Sustainablog

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

15.1.05

How to tell the difference between CSR and whitewashing: Wal-Mart's CEO on Offensive Against Critics

For one thing, CSR is more than a PR campaign.

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Wal-Mart's CEO on Offensive Against Critics



Thu Jan 13,11:12 AM ET

By CHUCK BARTELS, Associated Press Writer
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer,
and its chief executive, Lee Scott, went on the offensive Thursday against
critics of its employment policies and the impact its stores have on
communities where they are located.
The company took out more than 100 full-page newspaper ads Thursday,
outlining the wages and benefits it pays its employees and the good the
Bentonville-based company says it brings to communities.
Scott said he wants Wal-Mart overcome its reputation as a company that
does not pay well and has minimal full-time workers.
"We want to get those myths off the table, set the record straight," Scott
said in a phone interview from New York City where he was making a round
of media interviews Thursday.
Wal-Mart has been the target of lawsuits accusing the company of bias
against women and not paying employees for all the hours they worked.
Wal-Mart has vigorously fought the court actions.
The ad says the company's average pay is nearly twice the minimum wage,
that 74 percent of its hourly workers are full time and that Wal-Mart
offers health and life insurance, company stock and a 401-k retirement
plan. Wal-Mart has more than 1 million domestic employees.
"We're taking this time to say, 'Hold on a minute, we have good jobs,'"
Scott said.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Mona Williams would not say how much the company
spent on the advertising. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal
were among the papers in which Wal-Mart paid for the full-page ads.
The company has also been criticized by the United Food and Commercial
Workers union, which continues to try to organize Wal-Mart workers. And
Wal-Mart's failed attempt to put a store in Inglewood, Calif., where the
retailer lost a referendum last year, painted the company as an unwanted
source of traffic and low-paying jobs.
"I thought it was ridiculous," Scott said of the attention drawn by the
Inglewood failure. "We had a record number of stores open this past year
... (and) this year we will open a record number of stores."
Scott said no one source of criticism prompted the new offensive. "I liken
it to being nibbled to death by guppies," Scott said.
The company's Thanksgiving weekend sales failed to meet expectations, and
Scott said that prompted Wal-Mart to become more aggressive in
merchandising and the way it gets its message across.
But Scott said he does not dismiss concerns that people express when
Wal-Mart wants to open a new store.
"I think there's lots of questions when Wal-Mart comes to a town that need
to be answered. Not all of those questions are frivolous," he said.
Scott said he planned meetings with a variety of groups not associated
with government to help explain Wal-Mart's employment practices,
environment-related policies and how it deals with its suppliers. He would
not name the organizations, saying did not want the groups to feel they
were being used to garner media attention.
"We touch so many lives ... there is almost not a (non-government
organization) that does not have an interest in what we as a company are
doing," Scott said.
Wal-Mart shares were up 7 cents at $54.15 in morning trading on the New
York Stock Exchange (news - web sites). It traded as low as $51.08 last
summer.


14.1.05

Brown bag presentation: Go Fast. Go Cheap...Emergent Approaches to Reusing Digital Resources

----- Forwarded by Trina Fentriss/Southfield/IBM on 01/12/2005 08:30 AM
-----
----- Forwarded by Leslie L Goldenberg/Los Angeles/IBM on 01/11/2005 06:59
PM -----

?Go Fast. Go Cheap. And Let it Go Out of Control?:
Emergent Approaches to Reusing Digital Resources
While remarkable progress has been made in defining standards and
developing systems to support the reuse of learning objects in higher
education, levels of adoption amongst practitioners have been
disappointing. Meanwhile, self-sustaining and self-organizing communities
with millions of engaged participants are reusing, remixing and
re-presenting the creative work of others all over the wider Web.

They do so using cheap (often free) and simple tools, and with minimal,
even non-existent coordination. Tools and protocols such as weblogs,
wikis, social bookmarks and RSS are regarded as tangential, even trivial
by most institutional managers and planners, even though they can provide
user-friendly and scalable environments for resource exchange and
networked communication.

When: Wednesday, January 19th, 1-2PM EST



*** Please RSVP so we can send you the presentation before the call ***

Dial-In Numbers:
toll-free: 1-877 313-3383
Vancouver, BC area: (604) 638-4923
PassCode: No passcode. Please tell operator you want to participate in
"Emergent Approaches" call or identify moderator (Ron Rabin)
Replay Dial-In Numbers and Passcode:
Toll Free: 1-800 408 3053
Toll: (416) 695-5800
Replay Passcode: 3135149

*Available until March 16, 2005.

Brian Lamb is an Instructor with the Office of Learning Technology at The
University of British Columbia, where he manages and consults with
reusable media, social software and other emerging technology initiatives
on campus. Previously, he spent two years at the Technical University of
British Columbia, working with faculty to incorporate digital resources
into their courses. His introduction to online learning came during his
sojourn in Mexico as an instructor with the Tec de Monterrey system. He
has an MA in English from McGill University, and a BA from the University
of Saskatchewan.

His weblog is Abject Learning

From: IBM Center for Advanced Learning



"It's a presentation from Brian Lamb, so you know it combines wikis, RSS,
blogs, learning and chaos."
-- Stephen Downes
Select links:
ReusableMedia
Intro to RSS
WikiEducation

Internal examples:
WikiCentral: Hitchhiker Guide to Technical Communitry
Add to IDP button
BlogCentral







13.1.05

Environmentalists question emissions trading scheme success

Environmentalists question emissions trading scheme success
Poulomi Mrinal Saha
7 Jan 05
The European Union carbon emissions trading scheme came into force on New
Year?s Day. Environmentalists remain unconvinced of its promise to date.


CO2 emissions: A global problem
From January 1, the EU?s 25 member states officially began trading in
their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions quotas as part of the world?s first
such international scheme.

Under the scheme, industries will be allowed specific quotas for CO2
emissions. If they meet their targets well within the limits of these
allowances, they can sell them off to industries that are having a tough
time keeping to the limits.

Companies that fail to meet their targets by the end of phase 1 of the
scheme that runs from 2005 to 2007 will be penalised. The EU will charge
? 40 for each tonne of carbon beyond the quota.

The carbon emissions trading scheme is an integral part of the EU?s
mission to meet its Kyoto Protocol target for reducing greenhouse gas
emissions by 12% below 1990 levels by 2012. After Russia?s ratification of
it in November last year, the agreement on global warming is scheduled to
come into force in mid-February.

Lack of action, say NGOs

But environmentalist groups doubt the EU will meet its Kyoto target. They
blame its emissions trading scheme, under which they believe, member
states have been extremely generous in making allowances.

?The trading scheme is potentially a huge step forward in the race to
tackle climate change, but it has been undermined by a lack of ambition
countries have shown bringing it into action,? said Bryony Worthington
from Friends of the Earth.

Germany and Britain are two countries that have been heavily criticised
for being too lenient with companies and benevolently distributing carbon
emissions quotas as part of their national allocation plans.

In December, British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that the UK would
be unable to meet its initial CO2 emissions reduction target of 20% below
1990 level by 2010. He had set that target in 1997 as part of his Labour
Party manifesto prior to the election that brought him into power.

The UK has submitted its updated projections to the EU and currently
awaits approval.

In its latest projection, the UK government has said that it will be able
to reduce CO2 emissions by 8.5% till 2010. But this figure accounts for
emissions from electricity generation and natural gas and not other coal
and oil energy uses.

Due to these last-minute revisions, British companies have been unable to
begin trading in their CO2 emissions allowances.

The price of change

But Mark Kenber, policy director at The Climate Group, a coalition of
organisations that support climate change prevention measures, says that
the UK government changed its mind as it did not want ?to pay a political
price? by upsetting corporations.

He believes that emissions trading can be the way forward in meeting its
targets, but like other government critics, he suggests industry lobbying
has compelled the government to go soft on emissions allowances.

One of the industry weapons used against strict governmental regulations
has been a threat to move businesses offshore. Kenber considers this a
lame threat. It is not easy, he notes, for businesses to simply pack up
and leave because they ?need to be closer to where their markets are?.

Another argument used by businesses is that the cost of reducing emissions
is very high and may be pushed on to the consumer in the form of raised
prices for goods and services.

Kenber disputes this.

?The arguments are spurious to say the least?, he says, pointing out that
price changes are more likely to be due to increasing demand for energy by
countries like China and overall shortage of supply.

Campaigners in fact, are arguing that the market price to implement a
genuine cut in carbon emissions could be as low as ?8 per tonne.

The cost argument has also suffered a blow via HSBC?s recent announcement
at the Tenth Convention of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on
Climate Change (COP10) in Buenos Aires, to go carbon neutral.

As part of its proposed programme, the global bank will plant trees,
reduce energy use, buy green electricity and trade in carbon credits. This
is estimated to cost it $ 7 million in 2005 and lesser in the future.
Environmentalists note that this is a small price to pay for a company
with a market capitalisation of $165 billion in the first half of 2004.

Missing transport

Mr Kenber also suggests that the UK and EU would have been better poised
to meet their targets if emissions-intensive industries like transport
were included in the first phase of the trading scheme.

Their exclusion will raise the targets for phase two of the trading
scheme, he notes. Phase 2 is set to run from 2008 to 2012.

Recently the EU has hinted that aviation may be included in this second
phase. Aviation industry champions have however voiced concerns over a
drop in EU competitiveness in the global market due to increased costs.

But earlier this week, Rod Eddington, chief executive of British Airways
professed his support for Britain?s plans to promote inclusion of aviation
in the EU emissions trading scheme.

?We welcome the British initiative because emissions trading is likely to
be the most effective and efficient instrument for dealing with greenhouse
gas emissions trading scheme,? he wrote recently in the Financial Times.

The industries that are already trading in the first phase of the ETS are
the power generation sectors as well as heavy industries like steel,
aluminium, cement, oil and gas refineries.

12.1.05

A health check on corporate social leadership: nobody ?s perfect. Even Boots.

A health check on corporate social leadership
Steve Hilton
4 Jan 05
Companies need to be careful when undertaking social marketing campaigns,
as a recent example demonstrates.
Last month, I profiled PruHealth, an innovative insurance product from the
Prudential that incentivises customers to lead more healthy lifestyles.

It?s a great example of social leadership ? a company turning social needs
into business opportunities.

But what happens when the process goes too far? When the perfectly
legitimate, indeed admirable desire to harness business techniques in
pursuit of social goals turns into unethical exploitation?

Boots, the British high-street retailer, has recently introduced a
high-profile, heavily marketed initiative aimed at tackling a major public
health issue: high cholesterol.

The dangers of high cholesterol are well documented, and the symptoms
under-reported.

So at first glance, you might welcome the fact that Boots is offering
members of the public free cholesterol tests in-store.

Indeed, the initiative is fully in line with the British government?s
desire to improve public health by encouraging primary care to be
delivered through a variety of non-traditional channels.

Win-win?

Most people wouldn?t think of making a doctor?s appointment to get their
cholesterol tested, but if they can get it done while they?re out
shopping, they?re more likely to be alerted to a potentially dangerous
condition.

And if they need treatment, they can easily get it at Boots, which sells
the statin drugs commonly used to control cholesterol. It looks like a
classic win-win: improved public health and improved reputation (and
sales) for Boots.

That?s until you discover that the over-zealous cholesterol testers in
some of Boots? stores are dishing out statins like sweeties at a kids?
birthday party.

On behalf of a national newspaper, a mystery shopper, who after three
independent tests had been given an absolute assurance that her
cholesterol levels did not require treatment by statins, was advised in
two out of five Boots stores tested to buy the medication.

Every one of the Boots tests gave a different reading, with the values
varying wildly from store to store ? along with the advice given. The
mystery shopper reported that in one store, ?the tester flashed me a smile
and delightedly announced, ?you qualify? as though I had won some kind of
prize.

To my horror she said, ?You will need to take one every day for the
remainder of your life, otherwise your cholesterol levels will rise
again.??

What went wrong? Dodgy testing equipment? Inadequate training? Who knows.
Perhaps there?s an innocent explanation, but there?s an inevitable
suspicion that Boots is preying upon people?s health concerns to sell them
drugs they don?t need, and which may in some cases be harmful.

Predictably enough, Boots denied any impropriety and argued that it was
simply providing the public with information on their options.

The company has an excellent reputation and claims ?a strong sense of
social responsibility? which is ?part of our proud heritage? and is
?reflected in our values and behaviours?.

Hmm. Clearly not reflected in the behaviour of every employee, but then,
nobody?s perfect. Even Boots.

Getting it right

The broader point is one of trust. If companies are fully to exploit their
potential to tackle society?s challenges through corporate social
leadership, then we have to trust that they?re not exploiting us in the
process.

Many corporate responsibility commentators ? me included ? have been eager
advocates of corporate social leadership, delivered through product and
service innovation, as one of the most powerful ways for companies to
create economic and social value simultaneously.

But corporate social leadership (or corporate social opportunity as David
Grayson describes it in his excellent book of the same name), will fail to
deliver its enormous potential gains, either for society or for the
reputation of business, unless companies apply a rigorous ethical test to
any initiative that aims to turn social needs into business opportunities.

So this is about much more than the failings of one or two rogue
cholesterol testers on Britain?s high streets.

Mainstream marketing is often criticised on the grounds that it creates
artificial needs. Balanced against this are the fabulous benefits that
arise from the consumer economy and wealth creation: higher living
standards, technological innovation and social progress.

But when it comes to social marketing, I think we should expect more. If
you?re arguing that a new product or service isn?t just about making money
by meeting consumer needs, but about deeper social needs, then you?d
better be sure that those needs are genuine.