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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:

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

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 or

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

The green equationND

Kate Burgess, Business Review Weekly, 30 October 2008

Business’ sustainability reports must provide more selective, targeted and quantifiable information given carbon price and emissions trading concerns. Kate Burgess argues that non-financial data should be aligned with business objectives, acting as a supporting component of the business model rather than as a separate entity. For more information see

The state of CSR disclosure in Asia 2008 ND

CSR Asia Business Barometer, October 2008

The research report indicates that companies in Hong Kong are performing best in CSR disclosure, followed by their counterparts in Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore in that order. Overall, companies scored best in disclosing business codes and policies and worst on indications on workplace and people. The results indicate that there is no correlation between business size and CSR rankings, speculating that it is strategy rather than size that effectively delivers sustainable business models. While a handful of companies are progressively improving transparency and business responsibility, the report calls for all companies within the region to vastly improve their existing CSR reporting practices. For more information see

Financial crisis: Social investment — Crunch time for ethical investing ND

Jon Entine, Ethical Corporation, 28 October 2008

The recent financial crisis has been attributed by some as a result of businesses failing to maintain transparent and accountable standards. The authors of this article argue that in the past, ethical investors have prioritised social and environmental issues and neglected key governance and business concerns. The SRI community must acknowledge and balance primary business concerns such as wealth management and job creation, along with social and environmental responsibilities. For more information see

Reviled firms lead responsibility listND

Juliette Jowit, The Guardian, 28 October 2008

Some of the most commonly criticised companies in Europe have also been identified as the leaders in CSR reporting. Controversial companies such as those in the tobacco and petrol industries are taking the CR 2.0 approach by addressing the most complex issues facing their businesses. However, scepticism remains over the measures used to judge CSR performance. For more information see

Helping ‘green’ products growND

Sheila Bonni & Jeremy Oppenheim, The McKinsey Quarterly, October 2008

Consumer’s concerns for the environment do not appear to influence their ultimate purchasing behaviours. A lack of awareness, distrust in the quality and ‘green’ integrity, the costs as well as the efforts involved, deter consumers from buying eco-friendly products. Businesses must educate, promote and improve the quality of their ‘green’ products in order to help consumers change their purchasing behaviour. For more information see

Wal-Mart plans a crackdown on Chinese suppliers ND

Dexter Robers, Business Week, 24 October 2008

Following the recent product quality scandals in China, Wal-Mart will require its suppliers to certify compliance with environmental and labour laws in efforts to improve product standards. Auditing procedures in China are notoriously corrupt and lack transparency. Wal-Mart will expand its self-auditing measures and consolidate the number of its global suppliers in order to ensure compliance. For more information see

Microsoft sets the tone for topics and tracks at the 7th Asian Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility to be held in SingaporeND

ACN Newswire, 21 October 2008

Microsoft’s global CSR mission is to deliver technological benefits to the economically disadvantaged. By aligning technology, business and CSR work, Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential program has delivered results in education, innovations and employment. The company will be discussing this at the upcoming Asia Forum on CSR. For more information see

New media — Online reporting’s virtues and pitfalls ND

Kathee Rebernak, Ethical Corporation, 17 October 2008

Online sustainability reports are environmentally friendlier and have a broader reach than their printed versions. Publishing information online can also allow for more interactive data, increased readership engagement and feedback. Challenges arise in appropriately organising, presenting and prioritising information, however the trend for online reporting is set to continue. For more information see

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