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:

Ministers 'failing to enforce rules on business'ND


Jean Eaglesham, Financial Times, 10 January 2006

According to a report by Friends of the Earth, Amnesty International and Christian Aid, UK companies are allowed to operate without any recrimination in overseas countries due to the government’s lack of enforcement of international CSR guidelines. Despite adopting the OECD’s voluntary guidelines many years ago, there has been an ‘unwillingness to investigate and lack of fact-finding capacity’, according to the recently-released report. For more information, see www.ft.com

MBA's with three bottom lines: people, planet and profit ND


Abby Ellin, The New York Times, 8 January 2006

MBA programs are increasingly covering social responsibility as part of their coursework. A survey of 91 US business schools conducted in October 2005, showed that 54% required a course covering social responsibility (ethics, CSR, sustainability or business and society). This was an increase from the 34% in 2001, reflecting that more students are asking for courses covering socially responsible business practices. For more information, see www.nyt.com

Businesses believe pandemic flu a threat, but few preparedND


Deloitte & Touche US, January 2006

While US companies are concerned about a possible pandemic, 66% have not planned for this possibility, according to a survey of US companies by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions and The ERISA Industry Committee. Nearly 60% of US companies are not confident that their company would be prepared to manage a pandemic outbreak. For more information on the survey results, download a summary at the Deloitte website: http://www.deloitte.com/dtt/article/0,1002,sid%253D80772%2526cid%253D107247,00.html

The duty to be accountableND


James Rose, South China Morning Post, 24 December 2005

Companies are making headway in terms of being more responsible in Asia, despite the concept of corporate responsibility being ‘largely misunderstood and loosely applied’, according to Rose. This article argues that charities, advocacy groups and NGOs also have an obligation of responsibility. Rose points to the scandal around Singapore’s National Kidney Foundation as an example of NGOs that ‘can go off the rails in terms of governance and basic ethics’. For more information, see www.scmp.com

Corporate social responsibility goes a long way offshoreND


Janet Blake, The Age, 15 December 2005

Janet Blake, head of Global CSR at BT, uses the example of BT’s movement of jobs from the UK to India to highlight the use of corporate social responsibility to lessen any negative effects. Best practice for companies when approaching offshoring, according to a BT report, includes: consult stakeholders; clearly communicate policy; limit or avoid involuntary redundancy; invest in retraining and skills development; work with suppliers to develop CSR best practice and set standards; work with local stakeholders and invest in local communities. For more information, see www.theage.com.au

Westpac rated most socially responsibleND


Corporate Community Newsletter, Pro Bono Australia, 15 December 2005

Westpac is rated as the most socially responsible company in Australia and New Zealand, according to an annual survey conducted by ratings agency RepuTex. The top rated company in New Zealand is the Telecom Corporation. For more information on the ratings for Australia and New Zealand, see www.probonoaustralia.com.au/new/default.asp?a=2&b=1457&d=2

Big companies become big targets unless they guard images carefullyND


Carol Hymowitz, The Wall Street Journal, 12 December 2005

In this article, Carol Hymowitz compares Wal-Mart and Starbucks in terms of managing their corporate reputations. While Wal-Mart faces many reputational issues, Starbucks has won praise for its corporate citizenship efforts and treatment of suppliers and employees. Its guiding principles include ‘providing a great work environment’ and ‘contributing positively to our communities’. However, as Starbucks continues to expand globally, it may start to encounter some of the issues also facing Wal-Mart. As Charles Fombrun, director of the Reputation Institute, suggests the bigger a company becomes, the more it will tend to attract criticism. For more information, see www.wsj.com

Japan gets ‘responsible’ in its own particular wayND


Bethan Hutton, Financial Times, 12 December 2005

Japanese companies have an understanding of social responsibility, although they do not exhibit this through various western practices such as donating corporate profits to charity or encouraging employees to volunteer time to charity. Instead they adapt CSR to local norms. For example, companies place a lot of value on employee well-being, and much less on areas such as overseas supply chain issues. The trend for CSR as well as socially responsible investment came to Japan much later than in Europe and the USA. For more information, see www.ft.com

New surveys show that big business has a PR problemND


Claudia Deutsch, The New York Times, 9 December 2005

Recent surveys in the US show that corporate distrust seems to be rising to a new level. Despite measures to rectify issues of past corporate scandals, ongoing issues such as high executive compensation continues to strengthen anti-business sentiment. Technology, such as use of blogs, has also provided a more public outlet for such sentiment. For more information, see www.nytimes.com

Globalisation’s strange bedfellowsND


Alison Maitland, The Financial Times, 8 December 2005

In this article, Alison Maitland explores Unilever’s decision to undertake a project with Oxfam to answer the question: ‘does international business investment help or hinder the fight against poverty?’ Oxfam was given access to documents and people in order to conduct a review of Unilever’s operations in Indonesia in 2003-04 to assess the impact on the country. While Unilever admits the experience was sometimes painful, both parties agreed that they found more common ground than initially expected. For more information, see www.ft.com

Ranking corporate reputationsND


Ronald Alsop, The Wall Street Journal, 6 December 2005

Johnson & Johnson topped the annual Reputation Quotient rankings (developed by Harris and the Reputation Institute), based on a survey of 20,000 people in the US. Johnson & Johnson was followed by Coca-Cola (in second placing) and Google Inc (in third place). Technology companies generally ranked well in terms of reputation as respondents believe their products are innovative and improve their lives. However, an overall measure of US corporate reputations showed that 71% of respondents thought reputations were ‘not good’ or ‘terrible’ compared to 68% in the previous year. For more information on the 2005 reputation rankings, see www.wsj.com

Investors may not want this hotlineND


Amy Borrus and Mike McNamee, BusinessWeek, 5 December 2005

According to Automatic Data Processing, 80% of shareholders in the US hold their shares in “street names” (ie. buy shares through a brokerage or asset management account which are then registered in the name of a brokerage). Companies are now pushing to be able to communicate with shareholders directly and the SEC supports more openness in shareholder communications. However brokers and institutions say this will compromise investor privacy. For more information, see www.businessweek.com

Boards told to look out for undesirable incentivesND


Alison Maitland, The Financial Times, 1 December 2005

A UK report (‘Rewarding Virtue’) published by Insight Investment, FTSE Group and Business in the Community provides a guide for boards on how to fulfil their corporate responsibility duties. The report also calls for executive rewards to be reviewed in order to eliminate ‘undesirable incentives’ that could tempt any irresponsible behaviour. For more information, see www.ft.com

Social concernsND


David James, Business Review Weekly, 1 December 2005

David James discusses the political dimensions of globalisation and says companies need to understand the implications of doing business in other countries, particularly in developing countries. Best practice companies tend to making ‘investments of a social character’, follow global practices, engage politically and be seen to engage. This article also discusses the influence of the global NGO community. For more information, see www.brw.com.au

Up to Code: does your company’s conduct meet world-class standards?ND


Lynn Paine, Rohit Deshpande, Joshua Margolis and Kim Eric Bettcher, Harvard Business Review, December 2005

Good corporate citizenship, transparency with stakeholders (including suppliers) and being responsive to stakeholder needs and concerns are three of seven standards that Harvard Business Review lists as widely endorsed corporate ethical guidelines. The authors have developed a ‘Global Business Standards Codex’ that lists the seven principles for good corporate behaviour as: Fiduciary Principle, Property Principle, Reliability Principle, Dignity Principle, Fairness Principle, Citizenship Principle, and Responsiveness Principle. ‘Our Global Business Standards Codex,’ write the authors, ‘is intended not as a “model code” that companies should adopt as is, but as a benchmark for those wishing to create their own world-class code.’ For subscribers to HBR or HBR online, the Codex article is online: http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/b02/en/common/item_detail.jhtml?id=R0512H. If you are not a subscriber, the article can also be purchased from this site.

Campaigners get into the business of businessND


Seb Belloe, The Guardian, 28 November 2005

NGOs are increasingly finding that they can constructively engage with business in order to drive change. This article highlights the growing number of partnerships and collaborations between NGOs and companies that promote better social and environmental performance. For more information, see www.guardian.co.uk

Listening puts you on fast track to credibilityND


Alison Maitland, Financial Times, 28 November 2005

Stakeholder consultation is considered best practice for companies wanting to understand their external environment. As Charlotte Grezo, director of corporate responsibility at Vodafone explains, ‘You couldn’t put together an effective, appropriate corporate responsibility program without an effective stakeholder program’. Vodafone holds annual stakeholder roundtables around the world, commissions opinion surveys and holds informal and informal discussions with special interest groups. Another UK company Marks and Spencer says its stakeholder consultation has enabled it to anticipate the hardening of attitudes to supply chain ethics. It conducts research with 500 customers each year and talks to around 160 groups, including government, regulators, campaigners and think-tanks. For more information, see www.ft.com

Smart directors drive accountabilityND


Shann Turnbull, Australian Financial Review, 28 November 2005

Shann Turnbull argues that companies need to develop a self-enforcing strategy to recognise stakeholder concerns. As Australian companies such as Westpac have implemented, a stakeholder consultative committee would reduce the burden of directors having to report on non-financial issues, allow companies to hear about problems earlier, ensure independent feedback and ultimately enhance a company's licence to operate. For more information, see www.afr.com.au

Smarter corporate givingND


Nanette Byrnes, BusinessWeek, 28 November 2005

BusinessWeek provides its ranking of the annual list of the biggest corporate donors in the US. Wal-Mart retains the number one spot though this article highlights Altria Group (in third place), which has built up significant goodwill through its philanthropy efforts. Companies are taking a more targeted approach to philanthropy, are investing more in consumer awareness ads and seeing the benefits of lower employee turnover as a result. For more information, see www.businessweek.com

McDonald's tackles European concernsND


Jeremy Grant and Alison Maitland, The Financial Times, 25 November 2005

The Financial Times reports on McDonald's first corporate responsibility report for the European market. The report is a result of a year-long stakeholder study and addresses issues such as obesity, food safety, marketing and working conditions. The report says McDonald's could do better in terms of understanding society trends and expectations. Stakeholder feedback also strongly pointed to the need for better communication around issues. For more information, see www.ft.com

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