Sustainablog

This blog will cover some news items related to Sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility, Stewardship, Environmental management, etc.

28.8.04

Is CSR a movement for change that is underachieving?

Is CSR a movement for change that is underachieving?
Mallen Baker
24 Aug 04
What's needed is a greater consensus on what the end goals really are,
says Mallen Baker.
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.

This is the key message of a new report by SustainAbility, produced for
the Global Compact, called 'Gearing Up'. The report argues that in order
to address the fundamental questions of how to achieve real scale and
impact, companies have to shift their focus from individual initiatives
and programmes towards a more effective global governance framework.

Although many CSR initiatives are evolving in the right direction, with
companies beginning to take action on an increasing number of key issues,
the fact is that such action is often disengaged from any long-term
strategy.

Many leading companies pursue disjointed and conflicting activities.
Whilst they employ environmental management systems, their lobbyists seek
to lower legal environmental standards, for instance.

The report takes an important step towards highlighting one of the most
difficult questions for the CSR movement overall - what is it for? In the
UK, it began over 20 years ago when senior business leaders responded to a
spate of inner city riots in the conviction that business had to invest in
the health of society in order to be able to carry out healthy, long-term
business.

This has hardly ever led to any kind of far-reaching strategy for economic
regeneration or urban renewal. More often it has been expressed in terms
of short-term actions focused on easily visible symptoms of the problem.

But how far does it go? Should we expect CSR to provide answers for
poverty, hunger, and environmental sustainability issues across the world?
Is CSR only worthwhile if it triumphs where government, civil society, and
communities across the world have so far failed?

For the report's authors, the answer is essentially "yes". The implication
of 'Gearing Up' is that CSR is the business contribution to sustainable
development. Not only that, it has to be carried out in full knowledge
that in many parts of the world governance is failing - and in the absence
of governments showing real leadership, companies may be best placed to
act as the catalyst that makes the difference.

Can companies play a real part in helping to achieve major global
objectives, such as the Millennium Development Goals? Only if they focus
on changing some of the rules of the game. "Companies need to foster
progressive alliances with other business actors, civil society
organisations and - above all - governments. The aim: to help scale up CR
by linking into system level change, particularly in governance
frameworks."

Why have the commitments of leading companies not yet translated into more
significant progress on sustainable development goals? A consultation by
Sustainability came back with a number of reasons. Only a fraction of
companies world-wide are committed to corporate responsibility. What they
do is not necessarily well focused.

Of course, the achievements of some of those that are can be extremely
impressive. For instance, on climate change, many companies have committed
to - and achieved - significant reduction policies. DuPont, for instance,
achieved its target of reducing emissions by 65 percent from 1990 levels.

But absolute emissions have increased nearly 9 percent during the same
period overall. Andre Fourie of South Africa's National Business
Initiative said of business: "They think more about what goes into their
GRI report than how they connect to systemic change. Yet, ultimately, this
is not about reducing CO2 emissions by 1% but about helping build a system
that reduces society's total emissions by 60%."

This is not easy stuff. On the one hand, it seems to be rather unfair to
begin castigating the CSR movement for not having achieved what it never
set out to achieve - single-handedly delivering the human race from its
own folly.

On the other, with business providing the engine of wealth creation that
has been such an important part of reducing absolute poverty, it is
inconceivable to see solutions that don't harness it. But, as the authors
contend, this will only happen if CSR becomes core business.

Rather than finding market failures that can be exploited to make major
profits, CSR champions should be finding solutions to market failures that
make it more difficult for them to operate sustainably. Then they need to
persuade others - particularly governments - to play their part in
implementing those solutions.

The implication of the SustainAbility report - as well as the messages
from many of the campaign groups - is that unless CSR can begin to address
this very soon, it will lose its momentum and legitimacy. And yet can this
be the case when there is so little sign of the other necessary actors
showing the necessary leadership.

According to the report, governments need to play their part in changing
the rules of the game to make a meaningful difference on areas such as
climate change, world poverty and human rights.

Civil society needs to provide consistency in how they target high impact
companies, and to be transparent and accountable in turn, whilst focusing
on system-level reforms rather than ad-hoc changes. So far, there are few
examples of governments or NGOs making the same kind of step change showed
by DuPont.

What's needed is a greater consensus on what the end goals really are. If
corporate social responsibility is the business contribution to
sustainable development - can we agree that the millennium development
goals are the priorities for action? How much can be achieved by
leadership companies innovating and changing the terms of reference for
their marketplace?

And how much needs to become a new minimum standard, that can only be put
in place by real action to change the market signals which drives business
action?

Since we have no definitive agreement over which of these are the right
questions, it's hardly surprising if CSR is not delivering the answers.
However, if CSR is now about core business - as surely it is - this is
where the focus now shifts.

The latest people moves in the corporate responsibility world

The latest people moves in the corporate responsibility world
Claire Skinner
20 Aug 04
Claire Skinner rounds up who is going where at the moment in the corporate
ethics and sustainability world.
Threadneedle Investments, one of the UK?s largest investment management
companies, has appointed Neil Brown as a new socially responsible
investment analyst within the pan-European equity team. Neil was
previously a research analyst at Pensions and Investments Research
Consultants.

Kate Martin is shortly to leave the sustainable development team at EDF
Energy to join the Prince of Wales International Business Leader?s Forum.
She will be the forum?s new environment and community investment manager
for its International Tourism Partnership programme. The role involves
developing practical programmes to encourage good environmental and
community practices for forum members and partners.

EPIC Investment Consulting has announced that Adrian White and John Siska
are joining its panel advising pension scheme trustee boards. EPIC
Investment Consulting was set up to help pension fund trustees understand
and address a range of complex investment issues that have become
increasingly acute as securities markets have experienced a prolonged
period of deteriorating returns.

At HSBC Kevin Brennan has joined the project export and finance unit where
he will be working with the execution and modelling teams. Kevin has
recently returned from Sydney where he completed a Masters degree in
environmental management and worked with the Ecos Corporation developing
frameworks for measuring the value created from sustainability initiatives
conducted by clients.

From the sustainable development research institution Earthwatch comes the
news that Steve Gray has been promoted to take over management of the
Corporate Environmental Responsibility Group. Steve previously ran the
employee engagement programme for Earthwatch. Chris Perceval has been
appointed to oversee development and delivery of biodiversity partnerships
with CERG members and other partner organisations. Coralie Abbot has left
Earthwatch to start a Masters and PhD on how government and companies can
work together to support sustainable development.

The Marine Stewardship Council announces a new chief executive has been
appointed to succeed Brendan May, who steps down after five years in the
role. Rupert Howes joins the MSC from the sustainable development charity
Forum to the Future. Rupert has been with the forum for the past seven
years as director of the sustainable economy programme.

At the Campaign to Protect Rural England Zoe Parks has been promoted from
head of campaigns to director of development where she will be developing
the field capacity of CPRE and also helping to modernise the systems by
which they operate.

Overseas, Belgian socially responsible investment research firm Ethibel
has announced the appointment of a new director, Marc Bontemps, to replace
Bert Van Thienen. Bontemps joins Ethibel from Oxfam, where he worked on
its fair trade brands. He was also a board member of the Fairtrade
Labelling Organisation where he was involved in certification and standard
setting.

In July KPMG established the Global Center for Leadership & Business
Ethics, an independent entity designed to recognise individuals or
institutions committed to excellence in business ethics. Now they have
announced the appointment of William W. ?Bill? George as its chairman, a
role in which he will direct the Laureate Award for the leader who?s work
best embodies the qualities of insight, ethics and courage.

Elsewhere, Kraft Foods, a global leader in branded foods and beverages,
has announced that Mark Berlind will join the company in October as
executive vice president of global corporate affairs. Previously Berlind
was at Altria Corporate Services, where he was involved in a range of
corporate affairs and corporate social responsibility policy issues.

The Washington office of SustainAbility, an international consultancy
specialising in business strategy and sustainable development, has
announced the appointment of Jennifer Barsky as a senior advisor. Barsky
joins SustainAbility after a decade working in finance, journalism and
non-governmental organisations in the US, Canada and Latin America.

Shawn Miller was recently appointed Citigroup?s first-ever director of
environmental and social risk in it?s New York-based Global Corporate
Investment Bank where he will advise on Equator Principles implementation.
Shawn was formerly a social development specialist with the International
Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group.

In Austin, Texas the CSR Group has appointed three new corporate social
responsibility and development experts to it?s network, namely, Leslie E.
Wright, James Laing and Susan Ross. Leslie E. Wright comes to the network
from the United Nations where she was the first vice president of the
conference of NGOs (CONGO) and chairman of the NGO Committee on the Status
of Women. Leslie specialises in NGO relations. James Laing is a corporate
social responsibility consultant specialising in small business
development, based in London. Susan Ross has a background in international
development with vast experience in over 20 countries for organisations
including the US Agency for International Development and CARE
International.

In South Africa Lora Rossler has joined SAPREF (Shell and BP SA Petroleum
Refineries) as sustainable development manager. Lora moved to SAPREF from
the Nedcor Banking group where she held the position of corporate affairs
manager and dealt with a wide range of issues including corporate social
responsibility.

And finally in Canada, investment research and advisers Innovest have
appointed Brigid Barnett as a senior research analyst at their Toronto
office. Innovest specialises in analysing companies? performance on
environmental, social, and strategic governance issues.


Red Tape Hitting Green Firms

Red Tape Hitting Green Firms
Birmingham Post, 24 August 2004 - Government bureaucracy and red tape is
preventing firms from extending their 'green' credentials, according to a
new report.
Business is claiming too many barriers are in the way of tackling waste
and achieving so-called sustainable development.
The report from two business networks - one national, one regional -
reveals that while some businesses are working to achieve the same
objectives as government in terms of sustainable development, too often
misconceived or badly-applied legislation, a lack of practical incentives,
and over-complex and bureaucratic systems thwart their efforts.
The combined response from the Business Council for Sustainable
Development and the Midlands Environmental Business Company to the
Government's review of its sustainable development strategy is based on 31
detailed case studies.
The good news is that a growing number and wide variety of businesses are
gearing themselves up.
Activities highlighted in the report include waste sulphuric acid being
turned into usable gypsum, much more attention being paid by developers to
environmental issues, and local authority and private sector organisations
working in greater numbers of partnerships seeking to achieve sustainable
development outputs.
However, this is being hampered by support funding that is too complex,
too bureaucratic, and too slow; significant planning and waste management
licensing delays; a lack of scientific objectivity and inconsistency in
the regulators and development agencies; and variable interpretation of
waste definitions by the Environment Agency and local authorities.
David Middleton, chief executive of BCSD-UK and the MEBC, said: 'We wanted
a response based not on theory, assumptions or prejudice but on practical
experience. Our report show that the business community is not only keen
to engage in sustainable development, but is already actively doing so in
many different ways, often in close partnership with Government and its
agencies.
'However, it is equally clear that everything is not well. Too many things
are not in line with the aspiration of making sustainable development a
widespread reality. If Government really wants sustainable development to
work, it needs to put this goal in all of its departments. At the moment
that is far from being the case.
'Government policy and all government departments, political frameworks,
the planning regime and procurement processes need to have practical
commitment to, and themselves demonstrate, the delivery of the strategy if
it is to succeed. The absence of genuine alignment and commitment in
practice moves the goal of achieving sustainable development from often
being frustratingly difficult to impossible.'
The report makes various recommendations including that waste is
considered a resource; Government agencies and departments seek to work
better together; agency support and funding should be simplified and
rationalised; all government, its agencies and the public sector as a
whole to apply sustainable development criteria in their procurement
activity.
Mr Middleton added: 'Government urgently needs to better support its own
objective. We hope the strategy review results not in a cosmetic change to
the current strategy or undermines what is good about it in its current
form. And especially we would be encouraged to see the Government's own
apparatus practically support its own aspirations.'
Copyright 2004 Midland Independent Newspapers plc
Birmingham Post


Half of EU businesses unprepared for emissions trading scheme

Half of EU businesses unprepared for emissions trading scheme
Alex Blyth
23 Aug 04
A survey of 204 large European companies involved with the EU emissions
trading scheme ? less than five months before it is due to start ? has
shown that most doubt it will start on time and only 40% believe it will
deliver any reduction in emissions.
Half of the businesses say they have dealt with the emissions trading for
2005 in detail, while nearly a quarter say they have done little or
nothing to prepare.

The survey also revealed that companies have no clear understanding of the
long-term business-management issues involved and that they are
ill-prepared internally. According to Ernst & Young, the accountancy firm
that compiled the report, the scepticism and lack of preparation is a
result of the European Commission?s failure to confirm the rules for the
initial phase (2005-2007).

The trading scheme will allow companies that exceed their CO2 limits to
buy emissions permits from firms that beat their targets. Each EU member
must agree its CO2 limits and how to allocate them between sectors, with
ceilings set on a firm-by-firm basis.

The survey respondents, representing businesses from the seven EU
countries with the biggest CO2 emissions, said they expected there to be
few trades on the market and for those that did occur to be low value.

Businesses say CO2 trading will have the greatest impact on the energy
sector, particularly power generation, where companies would have to close
down or replace existing plants with new ones to meet the EU targets.

The surveyed companies predicted that the launch of carbon trading would
raise natural gas prices by around 20% over the next two to three years
and raise wholesale electricity prices by 15%

?Creating a buzz? - An interview with Stephen Loke: Helping companies in their corporate responsibility practi

?Creating a buzz? - An interview with Stephen Loke
James Rose
26 Aug 04

Helping companies in their corporate responsibility practices results in
the delivery of higher standards to consumers, says Stephen Loke of the
Center for CSR in Singapore. James Rose went to meet him.
Across Asia, there are leaders and there are leaders. Too often, and not
always unfairly, Asian leaders have been seen as uniform-wearing,
pseudo-nationalists with a remarkable flair for ripping-off the majority
of the people while simultaneously winning their enduring love.

But, the region has, of course, produced leaders of a different ilk. These
leaders tend to thrive in the fertile ground of Asia?s vibrant civil
sectors and are not often drawn by the bright lights of political or
military achievement.

Occasionally they are driven by a desire to serve the region?s multitude
of disenfranchised and alienated through the promotion of ideas and by
harnessing action.

Stephen Loke is a leader of the latter variety. As the founder and
president of the Singapore-based Centre for CSR, and as a youthful
father-figure in the emergence this year of a regional CSR organisation,
Loke already has "runs on the board" in the burgeoning world of corporate
responsibility in Asia.

A solicitor and a former leader in the consumer movement in Singapore, he
says ?I have been always a person who believes in advocating and fighting
for justice and hence consumers whom I believe have little bargaining
power.?

A leading figure in The Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) for 20
years, Loke resigned in 2002 when the organization was, as he puts it,
?re-oriented?. Twelve other members of CASE left with him.

As things went sour at CASE, Loke searched for an outlet for his passion
to serve. He landed in Trinidad in 2001 where an International Standards
Organisation conference was underway and where he first heard of ?CSR?.

He recalls, ?That time I was still in CASE and did not actively pursue it
save that I felt it important. When I stepped down however, I was only
reminded to pursue it after relentless calls from the media and public not
to step down from public life....mindful that I should not get into the
Consumer arena and have a direct conflict with CASE, I realised that
helping companies in their CSR Practice would result in the delivery of
higher standards to consumers.

Hence, it was in a way preventing fires rather than fighting them from a
consumer movement standpoint.?

This has now developed to his leadership role in the Asia-Pacific CSR
Group, formally established at a CSR conference in Singapore earlier this
year.

Loke?s ability to synergise disparate forces and ideas has been utilised
in setting up this complex array of cultures and varied levels of CSR
sophistication, and it is perhaps as a lightning rod for the growth of
ideas and mobilisation that Loke is at his best.

As he puts it ?My personal role is to bring the various parties and
stakeholders to the table and to create a platform of understanding and
harmony that CSR should exude.?

?It is important to forge such understanding and relationship now whilst
there is unity, harmony and goodwill amongst the stakeholders.?

The sense of immediacy underlines the importance of timing in the
sometimes delicate, sometimes frustrating task of developing a CSR culture
in the region.

Loke argues that CSR ?is not just a buzz word anymore. It is something
that cannot be ignored and if we cannot "consume" CSR by absorbing its ins
and outs, it will consume us, that is to say, globalisation will edge out
those who are not in the mainstream.?

?Asia, like any region in the world, cannot afford to be alienated.? He
says.

The drive to keep Asia in the mainstream indicates a practical,
nuts-and-bolts approach. For Loke, the growth of CSR in Asia is as much
about the opportunities and benefits of globalisation, as it is about
lofty ideals and sentiments.

Asia, he says ?must, through regional integration and unity in thought and
action, put together sustainable programmes through collective action and
sharing of best CSR practices which will allow it to be sustainable in
itself and hence also as a global partner of Europe and America.?

But, the lawyer?s commitment to hard truths is tempered by a streak of
idealism nevertheless, as he noted in an email to me, ?People who are
passionate often have ideals - idealism to me is a driving force that will
make CSR work.?

Through a combination of idealism and practical application, Loke is on
the way to laying solid foundations for CSR in Asia.

The manner of leadership, consensual and inclusive, favoured by Loke ?
somewhat at odds with the Big Man-Big Idea approach that has been
prevalent throughout Asian cultural and business history - has informed
the new group?s progress so far.

And, says Loke, by being the leader in, rather than of, the CSR trend, his
work has had its impact: ?I believe that in many ways we have in fact lead
already by creating the impetus for the Asia Pacific CSR Group, creating
the buzz and desire in the region?.What we have shown here is the resolve,
willingness and spirit that to translate that into tangible action, there
must be collective leadership and ownership?.We will keep pushing this
forward until the momentum is self sustaining.?

And, while the Asian region is his initial focus, Loke is not meek when it
comes to the role Asian countries can play in the growth and maturation of
CSR worldwide:

?Perhaps setting the example as perhaps the first regional grouping of
this sort signals that collective and cohesive action on CSR is required
not only in Asia Pacific but globally.?

As CSR moves from its buzzword phase to a deeper place in the Asian
psyche, Stephen Loke seems set to be at its foremost point for many years
to come.

It is perhaps a mark of a leader when the goal is not leadership itself,
but showing others how to lead. This may well be Stephen Loke?s most
valuable contribution to CSR in Asia.

McDonald ?s has run a series of advertisements in UK newspapers telling consumers it agrees with the central claim of the

McDonald?s launches UK ads ahead of ?Super Size Me? film

McDonald?s has run a series of advertisements in UK newspapers telling
consumers it agrees with the central claim of the documentary Super Size
Me ? that eating too much and doing too little is bad for you.
The film, which has grossed more than $11 million in 13 weeks in the US,
shows its maker, Morgan Spurlock, eating only from McDonald?s for a month,
always accepting a supersize option or additional item if it was suggested
by staff, and eating every item on the menu at least once.

He added 5% to his body mass within the first week. He experienced heart
palpitations, nausea, fatigue, depression, and diminished energy and sex
drive. At the end of the 30 days, he had gained 24 pounds and his
cholesterol had rocketed.

The documentary goes on general release in Britain in three weeks and
McDonald?s is clearly concerned about the effect on its reputation. In its
ads it claims that its average customer would take six years to eat the
number of burgers Spurlock ate. It also claims the weight gain was
exaggerated because the filmmaker cut his physical activity to a bare
minimum.

Two months ago McDonald?s Australia was the first division to tackle the
issues raised in the film through advertising, although a McDonald?s
Australia spokesman told Ethical Corporation at the time that the
company?s statements were not directly driven by the film?s apparent
negative impact.

He said: ?What we did was some customer research, which showed that our
customers were disappointed that we didn?t respond and that our silence
was an admission of guilt.?

The UK ad points out changes McDonald?s has made to its menus, saying it
now offers salads, fruit and organic products alongside Big Macs and
fries.



'Sweatshop' report identifies problems in 20 countries

'Sweatshop' report identifies problems in 20 countries
Financial Times, 20 August 2004 - The Fair Labor Association, an
anti-sweatshop initiative backed by Nike, Adidas-Salomon, Reebok and other
apparel and footwear brands, yesterday produced its most comprehensive
report so far on its efforts to improve working conditions in the global
supply chain.
The association's second annual report provides information on conditions
at 110 subcontracting factories in 20 different countries, based on
unannounced visits by FLA-accredited monitors.
While not identifying the factories visited, the report records problems
such as inadequate overtime and benefit payments, and violations of safety
requirements, as well as the response of the participating companies and
their suppliers.
The report also highlights difficulties with meeting the FLA's requirement
that suppliers allow their workers the right to form unions, noting that
"all factories in China were found to be in non-compliance with this
standard".
The FLA was established in 1999 by US companies, universities and human
rights groups in response to growing consumer concerns over factory
conditions in the developing world.
After covering only six companies in 2003, the greater amount of material
available in the 2004 report reflects the growing momentum of the FLA's
monitoring efforts in some of the world's most globalised industries.
The report also highlights the challenge to promote standards in the
fragmented international supply chain, where an individual brand
subcontracts to scores of factories round the world.
FLA visits covered by the report touch on only 5 per cent of each
company's factory base.
Labour activists and US unions have faulted the effectiveness of the FLA's
voluntarist model, questioned its independence from the companies that
provide its funding, and suggested that its effectiveness required
continued pressure from outside activists.
The report also covers the FLA's response to complaints brought by third
parties, highlighting three cases involving factories supplying Nike,
Lands' End and Liz Claiborne.
The Lands' End complaint, involving the blacklisting of union sympathisers
at a supplier based in El Salvador, followed an investigation of the
problem by local groups working with the US-based Workers Rights
Consortium.
According to activists familiar with the case, Lands' End initially failed
to respond to either the WRC or the FLA complaints, and took action only
after it risked losing contracts to supply universities.
Copyright 2004 The Financial Times Limited


Making corporate responsibility work: lessons from real business

Making corporate responsibility work: lessons from real business
Ethical Corporation, 24 August 2004 - A recent report on how corporate
responsibility works inside companies holds some valuable lessons for
others.
"Which stakeholder group is that?" If there was a common understanding of
what Corporate (Social) Responsibility means for companies it would matter
less whether that ?Social? stays or goes.
Increasingly it is disappearing, as in a recent report from Ashridge
Management College* which emphasises that clear understanding is a long
way off ? and perhaps even a chimera.
The report concludes that CR (as it prefers to CSR) means different things
to different companies, not because they don?t understand, but because it
is company-specific.
It is a broad, umbrella concept about the role and impact of business in
society, but it is most relevant when it connects with a company?s core
business. Since every company is different, CR therefore means different
things when it moves beyond generalities.
These interesting conclusions are made more so because they are based on
research with real companies, and they are not all the usual suspects with
a well-honed and often-repeated story (for example, Adnams, Ricoh and
Go-Ahead Group have probably never been mentioned in these pages before
and many readers may not even have heard of them.)
Admans - a real success story
For those who are not aficionados, Adnams is a regional beer company based
in the east of England. It is included in this report as a case study of
how ?buy-in? has been achieved for CR-related values which represent a
culture change from the brewer?s paternalist tradition.
The set of values include sustainability, integrity, diversity and
community, intended to support the company?s positioning as a supplier of
premium products with ?character?.
Since the values are conveyed to customers by the employees who serve them
the beer, it is essential that employees are committed to the set of
values ? hence the importance of buy-in, and the need to escape from the
paternalist past.
Part of the approach has been to incorporate values-based targets in the
performance management system. Each team agrees a maximum of four targets,
one of which must be values-based. Similarly, personal development
objectives increasingly incorporate values-based assessments.
Other case studies report integration of CR at the other end of the
management spectrum ? in corporate governance structures. For example, the
construction group Carillion has a board-level sustainable development
committee which is chaired by the group chairman and includes the director
with responsibility for sustainability as well as other senior managers,
and two external sustainability advisers.
O2 - plugged in to management systems
At the mobile phone company mmO2, CR is incorporated in the internal
control and risk management systems, which are aimed at protecting brand,
reputation and value. Individual directors have responsibility for
specific risk areas and are encouraged to take account of social,
environmental and ethical issues.
Risk issues ? including community investment, human resources, business
ethics, health and safety and environmental protection - are reviewed by
executive management every month and by the board of directors every six
months.
These examples are cited in the report as evidence that companies are
integrating CR ? through corporate governance, management systems and
embedding a values-based approach.
It?s hard to know how widespread that really is, of course, but the
author, Leon Olsen, makes a strong case for why it is needed. He argues:
?Integration is a crucial part of the [CR] journey, as otherwise CR
achieves little benefit to the business and its stakeholders.?
Middle managers the key
The research confirms the common view that middle managers are a
particular challenge. They are the ones who have to make policies work day
by day, and they are notoriously cynical about any new ?initiative?,
especially one that looks and sounds like public relations. In Shell they
have been dubbed the ?clay layer?.
With commendable honesty, the report acknowledges that none of the
companies researched has solved this challenge. It points to values-based
leadership as well as communication and training as the best hopes.
The point is that you can?t just tell someone they have to operate
responsibly and expect them to get on and do it. On the other hand,
developing values which managers will subscribe to can work, according to
companies such as Carillion and mmO2, which are trying it. There is little
evidence that this has actually had an impact yet, however. CR-related
targets in incentive systems seems more likely to affect managers?
behaviour.
Stepping back from this detail, the research suggests companies are
struggling with some key elements such as stakeholder engagement. This
concept has been well-rehearsed but companies nevertheless seem to find it
difficult to engage on wider CR issues and with broad stakeholder groups.
Part of the problem, of course, is that stakeholders may not want to
engage, especially on issues that are beyond their immediate concerns. The
report points out that employees may only be interested in employment
issues, customers in product quality and value, and that external
stakeholders represented by NGOs may only want to talk about their
particular concern, whether that be birds, human rights or the physical
environment locally.
Some such issues may not be particularly relevant to some companies, and
relevance is a key issue identified in the research.
It's up to you
Mr Olsen suggests that there is plenty of confusion about what CR means,
and companies will not get very far simply following the broad frameworks.
Generalities don?t help much ? it?s necessary to get down to details, or
rather the detail of what really matters for an individual company.
CR should be focused at a strategic level, he argues, but it should mesh
with the company?s specific strategy rather than being left as a
broad-brush philosophy. Otherwise it is likely to have little value for
the company or its stakeholders.
?Rather than defining CR in abstract terms, companies in this study know
that it is the content and approach of CR that matters. Operating in
different complex business environments naturally influences the nature of
CR for each company?. CR meant something different at the ten studied
companies.?
There is something of a paradox here: CR is ?an umbrella concept? (in the
language of the research) but it only has meaning when applied to a
company?s specific circumstances.
Olsen acknowledges the paradox but skates quickly over it: ?This naturally
makes CR a confusing practice evidenced partly by the confusing
terminology used to describe CR.
The key lesson is to understand that this confusion is natural and focus
on what is relevant to the specific company and start the journey towards
more responsible business practice.?
He argues that when companies do focus on what is relevant to them, they
can find value, and most of the companies in the study have anecdotal
evidence to support that ? especially the benefits in attracting,
retaining and motivating staff.
Relevance and integration
Companies should therefore begin by translating the broad generalities of
CR into something relevant to themselves, then integrate into their
strategies and systems.
That will make a lot of sense to many managers, but the experience of the
companies in this study also offers a word of caution - CR is a journey on
which new issues emerge and companies learn as they go along. It is
dangerous to assume, as many managers might, that a clear roadmap can be
drawn up at the outset and rigidly followed.
These are valuable messages. CR has been hampered by a tendency to talk in
generalities which too often descend into ?motherhood and apple pie? and
which are too easy to banish to the periphery of public relations rather
than the core of strategy.
Many managers are also attuned to an approach in which clear objectives
are defined and plans to achieve them are pursued rather mechanistically.
Accepting the fuzziness of CR might make life more difficult for such
managers, but might also produce more valuable outcomes.


UK to take tough line against US over Kyoto

UK to take tough line against US over Kyoto
Point Carbon, 24 August 2004 - The UK government signalled a tougher
British and European stance yesterday against the Bush administration's
hostility to the Kyoto treaty when Tony Blair takes over the chair in both
the EU and the G8 group of major industrial states next year.
Ahead of Mr Blair's big September speech on climate change ? the world's
biggest collective challenge, he will say ? a minister admitted the time
has come for the government "to move from words to delivery" at home.
Abroad it must also press Washington "to be more ambitious", he said.
That amounts to confirmation that Labour has not done enough, despite
brave words since 1997, and that ahead of likely British elections in the
spring it must improve its record and distance itself from the White
House.
In a speech to an environmental conference in London, Lord Whitty,
Labour's former general secretary, now an environment minister, told
delegates, "we plan to use our position in every way we can to push this
agenda at a senior level" in the EU and the G8, making what he called "a
clear case for concerted action" by the world community.
With Mr Blair returning from holiday this week to start preparing his
speech, and the environment featuring as a sensitive issue in the
Bush-Kerry presidential race, Lord Whitty had to tread a diplomatic course
yesterday and was careful to praise US research.
He continued: "But research and development is not a substitute for taking
concerted action to reduce emissions now. We know enough about climate
change to know that if we do not act now, we will need to make more
drastic changes later."
In answer to questions about aircraft pollution he admitted he personally
favours a pan-European, preferably, a global tax to tackle a fast-growing
problem. Aviation fuel is untaxed.
That is no more likely to appeal to the US aviation lobby than Lord
Whitty's confirmation that Blair's chairmanship will press for the start
of an EU emissions trading scheme and tackle EU aviation emissions.
Lord Whitty praised the UN environmental programme, now headed by the
respected former German minister, Klaus Topfer. He also warned Moscow ?
whose long-pledged support for Kyoto has still not materialised ? that
hopes that climate change "would be good for Russia" are wrong.
But ministers know that they are failing to meet Labour's 1997 target to
cut by 20% carbon dioxide emissions by 2010, well ahead of the Kyoto
target of 12.5% for all greenhouse gases. The target has been scaled down
to a "goal" which may be missed by 5% or more.
Ministers have also been slower than most EU members to embrace renewable
energy sources - notably wind power - in line with well-aired hostility
within the Bush administration. A 10% UK reliance on renewables by 2010 is
another target the government will miss.
Blair wants climate change and Africa to be the main themes of his
international roles in the G8 and EU next year.


24.8.04

GAO Identifies Financial Downside of Underreporting Environmental Risks

GAO Identifies Financial Downside of Underreporting Environmental Risks
Source: WRI Features
WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2004 - While companies are required to disclose all
information considered important or "material" to investors in their
annual reports to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), there
is currently no standard for reporting environmental risks. Yet,
environmental liabilities ranging from hazardous waste contamination to
greenhouse gas emissions, can pose significant financial burdens to
corporations.

A recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO),
?Environmental Disclosure: SEC Should Explore Ways to Improve Tracking and
Transparency of Information,? identified this inconsistency and has led to
federal action to improve the tracking and transparency of corporate
environmental costs. As a result of the report, the SEC has agreed to work
closer with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to
systematically track problems involving corporate environmental
disclosure, which had only warranted infrequent attention in the past.

Senators Joseph Lieberman, Jon Corzine, and Jim Jeffords requested the
report from the GAO in the light of the broad securities reforms now
underway in the federal government. The survey claimed that it is
difficult to determine the exact extent to which companies are divulging
(or suppressing) their environmental liabilities because of the current
flexibility in the disclosure requirements.

World Resource Institute analyses and experts served as critical
references for the GAO report. WRI studies -- including ?Coming Clean:
Corporate Disclosure of Financially Significant Environmental Risks? and
?Changing Oil: Emerging Environmental Risks and Shareholder Value in the
Oil and Gas Industry? -- represented three of the 15 surveys used by the
GAO in reaching their conclusion. WRI economists Duncan Austin and Robert
Repetto were two of the 30 authorities consulted by the GAO study.

In WRI's report ?Coming Clean,? which was cited by the GAO, economists
Duncan Austin and Robert Repetto clearly define the issue. "Unless
financial market valuations of risk and return accurately reflect the
financial risks that companies incur through their environmental
management decisions," the authors write, "investors will be endangered
and an important market incentive for prudent environmental management
will be lacking."
Companies surveyed by the GAO believe the scope of the existing
requirements and guidance is sufficiently well-defined and claim they need
flexibility to accommodate their individual circumstances. However,
investors and environmentalists disagreed, saying that the flexible
definition allows companies to evade disclosure of some potentially
important risks.

"Moving the SEC and Wall Street to pay attention to these issues is like
scaling huge mountains," says Elizabeth Cook, director of WRI's
Sustainable Enterprise Program. "After more five years of WRI effort, we
are finally at base camp. The federal government and investors are
starting to take the financial impact of corporate environmental
performance seriously, but there is still a challenging climb ahead."

Take the case of the auto industry. A 2003 WRI report, ?Changing Drivers:
The Impact of Climate Change on Competitiveness and Value Creation in the
Automotive Industry,? revealed that U.S. automakers are poorly positioned,
in relation to companies like Honda and Toyota, to adapt their cars to
forthcoming emissions regulations designed to tackle global warming. In a
July 25, 2004 New York Times article about the report, Merrill Lynch
analyst John A. Casesa warned of risks to companies like Ford and General
Motors.

"As a U.S. auto analyst," Casesa said, "I'm very concerned about the risk
side of the equation. For the domestic auto companies, we've had an
accommodating energy policy, but there are new issues like climate change
... which [could] lead back to higher fuel-economy standards."

The oil industry presents another example. In 2002, Austin and WRI staff
economist Amanda Sauer, wrote in ?Changing Oil? that none of the 16
leading oil companies studied attempted to quantify the financial
implications of the environmental impacts and resulting government
regulations in their annual SEC filings.

"The EPA has been sitting on valuable reporting data for years, and if
this government report will encourage the SEC to use the available data to
improve environmental disclosure, then we are certainly taking a step in
the right direction," said Sauer. "More needs to be done, however, to
better define vague terms such as 'material' and to establish strong
common standards by which companies should disclose their environmental
liabilities."


Best Practices for Online Reporting in Corporate Responsibility

Best Practices for Online Reporting in Corporate Responsibility
By Ethical Corporation magazine
URL: http://www.greenbiz.com/toolbox/howto_third.cfm?LinkAdvID=24687
The Internet has become a remarkable platform for corporate sustainability
reporting, offering new tools for dialogue and potentially new levels of
accountability. Currently there is still a need for paper reports at many,
even most, companies. However, more and more companies are also looking to
the Internet to provide a level of usability that paper reports just don't
offer.

While the majority of sustainability reports on the web tend to repeat
companies' printed reports, a growing number of companies are considering
exclusive web-based publication, or the use of their website as a tool to
enhance and encourage greater stakeholder accountability.

The reasons for web-based sustainability reporting are in many respects
the same as for sustainability reporting in any other medium:
to improve a company's ability to manage its business and decision
processes
to enhance stakeholder engagement and create better relationships
to maximize the potential to increase aspects of business value.
The web makes many of these objectives easier and cheaper to pursue with a
wider and more diverse range of stakeholders but there are still both pros
and cons to consider when reporting online:

Pros:
Ability to reach vastly larger and more diverse groups of stakeholders

Increased quantity and nature of the information available

Possibility to cater to different languages and multiple interests

Updating can be yearly, monthly or even daily as required

Allows visitors to select their own subject matter

Simplifies and encourages greater feedback and participation from visitors


Can track the types of information being used or ignored

Avoids the resources and costs associated with printing and distributing a
physical report.
Cons:
Internet access is still greatly restricted to society's middle and upper
classes

Visitors can easily get lost in mountains of information

Web information can increase, rather than decrease, requests for paper
reports and documents

Regular updating can pose technical challenges, both for information
gathering and for verification

The anonymity of the Internet - and the speed of its transactions -
demands a careful and dedicated approach to stakeholder engagement not yet
understood by a majority of companies

Tracking visitor activity could, under some circumstances, clash with
legitimate privacy concerns

Printing can just be transferred to readers, who will print their own
copies.

Design Considerations

The way a website is designed, the tools it uses and the navigation system
it employs will aid or impede a visitor's ability to find and understand
corporate sustainability information. Below are two key areas that will
greatly influence the communication of sustainability issues on corporate
websites: linking and feedback tools.

Linking

The ability to link web pages is the fundamental advantage the Internet
offers over traditional media. But despite the growing amount of corporate
sustainability information available there is little evidence to indicate
that companies are using navigation effectively to guide visitors to it.

Even those companies that have extensive environmental and social
information held on their website often do not link this information
through to the core business or product information. Many companies do not
even link their sustainability or environmental reports to their annual
financial report areas. In this example, companies are failing to
encourage investors to consider environmental or social data. The message
implied is that sustainability information is seen as unrelated to general
business performance.

External linking also appears to challenge companies. Linking to
third-party websites - particularly to those organizations with opposing
views about a company or sector - allows the visitor to obtain a balanced
understanding. It also indicates that a company has an open approach to
debate and questioning. Companies, quite understandably, will want to keep
visitors on their website, but this should be through choice, not because
they become trapped. If your website is informative and helpful, users
will come back.

Problems around linking may be related to internal systems for publishing
material on a company website and therefore may reflect the web
departments? understanding of triple bottom line information; or it may be
a reflection of the overall communication of sustainability issues
throughout the company. The way in which your company is structured
internally - as with many issues - will affect the degree to which you can
show an integrated approach on your public website.

Corporate examples of online tools:

BP ? BP's website features a customizing facility called DataDesk. The
visitor can select from a range of company information and the topics will
be presented as one single document

BT ? BT are web-only reporters and have used a combination of e-mail-based
discussion groups, coupled with several real-time debates hosted by BT
staff.

Nike ? Nike use online video footage effectively as a way to see inside
factories.· Novo -http://www.novo.dk/esr00/ - Novo's has an 'Interactive
Charts' facility. Visitors can generate their own charts and graphs from
selected data on environmental and social issues.

SAB (South African Breweries) ? As you enter the SAB website they
immediately offer information tailored to different stakeholders by asking
visitors whether they are an environmentalist, an investor, or a concerned
citizen amongst others.

Shell ? Shell's debate forum is one of the best known and most widely used
web-based stakeholder dialogue on a company's website.

WMC ? Integrating paper and web information has resulted in many companies
listing web references in their printed reports but WMC's 2000 Community
and Environment Report was an early example.

Feedback Tools

The Internet offers all sorts of possibilities for going beyond text
information and static graphics. However, before features are added to
your company site consider whether they add real value to the visitor and
whether the format you choose is appropriate.

Currently, most companies conduct stakeholder engagement using traditional
methods such as stakeholder panels and public issue forums, but online
tools introduce a new capacity for two-way dialogue. Technologies such as
e-mail, web forums and chat rooms have introduced the potential for far
greater stakeholder engagement across many company processes - not only
for collecting feedback on reports, but also in the ongoing process
companies undertake to help identify issues of concern and understand
stakeholders' opinions.

E-mail

E-mail is one of the most common forms of feedback over the Internet. Make
sure e-mail comments can reach a relevant person - don't just provide
generic e-mail addresses. Customer service centers often have little
understanding of corporate sustainability issues beyond being able to send
a copy of the current report - which is probably available on the website
anyway. Automatic e-mail forms are provided by many companies, but can be
restrictive. The most inflexible systems only allow visitors to ask
questions from a pre-selected list.

Discussion Postings

Using discussion boards allows conversations on diverse issues to take
place over long periods of time, allowing ideas to be fleshed out as the
dialogue develops. Companies should consider posting comments and
questions that people send in, either via public forums (as Shell and the
Co-operative Bank do), or on a case-by-case basis, when interesting or
provocative comments are received. Important considerations should be made
around the way the company selects questions to post, who will answer
them, and how long it takes before they are answered.

Online Chat Rooms

A live chat room is the most interactive and spontaneous type of dialogue
by which a website can provide feedback. However, live chat rooms need
organizing and marketing in advance, as well as facilitating on the day.
Consider whether you will capture the whole conversation and publish it
afterwards and be aware of the specific technologies involved.

Seize the Potential

Most companies have not really begun to use online engagement processes to
their full potential. Some people feel that online engagement reduces the
ability of participants to bounce ideas of each other, and that the
anonymity of online engagement diminishes the value of feedback it
generates. Clearly, the Internet cannot wholly replace traditional forms
of stakeholder engagement. Understanding participants' perspectives still
requires sensitivity to such things as group dynamics, non-verbal cues,
attention to the topic, and the role and skill of the facilitator. But
web-based tools can enable dialogue to reach new audiences in new ways.
The potential should be seen as a major priority for companies.

---------------------------------------

By Lynne Elvins, e-comms manager at SustainAbility, for more information,
visit: www.virtualsustainability.com

Copyright 2002 Ethical Corporation magazine, a GreenBiz News Affiliate.

A First in Quebec: Corporate Social Responsibility the Focus of Discussions at the Tremblant Forum

Press release from: Tremblant Forum
A First in Quebec
Corporate Social Responsibility the Focus of Discussions at the Tremblant
Forum

(CSRwire) Montreal - The first Tremblant Forum on Corporate Social
Responsibility and Sustainability will present some 20 world-renowned
speakers representing large corporations, NGOs and governments, on
September 16 at the Westin Resort & Spa in Mont Tremblant. This is the
first time a major event focusing on this new discipline is being
presented in Quebec.

How can environmental performance be improved while driving down costs?
What is the role of public/private/NGO partnerships? How to reconcile fair
trade and profits? What does Kyoto mean for business? These are just some
of the questions that will be explored in the five sessions of the
Tremblant Forum.

"Companies in Quebec and across Canada are realizing that the way in which
they assume responsibility for governance, environmental respect and
community relations has a direct influence on their reputation and,
ultimately, on their value and long-term viability," said Daniel Audet,
managing partner of NATIONAL Public Relations' Montreal office, which is
organizing the event in association with several other partners, including
EnCana, BCE, the BDC and the National Bank.

For the first time in Quebec, social-responsibility professionals from
large corporations will have the opportunity to exchange ideas with
representatives of organizations that evaluate their performance (ethical
investment funds, regulatory agencies, environmental groups, etc.), in a
forum that is open to the general public.

Those interested in participating in the Tremblant Forum may register by
telephone at (514) 843-7171 or on the Web at www.tremblantforum.org
Registration also includes a luncheon with an address by a keynote
speaker, a cocktail reception and return transportation from Montreal.

NATIONAL is a privately held public relations firm with offices in
Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria, New
York and London. The firm offers corporate communications, investor
relations, public affairs, marketing, technology and health-care
communications to a broad range of leading corporate, government and
institutional clients. At the international level, the firm is affiliated
with Burson-Marsteller.