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:

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

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

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