September 28, 2010

CSR as PR?

More and more companies are hiring in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), as any quick job search will show. And that would seem like good news. However, as one looks through the ads, it becomes clear that they are nearly all in Public Relations (PR). The rest are merely legal compliance jobs, so are not really about social responsibility. You know how low the culture has sunk when simply following the law counts as being socially responsible.

Unfortunately, very few companies are looking to hire anyone at the strategic level with expertise in ethics and social responsibility. And that's because most corporations still consider it an aspect of marketing and communications, namely, PR. But that's a serious deficiency at best (and deceptive at worst) if no one in upper management is an actual business ethicist.

PR-CSR officers may still be able to communicate new best practices upward, but that's putting the cart before the horse. And it does nothing to reduce suspicions the public widely harbors that CSR is little more than window dressing. BP is a glaring recent example of greenwashing corporate policy, changing its name from British Petroleum to "Beyond Petroleum" while callously maintaining perhaps the worst environmental record in the oil industry.

September 1, 2010

Wall St. Rejects Mountaintop Removal Mining

It's nice to see major banks acting in the best interests of us all here. This example of CSR harm avoidance is a fascinating case, generalizable to many other issues, namely, agricultural (pesticide use), livestock (factory farm waste), dietary (junk food and obesity), and transportation (C02 emissions):
"Several large commercial lenders are taking a stand on industry practices that they regard as risky to their reputations and bottom lines.

In the most recent example, the banking giant Wells Fargo noted last month what it called “considerable attention and controversy” surrounding mountaintop removal mining, and said that its involvement with companies engaged in it was “limited and declining.”

The bank was a small player in the sector, representing about $78 million in bonds and loan financing for such companies from 2008 to April of this year, according to data compiled by the Rainforest Action Network, an environmental group tracking the issue.

But the policy shift by Wells Fargo follows others over the last two years, including moves by Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citibank, to increase scrutiny of lending to companies involved in mountaintop removal — or to end the lending altogether....