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:

Signs of widespread worker action in ChinaND


Justine Lau and Patti Waldmeir, Financial Times, 10 June 2010

Labour protests in China are becoming more widespread and coordinated than previously imagined. Workers are using mobile phones and instant messaging services to communicate, comparing wages and working conditions throughout the country to bargain with their employers. Although the protests originated in smaller companies, and were quickly resolved, they are now spreading to multinationals such as Foxconn and Honda, raising concerns for rising costs. Workers tend to strike before public holidays, recognising that this gives them better bargaining power. For more information see www.ft.com

A good name is pricelessND


Sarah Murray, Financial Times, 7 June 2010

Although the financial crisis and the BP oil spill have shaken public confidence in the ability of businesses to act responsibly, companies continue to recognise the value of building a strong corporate reputation. Trends from the BITC awards reveal that companies are investing particularly in increasing their carbon efficiency, securing employee wellbeing, and working towards the MDGs, with such actions bringing significant financial benefits such as differentiation from competitors and increased customer loyalty. The value of a socially and ecologically aware reputation is however questioned in the context of large scale disasters, with reference made to BP and the Gulf oil spill. For more information see www.ft.com

Leadership in an age of austerity ND


Stephen Howard, Financial Times, 7 June 2010

Business are coming under increased scrutiny both from the public and from their employees in recent times, with the public experiencing a lack of trust in businesses and employees fearing job cuts and a lowering of wages. Strong and visible leadership in this period will be crucial to survival, with a majority of business leaders recognising this. The importance of being environmentally and social aware is also being recognised by business leaders, with the role of CSR changing from being that of an add-on to becoming a high priority for businesses. Recent research has demonstrated the continued financial benefits of companies engaging in CSR activities. For more information see www.ft.com

BP buys 'oil' search terms to redirect users to official company websiteND


Emily Friedman, ABC News, 5 June 2010

BP has purchased several key search phrases on major search engines. These important links connect the user to web pages containing information presented by BP and their communication team. Some claims are that this is not the best strategy for BP to control which information is accessible to the public. Yet generally this is seen as a great move since it is a proactive approach for the company to manage its brand image. It also allows BP to present its information above general news publications. Keyword purchases are quite small in comparison to clean up costs yet they are very important tools in the new media communication environment. For more information see www.abcnews.go.com

Charitable benefits are a good motivatorND


Jennifer Paterson, Employee Benefits, 1 June 2010

Charitable causes can be used to support organisation-wide strategies as well as serving their traditional roles of attracting and retaining staff, in addition to improving motivation and commitment within the organisation. An increasingly attractive option is payroll giving, yet these systems are only effective if they are constantly catered towards employee needs and interests. Employees like ‘giving’ in many different ways other than the traditional money approaches. A survey of employees revealed that 97% felt it was important for the employer to support volunteering on company time. For more information see www.employeebenefits.co.uk

Spillonomics: Underestimating risksND


David Leonhardt, The New York Times, 31 May 2010

BP executives underestimated the likelihood of explosion at the Deepwater Horizon rig, and as such underestimated both the financial costs and the costs to their company’s reputation. Government legislation passed in the wake of the Exxon Valdez spill, which capped a spiller’s liability at $75 million for a rig spill, may have contributed to BP underestimating the costs of a potential spill. Possible consequences of this spill could be more stringent legislation, including the lifting of the liability cap, and the reluctance of lenders to lend credit to Washington. The environmental impact of greenhouse gas emissions from the rig, even when functional, is also noted. For more information see www.nytimes.com

What can businesses learn from Thailand’s turmoil? ND


Leena Wokeck and Alyson Slater,CSR Asia, 26 May 2010

The recent crisis in Thailand has long-term implications for businesses. The damage has been done to international confidence in Thailand, a key driver for investment, trade and tourism. Thailand’s situation demonstrates how inequality and social destabilisation can bring about substantial business risk and losses. Businesses must find ways to play a role in sustainable poverty alleviation and contribute to greater socio-economic equality and stability. While risk assessments are regular tools used by companies, it is interesting to note that not many companies include social cohesion as a consideration. For more information see www.csr-asia.com

Companies fail to engage consumers on environmental and social issuesND


CSR Wire, 19 May 2010

Companies are not effectively engaging consumers on environmental practices and products. While consumers are willing to dedicate time and money to help businesses, companies are not meeting this commitment reciprocally. This signals a serious lost opportunity on behalf of companies. A large percentage of customers also want to be updated about improvements in products and services. An open and collaborative line of communication by companies can have significant advantages. For more information see www.csrwire.com

Integration of corporate responsibility in Australia and New ZealandND


ProBono News, 19 May 2010

A new research paper from the Centre for Social Impact at the University of NSW shows that corporate responsibility is, on the whole, well integrated into the way that leading companies in Australia and New Zealand are doing business. This is confirmed by company approaches to leadership and governance as well as management practices. However, few companies incorporate a comprehensive measurement framework in Corporate Responsibility reporting by identifying key performance data and changing their progress against targets. For more information see www.probonoaustralia.com.au

Risk returnsND


Alison Kahler, AFR BOSS, 14 May 2010

Risk management has undergone a major change because businesses realise that unexpected events can damage business. Risk managers have experienced a growth in influence on senior executive boards. While the top 200 ASX companies have the key aspects for successful risk management in place, not all risk plans are created equally. Scenario planning and successful adaptation for catastrophic events is essential. The role of the risk manager involves developing a culture that takes risk management into consideration during daily decisions. For more information see www.afrboss.com.au

The workplace of the futureND


Catherine Fox, AFR BOSS, 14 May 2010

By 2020, there are five major global forces that will fundamentally re-shape the way we work: technology, demography, society, low carbon and globalisation. Flexible working conditions are becoming more commonplace and teams that do not see each other constantly undertake projects. Technology is a mixed blessing since it benefits working productively yet also provides distractions and increases the amount of workload. The future of work is collaborative, where more coaching and mentoring are important rather than rating individuals. In addition to this people continue to work for longer after they ‘age’ which has both become a necessity and a desire by younger generations. For more information see www.afrboss.com.au

China’s listed polluters made public ND


Olivia Chung, Asia Times Online, 17 April 2010

Chinese citizens are protesting against companies committing gross environmental violations, whose effects have rendered the a large percentage of their water supply poisoned, as well as causing large amounts of air pollution. Pressure is being directed at the Hong-Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEx), who runs the local stock exchange, to amend listing rules to promote more environmental disclosure by locally listed companies operating on the mainland. Hong Kong-listed companies have been responsible for approximately 750 environmental violations as of March 2010; subsequently there are hopes that the HKEx will enhance transparency and thus accountability for companies operating on the mainland. For more information see www.atimes.com

Business as the engine for social change ND


Mindy S. Lubber, McKinsey Quarterly, 13 April 2010

Social entrepreneurs work with companies and investors to transform vision into integrated sustainability. The best performing companies in the future will be those that step forward and initiate change. Sustainability needs to be integrated across the whole business model. This will soon become the new business environment norm; aligning business models with investment strategies and investor practices that will allow successful companies to advance over their competitors. For more information see www.mckinsey.com

Fresh approach to business advocacy ND


Natalie Toohey, Australian Financial Review, 22 March 2010

Today’s prevailing anti-corporate culture poses many obstacles for business associations; as ministers and the public reject their self-interested philosophies and businesses feel less incentive for joining in collective activity, preferring to engage with more nuanced and credible positions privately. Business groups should critically review their structures and strategies so that they contribute positively to policy outcomes, and readdress their current lack of credibility and effectiveness. For more information see www.afr.com

Big brands can be inept at defusing blog storms over recalls ND


Bernhard Warner, The Washington Post, 7 March 2010

Big brands must be prepared to respond to concerned consumer and media groups as product recall hysteria continues to sweep the US. Traditional issues management approaches, such as hiring professional spokespeople, media coaching executives or remaining silent on an issue are no longer effective in the age of social media and online activism. Companies must use their existing online channels to speak with and respond to their stakeholders. For more information see www.washingtonpost.com

Managing reputation in New Zealand ND


Senate Communication Council, 5 March 2010

A survey by the Senate and Baseline Consultancy have conducted a review of how reputation is regarded and managed by companies in New Zealand, finding that 92 per cent of business executives considered reputation a prime business asset. The report provides 10 recommendations for companies, focusing on investing, researching and insuring their reputation, approaches to strategic communication and media strategies, and monitoring competition and the external environment. For more information see www.senatecommunications.co.nz

Poverty alleviation as a CSR activityND


Edward Probir Mondol, Financial Express, 4 March 2010

Companies need to adjust their social performance indicators to recognise the unique needs of the developing world. CSR remains too focused on ‘development’, and too little on helping poor or marginalised people in countries such as Bangladesh, where poverty alleviation initiatives offer the best solution to existing social problems. Companies can apply the UN’s Millennium Development goal to reduce global poverty by helping people meet basic needs in housing, food, education, employment and health. For more information see www.financialexpress.com

Car makers find ‘safety in numbers' with recallsND


Barrie McKenna, The Globe and Mail, 3 March 2010

Toyota’s safety crisis poses both positive and negative effects for the automotive industry. Management experts believe that Toyota’s plight has created ‘safety in numbers’ for other companies to come clean about defects. Yet the Toyota’s recalls, in addition to over zealous recalls by other companies (such as GM) for minor defects or those occurring after warrantee, have roused calls for tighter regulations, which may stifle innovation within the industry. For more information see www.theglobeandmail.com

CR announces 100 best corporate citizens listND


Corporate Responsibility Magazine, 03 March 2010

The 2010 list of best corporate citizens list ranks HP, Intel, GM, IBM, Kimberly Clarke, Abbot Labs, Bristol-Myers, Coca-Cola, gap and Hess Corp in the top ten. Companies were assessed using publicly available information relating to the areas of Environment, Climate Change, Human Rights, Philanthropy, Employee Relations, Financial Performance, and Governance. Some companies were issued ‘yellow cards’ for pending legal action or investigation, while one was eliminated for proven illegal activities. For more information see www.thecro.com

Scrutiny of firms in China mountsND


Dan Levin, International Herald Tribune, 2 March 2010

US companies doing business in China are under scrutiny, following Google’s move to resist the government’s demands on censorship. Thirty IT companies including Amazon, Apple, eBay and Verizon have been summoned to a hearing on global internet freedom in US. So far, Microsoft, Yahoo and Google, have voluntarily signed onto the Global Network Initiatives’ code of conduct, which offers members’ evaluation and accountability mechanisms to judge and encourage responsible practice. For more information see www.global.nytimes.com

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