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:

Wal-Mart picks a shade of greenND


Jonathan Birchall, Financial Times, 7 February 2006

In October 2005, Wal-Mart’s chief executive announced a new social and environmental vision for the company. Despite the new strategy to improve business practices, there is still a high level of scepticism by many, reflecting previous concerns. The scale of Wal-Mart’s business means that many critics believe the company could do a lot more. NGOs and campaign groups are also moving away from negative campaigning to engagement with companies such as Wal-Mart around these issues. For more information, see www.ft.com

Multi listed companies learn from experienceND


Stanley Dubiel, Financial Times, 6 February 2006

Companies that are listed on multiple stock exchanges have the complex task of managing different sets of listing requirements. Gone are the days when companies could choose the least rigorous listing requirements or those from their country of origin. Instead companies are under pressure to implement best practice in corporate governance. This article discusses Shell as an example of a company that is adopting more transparent and innovative corporate governance practices in order to address the issues arising from multi-listings. For more information, see www.ft.com

The bribery businessND


Greg Earl, Australian Financial Review, 4 February 2006

While many industrialised countries have implemented the OECD’s convention on bribery, enforcement is happening at a slower pace, according to Transparency International. This article provides the example of Indonesian businessmen running their companies from Singapore as the Indonesia government attempts to recover missing bank bail-out funds of up to $20 billion. A new UN convention on corruption appears to be ‘the real frontline of the fight against bribery in Asia’. Recently, China became the fourth country in Asia, after Australia, Mongolia and Sri Lanka, to ratify the convention and is now required to prosecute corruption by Chinese companies in overseas markets. For more information, see www.afr.com.au

Business ethics are missing in actionND


Mirko Bagaric, The Daily Telegraph, 1 February 2006

The recent AWB scandal in Australia has prompted an ethics check. While many appear to be shocked about the scandal, Bagaric says this is surprising given the nature of business and the lack of morals and ethics education. Bagaric calls for the government to do more to enforce ethics education for the corporate sector. For more information see www.dailytelegraph.com.au

Business executives globally embrace CSRND


McKinsey Quarterly, January 2006

Business leaders around the world believe that corporations should balance the broader community good in the way they operate and at the same time balance high returns to investors, according to a new McKinsey study of Business and Society. The survey reported that only one in six respondents agreed with Milton Friedman's thesis that high returns should be the corporation's sole focus, aligning them with Charles Handy's view that the corporation has an 'invisible hand' that it can use to benefit the community, and in turn, ensure its own ongoing viability and license to operate. The report also reveals that 68 per cent of executives globally believe they and their companies are 'generally' or 'somewhat' making a positive contribution to the community. Forty six per cent said companies have 'substantial' room to improve their performance in society — firmly placing the solution in their own hands. In other findings: 14 per cent say their corporate affairs areas drive their CSR activity; 56 per cent say their chair or CEO take the lead; 41 per cent say job losses and offshoring will dominate CSR debate over the next few years; 28 per cent say that climate change will dominate CSR debate over the next few years; and most see the major emerging social and political issues as threats to their businesses, not opportunities. The full report is available at: http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/article_abstract.aspx?ar=1741&L2=39&L3=29&srid=304&gp=0

Retailer Target branches out into police workND


Sarah Bridges, Washington Post, 29 January 2006

US retailer Target assists law enforcement agencies by providing access to technology that it uses in its 1,400 stores. The company has its own forensics lab and its investigators spend nearly half their time on pro-bono assistance to law enforcement agencies. Target also has a prevention program (‘Safe City’) involving cooperation on surveillance. According to Doug Pinkham from the US Public Affairs Council, this is ‘a different model of corporate giving’ where companies focus on solving societal problems. Where firms work closely with government, it is also important to consider the ethical complexities. For more information, see www.washingtonpost.com

A trend with legs as well as a heartND


Thomas Crampton, International Herald Tribune, 27 January 2006

Of the $11bn raised for tsunami victims, around $1bn came from individuals and companies. This illustrates a trend of a ‘new kind of corporate and social responsibility’ according to Jane Nelson, director of the CSR program at the John F Kennedy School of Government ‘beyond traditional philanthropy and basic compliance’. Industry-driven initiatives, such as the Equator Principles and Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, are highlighted as examples of where companies are moving forward with corporate responsibility. Companies are also seeing benefits in employee recruitment. For more information, see www.iht.com

Businesses learn lessons as ties get closer worldwideND


Gill Plimmer, Financial Times, 26 January 2006

Corporate involvement in the education sector has grown in recent years. Companies, such as Woolworths, GlaxoSmithKline, Starbucks, Intel, KPMG and Siemens are investing in education and forming partnerships for continued engagement. The US has a history of companies investing in education, while in the UK it has grown in the past five years, according to Business in the Community. KPMG says it invests in education for business and moral reasons, and that ‘the lifeblood of KPMG is a well-motivated, educated workforce so it makes sense to invest in that field’. Cause-related marketing has also increased though this has been somewhat controversial, particularly in schools. For more information, see www.ft.com

The buck stops where?ND


David James, Business Review Weekly, 26 January 2006

An opinion piece by David James discussing truth and responsibility. He comments on the recent behaviour of Australia’s AWB and the cost of a culture of dishonesty. This article asks the question: ‘When accountability to shareholders is the prime responsibility of management, what is the role of truth?’ For more information, see www.brw.com.au

Soft drink makers in voluntary ban on advertisingND


Raphael Minder and Andrew Ward, Financial Times, 25 January 2006

Soft drink manufacturers in Europe announced a voluntary ban on advertising to children and undertaking commercial activities in primary schools, following concerns about links between advertising and obesity. The industry had been under pressure to toughen self-regulation or face legislation. Many soft drink companies already had a voluntary agreement in place, though this new code of practice is to be implemented by all members of Unesda, the association of European non-alcoholic drinks. For more information, see www.ft.com

The frustrated will to act for public goodND


Alison Maitland, Financial Times, 25 January 2006

A McKinsey Quarterly survey of over 4,000 executives in 116 countries found that many are dissatisfied with the way companies anticipate social and political challenges. Only three percent say companies are doing a good job at this, while many suggest companies are using the wrong tactics. For example, while half of the executives point to use of media and public relations to manage challenges, only 35 percent consider this to be effective. This is the same with lobbying of government and regulators. One measure both used and regarded as effective is use of industry coalitions. Tactics that are seen to be effective (but not used enough) are implementation of policies on issues such as ethics and the environment, involving stakeholders such as NGOs, and transparency about product risks and processes. For more information, see www.ft.com

The 100 Best Companies to Work ForND


Geoffrey Colvin, Fortune, 23 January 2006

Public affairs professionals managing internal communications are increasingly a central part of employee engagement and culture change efforts. Workplaces are getting tougher — but tough is okay if there is good communication, development opportunities and a menu of continual challenges, according to Fortune, which released its ranking of the ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’. Some of the Fortune ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ that have operations in this region include Boston Consulting Group (ranked 11), Cisco (8), Goldman Sachs (26), Starbucks (29), American Express (37), Eli Lilly (52), Microsoft (42), Ernst & Young (67), Nike (100) and Yahoo (73). For more information, see www.fortune.com

Corporate Canada preparing for influenza pandemicND


CTV, 22 January 2006

Canadian businesses are almost in the lead in terms of developing avian flu contingency plans, largely due to their brush with SARS. Canada says that one million workers will be deemed essential service providers and given vaccines including funeral service personnel and transportation workers. It is recommended multinational firms stockpile key hygiene related products and buy extra parts for vital equipment along with ensuring employees are given liberal sick leave. For more information, see www.ctv.ca

Pandemic planning makes senseND


Robert Marks, Australian Financial Review, 17 January 2006

Businesses should be preparing a contingency plan for an outbreak of avian flu, which examines both their own potential issues, and also suppliers and corporate customers preparations. Some suggest that the market will factor in a premium for businesses that have a plan in place, should an outbreak occur. To prepare for a possible avian flu outbreak, employers should: encourage staff to work from home as much as possible; limit employees international travel; protect core business activities; stock up on supplies where possible; and review air circulation and filtration systems. For more information see www.afr.com.au

Inculcating cultureND


The Economist, 19 January 2006

A case study on ‘The Toyota Way’, an embodiment of the Japanese automaker’s culture. Toyota employees, who work across 580 different companies globally, are self-motivating and mostly self-directing. Toyota has managed to communicate and build a strong corporate culture that provides the values to guide decision-making. For more information, see www.economist.com

Business leaders make charity more accountableND


The Australian Financial Review, 14 January 2006

This reprinted article from BusinessWeek discusses the businesslike approach to philanthropy in the US. Philanthropists, such as Gordon Moore (co-founder of Intel) are focusing on funding solutions not problems, and ensuring the impact can be measured. For more information, see www.afr.com.au

Corporate dreamers: Do-gooders at the top end of townND


Andrew Cornell and Fiona Carruthers, The Australian Financial Review, 14 January 2006

This article profiles Australian business leaders and their commitment to corporate social responsibility. Companies are reporting the benefits and stockbrokers say that employee engagement correlates with shareholder returns. Potential employees also value the ethical status of their potential employers. For more information, see www.afr.com.au

Corruption doomed to fail in long termND


Edward Spence, The Australian Financial Review, 14 January 2006

In the wake of corrupt practices that have damaged reputations and caused loss to corporations, shareholders and employees, Edward Spence (research fellow at Charles Sturt University, Australia) has developed a model to identify features of corruption and measures to address these. These include eliminating opportunity and incentive, as well as creating an ethical corporate environment that encourages and rewards ethical actions of employees. For more information, see www.afr.com.au

America’s dilemma: as business retreats from its welfare role, who will take up the burden?ND


Dan Roberts & Christopher Swann, Financial Times, 13 January 2006

While the US and Europe have different approaches to funding healthcare and pensions, both face the challenges of ageing populations and rising healthcare costs. Europe’s welfare state model puts the emphasis on government to provide basic provisions, whereas the US model of ‘welfare capitalism’ puts the emphasis on business to provide health benefits and pensions while the government provides basic support. US firms are increasingly cutting benefits, adding to debate about the role of individuals, government and businesses to fund welfare. IBM, which has the country’s third largest pension scheme, recently announced it would freeze its scheme, which will improve its competitiveness and save US$3bn by 2010. However with companies continuing to announce high corporate profits, pressure is growing for legislation to ensure companies continue to fund these schemes. For more information, see www.ft.com

Corporate social opportunityND


Simon Lloyd, Business Review Weekly, 12 January 2006

Small- and medium-sized businesses can gain a competitive advantage from innovative corporate social responsibility. For example, The Body Shop has grown over the past 30 years with a simple message of making products not tested on animals and giving a percentage of profits to various causes. Another example is Dome, an Australian coffee company, that like many other smaller coffee companies around the world, has achieved success with its ‘fair trade’ coffee products that ensure ‘social responsible production’. Consumers increasingly want products from responsible and trustworthy companies. As author David Grayson suggests, corporate social responsibility should be viewed as ‘corporate social opportunity’. Smaller businesses can achieve a competitive advantage by undertaking innovative CSR practices that bring benefits to their customers, communities and their bottom line. For more information, see www.brw.com.au

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