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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:

Aussie challenge for Facebook advertisersND


April Dembosky, Financial Times, 12 August 2012

International advertisers are grappling with renewed concerns over the hidden costs of advertising on Facebook, after an Australian standards board ruled that companies are responsible for policing defamatory of misleading comments posted by ordinary users on Facebook pages. There could now be a chilling effect on advertisers' willingness to use social media sites, and the result could be damaging for Facebook, which is already struggling to prove the effectiveness of its advertising model. In the US, laws are more strictly formed around truth and accuracy, rather than decency. And advertisers are protected from liability for content posted to their website by third parties. However, pharmaceutical companies and the financial industry have still been particularly reluctant to adopt social media in the US. For more information see www.ft.com

Corporate ranks start to divide on bonusesND


Ian Verrender, The Age, 9 August 2012

BHP CEO Marius Kloppers has decided to directly link his pay to performance and to shareholder returns. This stands starkly at odds with the trend in corporate ranks during the past decade and a half where the opaque calculations of bonuses have become a source of frustration for shareholders and the broader community. In Australia, the two strikes and you're out rule - where a board is dumped if more than 25 per cent of shareholders vote against the executive remuneration package two years running - is now entering its second year. That has helped focus the minds of directors on their responsibilities, although a surprisingly large number of companies last year incurred the wrath of shareholders on the issue. What Kloppers and some other executive have done is kept it simple. If shareholders have suffered, then they get no bonus. For more information see www.theage.com.au

Human Rights and guiding principles – managing risks and impacts in AsiaND


Michelle Brown, CSR Asia, 8 August 2012

It has been over a year since ‘Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework’ were endorsed by the United Nations which provide a framework for how companies can understand and manage their responsibilities in the complex area of Human Rights. Human Rights are universal, but assessing the corporate impact on human rights will be affected by different country contexts and the different operating environments that a company faces. For Asian companies operating in Europe and for European companies operating in Asia it will be important to consider their operations in light of the rolling out of the Guiding principles. Part of the challenge for companies is the lack of publicly available impact assessments and sharing of practices in the area of human rights. For more information see www.csr-asia.com

Mitigate the risk in social media sellingND


Barbara Giamanco and Kent Gregoire, Harvard Business Review, 7 August 2012

Sales reps now have the ability to participate in global conversations about their products, their field, and their expertise. But some companies are so worried about potential mistakes or loss of control that they don't allow participation. That's a bad idea. Choosing not to be present in social networks puts your company and your salespeople at a competitive disadvantage. Instead, acknowledge the risks and mitigate them. Potential risks of social media usage include false representations, unguarded disclosures, and copyright violations that could bring legal exposure. These risks, however, can be managed with well-crafted guidelines. Policies at IBM, Nordstrom, and the U.S. Air Force, for example, highlight the importance of exercising good judgment, showing respect, refraining from disclosing confidential information, avoiding conflicts of interest, and representing opinions as purely one's own. For more information see www.hbr.com

If the name gets in the way, change itND


Nicole LaPorte, The New York Times, 4 August 2012

There are various reasons to rename a business, such as: making the name easier to pronounce, a desire to rejuvenate a brand or to do away with negative associations. However, there are risks involved. Companies always face the challenge of telegraphing a new name in a way that doesn’t alienate loyal customers, and undermine 'positive brand equity' that the company has built over time. Nonetheless, many large companies have undergone name changes, including: Datsun to Nissan; the Computing- Tabulating-Recording Company to the International Business Machines Corporation, or I.B.M.; and BackRub, the precursor to Google. For more information see www.nytimes.com

Goldman creates first US ‘social’ bondND


Tracy Alloway, Financial Times, 2 August 2012

Goldman Sachs has teamed up with New York City to create the first significant “social impact bond” in the US, providing a test case for the experimental financing method aimed at helping cash-strapped local governments fund public projects. The investment bank will loan $9.6m for a programme designed to reduce the number of young men in New York who reoffend and end up back in prison. However, Goldman’s ultimate return will be linked to the success of the programme in preventing reincarceration – a key component of such social impact deals. Under the leadership of its new public relations chief, Jake Siewert, Goldman has been attempting to rehabilitate its own public image – including the launch of a Twitter account to help broadcast its charitable efforts and philanthropic investments. However, the bank remains controversial among some local governments. For more information see www.ft.com

Business, CSR and sportsND


Esther Teh, CSR Asia, 1 August 2012

Sports have always been an influential channel in terms of reaching and engaging people from across the entire social and demographic spectrum. A growing number of organisations have implemented CSR initiatives that use sports as a means for social development. Sport emphasises the bond which sport can create between businesses and the communities they work for, and can involve employees and suppliers. This can enhance community connections and help to strengthen a sense of institutional belonging in addition to highlighting the sport itself. In Malaysia, the Government is enthusiastic about encouraging companies to adopt sports as part of their CSR through initiatives such as sponsorship to encourage participation in sport. However, in many cases, the CSR aspect is lost, as companies treat the opportunity more as a marketing ploy with little consideration for real social impact. For more information see www.csrasia.com

Remapping your strategic mind-setND


Pankaj Ghemawat, McKinsey Quarterly, 1 August 2012

Senior executives need better mental maps to navigate our unevenly globalised world. Although a wide variety of metrics show that just 10 to 25 percent of economic activity is truly global, executives disproportionately embrace visions of unbounded opportunities in a borderless world, where distances and differences no longer matter. A special kind of 'rooted' map can correct a common misperception: that the world looks the same regardless of the viewer’s vantage point or purpose. In the real world, geographic distance and differences in culture and policy matter. To better reflect this reality, rooted maps depict the world from a specific perspective and with a particular purpose in mind. They do so by adjusting the sizes or positions of countries in relation to a specific home country, while otherwise maintaining familiar shapes and spatial relationships, which can help fit these maps into our existing mental models. For more information see www.mckinseyquarterly.com

European lenders take Libor scandal hitND


Patrick Jenkins, Financial Times, 31 July 2012

The spreading scandal over the manipulation of key lending rates and the downturn of Europe’s economy took their toll on two of the region’s leading investment banks, Deutsche Bank and UBS, which both revealed increased provisions and sharp profit falls. The dual impact of recent banking scandals, including the Libor affair, and struggling profitability has led to a crisis of confidence in the sector. Sentiment has been particularly bleak in Europe, amid growing anxiety that the eurozone crisis will worsen over the coming months. Though Deutsche made clear that no senior manager had been implicated in the Libor probes, Mr Jain said he would put renewed emphasis on ethical standards throughout the bank and “root out bad behaviour”. He also promised to be “at the forefront” of reforms to investment banker pay. For more information see www.ft.com

Claims, purpose-drive marketing and consumer trust – where are we in Asia?ND


Rikke Netterstrom, CSR Asia, 25 July 2012

The misrepresentation of many products and services as ‘green’, ‘ethical’, ‘sustainable’, including mis-selling and misleading claims is a major issue in Asian markets. However, in China, India, Indonesia and Singapore and Malaysia, 65% or more still trust business to ‘do the right thing’ – this is much higher than the global average of 53%. Implications for businesses who want to avoid losing trust and tap into the ethical and consumer- conscious market are two-fold: purpose-driven marketing require new products and services, and businesses need to step up accountability for claims. For more information see www.csrasia.com

How the forest product industry performs on CSR in China?ND


Brian Ho, CSR Asia, 25 July 2012

A conference was held in Beijing on 24 July to discuss how CSR should be promoted in the forest product industry in China. The China National Forest Product Industry Association (CNFPIC) was the organiser and five leading companies jointly released their first CSR reports during the conference. The reports have their own characteristics but also commonalities. They cover important issues such as ensuring the interests of investors, caring for employees, engaging with suppliers for development, meeting customers’ demands, protecting the environment, and promoting community development. They also mention the expectations and aspirations of various stakeholders, as well as how business communicates and responds to those expectations. The China Forestry Industry Association also attended the conference, and emphasised how its progress in social responsibility is significant to the overall healthy development of the forestry industry in China. For more information see www.csrasia.com

The odd ways we calibrate our outrageND


Michael Skapinker, Financial Times, 25 July 2012

Why are some more outraged about corporate scandals than others? Skapinker argues that while Barclays’ attempted Libor manipulation was ‘disgraceful’, GlaxoSmithKline’s behaviour was surely far worse. He suggests that there was more outrage over Libor as many felt it uncovered an insiders’ secret world. Hidden corporate misbehaviour comes to seem ‘normal’ to those engaged in it. Skapinker suggests that if everyone else is doing it, management seems to encourage it and it takes a brave soul to ask: ‘what would happen if the outside world knew what we were getting up to?’ For more information see www.ft.com

How companies can rewrite Burma’s story and avoid a repeat of history ND


Jeremy Prepscius, The Guardian, 23 July 2012

The changing political climate in Burma, particularly the temporary lifting of EU sanctions, means more foreign businesses will enter the Burmese market. Companies should learn from past market entry experiences – particularly that of entering Vietnam and Cambodia in the 90s. Companies need to engage in responsible corporate practices, and carefully consider their relationship with the Burmese government. There is opportunity for foreign companies to play an important role in positively shaping Burma’s future. For more information see www.guardian.co.uk

Silicon valley says step away from the devices ND


Matt Richtel, New York Times, 23 July 2012

Leaders in the technology are increasingly recognising the addictive properties of their inventions, and are beginning to encourage users to take a break from technology. Recent conferences have discussed the pervasive lure of technologies, and a widespread inability of people to ‘switch off’ from their devices. As part of this growing awareness, the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders plans to add ‘Internet-use disorder’ to their appendix next year – indicating the scale of concern surrounding people’s addiction to technology. These issues raise important questions about the extent of responsibility that the technology industry has in terms of creating addictive devices – a issue that is generating debate. For more information see www.nytimes.com

Aussie NFPs missing out on social media successND


Pro Bono Australia, 18 July 2012

Australian not-for-profits are yet to see the degree of fund raising and cause advancement success that organisations in Canada and the US have realised through social media. The finding comes in a report by Wirth Consulting, called the ‘State of Social Media Use in Australian Non Profit Organisations’. The report says that social media use among Australia’s not-for-profits is substantial, however, there is still room for growth. The report lists the top 19 organisations that are ‘doing well’. Factors analysed include: a modern website structure; number of fans, followers and subscribers; posts per week; customisation; and continuity in posting consolidated across all social media platforms. For more information see www.probonoaustralia.com.au

The return of activist journalism in ChinaND


Haiyan Wang, Financial Times, 15 July 2012

Chinese journalism has changed greatly since the government decreed in the 1980s that the media could be partly privatised. A new generation of journalists sees its task as truthful journalism, exposing corruption and other crimes, and offering independent analysis of society. But investigative journalism in China was never independent and is less so now. Media exposés often result in punishment of officials responsible for corruption or for a miscarriage of justice: but the journalists who undertake the investigation are often punished too. Today, China is undergoing another transition: the state of society demands the return of activist journalism. In the past decade, reform-minded journalists have vigorously pursued so-called “investigative journalism”. This will be one of the front lines in this new age of political uncertainty. For more information see www.ft.com

In search of the hybrid idealND


Julie Battilana et. al., Stanford Social Innovation Review, 13 July 2012

In the first large-scale, quantitative study of social entrepreneurs, researchers from Harvard Business School and Echoing Green examine the rise of hybrid organisations that combine aspects of nonprofits and for-profits and the challenges hybrids face as they attempt to integrate traditionally separate organisational models. The study reviews four major challenges for integrating hybrid organisations: managing the legal structure; issues with financing; the 'customer' / 'beneficiary' dichotomy; and organisational culture and talent development. The study suggests that the hybridisation movement will be slow and gradual, as existing organisations are already embedded in models and stakeholder networks that constrain major strategic change. For full hybridisation to occur, for-profit and non-profit organisations and hybrid entrepreneurs need resources that align with their goal of creating both social and economic value. For more information see www.ssirreview.org

Marks and Spencer’s emerging business case for sustainabilityND


Leslie Brokaw, Sloan Review, 13 July 2012

Five years ago, the UK retailer Marks and Spencer announced what it called Plan A, a commitment to tangible steps to make the company more sustainable. The company’s new 56-page “How We Do Business Report 2012" document details what the company has achieved in the past five years. Of its goals, the company has achieved 138 of its 180 commitments, with 30 ‘on plan’, 6 ‘behind plan’ and 6 ‘not achieved,’ according to the report. Highlights listed include: developing a convincing case for business sustainability, engaging suppliers in the plan, developing a sustainability template for expansion, becoming carbon neutral and the integration of sustainability into reporting. For more information see www.sloanreview.mit.edu

MPs call for statutory lobbying register plans to be scrappedND


Matt Cartmell, PRWeek, 13 July 2012

In the UK, the political and constitutional reform committee published a report critical of the government’s plans, which exclude in-house lobbyists. The committee stated that the consultation paper is ‘lacking in clear intent’, and ‘only scratches the surface’ when it comes to tackling public concern about undue access and influence over policy making. There were also recommendation for the government to improve the level of detail in meeting disclosures, so that the actual topic of a meeting is disclosed rather than terms like ‘general discussion’. For more information see www.prweek.com

A pact with the devil? The challenges of partnering with the extractive industryND


Will Henley, The Guardian, 11 July 2012

In the eyes of many, working with an extractive company is one of the most controversial things an NGO can do. The WWF distinguishes between subsectors. While it will refuse money from oil or gas, it is less rigid on certain types of mining. People need to recognise that many resources dug out of the ground such as ‘infinitely recyclable’ aluminium are not that bad, according to Patrick Laine, director of corporate partnerships at WWF UK. Laine insists that ‘there are projects that everyone should turn down’, adding that the right to criticise and full disclosure of the financial relationship will be two of the most important facets in any partnership it embarks upon. However there is now the growing belief that whatever the natural antipathy between an NGO and an extractive, collaboration between the two needs to take place. For more information see www.theguardian.co.uk

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