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on 22-Apr-10 01:18.
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.
Of these, Super Size Me, is the least interesting. The idea that it's news that if you eat nothing but McDonald's burgers you will get fat is a fact so mundane that it seems hardly worthy of comment, let alone making the premise for a full picture. Of course, the picture still manages to make some reasonable hits - particularly on the lack of real interest and supervision in a number of school canteens.
Recent research in the UK suggests that parents believe that schools, families and individuals are primarily responsible for influencing diet choices, with less than 1 in 10 seeing the main focus as being companies. So there is a real message here about how far those institutions do or don't embrace that responsibility.
on 22-Apr-10 01:16.
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.
The Asian Forum on CSR was a lively, well-attended event, with a broad spectrum of social campaign groups, public sector and businesses looking at a range of compelling stories and case studies of business engagement with some of the starkest issues facing Asia. This included programmes targeted on poverty alleviation, environmental improvement and AIDS. The conference operated through plenaries and a series of breakout sessions, including one stream where delegates nominated titles for the breakouts.
on 22-Apr-10 01:12.
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.
One of the growing messages within Corporate Social Responsibility over the last couple of years has been that CSR is about how you create wealth, not just how you spend it. Of course, there are already a lot of rules that govern how companies are, and are not, allowed to create wealth. There is no such thing as a really free market. Legislation to ensure minimum standards of protection for the consumer, and good conduct on the part of companies, has been a part of the landscape for centuries.
Equally, companies have always sought to influence governments in the nature of these rules. This is entirely legitimate. After all, any stakeholders in a piece of legislation ought to be able to make representation. That's how you get good legislation.
Now, the issue about how companies lobby, and for what, is increasingly being drawn into the CSR microscope. Recently for instance, the Institute of Business Ethics produced a report laying out some of the challenges that exist.
on 22-Apr-10 01:09.
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.
The UK's Institute of Business Ethics reviews accusations that appear against companies in the news headlines - around 300 stories for last year. Of these the largest number involved issues affecting customers. For instance, product safety issues, misleading advertising or overcharging. The next largest group covered market abuses, such as anti-competitive behaviour or bribery. Third then came a wider group of environmental and human rights issues.
It's a lot of stories about malpractice. No wonder public trust in businesses remains at a low 26 percent.
on 22-Apr-10 01:07.
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.
Benchmarks such as the UK's Business in the Community Corporate Responsibility Index show that the management of impacts in the supply chain remain amongst one of the least developed areas.
So it should be of interest that the World Bank, with Business for Social Responsibility, should produce a report seeking to identify some of the barriers to progress in responsible supply chain management.
The World Bank began with three challenges, which it sought through this research to prove or dismiss. The first was that "The plethora of individual buyer CSR codes is now generating inefficiencies and confusion."
The second was that "An increasing number of buyers are recognising that traditional top-down CSR strategies are not achieving improved CSR implementation."
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