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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:

US regulators embrace Twitter for market newsND

Jessica Holzer and Greg Bensinger, The Wall Street Journal, 4 April 2013

In a ruling that guarantees to change to how companies communicate with investors, the Securities and Exchange Commission said postings on sites such as Facebook and Twitter were just as good as news releases and company websites as long as the companies had told investors which outlets they intended to use. Several large companies, including computer-maker Dell and eBay, use Twitter to announce financial and other key information to investors. Many simultaneously send out news releases or report the information in filings to the SEC. Yesterday's announcement will allow them to use social media more. Only 14.4 per cent of companies communicate with shareholders via social media, according to a survey by the Conference Board and Stanford University, yet more than three-quarters of the companies in the survey said they used social media to interact with customers. For more information see

Disasters in Asia: what role for business?ND

Richard Welford, CSR Asia, 3 April 2013

Asia was the most disaster-prone region in the world in 2012, both in terms of number of disasters and victims, according to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). There is little doubt that an increasing number of disasters are related to climate change. Asia is at the centre of typhoon activity that is on the increase, and many coastal areas are highly susceptible to increasing sea surges. The private sector can begin to engage with the climate change threats in several ways, including: engage in preparatory climate change adaptation strategies, engage in strategies that can mitigate and respond to environmental refugees, help to fund and develop micro-finance and micro-insurance initiatives, and move from philanthropy towards pro-poor development strategies. For more information see

Beyond corporate social responsibility: integrated external engagementND

John Browne and Robin Nuttall, McKinsey Quarterly, March 2013

Traditional corporate social responsibility (CSR) is failing to deliver, for both companies and society. Executives need a new approach to engaging the external environment. A good relationship with NGOs, citizens, and governments is not some vague objective that’s nice to achieve if possible. It is a key determinant of competitiveness, and companies need to start treating it as one. That does not mean they have to initiate philosophical inquiries into social responsibility and business ethics. But it does require them to recognise that traditional CSR fails the challenge by separating external engagement from everyday business. It also requires them to integrate external engagement deeply into every part of the business by defining what they contribute to society, knowing their stakeholders, engaging radically with them, and applying world-class management. In other words, it requires the same discipline that companies around the world apply to procurement, recruitment, strategy, and every other area of business. For more information see

Facebook presence is an important clue to a social venture's futureND

Peter Roberts, Harvard Business Review, 4 March 2013

Fledgling social entrepreneurs may have a lot of passion, but they usually don't have much of a track record, a circumstance that leaves would-be backers to wonder: Which have the potential to become genuine world-changers? It turns out one of the best clues may be on Facebook. In an analysis of data from roughly a hundred social entrepreneurs, we found a clear connection between a venture's Facebook presence and its commercial performance. The average annual revenue for ventures that had set up dedicated Facebook accounts was roughly $142,000, considerably greater than the $77,000 for ventures that hadn't set up such accounts. For those with Facebook accounts, the correlation between number of likes and revenue earned was a robust 0.38 (correlations range from zero to one). For more information see

Oxfam report shows multinational companies failing on CSR goals ND

Jo Confino, The Guardian, 26 February 2013

Oxfam’s Behind the Brand scorecard has revealed that companies are failing their CSR goals, specifically in the areas of transparency and supply chain operations. Of the ‘Big 10’ multinationals reviewed, none secured a good overall rating on their public policies and commitment covering the supply chain. While Oxfam acknowledges that companies have made progress over the years, they assert that sourcing is still unjust and unequal, and that companies ‘cherry-pick’ their CSR initiatives in way that doesn’t address the core problems that the industry creates. While many of the problems are facilitated by poor government and deep-rooted social problems, Oxfam maintains that business has an active role to play in improving the situation in countries that they source from, and outlines a number of steps for companies to take in order to improve their CSR performance. For more information see

Global Reporting Initiative: a new framework? ND

Ben Tuxworth, The Guardian, 22 February 2013

Sustainability reporting has grown significantly over the last decade, with the GRI being one of the most widely used indicators. However proposed changes to the GRI, such as abandoning reporting levels and increasing the number of indicators, may risk making the reporting process too burdensome for reporters, and too complex for readers. Given the success of the GRI, efforts should be made to avoid the process becoming too complicated, both to ensure that those companies who have been reporting keep reporting, and to ensure that the reporting process is accessible to companies in emerging markets. For more information see

Communicating corporate social responsibility to a cynical publicND

Illia et. al., MIT Sloan Management Review, 21 February 2013

Given that corporations are increasingly engaging in CSR activities, it makes sense to communicate those achievements to stakeholders. However, in publicising CSR achievements, especially if they do so aggressively, corporations risk achieving the opposite result from what they intended — a so-called “boomerang response”. A key challenge for managers, then, is to minimise stakeholder skepticism and communicate CSR achievements without being accused of 'greenwashing'. Based on an investigation into the CSR communication practices of the largest (in terms of revenue) 251 European corporations and interviews with 69 managers handling CSR communications, this article outlines seven strategies to mitigate this risk. These are: 'don't be afraid of the media', 'don't underestimate the public', 'address big issues head-on', 'don't present a picture perfect company', 'control the conditions', 'use the whole company' and 'do what you say'. For more information see

Board governance depends on where you sitND

William George, McKinsey Quarterly, 19 February 2013

One’s perspective about a board’s governance is strongly influenced by the seat one holds —independent director, chair and CEO, CEO only, or chair only. The diversity of perspectives that board members bring to the role can be a considerable strength for the companies they serve. In order to make the most of it, organisations should do three things. First, the board should acknowledge that no single structure works in all cases. Boards must be pragmatic enough to adapt to the individuals involved rather than put a rigid structure in place. Second, all parties, but especially CEOs, should acknowledge different points of view and work to minimise the conflicts that inevitably arise from them. Third, all directors, but especially CEOs, can benefit from holding different positions, either within the company or on other companies’ boards. Nominating committees should seek out prospective board members with diverse experiences. For more information see

7 new rules for prospecting in the age of the customerND

Jim Blasingame, Forbes, 18 February 2013

Control of the primary elements of the business relationship has shifted as the Age of the Seller is being replaced by the Age of the Customer. The customer, leaving sellers with control of just the product, now controls the buying decisions and access to information about how to make those decisions. This shift has created many disruptions, especially with entrenched Age of the Seller sales practices, but perhaps none more than business-to-business prospecting. Now, prospects are essentially ruling competitors in or out before first contact, often before the business knows the prospect even exists. Getting in front of a prospect for a first meeting, which once was almost automatic, now requires addressing the new Age of the Customer rules of prospecting. Some of rules these include: prospect research must be conducted, networking – in person and online – is essential, and relevance and values must be demonstrated. For more information see

Why businesses fail on corporate social responsibilityND

Myrian Robin, Leading Company, 14 February 2013

Given the size and influence that a lot of companies have, they have the potential to sway government policy. However, to be a responsible organisation, businesses should not be working against government policy, but should instead do what they can to help governments lead. While businesses are entitled to lobby, they shouldn’t use their clout to negatively influence policies that are designed to aid the public interest, such as the recent ban on sugary soft drinks instigated by the New York City mayor last year. Instead, good corporate social responsibility policies should be designed to ensure that businesses limit their involvement in public policy. For more information see

CEOs’ passive/aggressive approach to social mediaND

Robert Berkman, MIT Sloan Management Review, 12 February 2013

When it comes to Twitter, CEOs would rather lead than read. They tweet more than they follow. But on blogs, YouTube and Web forums, CEOs engage differently. For those social media forums, CEOs spend less time creating content and more time simply viewing and reading. Examining how CEOs — and other senior management — engage with social media was the focus of a study conducted in April 2012. The study found that for professional and business uses, the overall percentage of CEOs using social media is to 70.8%. But both for personal and professional uses, CEOs were much more likely to be passive users (e.g. Reading blogs, watching videos, reading discussion boards and rating sites). Perhaps the explanation is that may not want to spend much time reading the tweets of others, but see value for their company in posting tweets themselves. Blogs may be seen as potentially more substantive, valuable for both reading and posting. For more information see

The boffins digging for nuggets of gold in big dataND

Paul Rubens, BBC News, 8 March 2013

There is an emerging market for companies offering the service of collecting and analysing large amounts of online data to find small pieces of information that offer other companies a huge competitive advantage. These companies analyse what is called ‘big data’ – e.g. messages posted on social media websites, videos being watched – and use complex algorithms to produce answers to specific business questions. An example of a company using big data to secure a competitive advantage is Bloomreach, who used big data to understand the language that consumers used when making purchasers, and then adjusted their websites to ensure that it was in line with the way that people searched. For more information see

Ten steps to making CSR strategicND

Richard Welford, CSR Asia, 6 February 2013

Many people are now recognising the strong business case for CSR, but struggle to know how to make CSR strategic and embed it into the organisation. CSR has to move beyond and “add-on” to business practices and should become part of the overarching strategy for a business. As a start, CSR practitioners should think about the following ten priorities: link your CSR strategy to brand, reputation and trust; build strong relationships with stakeholders; base all CSR activities on your most material issues; create effective management systems; ensure sufficient resources are invested in CSR; embed CSR into the whole organisation; invest in innovative CSR programs; as you plan your CSR strategies, put in place key performance indicators and where appropriate link these to reward systems; create a cycle of continuous improvement where management and staff are encouraged to experiment; and develop strategic communications. For more information see

Six social-media skills every leader needsND

Roland Deiser and Sylvain Newton, McKinsey Quarterly, February 2013

McKinsey has drawn on interviews with GE officers of various businesses and regions to illustrate the six-dimensional set of skills and organisational capabilities leaders must build to create an enterprise level of media literacy. The six competencies are: creating compelling content, leveraging dissemination dynamics, managing communication overflow, driving strategic social media utilisation, creating an enabling organisational infrastructure and staying ahead of the curve. Social-media engagement will confront leaders with the shortcomings of traditional organisational designs. Leaders who address these shortcomings will learn how to develop the enabling infrastructure that fosters the truly strategic use of social technologies. When organisations and their leaders embrace the call to social-media literacy, they will initiate a positive loop allowing them to capitalise on the opportunities and disruptions that come with the new connectivity of a networked society. For more information see

The social sector needs to take more risk and accept failureND

Sir Ronald Cohen and William A. Sahlman, Harvard Business Review, 5 February 2013

Across the sector, there is a grave fear of failure and a low appetite for risk. There are social entrepreneurs that refuse to take even small risks as they start their ventures. It is visible it in the philanthropic institutions that fund them and expect predictability and nothing less. For social impact organisations to scale in the same way entrepreneurial tech companies do, investors need to increase their tolerance for non-moral failure. They need to foster a culture of innovation and risk-taking. The social sector needs to embark on an era of experimentation and innovation if it is to identify better ways of addressing social issues. Failure is inevitable and healthy. Impact investing needs to become the same. This is the only way foundations and other funders can maximize the social benefit from their assets, and move the needle on solving persistent social issues. For more information see

Making time management the organization’s priorityND

McKinsey Quarterly, January 2013

Time scarcity is getting worse: always-on communications, organisational complexity, and unrelenting economic pressures are compounding an age-old challenge. With almost 50 percent of executives saying that they’re not spending enough time on strategic priorities, time challenges are a concern for companies, not just individuals. Key solutions to 'time scarcity' are as follows: 1) treat time management as an institutional issue rather than primarily an individual one, 2) establish a time budget and limit new initiatives when the human capital runs out, 3) beware of becoming so lean that you overwhelm managers; don’t stint on high-quality assistants to help manage executive time, 4) measure the time executives spend on strategic priorities and set explicit time-based metrics, and 5) use a master calendar to root out time-wasting meetings. For more information see

What’s next for China?ND

McKinsey Quarterly, January 2013

China’s economy is shifting to a more consumption and service-driven model that should help sustain the country’s growth, albeit at a slower rate, over the next decade and beyond. New government policies will favour household income growth, improve the social safety net, and support the expansion of the service sector and private enterprises, especially small and midsize businesses. In particular, the accelerated rise of smaller cities will make a key contribution to growth: during the next two decades, the dozens of cities with current populations of less than 1.5 million will contribute 40 percent of the total increase in urban GDP. Cities with 1.5 million to 5.0 million inhabitants will contribute about 25 percent and existing megacities the balance. For more information see

Entrepreneurial philanthropyND

Philo Alto, Stanford Social Innovation Review, 28 January 2013

The premise of the entrepreneurial philanthropy approach is distinguishing between your intended impact, which is personal, and social issues that can be objectively studied and addressed. The idea is that a more 'business-like' approach to philanthropy is more likely to efficiently address social issues than a personalised, perhaps more quixotic approach. In implementing such a methodology there are six steps to take: 1) study the social issue - it’s important to study how factors feeding into an issue interplay with each other and to identify their underlying causes before acting, 2) decide how to get involved - this involves several considerations, one of which is distinguishing causes from symptoms, 3) assess your time horizon of impact (i.e. long or short term) - this hones in the range of viable options available to you, 4) identify tipping points i.e. the likely triggers for public support, 5) decide what resources to employ, and 6) track your progress. For more information see

Trust building, the emergence of NGOs and purpose in AsiaND

Alan Vandermolen, Edelman, 27 January 2013

Edelman has released the Asia Pacific results of the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer. One long-term trend that has continued is the increasing trust in NGOs in Asia. Since 2008, trust in NGOs in China has gone up from 48 percent to 81 percent. In addition, Asian markets (China, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore) have four of the five highest trust ratings for NGOs globally. Among the factors driving the steady increase in trust for NGOs across Asia since 2008 are the following: increased recognition for – and greatly improved governance of – home-grown Asian NGOs, a much expanded middle class with plenty of choice in which brands they purchase and with expectations for how businesses and brands behave, and savvy use of social media by NGOs and consumers to drive dialogue on issues important to them. For more information see

How banks should finance the social sectorND

John Canady, Harvard Business Review, 22 January 2012

Most traditional financial intermediaries, like banks, are focused on short-term returns and deem unsecured lending to charities and social enterprises to be too risky. As a result, charities and social enterprises do not have the cushion of external financing to manage their various capital requirements. But instead of trying to develop a convincing business case to provide unsecured lending to higher-risk charities, there are other models that could address this market failure. One such model would involve donor's philanthropic capital being "recycled" in the form of loans to different charities thereby achieving exponential impact over a one-off donation. 'Donations' are used to make an unsecured loan to a charity, and then once the charity has paid the money back, the same amount is then loaned out again to another charity. Hence, instead of making a one-off donation, if you invest through this model, donations are 'recycled' over and over and achieve a much greater impact. For more information see

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