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:

Business blogs onND


Kath Walters, Business Review Weekly, 22 February 2007

The value of corporate blogs is discussed in this article. Corporate blogs and other tools such as wikis have been found to foster communication between staff and leaders. They also act as vehicles for companies such as Dell and Telstra to debate and answer critics. Research companies have started to quantify the return on investment of corporate blogs using measures such as blog visibility (comparing page views a day to the cost of placing ads). For more information, see www.brw.com.au

Ethical consumption makes mark on brandingND


Carlos Grande, Financial Times, 20 February 2007

A study of consumers in France, Germany, UK, US and Spain found that many believe business ethics have deteriorated in the last five years. About a third of the 5,000 respondents indicated they would pay a 5-10 per cent price premium for many ethical products. The UK is said to be leading the ethical consumerism market, with its consumers the most critical but also the most aware. For more information, see www.ft.com

100 Best Corporate Citizens 2007ND


Abby Schultz, CRO magazine, 19 February 2007

The annual survey of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens, published in CRO magazine, sees Green Mountain Coffee Roasters taking the top spot. The listing represents the top 1,100 public US companies, and measures performance in eight categories: environmental practices, corporate governance and ethics, diversity policies, employee relations, human rights issues, product quality and safety, accountability to local communities and total return to shareholders over three years. The top ten companies include Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Advanced Micro Devices, Nike, Motorola, IBM, Agilent Technologies, Timberland, Starbucks, and General Mills. For more information, see www.thecro.com

Only mushrooms grow in the darkND


Alan Mitchell, The Australian Financial Review, 19 February 2007

Issues management and decision-making by government Ministers can be improved by informing the public earlier about the choices and risks facing government. Governments should utilise more informal and streamlined ways of engaging and educating the public to gain their trust. For more information, see www.afr.com.au

Charity needs a better foundation ND


Michael Schrage, Financial Times, 15 February 2007

Companies listed on FTSE or Nasdaq are ‘perversely’ more transparent and accountable than the typical foundation or charity. Schrage argues for philanthropic reform and accountability for the trustees and directors of not-for-profits to be equal to their for-profit counterparts. Foundations also need to disclose their shortcomings and publicly debate programmatic failures to raise credibility and productivity. The measurement of corporate and not philanthropic results in the marketplace is seen as an invitation to mismanagement. For more information, see www.ft.com

Co-creating business’s new social compactND


Jeb Brugmann and C.K. Prahalad, Harvard Business Review, February 2007

Over the last five years, corporations have started to pay attention to customers at the bottom of the economic pyramid. NGOs have also started businesses to provide jobs to alleviate poverty. This article writes about the convergence between the corporate sector and civil society to create innovative business models or niche segments. A brief history that traces the path to convergence, examples and norms of convergence are outlined in this article. For more information, see www.hbr.org

Reputation and its risksND


Robert Eccles, Scott Newquist and Roland Schatz, Harvard Business Review, February 2007

This article provides a framework for proactively managing reputational risks. Reputation is a matter of perception. A company’s overall reputation is a function of its reputation among its various stakeholders. The gap that exists between a company’s reputation and its actual behaviour should be closed by a company improving its ability to meet expectations or by promising less to reduce expectations. The five steps to effective risk management are: assess your company’s reputation among stakeholders, evaluate your company’s real character, close reputation-reality gaps, monitor changing beliefs and expectations, and put a senior executive below the CEO in charge. For more information, see www.hbr.org

Why it is better to lose money than your reputationND


Jeff Randall, Telegraph, 14 February 2007

Manchester Business School has created a faculty of reputation management as it believes reputation management needs to be taken more seriously by companies and in academia. As Gary Davis, Professor of Corporate Reputation at Manchester Business School states, ‘if you want to know what your corporate reputation is likely to be worth in the future, measure what your employees think of you today.’ For more information, see www.telegraph.co.uk

Matters of conscienceND


David James, Business Review Weekly, 8 February 2007

As the emphasis on corporate social responsibility increases, companies will face intensified pressures of increasing connectedness to the community and financial efficiency. Contention remains over whether these pressures conflict or not, as many argue that corporate social responsibility is good business. Some companies see social problems as business opportunities and seek to establish partnerships to deliver programs. For more information, see www.brw.com.au

Staff push bosses to do goodND


Mark Phillips, Australian Financial Review, 7 February 2007

Companies are seeing the benefits that CSR programs have in attracting and retaining staff, especially generation Y staff that expect a workplace with connections to societal and community needs. Simon McKeon, an executive chairman of Macquarie Bank in Australia, holds this view and considers CSR ‘entirely complementary with good business sense’ and ‘actually just a way of doing business in the year 2007’. For more information, see www.afr.com.au

Accountability ⎯ crunch time for Asia’s home-grown heroesND


Chandran Nair, Ethical Corporation, 6 February 2007

Chandran Nair argues for an Asian style of activism that has a distinct identity from other NGOs. While NGOs in Asia may better understand the needs of local communities, it is the international NGOs that seem to be dictating the agenda. Asian NGOs compete with their international counterparts’ reputations and face difficulties in attracting local talent. The author suggests that a more active civil society is needed in Asia and the creation of alternative ways of engagement. For more information, see www.ethicalcorp.com

Brand protection ⎯ time to welcome your chief reputation officerND


Leslie Gaines-Ross, Ethical Corporation, 6 February 2007

Reputation management is now high on the agendas of chief executives and boards of directors. The cost of poor reputation is not only monetary, as talent departures, customer defections and loss of confidence in a company’s ability to do the right thing are other intangible costs. Although demand for reputation management is increasing, there are very few executive titles that include direct reference to reputation management. Companies that currently have such titles include Dow Chemical and Coca-Cola. The author argues that companies should follow this lead by placing an individual in charge of measuring the direction and magnitude of a company’s reputation. For more information, see www.ethicalcorp.com

Sustainability communications ⎯ reaching beyond the usual suspectsND


Solitaire Townsend, Ethical Corporation, 6 February 2007

This article offers a few tips on how to integrate corporate social responsibility into a company’s marketing plans. Among these are the need for empathy, short sentences, creativity, simplicity and honesty. The Advertising Standards Authority in the US has already started challenging sweeping statements such as ‘environmentally friendly’ on advertisements through legal cases. For more information, see www.ethicalcorp.com

BCA urges companies to careND


Damon Kitney, Australian Financial Review, 5 February 2007

The Business Council of Australia (BCA) has challenged major companies to better embrace CSR as a core business issue. BCA chief Katie Lahey has urged companies to ‘be more confident and assertive about the competencies and value of the corporation’, since ‘only by making it consistently clear that CSR is a natural and vital extension of these competencies and core values — not an offset or an apology for them — will business, and the community, reap a sustainable return from its CSR investment’. For more information, see www.afr.com.au

Miracle growth hides a looming China syndromeND


Ian Holliday, Australian Financial Review, 1 February 2007

While China continues to be an attractive to foreign investors, Holliday warns that issues around weak legal systems and environmental problems remain. Over the past few years, the local media and various provincial governments have taken a lead in discussions around CSR, and governments at various levels are clamping down on environmental problems. However, corporate behaviour in China still has a long way to go, compared to other countries. As Holliday suggests, ‘The issues corporate managers…need to ponder is whether a looming China syndrome of irresponsible corporate practice might amass long-term reputational costs that outweigh the short-term profit gains’. For more information, see www.afr.com.au

Beyond the green corporationND


Pete Engardio, Kerry Capell, John Carey and Kenji Hall, BusinessWeek. 29 January 2007

This story anticipates a world in which eco-friendly and socially responsible practices improve a company’s bottom line. In the last five years there has been increased understanding that social and environmental practices can yield strategic advantages such as growth and innovation, and avert costly setbacks from environmental disasters, political protests and human rights abuses. There is overlap between a company’s business drivers and social and environmental interests. For example, Dow Chemical is increasing R&D in products such as roof tiles that deliver solar power. Understanding and preparing for ‘megatrends’ can constitute a valuable intangible asset. For more information, see www.businessweek.com

Business education – global warming has become a hot topic ND


Rebecca Knight, Financial Times, 29 January 2007

Business schools in the US and Europe are increasingly including climate change as part of its units on corporate social responsibility. A survey of 91 US business schools by the World Resources Institute and Aspen Institute, showed that 54% of business schools require a course in environmental sustainability or CSR (up from 34% in 2001). At MIT’s Sloan School of Business, a climate change course has been developed which requires all students to read the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. Students also study business models and how they create strain on the environment. At London Business School, issues of climate change are discussed within the core required course on business ethics and corporate responsibility, as well as covered in various electives. For more information, see www.ft.com

Sales go up $6 for every $1 companies add to giving budgets, report saysND


Ian Wilhelm, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, 19 January 2007

University researchers say that donations are helping to generate a significant amount of income for many businesses. Researchers from the New York University Stern School of Business and University of Texas examined corporate giving of 251 corporations from 1989 to 2000. The study found that companies that sell directly to individual consumers, such as retail stores, financial institutions, and electronics manufacturers are the ones that receive economic benefit from giving. The study suggests that businesses should do more to promote its giving programs. For more information, see www.philanthropy.com

McDonald’s offers ethics with those fries ND


Kerry Capell, BusinessWeek, 9 January 2007

McDonald’s 1,200 outlets in the UK now only sell coffee from growers certified by the Rainforest Alliance. Late in the year, the ethically sourced coffee will be available in more than 6,200 outlets in Europe. This is the latest initiative to overhaul the company’s image, increase customer trust, and position the company as a leader in the sustainability movement. In response to consumer backlash, McDonald’s Europe has also added organic products to its menus and insists that all of its European suppliers use only non-GM products and ingredients. For more information, see www.businessweek.com.

Why good companies still get suedND


James Krohe, The Conference Board Review, January/February 2007

Class action and collective action lawsuits have become an increasing threat to companies in the US. Lawsuits can emerge from any number of sources, from employees to shareholders. This practice is not limited to one type of company; even those companies abiding by employment laws are vulnerable. One reason for this is significant differences between US federal, state, and municipal laws, all of which companies must abide by. This is made more difficult by the fact that legislation is complex and ever-changing. One thing is certain: class action lawsuits drive employment law, and this will not change in the near future. Many companies are thus choosing to find ways to reduce the costs associated with such filings. For more information, see www.conference-board.org

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