Knowledge Centre:
News Digests

Stay abreast of what’s happening internationally with developments in corporate public affairs. Here is news that you may find useful and interesting:

Caught in a jamND


Gina McColl, Business Review Weekly, 16 November 2006

Culture jamming is the use of websites, blogs and graffiti to disrupt and hijack a message. This method of communication, whilst originally used by anti-corporate activists is now being used by the corporations themselves to fight activist campaigns, anti-corporate messages and consumer cynicism. For example, McDonalds Australia launched its ‘make up your own mind’ campaign which uses a documentary style ad to challenge consumers misconceptions and then directs people to a website to find further information and make an informed choice. However, this problem with corporations using this communication method is that it can be jammed right back. A digital marketing agency, Clear Blue Day, bought a similar domain name which redirects users to the Fast Food Nation website, illustrating how easy it is for others to use your campaign, and promote their own message. For more information see www.brw.com.au

When blogs put brands at riskND


Sarah Murray, Financial Times, 8 November, 2006

New media channels such as blogs and videos on websites present challenges to those responsible for corporate communication and reputation management. Sites such as MySpace and YouTube enable anyone to post online, without any technical expertise, and have helped create a more level playing field, according to Tracy Frauzel, online communications manager for Greenpeace. Blogs often have zero accountability and are able to quickly mount negative corporate campaigns. Alan Marks, head of media relations at Nike, believes that these new forms of communication can be used positively by marketers and for CSR. Corporate blogging initiatives can also backfire, with online users quick to uncover ‘floggers’ (fake bloggers) and chastise company for their actions. Communication consultant Rob Key says that corporations should engage in online debates, however their communications must match their actions as ‘there is a level of vigilance that didn’t exist two or three years ago’. For more information see www.ft.com

CFOs can give us straight talk on sustainabilityND


Andrew Savitz, Financial Times, 26 October 2006

While finance heads have tended to be sceptical about the value of sustainability, many CEOS are now applying their analytical skills to strengthening their company’s sustainability programs. CFOs play an important role in building the business case for programs, measuring the results in financial terms and communicating to investors about the value of sustainability. This article provides examples of CFO involvement in sustainability programs at DuPont and PepsiCo. For more information, see www.ft.com

Beyond the bottom lineND


Telis Demos, Fortune, 23 October 2006

Vodafone was the top-ranking company in Fortune’s annual ranking of how well the top 50 global companies conform to socially responsible business practices. The telecom company’s stakeholder consultation process has enabled it to set up programs where it can use its services and infrastructure to help further economic development in places like Africa. The top companies (from 2nd to 10th place) were BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Electricite de France, Suez, Enel, HSBC Holdings, Veolia Environnement, HBOS, and Carrefour. Interestingly, the top 10 companies are all headquartered in Europe, where CSR is more embedded. The top US company was General Motors (at number 12). For more information, see www.fortune.com

Separating smart from greatND


Simon Zadek, Fortune, 23 October 2006

Recent set-backs for BP and Ford, two sustainability champions, highlights the difficulties in embedding accountability into business practices. As Zadek explains, “Comprehensive accountability – that is, accountability to stakeholders representing social and environmental interests as well as economic ones – requires companies to align their vision, strategies and innovation not only with today’s competitive markets but also with the social and environmental conditions that will shape the markets of tomorrow”. Zadek groups companies in four clusters: ‘rearview grazers’ (companies such as Berkshire Hathaway that provide no information on social and environmental impacts), ‘reluctant incrementalists’ (eg. Exxon Mobil – who cautiously address issues with a small group of stakeholders), ‘engaged learners’ (such as Allianz who are engaging with stakeholders to learn more about issues), and ‘strategic leaders’ (such as Shell and IBM – who are pioneering new approaches and activity shaping society expectations for their sectors). For more information, see www.fortune.com

When disaster strikes ND


James Thomson, Business Review Weekly, 19 October 2006

Events such as September 11, Hurricane Katrina and the outbreak of SARS can have a significant impact on business. Business continuity has become an increasing priority for companies in the past few years, and communications and IT companies are doing particularly well from of the focus on continuity. It is estimated that 83 per cent of companies in the US now have a formal business continuity plan, a trend similar to that in Australia. Kevin Nevrous, business continuity partner at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, advises that companies should focus on business continuity management rather than its planning. For more information, see www.brw.com.au

Asia’s most admired companiesND


The Wall Street Journal, 16 October 2006

Singapore Airlines retained its first place ranking on the Wall Street Journal’s annual list of Asia’s most admired companies. Singapore Airlines has held the top ranking since the survey started in 1993. This year it ranked first in reputation, service quality and long-term vision. Listed companies are rated on five attributes: reputation, quality of products and services, management long-term vision, customer innovation and financial soundness. The following companies are the most admired in each of the countries surveyed: Woolworths (Australia), Haier (China), Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong), Infosys Technologies (India), PT Unilever Indonesia (Indonesia), Toyota (Japan), Maxis Communications (Malaysia), Singapore Airlines (Singapore), Samsung Electronics (South Korea), Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (Taiwan), Siam Cement (Thailand). For more information, see www.wsj.com

Corporate social responsibility: beyond the bottom lineND


Martin Thompson, The Independent, 13 October 2006

Business schools are increasingly including CSR in their teaching. For example, Nottingham University Business School has its own CSR professor, Jeremy Moon. He was co-author of a 2003 survey which showed that two-thirds of European business schools provided some kind of CSR education. Part of the push for CSR to be taught in higher education is driven by the students themselves. For more information, see www.independent.co.uk

We use them, but love to abuse themND


Neil Shoebridge, Australian Financial Review, 9 October 2006

A recently released survey of 2,000 Australian consumers (‘The Australian Report’) has found that most think large companies are ‘slow, bureaucratic, impersonal and run by overpaid chief executives’. 84% say CEO salaries are too high, 75% say big companies are cold and impersonal and 45% say big business is a risk to their health and well-being. In other survey responses, 61% of consumers want more regulation of big business, 78% say large companies in Australia are ‘probably’ committing human rights abuses, and 83% say big business should be forced to clean up the environment. The survey, conducted by STW Communications Group, showed that consumers see small businesses as ‘the backbone of Australia’, in contrast to the negative views towards large companies. While big business is seen as necessary, many think large companies are out of touch with community needs. For more information on this report, see www.afr.com.au

Guidelines on corporate responsibility simplifiedND


Ian Bickerton, Financial Times, 6 October 2006

Amsterdam-based non-profit agency Global Reporting Initiative, has unveiled revised CSR reporting guidelines. The guidelines have been simplified to encourage smaller and medium-sized companies to report on their environment and social impact. The revisions are aimed at increasing the number of companies that prepare reports as there is now an ‘entry level’ option, which allows companies to report on a limited range of issues, rather than all aspects. The number of businesses adopting the GRI guidelines is increasing with more than 2,000 businesses participating. For more information, see www.ft.com

Companies see the gains in going greenND


John Gapper, Financial Times, 2 October 2006

Companies are enthusiastically ‘going green’ and becoming ‘carbon neutral’. This is a surprising development in the US, given the government’s indifference to environmental issues. For energy-consuming and some energy-producing companies, ‘environmental action creates a rare degree of alignment between being socially responsible and increasing shareholder value.’ Companies can improve their reputation for innovation and environmental awareness by making energy efficient products and reducing their use of energy. For more information, see www.ft.com

Responsible returnsND


China Economic Review, 1 October 2006

In the past, Chinese businesses have been reluctant to focus on CSR in business, even as the government has increased pressure to become better citizens. However, as more Chinese organisations want to globalise, they see that CSR is a necessary business characteristic as other global companies say they cannot afford to align with companies who disregard the importance of CSR and the triple bottom line. For more information see www.chinaeconomicreview.com

Virtue rewardedND


Kate O’Sullivan, CFO Magazine, 1 October 2006

Corporate social responsibility is now mainstream with over 1,000 companies in 60 countries producing sustainability reports. Various factors have contributed to this: the wave of corporate scandals such as Enron, the rise of the internet and high speed communications (news is able to spread worldwide instantly, making it harder for company’s to hide negative actions and information), and concerns about resource constraints. CFOs are often in a dilemma between financial reporting each quarter and dealing with longer term issues such as social responsibility. As a result, more CFOs are involved in corporate sustainability planning and communicating the return on investment to the marketplace. This article provides examples of companies where CFOs are involved in CSR planning and measurement of benefits. For more information, see www.cfo.com

More large US companies reporting on social and environmental issuesND


Boston College Centre for Corporate Citizenship, September 2006

A recent study by the Social Investment Research Analysts Network shows that more companies are reporting on social and environmental performance. Forty-three companies from the S&P 100 Index have a CSR report (up from 39 companies in 2005) while 79 companies provide information on their social and environmental performance on their website (up from 59 companies in 2005). In the past year there are a number of large US companies who released their first CSR report including GE, Time Warner and Cisco. For more information on the research report, see www.siran.org/csr.php or for more information on this article, see www.bcccc.net

Corporate responsibility and strategy – a fundamental connectionND


Tobias Webb, Ethical Corporation, 30 August 2006

Barclay’s group chief executive John Varley believes that corporate responsibility is a vital component of business. Varley links profit to values by arguing that long-term financial success requires a strong brand and that brand is dependent on values. Barclays is proof that companies can be good corporate citizens while being profitable. In February this year they reported record profits and three months later they ranked third in the annual BITC index. For more information, see www.ethicalcorp.com

More media, less newsND


24 August 2006, The Economist

Newspaper subscriptions and print advertising sales are declining. Newspaper companies are realising that they need to reinvent themselves on the internet and other new-media platforms for their long-term survival. However for almost all newspapers, the internet brings in less than one tenth of their profits. Newspapers rely heavily on classified ads online, and have fewer display ads. On the other hand, newspaper websites have higher profit margins, as they have no distribution costs. There appears to be much experimentation underway with new business ideas. And there is the realisation that newspapers need to stop ignoring that readers want short, relevant and local stories. Metro’s chief executive, Pelle Tornberg, says ‘the only way that paid-for newspapers will prosper is by becoming more commercialised, raising their prices and investing in better editorial.’ The future will require newspapers to become more business-minded and innovative. For more information, see www.economist.com

Chevron extends a green hand to local communitiesND


8 August 2006, The Nation (Thailand)

Internationally, Chevron’s corporate social responsibility programs focus on education, environment and energy conservation. In Thailand, Chevron works with villagers to identify projects such as local rehabilitation to restore habitats. These projects often fill gaps where the government has been unable to assist. For more information, see www.nationmultimedia.com

Corporate coaches emerge to make some differenceND


Geoff Allen, The Age, 27 July 2006

Geoff Allen, Chairman of the Centre for Corporate Public Affairs, discusses new approaches by business to manage social and political issues. Managers are under increasing pressure with demands for more transparency and voice, growing distrust of business, more sophisticated media, and the emergence of shareholder activists and special interest groups. Businesses have responded by adopting issues management processes, changing thinking and practice around stakeholders, using corporate social investment for deeper strategic purposes and paying a lot more attention to business reputation. For more information see www.theage.com.au

Social responsibility has a dollar valueND


C.W. Goodyear, The Age, 27 July 2006

Chip Goodyear, Chief Executive of BHP Billiton, discusses the business case for corporate social responsibility. He argues that it is a ‘powerful competitive differentiator’ that has the potential for BHP Billiton to be the company of choice, resulting in better access to markets and resources and in attracting the best employees, with the end result being profit maximisation for shareholders. For more information see www.theage.com.au

Global suppliers feel ethical pressureND


Richard Tyler, Daily Telegraph, 20 July 2006

Europe’s largest oil and gas companies (BP, Shell, Sartol and Norsk Hydro) will survey their suppliers to create the first global database on supplier corporate social responsibility policies. This follows similar action by 45 UK utility companies earlier this year. This unified effort by large companies aims to put pressure on suppliers to adopt ethical and socially responsible policies that reflect their own company policies in order to more effectively manage reputations. For more information, see www.telegraph.co.uk

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