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:

Hard times may make nicer firms good betsND


Anna Stablum, Reuters, 9 December 2008

It is argued that CSR concerns such as climate change and social issues will remain relevant to businesses, irrespective of any immediate macro economic circumstances, and are a good indication of companies’ long-term sustainability. Considering the recent economic turmoil, investors are urged to include social, moral, ethical and environmental considerations when measuring performance and focus on long-term value over short to medium term gains. For more information see www.reuters.com

A look at changing worker expectationsND


Anjali Prayag, The Hindu Business Line, 8 December 2008

The article presents findings from a study on the criteria used by university graduates for evaluating and selecting a company for a career. The findings on future workforce expectations reveal that company image and reputation, as well as active CSR initiatives and volunteering work opportunities were the most influential factors. The results may prove useful for companies when developing strategies for attracting talent. For more information see www.thehindubusinessline.com

The future of corporate philanthropy ND


Alyson Warhurst, Business Week, 8 December 2008

The author predicts that a tighter economic climate will lead to a decline in corporate CSR activities that are based on philanthropic donations, and advocates for more strategic, business-orientated investments instead. Socially responsible activities help companies to manage their long-term risks, responsibilities and reputations and should be aligned with bottom line objectives in order to be sustainable. Partnerships with NGOs and supporting sophisticated development programs are seen as being more effective in delivering pragmatic solutions and real outcomes. For more information see www.businessweek.com

Anti-corruption — getting rid of graftND


Rajesh Chhabara, Ethical Corporation, 5 December 2008

According to the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, Asian countries remain the most corrupt in the world. Asian multinationals are not required to comply with anti-corruption laws like their counterparts in Europe and the US and often resort to bribery in order to shape policies and regulations. While many Asian companies have signed up to the UN Global Compact, the program does not have a mechanism to enforce compliance to anti-corruption pledges. While some companies are starting to develop anti-corruption policies, business leaders confirm that only strong political will is effective to make the change. For more information see www.ethicalcorp.com

Time off for good behaviourND


Sarah Needleman, The Wall Street Journal, 2 December 2008

Even though many US companies may not have formal volunteering programs, they are generally very flexible in supporting their employees’ volunteer efforts. This is particularly true during bad economic times, as the costs of supporting volunteering are low while the benefits (such as enhancing a company’s image, improving recruitment and retention) are substantial. Many US companies are working with matching not-for-profits to provide volunteer opportunities. For more information, see www.wsj.com

Clarity is crucialND


Martin Wolf, Financial Times, 1 December 2008

It is argued that a consistent global policy framework is required to tackle the climate change problem. Despite unequal starting points, developing nations must commit to emissions reduction with their western counterparts and should be encouraged to do so through rewards systems that pay for positive results. Policy must co-ordinate regulatory standards and subsidise the development of new technologies rather than simply impose carbon prices and taxes. For more information see www.ft.com

The heat is on ND


Fiona Harvey, Financial Times, 1 December 2008

US and European businesses appear to be less supportive of costly carbon reductions policies during tough economic times. Business groups fear that mandatory carbon emissions systems will generate inequality and decrease their competitiveness in the global market. However policy makers suggest that a greening revolution may create new economic opportunities and ‘green collar’ jobs. Harvey stresses that the long-term environmental benefits of green growth far outweighs short-term savings gained from maintaining the current high emissions economy. For more information see www.ft.com

Upside of a downturnND


Fiona Harvey, Financial Times, 1 December 2008

As governments prepare stimulus packages to reinvigorate their receding economies, incentives should be provided to encourage investments contributing to reducing carbon emissions. Stimulus packages should discourage business from old methods value short-term gain and quick fixes. Instead, lower labour costs could be tapped into to drive more sustainable and long-term ‘green growth’ projects during the current economic slump. For more information see www.ft.com

Reworking the CSR conceptND


Mike Chiam, New Sunday Times (Malaysia), 30 November 2008

The author reflects on the ISO 26000’s proposed SR (social responsibly) standard guidelines and their impact on Malaysian businesses. SR performance will be judged according to broader issues that concern additional stakeholders such as the government, labour unions, NGOs, consumers, researchers and the academia. While the standards will be voluntary, it is argued that businesses must align their values with international standards in order to increase their global competitiveness. Even small business will be affected due to their part in the global supply chain. For more information see www.nstp.com

Why CSR reporting is broken – and how it should be fixedND


Mallen Baker, Ethical Corporation, 28 November 2008

Mallen Baker argues that many corporate CSR reports talk about the ‘how of reporting, not the what of reporting’ – ie cover targets, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines and assurance but don’t actually talk about a company’s social, environmental or economic performance. Cadbury provides an example of an innovative reporting approach as it has a web-based report that it written in a clear, straightforward manner. They no longer have independent assurance ‘because it costs a lot of money and it is by no means clear what value the different audiences actually place on it’. Mallen Baker also argues that the GRI is ‘a negotiated compromise for a framework’ that is not suitable for an increasingly dynamic environment where multi-stakeholder considerations need to be taken into account. For more information, see www.ethicalcorp.com or www.mallenbaker.net

Code of good conductND


Jane Lindhe, Business Review Weekly, 27 November 2008

Companies with positive and creative office cultures have higher productivity and staff retention rates. While large businesses are able to provide employees with enhanced benefits and free perks, simple technologies such as wikis and social networking sites are cost effective means to encourage feedback, build corporate culture and attract new clients. Providing creative outlets for employees through events, excursions and entertainment opportunities are also attributed to improved staff commitment. For more information see www.brw.com.au

Big players scale back charitable donationsND


Mike Spector and Shelly Banjo, The Wall Street Journal, 25 November 2008

US non-profit organisations face an uncertain future as companies cut back on charitable donations in tough financial times. While most major companies intend to fulfil existing pledges through budget cutting or borrowing, corporate philanthropy for new and future projects is expected to decrease. Foundation endowments have fallen around 30 percent since last October and it is predicted that many will inevitably fail due to falling revenues. For more information see www.onine.wsj.com

China: ADB supports expanded role of civil society in China poverty reductionND


Asian Development Bank, 24 November 2008

The Asian Development Bank will provide a technical assistance grant to help the People’s Republic of China develop its civil society sector. The new programs will develop institutional frameworks, improve long term sustainability and self-development capacities and introduce an open charitable fund. Various nongovernmental, CSR and individual volunteers groups will be tapped into and coordinated with state supported anti-poverty programs. For more information see www.adb.org

Only 30 per cent of Singapore firms aware of corporate social responsibility ND


Channel NewsAsia, 20 November 2008

The government is advocating that small and medium enterprises adopt CSR practices following a survey by the Ministry of Trade and Industry that only 30 per cent are aware of CSR. Small businesses should follow the examples set by multinationals such as Microsoft, Intel and Shell who have incorporated CSR into their core business values. Recent tough financial times are seen as the perfect opportunity to invest in CSR programs in order to build relationships and trust with internal and external stakeholders. For more information see www.channelnewsasia.com

10 most ‘accountable’ big companiesND


Fortune, 10 November 2008

Fortune’s latest social responsibility rankings has rewarded some of the world's 100 largest corporations for their environmental achievements such as reducing carbon emissions, improving energy efficiency, investing in eco-friendly products, and proactive research into renewable energies and innovation. Others in the top 10 were recognised for their transparent reporting, upholding past CSR commitments despite tough economic times and ensuring good working conditions throughout the supply chain. Vodafone was awarded the top position, followed by GE, HSBC, France Telecom, HBOS, Nokia, Electricity de France, Suez, BP and Royal Dutch Shell. For more information see www. money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune

A matter of principlesND


Domini Stuart, Company Director, 8 November 2008

The executive director of the St James Ethic Centre agues against a ‘box ticking’ approach to the ASX Governance Guidelines. While a standard model assists honest companies to adopt ethical practices, it may not be appropriate for all business situations. An overly prescriptive approach may also allow companies to justify unethical behaviours by exploiting loopholes and exceptions. Instead, encouraging people to make active choices based on the ethical principles better equips companies for responding to rapidly changing business environments. For more information see www.companydirectors.com.au

Preparing for success in carbon constrained economyND


Chris Park, The CRO, 5 November 2008

Businesses should respond to the challenges of the carbon-constrained economy by preparing to minimise their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Developing carbon conscious business systems should offset the potential risks from a tightening compliance and regulatory environment, while enhancing the potential benefits of reduced energy costs, added market share and new investment opportunities such as carbon trading. For more information see www.thecro.com

We need sustainable capitalism ND


Al Gore and David Blood, The Wall Street Journal, 5 November 2008

The authors advocate for a ‘sustainable capitalism’ philosophy based on long-term investment and sustainability considerations in business decisions. Sustainability is predicted to become the primary driver of economic and industrial change over the next 25 years. Business sustainability is considered the key for overcoming the current concerns of economic recession, energy insecurity and climate change. For more information see www.wsj.com

Doing good, and not so badlyND


Sam Mamudi, The Wall Street Journal, 2 November 2008

Socially responsible funds have invested in stocks that have out-performed the Dow Jones Average benchmark. Proponents articulate that socially responsible investing gauges factors such as corporate governance performance, requiring a tighter screening process and deeper analysis. Good social and moral values reflect good management practices and will ultimately generate positive investment returns. For more information see www.online.wsj.com

Beyond CSRND


Christine Bader, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2008

It is argued that companies should look beyond CSR and consider the human rights implications of their global operations as well. The Universal Declaration provides a framework for international standards for human rights and should be used to develop company policies. Initiatives such as the U.N. Global Compact, the Business Leaders on Human Rights and the resources industries’ use of Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIAs) attest to the increasing importance of human rights considerations for business. Human Rights Impacts Assessments (HRIA) are increasingly being used to evaluate the long-term effects of violations and build policies to minimise risks accordingly. For more information see www.ssireview.org

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