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:

Sure ways to tackle uncertainty in tough timesND


Neal Hartman, Financial Times, 5 February 2009

Hartman, who lectures in behavioural and policy sciences at Sloan School of Management, MIT says that in uncertain business environments, it is even more important to communicate ‘clearly, consistently and honestly’. Managers need to share information and communicate that uncertainty brings new possibilities. Managers also need to display their values and beliefs, and ‘display behaviour that brings about a sense of trust and credibility’. This article also focuses on the value of planning, including looking outside the company, undertaking scenario analysis and addressing stakeholder issues. For more information, see www.ft.com

Time for capitalism to adapt or departND


Bradley Googins, Center for Corporate Citizenship, 5 February 2009

Googins suggests that the darker unforeseen consequences from the current economic crisis - growing inequality, poverty, environmental degradation, loose regulation and corruption - requires us to re-examine the fundamental principles of capitalism. A new model with increased external governance mechanisms by the state, and shifting internal perspectives towards transparency, accountability and stakeholder relationships over the single metric of profit, are envisioned for future business. For more information, see www.bccc.net

Challenges of Chinese philanthropyND


Else Chen, CSR Asia, 4 February 2009

Currently, Chinese businesses perceive CSR as simply philanthropic activities conducted under a moral responsibility to do so, in contrast to the western understanding of corporate citizenship, which entwines business and social values for strategic community investment. While local businesses apply a short-term, overly simplistic and self-interested perspective, MNEs are prevented from engaging in meaningful investment due to a plethora of accountability and transparency challenges, an insufficient talent pool, fickle laws and selective tax concession issues. For more information, see www.csr-asia.com

Supplier payment ethics – the cost of squeezing suppliersND


Rajesh Chhabara, Ethical Corporation, 3 February 2009

In a downturn, some large companies look to cut supply costs and extend supplier terms of payment, with many smaller suppliers feeling the pressure. UK companies Tesco and Alliance Boots are just two companies that have extended payment terms for their suppliers. This article argues that the downturn ‘is an opportunity for responsible companies to test their principles of ethical behaviour’ and an opportunity to improve their reputation and strengthen their supply chain. They should be open and fair with suppliers. Many companies have signed up to responsible business practices, including from the UK’s Better Payment Practice Campaign and Prompt Payment Code. For more information on responsible payment practices, see www.ethicalcorporation.com

Lobbying for goodND


Kyle Peterson & Marc Pfizer, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Feb 2009

Corporations should apply their special political skills and resources to lobby for non-profit socially good causes. It is argued that the most effective CSR lobbying initiatives, benefiting both business and society, are ones that reflect a company’s core business. Corporate advocacy may target both domestic and international laws, and help to reduce negative value chain impacts, create more favourable operating environments, improve local workforce issues as well as build better relationships with government. For more information see www.ssireview.org

Charity must not become the casualty of the recessionND


Richard Branson, Telegraph, 29 January 2009

Not-for-profit organisations are expecting a fall in corporate and individual funding, however Richard Branson argues the economic crisis ‘presents an opportunity for leaders and businesses to develop new partnerships, smarter giving techniques and a more effective use of resources.’ Branson provides the example of Virgin’s foundation which works with partners to address issues such as preventable diseases and climate change. He believes a move away from a donor relationship to a ‘true partnership’ will create ‘the right spirit of collaboration’ which will ensure ‘a more equitable and healthier world for a far lower price tag.’ For more information, see www.telegraph.co.uk

How to talk your way through a downturnND


Paul Argenti, Financial Times, 29 January 2009

Professor Argenti’s article provides tips on communicating to stakeholders in a downturn. He argues that during a downturn, ‘a crisp and transparent communication strategy can set a company apart from the competition by fortifying employee relationships, showcasing superior client/customer focus, and strengthening a company’s reputation for transparency, reliability and integrity with members of the wider public’. Argenti’s core guidelines include: do not hide, gather relevant information and stick to your story, communicate early and often, centralise communications, get inside the media’s head, choose communication channels thoughtfully, communicate directly with affected constituencies, keep the business running, and keep values and character centre-stage. For more information, see www.ft.com

How to restore trust in businessND


Richard Edelman, Financial Times, 27 January 2009

Reflecting on research findings of a sharp drop in consumer trust of companies and their desire for tougher regulations on business, Edelman advises that businesses use public engagement to win back their stakeholders. Public engagement involves the four pillars of private-sector diplomacy, mutual social responsibility, shared sacrifice, and repeated, swift and accountable communications, and should always be underpinned by the key principle of transparency. For more information, see www.ft.com

Trying to integrate corporate citizenship? Consider competency modelsND


Sylvia Kinnicutt, Center for Corporate Citizenship, 23 January 2009

Kinnicutt advocates that corporate citizenship should incorporate itself into competency, which are increasingly used by business to guide planing and support strategy. Three observations drive this recommendation; competencies are increasingly used and developed by business, they are a proven tool for supporting organisational change, and that such existing learning structures and competency frameworks will facilitate easy adoption of corporate citizenship principles. For more information, see www.bccc.net

US bid to help the ‘Made in China’ brandND


Benjamin Shobert, Asia Times, 21 January 2009

Shobert argues that the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) move to open offices in China will only serve to symbolically reassure US consumers and pressure Beijing to improve the quality of its products. Foreign powers’ limited capabilities to enforce regulation and inspect domestic facilities, in addition to the fact that quality problems are predominantly supply chain issues, mean that a fixation on China is not the solution. Shobert concludes that the only solution to product quality lies in robust self-policing efforts by Beijing. For more information see www.atimes.com

Polls reveal mixed feelings about MNCsND


Liu Jie, China Business Weekly, 19 January 2009

An online poll finds that Chinese consumers are gaining more trust in multinationals. While 60 percent of respondents believed that CSR programs by foreign companies benefit Chinese society, 40 percent perceived CSR as mandatory policies taken in order to save face or evade taxes. The results demonstrate both a more reasonable assessment of multinationals by Chinese consumers as well as their sensitivity to issues on state politics and national sovereignty. For more information, see www.chinadaily.com.cn

Structure and strategies: Profile of the practice 2008ND


Peggy Connolly, Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, 18 January 2009

This Center report reveals that while the management of a company’s social role is becoming a formal part of the business structure and strategy, there remains a lack of consensus regarding the identity, position and role of corporate citizenship within the firm. Companies with strong citizenship performances are those that internalise citizenship values, incorporating them into existing organisation structures and management mechanisms. For more information see www.bcccc.net

Microsoft launches a policy blogND


Aarti Shah, PRWeek US, 16 January 2009

Targeting public affairs and other related stakeholder groups within and related to the technology industry, Microsoft’s ‘On the Issues’ blog seeks to engage global public policy debates on technology issues. The company believes that the blog will provide a platform for voicing its perspectives on public issues. For more information, see www.prweekus.com

Next benefit to face the ax: matching giftsND


Shelly Banjo, Wall Street Journal, 14 January 2009

Many US companies are reported to be cutting back on their matched giving programs, under which corporate funds are donated according to donations from employees or the number hours volunteered by employee. Non-profit organisations in communities where companies are hardest hit by the recession are expecting to feel the effects of lower contributions. Likewise, increased mergers between financial institutions will result in decreased funding for corporate giving programs. Not all companies are cutting their matched giving programs however. GE has announced it will double its matching program for certain organisations. For some companies, it is a chance to realign their programs to focus on those hardest hit by the downturn. For more information see www.online.wsj.com

Surviving ‘India’s Enron’ND


Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, Far Eastern Economic Review, 14 January 2009

India’s fourth largest IT company, and one reputed for its strong performance has been accused of falsifying corporate figures. This article argues that the Satyam scandal should prompt scrutiny of current corporate governance regulations, the government’s response in addressing the highlighted shortcomings, and analyse the reasons behind the Satyam’s actions. Such reflections are needed as India seeks to move from traditional business practices to professional management models, and particularly as foreign investment into India comes predominantly through stock purchases. For more information see www.feer.com

Rating corporate good citizensND


Shanghai Daily, 13 January 2009

The Shanghai National Accounting Institute (SNAI) has created an index for measuring the CSR performance of businesses on the Chinese stock markets. While the calculations are based on international standards, their accuracy is questionable due a lack of disclosure by some Chinese businesses. Additionally, the Shanghai Stock Exchange has introduced a social contribution indicator. It is hoped that such measures will encourage more transparency and CSR behaviour. For more information see www.shanghaidaily.com

Chance for social enterprise to be more enterprisingND


Mark Barber, The Times, 9 January 2009

It is observed that most social enterprises (SEs) in the UK operate as small businesses, and thus lack the credibly and are ill equipped to take on public sector contracts. Accordingly, the UK government is proposing a financial loan program to help SEs build their profile and capabilities. The Social Return on Investment Project provides a standard framework for measuring social value, enabling SEs to prove their worth and social investors to make rational purchasing decisions. For more information see www.business.timesonline.co.ok

India socially more responsibleND


Dayananda Meitei, DNA (India), 9 January 2009

A study by Pennsylvania State University has revealed that American consumers attribute profit for shareholders, ethical business practices, public and consumer welfare to CSR related activities, while Indian counterparts considered employment for the needy and poverty alleviation. According to the article, the study also finds that 93% of Indian consumers, compared to only 53% in the US are aware of CSR. For more information see www.dnaindia.com

Measuring the impact of corporate citizenship ND


Jason Saul, Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, 9 January 2009

In Jason Saul’s recent blog entry, he states that producing measured results that are aligned to business outcomes is the best way to demonstrate the business value of social impact activities. Saul suggests that corporate citizenship departments should start focusing on outcomes rather than programs, shift from the post-hoc focus of program evaluation to pre-hoc measuring practices, move from compliance reporting, which is based on the need of others, to performance reporting, and define the outcomes for success by engaging with key stakeholders. For more information see http://blogs.bcccc.net

Gujarat’s new industrial policy makes CSR optionalND


Asia Pulse, 5 January 2009

The new Industrial Policy titled ‘Wealth for Social Health’, by the Indian Ministry of State for Industries allows for flexible arrangements for CSR activities. The policy refrains from imposing mandatory contribution requirements on private entities for CSR programs, as with for state-run public enterprises. Instead, the new framework seeks to support optional initiatives between the state and businesses at the district level. For more information see www.asiapulse.com

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