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Who's leading Hu? Will endemic corruption, increasing wealth gaps, and the immense scale of environmental and health degradation from China's industrial revolution, lead to increased social unrest and an even greater media crackdown? Or will the waking economic giant leapfrog mistakes made during the West's industrial revolution? And, in answering this conundrum, will corporate citizenship play a role?1 Read full article
Death of a green salesman? BP and Wal-mart have moved to the opposite ends of the corporate citizenship spectrum. Wal-Mart has attracted NGOs into its orbit, as exemplified by the NGO Environmental Defense relocating its project manager to Bentonville, Arkansas, home of the giant retailer's headquarters. The environmental group has set up shop in the company's 'back yard' to work on green initiatives.18 Wal-Mart also hired former critic and Sierra Club president Adam Werbach to teach company floor employees how to consume less in their everyday lives, eat healthy food, and buy compact fluorescent light bulbs. Indeed, the so-called 'greening' of Wal-Mart has so profoundly changed the company's reputation that a prominent activist NGO decided not to campaign against Wal-Mart because they no longer make an attractive target.19 Read full article
Reframing finance At the end of August near Zurich, Switzerland, institutional investors, asset managers and listed companies gathered at the Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue to share thoughts on how to promote more long-term approaches to financial performance.26 The speeches generally emphasised the challenge that short-termism in financial markets is not helpful for companies wanting to plan for long-term value creation, incorporating attention to value arising from sustainability. Read full article
NGOs aren't God, AEI reports Not everyone was happy about the trends toward reframing finance in 2006. Certainly not a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Adam Lerrick, who in August wrote in the FT that 'vigilante non-governmental organisations have become the de facto regulators of the flow of finance to the developing world.'32 His argument is that NGO influence on Western banks is making it more costly for entrepreneurs in emerging markets to access capital. Claims such as 'not a single dollar of multilateral funds is disbursed without NGO blessing' or that there is a 'fiat by self-anointed regulators from rich nations' make governing private finance seem so extreme and far from the truth that the argument could be ignored. Read full article
Transparency matters August saw the conclusion of the consultation period of the European Commission's Green Paper on the European Transparency Initiative. The consultation engaged stakeholders on aspects of transparency in the European Union, such as lobbying and disclosure of data about the recipients of various EU countries.35 Siim Kallas, vice president of the European Commission, said that self-imposed, voluntary codes do not go far enough, particularly given their impact on legislation.36 Kallas did not spare NGOs from his criticism, decrying the fact that over €2 billion per year are channelled through them, with little attention paid to how the funds are spent.37 The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation, a coalition of 80 NGOs, has welcomed the transparency initiative. At the same time, some NGOs, such as Friends of the Earth Europe, whose largest donor is the EU, claimed that 'the attention on NGOs is simply a distraction from the much more pressing issue of corporate accountability.'38 Read full article
Consuming truths As 2006 progressed it became clear that the challenge of climate change was once again rising in public consciousness in many parts of the world. The success of the film An Inconvenient Truth highlighted wide public curiosity and concern as to what is happening to our weather.41 The climate challenge is a consumption challenge: to promote human well-being while reducing the overall demand for carbon fuels, either directly or as embodied in the various products and services we use. Read full article
Taming the messenger Media's critical role in defining corporate responsibility as one that extends beyond the borders of a Western company's headquarters has long been enshrined since the exposition of sweatshop operations among Asian manufacturers contracted by major brands. Besides garments and sport shoes, the same concept has seeped through other industries, such as diamonds, mining and forest products, among others. Read full article
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