The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

To sign-up to receive the CSR Newsletters regularly during the fall and spring academic semesters, e-mail author David Chandler at

Friday, August 29, 2008

Strategic CSR - Paper or Plastic?

The article in the url below is a depressing comparison between paper or plastic bags to see which imposes the greater environmental burden, in terms of both production, consumption, and disposal:

“Paper or Plastic? We hear the question almost every time we go grocery shopping. Some shoppers answer automatically; plastic - convinced that they are making a better choice for the environment. Others ask for paper, believing the very same thing. The reality is that both paper and plastic bogs gobble up natural resources and cause significant pollution. When you weigh all the costs to the environment, you might just choose to reuse.”

There are some surprising statistics, but the upshot is that neither is particularly good:

“It takes more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does a plastic bag. The production of paper bags generates 70 percent more air and 50 times more water pollutants than production of plastic bags.”

“… it can cost $4,000 to process and recycle 1 ton of plastic bags. This can then be sold on the commodities market for about $32.”

“More often than not, bags collected for recycling never get recycled. A growing trend is to ship them to countries such as India and China, where they are cheaply incinerated under more lax environmental laws. Paper is degradable, but it cannot completely break down in modern landfills because of the lack of water, light, oxygen and other necessary elements. About 95 percent of garbage is buried beneath layers of soil that make it difficult for air and sunlight to reach it.”

An editorial at the Washington Post in July 2007 ( makes a similar point in response to a proposal to ban plastic shopping bags in Maryland:

“The problem, opponents of the idea counter, is that paper bags are harmful, too: They cost more to make, they gobble up more resources to transport, and recycling them causes more pollution than recycling plastic. The argument for depriving Annapolis residents of their plastic bags is far from made.”

It seems there is only one thing on which most people can agree:

“Disposable shopping bags of any type are wasteful, and the best outcome would be for customers to reuse bags instead.”

Have a good weekend.

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
© Sage Publications, 2006

More than Meets the Eye: Paper or Plastic?
by Brenna Maloney and Laura Stanton
989 words
4 October, 2007
The Washington Post

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Strategic CSR - Finance

The article in the url below by Mallen Baker (Foreword, pxiii) argues that, while firms benefit from striving to meet the needs and demands of their stakeholders, in general, and their customers, in particular, this relationship is weaker for those firms that profit by selling products that their consumers do not fully understand—e.g., the financial and banking industries (Issues: Finance, p175; Investing, p180):

“If someone wants a tin of beans from a supermarket, they can immediately see whether that retailer has the product actually in stock, and they can pretty easily compare the price of that tin of beans with identical products being sold elsewhere. But, if you could fleece the customer and knowingly sell products that don't wholly meet their needs, but are immensely profitable, would you do it?”

Baker’s accusation is that the underlying logic of the financial sector is confusion, combined with a fundamental legitimacy (i.e., people know that it is important to save and invest money):

“Many banks in different countries will offer a basic deposit account to put your money into which is free if you stay in credit. They will also provide a number of outlets for you to withdraw cash for free as well – because when they tried to charge for this they found the customer certainly had a voice on the issue. Beyond that, the logic of the industry rewards complexity.”

The example Baker cites indicates the significant incentives (and absence of any significant disincentives) for banks and other financial organizations to preserve the status quo:

“… First National Bank of Chicago which broke all the accepted rules for building customer loyalty when it decided to charge $3 to all customers who insisted on going into branches to carry out transactions rather than doing it remotely. The media carried a flood of critical stories, and competitors jumped in with ads pointing out that they welcomed customers at their branches. In fact, the bank lost a percentage of its customers, but its profits went up by 28 per cent. Why? There was indeed a big move to cheaper electronic transactions, and the customers they lost were generally the unprofitable ones they were only to happy to gift to their competitors. So what about the right of those customers to get a decent service? What about the social role that banking provides and their public duty? Aren't banks often viewed almost as agents of the state, and isn't part of the contract to provide such things? Sure – but that's different to saying that providing such a service has a business case behind it based on profitability.”

Take care

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
© Sage Publications, 2006

Financial services: Will banks ever treat customers fairly?
Banks that profit from public confusion have few incentives to be honest with customers
Mallen Baker
April 1, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

Strategic CSR - Green Collar Jobs

Welcome back to the Strategic CSR Newsletter!
The first Newsletter of this semester is below. As always, your comments and ideas are welcome.

The article in the url below profiles the efforts of an one man’s attempts to marry the growing green economy with the social needs of depressed U.S. communities (Issues: Community, p215):

"What is considered green is usually for the eco-elite. … But if we are actually going to meet the challenge of global warming, we are going to have to weatherize millions of homes and install millions of solar panels. That's millions of new jobs. We need to connect the people who most need the work with the work that most needs to be done."

The man featured in the article, Van Jones, has big plans in his effort to “link the green movement with issues of race and class”:

“Last year, Jones led a coalition of business, labor, and environmental groups that persuaded the Oakland City Council to provide $250,000 in seed money for the country's first green-collar-jobs corps, which will train low-income youth in the renewable-energy, organic-food, and green-construction industries. The organization he founded and heads, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, also helped draft the Pathways out of Poverty legislation for the federal Green Jobs Act of 2007, which pledged $125 million to train 35,000 people a year in green-collar jobs. And in February, Jones launched Green for All, a national advocacy organization whose goal is to procure $1 billion in federal funding by 2012 for green-collar programs, and lift as many as 250,000 Americans out of poverty.”

In spite of the attention he is receiving, Jones remains focused on the immediate reality:

“Jones attacks conventional environmental appeals -- bemoaning the plight of polar bears and other "charismatic megafauna," as he puts it -- because they don't speak to poor urban dwellers who have more pressing needs, like scraping together bus fare or keeping their kids out of gangs.”

Have a good semester.

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
© Sage Publications, 2006

“I’m Bad! I’m Slick!”
Oakland activist Van Jones is on a mission to bring green-collar jobs to the urban poor. His mightiest weapon: His mouth.
Fast Company Magazine
From: Issue 125 | May 2008 | Page 103 | By: Linda Baker