to someone that has infringed its intellectual property is hardly unusual. It's the kind of letter you wouldn't like to be on the receiving end of. You just know that one way or another it's going to cost you a lot of money.
Posted on: 23 Jul 2012 - Read full post
(2 comments)

Nick Buckles savaged on live TV - accountability or entertainment?

ITN/Guardian

If you mess up, you have to deal with the consequences. That is a basic reality that no business can escape, and neither should it. It is questionable whether one of the desirable consequences should be having to grovel before a Parliamentary committee.
Posted on: 18 Jul 2012 - Read full post

Is your CR report getting the feedback it deserves?

Most CR or sustainability reports give you the option to send some feedback to the report's authors. The chances are you've never taken them up on this option. The truth is that most people don't.
Posted on: 17 Jul 2012 - Read full post
(2 comments)

Apple should make sustainability part of cool design

Apple has asked the environmental organisation EPEAT to pull its products from the EPEAT registry of certified 'environmentally preferable' products. It did so even though many of its products qualified for the highest 'gold' label, and EPEAT certification is required by some buyers, such as US government agencies.
Posted on: 12 Jul 2012 - Read full post
(3 comments)

Bob Diamond - Does the demand for heads to roll get in the way of real change?

A couple of days ago, right after Bob Diamond issued his "I won't quit" message, I tweeted to the effect that this meant it wouldn't be long before he was gone. Sure enough, more or less the next day it came to pass.
Posted on: 4 Jul 2012 - Read full post
(1 comment)

Dealing with the dilemma of blog post comments

There is an interesting divergence between the online and offline world when it comes to comments and letters. In traditional print newspapers, the 'letters to the editor' page was often one of the most popular pieces of content. However, the online comments section of newspapers is generally one of the most despised and little read elements.
Posted on: 28 Jun 2012 - Read full post
(1 comment)

Rio tells us something we need to learn

I cannot recall an earth summit which, as Rio+20 did, brought with it so little interest or glimmer of optimism. Nobody except the insanely optimistic expected anything significant to happen at this event. Most developed world leaders stayed away altogether. Others were focused on what seemed to them to be the main issue of the moment - economic growth and their need to get their hands on some of it.
Posted on: 22 Jun 2012 - Read full post

Martin Sorrell - does honesty pay?

Sir Martin Sorrell has been in a spot of bother at his AGM today over his pay, which is seen by many people at around £6 million as being just the latest symptom of corporate greed, pay for failure etc etc. Indeed, he has had nearly 60% of his shareholders vote against his pay package - a remarkable slap, albeit one without binding effect.
Posted on: 13 Jun 2012 - Read full post

Greedy bosses get punished by ... um ... greedy shareholders

A lot of people have been enjoying the hammering that a number of companies, most notably Barclays and Aviva, have had in recent days with shareholder revolts over executive pay packages.
Posted on: 7 May 2012 - Read full post
(2 comments)

Will we shwop til we dwop at Marks and Spencer?

Marks & Spencer

More and more of those companies that are committed to sustainability are experimenting with ways to influence the way customers behave. Marks and Spencer are not exactly new to that experiment - but they have just launched a high profile attempt to take it a stage further.
Posted on: 2 May 2012 - Read full post
(1 comment)

Rupert Murdoch and the challenges of wilful blindness

A committee of MPs in the UK Parliament has just released a report where it condemns global media tycoon Rupert Murdoch as 'not a fit person' to lead a major multinational corporation. This, in the view of the majority of the committee (which split on party lines on this question), was because he and his son James had shown
Posted on: 1 May 2012 - Read full post

Unilever shows how to fire shareholders (sort of)

istockPhoto.com

A while ago, I wrote a piece asking how a CEO could redefine the purpose of the company to include its social impact, and then actively recruit shareholders to this vision - and fire the ones that don't get it?
Posted on: 24 Apr 2012 - Read full post

How do we lose the habit of entitlement?

In every enduring way, the human beings born today are pretty much identical to the human beings born eighty years ago. The context in which we live our lives has transformed beyond recognition, but the human animal is the same.
Posted on: 23 Apr 2012 - Read full post

Why your corporate vision should be to change the world

positivesharing.com

Recently, I was asked by a company to comment on its draft corporate vision. It was very much of the 'we aim to be number one in our industry' style of vision which, needless to say, left me rather underwhelmed.
Posted on: 8 Mar 2012 - Read full post
(4 comments)

Climate change deniers Heartland don't do irony

Heartland, the right wing 'think tank' that promotes climate change denial is feeling sore about the fact that someone managed to get hold of some of its internal documents and then promptly put them online.
Posted on: 17 Feb 2012 - Read full post
(1 comment)

Is quarterly reporting inherently unsustainable?

Al Gore has made the case that companies should no longer be required to produce quarterly financial reports. Such short term updates, he argues, prejudice against long-term and environmentally sustainable investing.
Posted on: 16 Feb 2012 - Read full post

Global Compact keeps fishing the bodies out the river

The Global Compact has recently announced that it has expelled a total of 3,123 companies since 2005. I've said it before, but in the light of this stat, it bears repeating. This is not a good thing. Rather than fishing all these bodies out the river, it's time someone at the Global Compact found out who was throwing them in.
Posted on: 14 Feb 2012 - Read full post
(7 comments)

The difference between best practice and standard practice

Dilbert.com

I saw an article today - just one in a long line - making reference to best practice in CSR reporting. I'm not going to single it out - it wasn't worse or different to others of the genre.
Posted on: 7 Feb 2012 - Read full post
(5 comments)

Authenticity and Audience

I recently did an interview with Corporate Eye, and they've now published the result - a six part audio interview - on their site. I've already had lots of kind feedback about it - thanks to all.
Posted on: 13 Jan 2012 - Read full post

The political dilemma - how to legislate for responsible business?

In the UK, political parties of all hues are rattling their sabres and talking tough on legislating to make businesses behave more responsibly. The latest salvo has just been fired by Labour, calling for 'responsible and better capitalism'.
Posted on: 9 Jan 2012 - Read full post
(3 comments)

Coca-Cola single-handedly brings Swaziland to its knees - or does it?

flickr/whltravel

Coca-Cola has been forced to defend itself against claims that its presence in Swaziland is "propping up" a notorious dictator and has been urged to pull out of the country immediately.
Posted on: 4 Jan 2012 - Read full post
(5 comments)

The ethics of photoshop

H&M

H&M have just attracted criticism for the use of virtual models to demonstrate their clothes. It's just the most recent of a series of such stories, and it shows how society is grappling with the implications of technology and trying to work out what is - or is not - acceptable.
Posted on: 2 Jan 2012 - Read full post

How strong leaders go wrong

Enron's board

We have the recent report highlighting the failures at Royal Bank of Scotland which talked about how the board gave too little challenge, particularly to the disastrous ABN Amro takeover.
Posted on: 13 Dec 2011 - Read full post

Can sustainability survive two types of bad leadership?

It's a heck of a question - because we don't even know if GOOD leadership could deliver sustainability. But it's a relevant question because good leadership seems as far away as ever.
Posted on: 6 Dec 2011 - Read full post

The Australian tobacco dilemma

ASH Australia

Philip Morris International is suing the Australian government over tobacco laws that force the sale of cigarettes in plain packaging, rather than bright branded packets. There is no doubt that the suggestion that a government can interrupt a company's ability to brand its products is a pretty radical, intrusive principle.
Posted on: 21 Nov 2011 - Read full post
(2 comments)

Where the rubber meets the road

In the UK, Parliamentarians are discussing fuel duty today. A large number of Conservative MPs are arguing that it should not be increased as scheduled. Further increases will impact on the economy, goes the argument. And in support of this case, they cite the fact that over the last year the amount of fuel consumed in the UK has gone down as people make fewer car journeys.
Posted on: 15 Nov 2011 - Read full post

Wal-Mart suddenly has trust on its side

Well, there's a thing. Four years ago, Wal-Mart found itself blocked when it tried to get a banking charter that would have enabled it to compete with the big banks. The company's reputation was too shark-like. Everyone feared that it would wade in, and use its muscle to make life hell for all those lovely people who gave banking services.
Posted on: 8 Nov 2011 - Read full post
(4 comments)

BP gets judged by the company it keeps

BP has been embarrassed by the revelation that when it undertook major deals in Russia it fully understood that it was dealing with 'crooks and thugs'.
Posted on: 7 Nov 2011 - Read full post
(1 comment)

A defining moment

Over ten years ago, I first put a page on my website giving my definition of corporate social responsibility. At that time, there weren't too many such definitions out there. It's still there, and the definition hasn't changed.
Posted on: 31 Oct 2011 - Read full post
(2 comments)

Bad news for those awaiting a consumer-led green revolution

I am always surprised by how many people seem intuitively to believe that the move towards more sustainable products will be brought about by consumers demanding them. When such people try to sell the business case to companies, it usually consists of graphs showing what percentage of customers say they would prefer to buy sustainably.
Posted on: 20 Oct 2011 - Read full post
(2 comments)

A key sustainability lesson from the failure of the Tata Nano

It wasn't that long ago that the launch of the Nano - the cheapest car in the world - had environmentalists in a froth of rage. The car would recklessly encourage millions upon millions of Indians to clog the roads with their new cars. Suddenly, India's contributions to global carbon emissions would balloon almost overnight. Interestingly, that's a long way from what actually happened.
Posted on: 10 Oct 2011 - Read full post
(4 comments)

Will the sustainable future be anti-gadget?

According to the Energy Saving Trust, "obsession with gadgets" in the typical household is undermining our hopes of achieving a cut in domestic electricity emissions by 34 percent by 2020. Extra large fridges and enormous plasma screen TVs are amongst the key culprits.
Posted on: 3 Oct 2011 - Read full post
(2 comments)

How much does it matter if you were evil in a former life?

Hugo Boss does not have a happy past. Hugo Ferdinand Boss joined the Nazi party in 1931, and orders for uniforms for the party - presumably including the now-infamous swastika - saved it from going bankrupt. During the war, the factory used forced labourers and French prisoners of war for a while.
Posted on: 29 Sep 2011 - Read full post
(3 comments)

Facebook prepares to bribe its way to influence - and nobody notices

Facebook has officially formed a political action committee to enable the company to donate money to political candidates. This is considered to be normal, and some say that it's an obvious step. One Gartner analyst was quoted by the Financial Times as saying "It's reflective of a change in Silicon Valley, which now sees Washington as a place that they have to be engaged in."
Posted on: 28 Sep 2011 - Read full post

Marketers keep finding ways to offend

iStockPhoto.com

The last day or so has seen a little mini-rash of marketing-gotcha stories. It's worth noting these sometimes, because there is a popular belief that marketers are all-powerful, able to manipulate customers into doing what they want all of the time.
Posted on: 7 Sep 2011 - Read full post

Is carbon neutrality defunct?

I was never a huge fan of the rush by a number of companies to adopt the target of 'carbon neutrality'. It seemed to me that genuinely aiming for zero impact was a hugely ambitious, potentially impossible, target. And here it was being lightly promised as though it could be achieved on the cheap.
Posted on: 6 Sep 2011 - Read full post
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Will Apple's approach to CSR become more conventional post-Steve Jobs?

Apple

In the last couple of days, Apple has been reminded that one of the prices for its 'industry giant' status (as opposed to the 'plucky outsider' status it had for so long) is that every campaign group going will take regular pot shots at it.
Posted on: 1 Sep 2011 - Read full post
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GRI - The dilemma of practicing what you preach

GRI staff from cover of the latest report

GRI

The Global Reporting Initiative recently produced its latest sustainability report. For me, it highlights the dilemma for a small catalyst organisation that might reasonably be expected to practice what you preach.
Posted on: 22 Aug 2011 - Read full post
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No smoke without fire - how about tobacco without smoke?

Smoking kills

Five tobacco companies, including RJ Reynolds and Lorillard Tobacco, are suing the US Food and Drug Administration over the new law that would force them to place graphic health warnings on the cigarette packets. They said that the labels might make customers "discouraged and afraid" to buy their products. You know, guys, I think that's kinda the point.
Posted on: 19 Aug 2011 - Read full post
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Tesco and the milk fight everyone forgot

Milk bottles

Tesco has threatened legal action after being hit by a £10m fine from the UK's Office of Fair Trading. The fine comes from an incident in 2002-2003 where a number of supermarkets were held to have colluded over the price of milk and cheese. Tesco denies the collusion. Where all the others owned up and settled, it is fighting back.
Posted on: 10 Aug 2011 - Read full post

Ray Anderson showed the art of the possible

Ray Anderson sadly lost his fight against cancer yesterday. There will be a lot of eulogies in the next few days.
Posted on: 9 Aug 2011 - Read full post
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