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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:

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

Lack of measurement of Social Business Initiatives a Key IssueND


Leslie Brokaw, MIT Sloan Management Review, 9 July 2012

MIT Sloan Management Review’s recent survey on how companies use social business tools most frequently cite ‘a clear vision’ and ‘leadership’ as critical to adoption of social software. But on the other hand, the most common answer to the question ‘How do you measure social software use?’ is 'do not measure'. That suggests that an important resource is missing — measured results on just what, exactly, is going on in companies. The disconnect between the need for a clear vision and the lack of data to support it can mean that those who wish to step up their leadership in social collaboration don’t have the tools they might normally use to encourage action. Lack of management support is cited most frequently as the biggest barrier to adoption. For more information see www.sloanreview.mit.edu

Corporate social responsibility in Japan: family and non-family business differences and determinantsND


Bruno Amann et. al., Asian Business and Management, 7 July 2011

This article seeks to address two main questions: whether family and non-family businesses differ with their CSR policies, and what are the main determinants of CSR in Japan. This article addresses these differences and explores the main determinants of CSR in Japan, using a sample of 200 Japanese firms. In contrast with previous research, it was found that the characteristics of either family or non-family businesses do not influence CSR policies in general; however, when they do (for example, in human resources management), the influence is less strong for family businesses. It was also found that firm size and innovation inclination are explanatory factors for CSR, supporting prior research in contexts other than Japan. For more information see www.palgrave-journals.com/abm

Singapore: new code of corporate governance puts responsibility for sustainability in the board roomND


Erin Lyon, CSR Asia, 4 July 2012

In May 2012 the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) issued a revised Code of Corporate Governance. It is a set of principles of good corporate governance aimed at companies listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX). The Code adopts a principles-based approach in the sense that it provides general guidelines of best practice, in the same as governance in the UK. This contrasts with a rules-based approach (e.g. in the US) which rigidly defines exact provisions that must be adhered to. The main change in the revised code is the addition of the rule that companies must ‘consider sustainability issues, e.g. environmental and social factors, as part of its strategic formulation’. For more information see www.csrasia.com

Beyond McDonald’s CSR in China: corporation perspective and report from case studies on a damaged employment reputationND


Marc Valax, Asian Business and Management, 3 July 2011

This article analyses csr in the fast-food industry in China, with a focus on McDonald’s Corporation. The study addresses the following questions: how McDonald’s employer reputation and CSR campaigns in China develop; how they are expressed in a Chinese organisational context; and through what processes might a CSR approach improve employee performance and business success in the fast-food industry. The research illustrates significant differences in the values, attitudes and beliefs that managers and workers personally hold and what they encounter in the workplace. In China, McDonald’s has also faced the challenge of improving the perception of the career opportunities it offers and made efforts to undo the negative reputation of low paying jobs. The article explores theoretical implications and proposes some suggestions for improving CSR in fast-food management in China. The results show that improvements in business performance in this industry should be allied to real CSR. For more information see www.palgrave-journals.com/abm

CSR in China: domestic enterprises outshine MNCsND


CKGSB, Forbes, 3 July 2012

The Sichuan earthquake (May 2008) provides an example of rising community expectations of companies and the different approaches of local and multi-national companies. Initially, some MNC’s first donations did not surpass RMB 5 million (USD $790,000). Seeing this as paltry in light of the destruction inflicted by the earthquake, Chinese consumers started to boycott many of their products. On the other hand, Guangzhou-based JDB Group made a generous surprise donation of RMB 100 million for recovery efforts, and people immediately flooded online forums urging consumers to buy up Wong Lo Kat, a popular canned tea made by the company. This disaster forced foreign firms to increase the amount that they donate in order to keep up with community expectations. For more information see www.forbes.com

How to make the tax man pay for philanthropyND


Michael Bailey, BRW, 3 July 2012

Australia has created its 1000th private ancillary fund, a vehicle legislated 11 years ago to make philanthropic giving as tax-effective and efficient as possible. However, there is limited understanding of private ancillary funds, which is part of the reason Australia still lacks a philanthropic culture to rival that of the United States, according to funds managers. Gifts to charity in the US amounted to just over $US290 billion in 2010. This figure was $200 million in 2010 in Australia, well short of the $20 billion of charitable gifts we’d need to make to be as generous as Americans, based on the population difference. Cuffe argues that tax breaks for charitable donations explain this in part. For more information see www.brw.com.au

Lobbying regulation: a global viewND


Matt Cartmell, PRWeek, 21 June 2012

The UK lobbying industry is awaiting plans forta statutory register. PRWeek’s analysis of lobbying regulation shows that the main benefit of the EU system is that registering and signing the code of conduct allows lobbyists to get a parliamentary pass. This system is generally well liked by UK consultants. The US system is widely viewed as the most rule-bound and complicated system in the world, while it is argued that the UK has tended to work best through peer pressure. Australia's Lobbying Code of Conduct operates a relatively light-touch statutory register for consultants alone, rather than in-house lobbyists. For more information see www.prweek.com

No better time to get LinkedInND


Garry Browne, Business Spectator, 21 June 2012

There are a number of tips for using Linkedin that many business owners and executives may not be aware of. First, LinkedIn is highly optimised for search and a completed profile will rate as one of the highest results in an online search. This means that LinkedIn offers an opportunity for business owners to ensure those who do search for their company will see the information they want them to see first. Second, there’s a definite advantage in being one of the first in their sector or area to create a LinkedIn company page, as research conducted by LinkedIn has found that people generally don’t follow the LinkedIn pages of more than 2.5 companies per sector. Third, LinkedIn provides a unique recruitment opportunity with real ROI. Companies are able to segment their LinkedIn followers by a range of variables such as industry, seniority, job function, company size, non-company employees, and geography. For more information see www.businessspectator.com

Sustainability-focused companies outperform their peersND


Mara Chiorean, CSR Asia, 13 June 2012

A recent Harvard Business School study shows that sustainability-focused companies outperform their peers. According to the data, investing $1 in the beginning of 1993 in a portfolio of High Sustainability firms would have grown to $22.6 by the end of 2010. In contrast, investing $1 in the beginning of 1993 in a portfolio of Low Sustainability firms would have only grown to $15.4 by the end of 2010. High Sustainability firms also perform better when considering return-on-equity (ROE) and return-on-assets (ROA). This performance differential may be explained by the fact that companies with a strong sustainability culture are able to attract the best talent, establish reliable supply chains, avoid risk related to boycotts and community conflicts, and use innovation as a way to gain competitive advantage. For more information see www.csrasia.com

Untapped talentND


The Economist, 7 June 2012

A recent McKinsey report has demonstrated that employment of women in upper management and company board positions in Asia is lagging far behind the West. One reason for this is because there are less women in the formal Asian workforce, which also reflects wider gender disparities in levels of education. Despite these statistics, reports indicate that Asian managers don’t tend to see gender disparity as a priority. This perhaps presents an opportunity for firms that are willing to recruit women in upper level positions – as it is makes it easier to recruit qualified women. A 2011 study has however indicated that one third of Asian executives are worried about their ability to recruit and retain qualified staff in the next two years – a concern that could possibly lead to greater employment of women in upper level positions. For more information see www.economist.com

Social Business: what are companies really doing?ND


David Kiron et. al., MIT Sloan Management Review, May 30 2012

MIT Sloan Management Review recently conducted the 2012 Social Business Global Executive Study and Research Project. Some of the key findings are: managers surveyed believe that social software will become increasingly important to their organisations during the next few years; most respondents believe that successful social business activities require leadership but acknowledge that their organisations are not measuring social software use; by using social tools, small companies are demonstrating that they can appear larger than their actual size while large companies can appear less like corporate behemoths; and energy and utilities, manufacturing and the financial services sectors expect that social business will become five to six times more important to their organisations in three years. For more information see www.sloanreview.mit.edu

Microsoft is going carbon neutralND


Matthew Guenther, CSR Asia, 23 May 2012

Microsoft announced plans to implement a carbon management plan that will reduce the company’s greenhouse gas emissions to zero by the end of fiscal year 2013. Microsoft will introduce an internal price on carbon that is equal to current market rates. Two other companies with a carbon neutral commitment are HSBC and News Corporation. Both have achieved this through the purchase of carbon offsets. What makes Microsoft’s approach different is that it places the burden of responsibility to reduce carbon emissions on each of its business units. Through an extensive and detailed carbon management system, developed by CarbonSystems, Microsoft will hold each of its business units accountable for every metric tonne of carbon emitted. At the end of the fiscal year every business unit will be required to pay for the carbon it emits. The money will go towards a global pot that Microsoft will use to purchase carbon credits or renewable energy credits. For more information see www.csr-asia.com

CEOs who delivered the most and least bang for the buckND


Joan S. Lublin and Dana Mattioli, Wall Street Journal, 21 May 2012

A Wall Street Journal analysis of compensation data for 300 top U.S. companies assembled by Hay Group found that while pay generally tracked performance last year, some CEOs delivered far more bang for the buck when it came to shareholder returns. One company that saw its shareholders realise much bigger gains than their CEO in 2011 was Oneok Inc, where shareholders saw a total return of 61 per cent for the year, while the CEO’s pay rose just 22 per cent. On the other hand, many companies saw total compensation for their CEOs in 2011 rise significantly more than the return on their shareholders' investment for the year. CEO pay gains that march too far ahead of shareholder returns have become an issue in now-mandatory "say on pay" votes that let investors express a non-binding opinion on a company's executive compensation policies. The Journal's analysis is a reminder that pay-for-performance, while gaining traction, remains patchy. For more information see www.wsj.com

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