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 david.chandler@ucdenver.edu


Monday, September 29, 2008

Strategic CSR - Recycling plastics

The article in the url below contains some depressing statistics about plastics recycling:

“While some 52% of paper, 36% of metals, and 22% of glass get recycled, only 7% of all plastics do, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.”

In general, only No.1 or No.2 plastics are recycled. There is an insufficient market for Nos.3 to 7 to make recycling them sufficiently profitable. Most people, however, continue to throw all kinds of plastics into the recycling container:

“Sadly, all the things not labeled 1 or 2 get pulled out at the recycling facility and are trucked off to a big, smelly hole in the ground, where they will deposit their petroleum-based chemicals into the soil for the next 500 years.”

In addition to depressing statistics, the article also does a good job of explaining that there are no easy answers to this problem. The author describes how the environmentally aware firm Stonyfield Farm considered changing its yoghurt pots from No.5 to No.2 plastic, for example, but ended up rejecting the plan on the basis that it would increase the amount of plastic used in making the pots because No.2 plastic is less sturdy that No.5 plastic. In addition:

“… if Stonyfield switched, most communities wouldn't recycle them anyway -- turns out that No. 2 tubs can't be mixed with No. 2 bottles because they're made from different chemicals.”

And, of those firms that are recycling plastics, a lot of it is done off-shore, often in China, where reports indicate that:

“… employees in Chinese recycling facilities are exposed to toxic fumes from the materials they are recycling. Which means that my recycling options just got a whole lot more complicated. Some choice: noxious chemicals in the soil versus the health of Chinese workers. It really isn't easy being green.”

Have a good weekend.
Dave

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
© Sage Publications, 2006
http://www.sagepub.com/Werther

Green Business: Plastic Potion No. 9
Recycling should be the easy way to get people involved in helping the environment. Too bad the businesses behind it are blowing it.
Fast Company Magazine
From: Issue 128 | September 2008 | Page 103 | By: Melanie Warner
http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/128/green-business-plastic-potion-no-9.html

Strategic CSR - The Business Case

The article in the url below by Mallen Baker (Foreword, pxiii) debates the search for proof of a business case for CSR (Chapter 1: An Economic Argument for CSR, p18):

“There is a powerful business case for most of the actions that a company might take under the label of “corporate social responsibility”. But much of what is currently offered under the heading of “business case for CSR” is tosh, and we need to wean ourselves off it. For instance, one of the most common questions I still get asked by managers and journalists alike is for figures to show that “doing CSR” has a measurable and inevitable positive impact on a company’s share price, or on its bottom line. It is a mirage, a distraction. Such figures that do exist are based on a fundamentally flawed premise. … Not only is there no agreement about what constitutes a good, or a sustainable, company, but there is also no agreement even on how you would measure the achievement of these criteria.”

The problem with Baker’s arguments early in the article is that, taken to the extreme, they lead to the conclusion that there is no way of measuring a firm’s CSR profile, little chance of finding a correlation with financial success across firms, and, therefore, no general business case. Instead, I prefer to argue that there is a way of quantifying CSR performance; it is just that we do not yet have sufficiently comprehensive tools to do so adequately:

“There is no one thing called “corporate social responsibility”. It is an umbrella label that covers a range of choices, dilemmas, principles and values. As a result, there can be no one business case that covers it – each proposed course of action requires its own rationale, will carry with it a degree of judgment, and will require skill in execution in order to achieve success.”

By rendering CSR so amorphous as to include anything a firm determines relevant, Baker is in danger of rendering CSR meaningless. It is not so much that I disagree with anything Baker says, so much that it is a matter of emphasis. His argument is a dangerous line to walk and, potentially, damages the cause he believes in so strongly. He is on much stronger ground in arguing that the debate around the value of CSR needs to be waged on a case-by-case basis, rather than trying to bend to the demands of the skeptics for an ultimate proof.

As part of this argument, Baker returns to concrete benefits of CSR later in the article. He notes that CSR is essential to building trust with customers and retaining the best employees, both components of a tangible business case. The complexity of quantifying these effects for firms and then aggregating similar measures across all aspects of operations lead Baker to suggest that the CSR field should not continue to tie itself in knots over the need to definitively prove the business case:

“Generally, if somebody chooses to buy from you it is because they like you, your brand, or your company and they want to buy from you. When sceptical chief executives demand a business case, it is because they do not want to buy from you and they are seeking to justify their scepticism by demanding a level of proof that is not realistically achievable.”

Take care
Dave

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
© Sage Publications, 2006
http://www.sagepub.com/Werther

Ethics and financial performance: The big question – Is there really a business case?
There is no catch-all “business case” for ethics, just good and bad business judgments. And always a healthy slice of luck
Mallen Baker
May 2, 2008
http://www.ethicalcorp.com/content.asp?ContentID=5876

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Strategic CSR - Shell

The article in the url below reports on a “shareholder revolt” at Shell’s 2008 AGM (Issues: Shareholder Activism, p134) concerning a decision by the Shell board to award “retention payments” of approximately $1.5m in stock to three executives of the firm:

“One third of Shell shareholders who voted on the bonus plan opposed it. Combined with those who withheld their votes, 49.5 per cent of voting shareholders did not support the bonuses.”

The payments were to be paid to the three candidates most likely to succeed Shell’s current CEO when he leaves in June 2009, in order to keep them from leaving the firm:

“The bonuses, each worth about €1m in stock, become payable in 2011, provided the three are still in their posts. Investors objected in part because of the lack of performance hurdles.”

Such shareholder votes of opposition, however, are rarely binding on firms, or even noted by management. And, in this case, in spite of the low level of support for the payments, Shell’s board announced its intention to ignore the vote and continue with its plan.

Another story of shareholder conflict with the management of an oil firm that emerged around the same time as the Shell story concerns the Rockefeller family’s attempts to get Exxon to divide its Chair and CEO positions. Representatives of the Rockefeller family, who are minority shareholders in Exxon, explain their position in the article in the second url below.

Have a good weekend.
Dave

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
© Sage Publications, 2006
http://www.sagepub.com/Werther

Shell rocked by investor revolt
By Tom Burgis, Michael Steen and Kate Burgess
428 words
21 May 2008
Financial Times
London Ed1
Page 21
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6681ab10-2693-11dd-9c95-000077b07658.html
Article re-printed in full at:
http://royaldutchshellplc.com/2008/05/21/shell-rocked-by-investor-revolt/

ExxonMobil needs an independent chairman
By Peter O’Neill and Neva Rockefeller Goodwin
22 May 2008
Financial Times
London Ed1
Page 13
http://us.ft.com/ftgateway/superpage.ft?news_id=fto052120081442070888

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Strategic CSR - Comparative Advantage

The article in the url below asks the understandable question “Why Bother?” in relation to tackling the overwhelming issue of climate change. Having watched Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” the author is underwhelmed—not by the danger at hand, but by Gore’s call to action. Having sketched a vision of a global calamity, Gore then implores the audience to go home and “change a light bulb”:

“That's when it got really depressing. The immense disproportion between the magnitude of the problem Gore had described and the puniness of what he was asking us to do about it was enough to sink your heart.”

Hence the question, “Why Bother?” The author identifies his widespread feelings of ambivalence and powerlessness as rooted in the central role in our economic model of comparative advantage. As a cornerstone of economic theory, comparative advantage enables widespread prosperity through task specialization and economic growth. The author argues, however, that it is this “task specialization” that distances us from broader solutions to societal-wide problems, such as climate change:

“Virtually all of our needs and desires we delegate to specialists of one kind or another -- our meals to agribusiness, health to the doctor, education to the teacher, entertainment to the media, care for the environment to the environmentalist, political action to the politician.”

By being removed from the ability to imagine our own meaningful contribution to radical change, any solution in an area outside our expertise becomes someone else’s problem. Because we each know how to do only one thing well, we are unable to contemplate doing anything beyond that skill. As a result, we are increasingly more likely to rely on someone else (with expertise in the necessary area) to solve the problem for us. Yet, fundamentally, the problem of climate change is one of the aggregate effects of our day-to-day lifestyle decisions:

“… the climate-change crisis is at its very bottom a crisis of lifestyle -- of character, even. The Big Problem is nothing more or less than the sum total of countless little everyday choices, most of them made by us (consumer spending represents 70 percent of our economy), and most of the rest of them made in the name of our needs and desires and preferences.”

Given the scale of the task, the author’s solution, for each of us to make a garden, seems a bit flippant. The article is instructive in its critique of our economic model, however, and its underlying purpose, to reinstate a connection within each of us between cause and effect, is important:

“For Berry, the ''why bother'' question came down to a moral imperative: ''Once our personal connection to what is wrong becomes clear, then we have to choose: we can go on as before, recognizing our dishonesty and living with it the best we can, or we can begin the effort to change the way we think and live.''”

Take care
Dave

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
© Sage Publications, 2006
http://www.sagepub.com/Werther

Why Bother?
By MICHAEL POLLAN
3403 words
20 April 2008
The New York Times
Late Edition - Final
19
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/20/magazine/20wwln-lede-t.html

Monday, September 22, 2008

Strategic CSR - Martha Stewart

The article in the url below is an interview with Susan Lyne, the (former) CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO), who took over the running of the company immediately following Martha Stewart’s conviction and jail sentence in 2004 (Chapter 2: MSLO, p35).

The interview offers some insight into the loyalty of Martha Stewart’s viewers and readers, who allowed MSLO to survive and thrive, in spite of the negative press coverage that surrounded Martha Stewart’s case:

“… what was fascinating to me was that her readers never left, her viewers didn't leave, it was advertisers who stepped back because there was a fear that the association would somehow damage their brand, but the consumers kept buying sheets, watching television, and certainly kept subscribing to our magazines.”

I’m not entirely sure what this says from a CSR perspective. A negative interpretation suggests that consumers are able to separate their personal values from the actions or values of firms and the individuals running them. In other words, consumers don’t care about CSR as long as they keep getting the products they seek (Chapter 2: Do Stakeholders Care? p25). A more positive interpretation, however, suggests that MSLO does a great job of meeting the needs and demands of its key stakeholder groups that are willing to give the firm the benefit of doubt in return.

Take care
Dave

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
© Sage Publications, 2006
http://www.sagepub.com/Werther

VIEW FROM THE TOP SUSAN LYNE, chief executive of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.
By JOSHUA CHAFFIN and CHRYSTIA FREELAND
1022 words
18 April 2008
Financial Times
London Ed1
Page 14
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/816bb29e-0ce0-11dd-86df-0000779fd2ac.html

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Strategic CSR - Philanthropy

The article in the url below is interesting, I think, not because of the personal failings of the individuals running the nonprofit, but because of the gap in the market that their organization was intended to fill (Issues: Philanthropy, p196):

“Karnofsky and Hassenfeld, both 26, quit hedge-fund jobs last year and started a foundation [GiveWell] with $325,000 from themselves and their friends. Their mission was to gather and disseminate exhaustive data on the effectiveness of charities. GiveWell had found an important niche. American charitable donations reached nearly $300 billion in 2006, and charity is a classic long tail: 75% of that tally comes from individual donors. Unfortunately, most of it is dumb money. Large foundations have professionals who evaluate potential grantees, but their research is generally proprietary. Online resources such as GuideStar and Charity Navigator provide public ratings of nonprofits based on their IRS Form 990s but are skimpy on strategy or program details.”

The idea of accountability for nonprofits is important and these guys had a good business idea—they just messed it up on implementation.

“The worst thing about the GiveWell debacle is that it put at risk a service that's sorely needed in the nonprofit world. Credibility is hard to gain and easy to lose, and restoring it will be GiveWell's big challenge--tough for an organization aspiring to be an evaluator.”

The print version of the article also has some great statistics (missing from the online article)—It is amazing how much money Americans donate relative to people in other countries, both in absolute terms ($295bn, 75% of which come from individual donations), as well as a percentage of GDP (the US ranks first with donations the equivalent of 1.7% of GDP. The UK is No.2 with 0.73% of GDP).

Take care
Dave

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
© Sage Publications, 2006
http://www.sagepub.com/Werther

When the Giving Gets Tough
A nonprofit startup set itself up as a watchdog -- then showed how easy it is to lose your own credibility.
Fast Company Magazine
From: Issue 125 | May 2008 | Page 65 | By: Anya Kamenetz
http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/125/when-the-giving-gets-tough.html

Monday, September 15, 2008

Strategic CSR - Nau

The last thing I read about Nau (http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/116/features-leap-of-faith.html), it was changing the face of apparel retailing. The firm’s mission was to integrate a broad sustainability perspective with a specific social mission into every aspect of its business model (Chapter 4: Implementation: The Integration of CSR Into Strategy and Culture, p63):

“Its stylishly minimal clothes in muted colors, made of sustainable materials such as organic cotton and recycled polyester, went on sale in 2007 and appealed to outdoorsy types and city dwellers, tapping into the growing green fashion trend. … And as part of the company's social enterprise initiative, 5% of all sales—from a $38 tank top to a pair of $138 "lean jeans"—were handed over to nonprofit organizations, chosen by the buyer.”

Then I read the article in the url below from BusinessWeek, which reports a decision taken at the firm’s Board meeting on May 1 to close the firm, “just two weeks after its L.A. store had opened.”

The problem for Nau seems to have been a danger that faces all firms seeking to rely on the CSR market niche—the best of intentions cannot replace a solid business model:

“Nau's business model, with its multiple retail channels and sophisticated product line—as well as a heavy commitment to the ideals of sustainability, including tracing the origins of the wool it used back to the sheep in New Zealand—was not only ambitious but capital intensive.”

Nau ran out of money and, when the business climate turned, was unable to raise additional capital to underpin its planned expansion. Sales were fine, but costs were prohibitively high. The limits of appealing to consumer’s best instincts should not be underestimated:

“… in its first and only year of operation, Nau attracted a cult following; Even today its Web site is jammed as the company sells off remaining stock at half-price. But at a board meeting in Portland on May 1, the directors decided to shut it down. … Perhaps Nau was too fashion-forward, with its higher production costs … and unusual products … . While Nau's prices were comparable to like-minded retailers Patagonia and North Face, they couldn't match megaretailers such as Steve & Barry's, whose $8.99 dresses sold in massive, unadorned stores are wildly popular in tough economic times.”

Take care
Dave

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
© Sage Publications, 2006
http://www.sagepub.com/Werther

Business Week Online
Insider Newsletter
May 22, 2008
********************
Nau Is Then
The hip green clothing label with an unconventional approach to style, materials, and retailing calls it quits. What went wrong?
by Ernest Beck
http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/may2008/id20080516_881121.htm

Friday, September 12, 2008

Strategic CSR - Clorox

The article in the url below analyses the recently announced partnership between Clorox and the Sierra Club that places the Sierra Club’s logo on all of the products in Clorox’s new line of cleaning products—Green Works (Issues: NGO and Corporate Cooperation, p192). In exchange, the Sierra Club will receive a percentage of the profits from sales. Although Clorox has benefited handsomely from “one of the most successful launches of a new cleaning brand in recent memory”:

“… within the Sierra Club, the reaction to the deal has been contentious, with emails flying back and forth and charges that Pope's executive committee has sold out … the awkward pairing with Clorox underlines both the huge potential upside for major brands discovering green and the danger for nonprofit environmental groups plunging headlong into the for-profit world.”

On the face of it, the Sierra Club seems to have the most at risk in forming this relationship with a firm whose core product many environmentalists believe to be fundamentally opposed to their conception of ‘sustainability.’ The article notes that Clorox had been working on sustainable ingredients “for nearly a decade.” Even after improvements in cost and availability, however, the firm still faces a difficult challenge:

“… how to get people to believe that Clorox could really be green. … "there were a lot of greenwashing reports starting to surface," … "Consumers were a little bit skeptical."”

While difficult, I believe the Sierra Club’s attitude when approached by Clorox is the attitude that many NGOs need to have if they are truly invested in realizable change. While there will always be a role for antagonists and idealism is fine, reality inevitably means incremental progress:

“When Clorox approached him, Pope had already been pushing for a shift in mind-set at the 116-year-old Sierra Club for some time … "Instead of just saying, Let's boycott somebody who's making a toxic product," Pope explains from his San Francisco office one recent summer day, "let's find a good product and help people who are trying to help consumers."”

That is not to say, however, that the Sierra Club is handling everything as well as it should:

“With no independent scientific assessment of Green Works products, and with an undisclosed amount of money changing hands, what does that Sierra Club seal on the back of the bottle really mean?”

Ultimately:

“For Clorox, it's nothing but upside. For the Sierra Club, it's risking -- if not undermining -- its most valuable asset: its independent reputation.”

This skeptical tone is continued in the article in the second url below:

 “Transparency and accountability are double-edged. Embedded in an organisation’s culture they can burnish credibility and encourage progressive innovation. But if the promise does not match the practice, the greenwashing backlash can cause considerable brand damage.”

Have a good weekend.
Dave

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
© Sage Publications, 2006
http://www.sagepub.com/Werther

Cleaning Solution
Since Clorox enlisted the Sierra Club to hype a new green product line, sales are booming. But the club is dealing with a nasty little stain.
Fast Company Magazine
From: Issue 128 | September 2008 | Pages 120-125 | By: Anya Kamenetz
http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/128/cleaning-solution.html

The contrarian – Sell-out at the Sierra Club
The Clorox partnership fiasco demonstrates poor levels of transparency and weak corporate governance at the Sierra Club
Jon Entine
September 1, 2008
http://www.ethicalcorp.com/content.asp?ContentID=6055

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Strategic CSR - Cap and Trade

The article in the url below reports a recent decision by the US Court of Appeals that seems to be very important for a prospective carbon cap-and-trade scheme in the US, but which I haven’t seen reported elsewhere. The author describes the decision as a:

“… drive-by slaughter of the Clean Air Interstate Rule on July 11. CAIR is - sorry, was - the Environmental Protection Agency's cap-and-trade programme for electric utilities' emission allowances for sulphurous and nitrous oxides.”

The decision’s implications are significant because the court has essentially delivered an:

“… invalidation of what had become a significant market.”

As a direct result, PPL (an electricity utility) has announced a prospective $100m loss on nitrous oxide emissions credits that it had purchased to allow it to come in under a cap that no longer exists:

“Using EPA data, Jeffrey Holmstead … estimates that the total loss of value for SO emission allowances is in the order of $15bn-$20bn. Nitrous oxide allowances issued under the CAIR, which were wiped out by the Washington DC Circuit, had been valued at $21bn.”

These costs are in conjunction with the prospective losses of investments made by firms to minimize factory emissions:

“The last number we had for investment made in plants, [at least partially] as a consequence of that is around $75bn, and counting.”

The annoying thing about the article is that it does not explain the basis for the Court’s decisions. Ultimately, however, the decision has resulted in high uncertainty and threatens confidence that a similar scheme could work for carbon:

“The court's action means there will almost certainly be higher levels of NOX emissions in the air next year.”

An update on this story is provided in a subsequent article by the same author in the second url below. This story appears to have significant implications for a carbon cap-and-trade scheme, but I have not seen it mentioned anywhere else.

Take care
Dave

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
© Sage Publications, 2006
http://www.sagepub.com/Werther

A costly cap on utilities' cap-and-trade programme
By John Dizard
868 words
29 July 2008
Financial Times
USA Ed1
08
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4e32493e-5a7d-11dd-bf96-000077b07658.html

Misguided game of SOx and NOx played for high stakes
By John Dizard
891 words
19 August 2008
Financial Times
USA Ed1
08
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8bf3e074-6c4e-11dd-96dc-0000779fd18c.html

Monday, September 8, 2008

Strategic CSR - Carbon

The article in the url below presents the argument that the current price of carbon on the EU cap-and-trade market is significantly lower than it should be:

“The price of European carbon allowances … has risen only modestly this year, to about €27 ($43, £21) a tonne. … However, the levels of demand and supply are severely out of balance. This may lead to a radical repricing of carbon that will fundamentally change the political, business and financial landscape forever.”

The author makes the assertion, which seems logical, that the price of carbon should rise in conjunction with the price of other energies:

“A recent report … argues that carbon's market clearing price with oil at $85 (€55) a barrel and coal at $90 (€58) a tonne is about €40 a tonne. However, with the actual oil price at about $135 (€87) and coal at $200 (€127), the market clearing price for carbon is €75 to €80 a tonne - nearly three times its current level.”

Another trigger that will lead to an increase in the price of carbon, the author argues, is the “€100-per-tonne fine that comes into force this year with phase two of the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme.”

Maybe I am missing something, but wouldn’t this fine then automatically become the price per ton of carbon? Below €100 firms will buy allowances on the market because they are cheaper than the fine (eventually, given the lack of supply noted in the article, pushing the price up to €100). Once the market price rises above €100, however, firms will prefer to pay the fine instead. It seems to me that fixing the fine essentially imposes a government-determined price that undermines the purpose of the market and carbon trading scheme.

The overall effects of the re-balancing of supply and demand predicted by the author, and corresponding price rise, should be dramatic:

“Carbon will take its place alongside oil, coal and gas as one of the most closely followed commodities in the world. This will mark the beginning of externalities at last being priced into the cost of production.”

Firms will be forced to account fully for carbon in their strategic planning and those firms best able to innovate will benefit the most. The author argues that the effects will also extend to governments that will be forced to respect a global price for carbon and deal with multi-nationals reluctant to invest in projects involving significant exposure regarding carbon:

“Landmark decisions are already being taken in the US, where coal-fired power projects have been abandoned owing to the future cost of emissions.”

Take care
Dave

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
© Sage Publications, 2006
http://www.sagepub.com/Werther

Carbon emitters' free ride is about to end
Kevin Parker
776 words
17 July 2008
Financial Times
London Ed1
11
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ce67fbe0-5333-11dd-8dd2-000077b07658.html

Friday, September 5, 2008

Strategic CSR - eBay

Today’s Newsletter highlights two websites that I recently heard about and thought would be of interest.

The first of these (http://worldofgood.com/) was launched this week by eBay and described as an “Online Marketplace for Ethically Sourced and Eco-Friendly Products”:

“WorldofGood.com is a one-stop-shop where the products, producers and sellers are verified by various third parties called Trust Providers – like TransFair USA (Fair Trade Certified), Co-op America and Aid to Artisans – to meet a core set of ethical and environmental standards.”

The second website (http://www.ecoogler.com/) is an interesting search engine that a friend introduced me to over the summer:

“Ecoogler is a search engine that uses Yahoo technology and helps reforesting trees and safeguard water resources in the Amazon region … For every search in Ecoogler, you contribute symbolically to reforest one leaf. For every 10.000 searches, Ecoogler and Aquaverde plant a tree in the Amazon and in the Canary Islands.

1 search =            10.000 = 1 Planted tree”

While the goal behind WorldofGood.com is clear (eBay is in the business of making money), the thing I would like to know about Ecoogler (and that the website does not make clear) is the source of the financing for the tree planting.

Have a good weekend.
Dave

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
© Sage Publications, 2006
http://www.sagepub.com/Werther

Press release from: eBay Inc.
eBay Launches New Online Marketplace for Ethically Sourced and Eco-Friendly Products
WorldofGood.com by eBay Helps Socially Responsible Shoppers Make a Difference
CSRwire Press Release
9.02.2008 - 11:59pm ET
http://www.csrwire.com/News/12988.html

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Strategic CSR - Carbon Credits

The article in the url below announces the launch of a carbon credit ratings agency that will evaluate carbon credits in a similar way that Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s in the US rate debt (Issues: Finance, p180; Loans, p188):

“The agency, run by the IdeaCarbon group of which Lord Stern is vice-chairman, said it would offer investors a guide to the quality of credits and the likelihood that they would be delivered.”

The agency, launched by Nicholas Stern (who authored the Stern climate change reports), emerged largely in response to concerns about the potential for abuse regarding the quality of the projects that generate carbon credits. In particular, concerns center on the credibility of claims by both buyers and sellers of the credits about the environmental benefits being delivered:

“Recent studies have confirmed findings by the Financial Times last year that suggested as many as half of the carbon credits promised under the Kyoto protocol would fail to materialise.”

One problem with the proposed carbon credit rating agency is that its business model is structured in the same was as the debt rating agencies in the US. As a result, there is an apparent conflict of interest with the agency being paid by those organizations and projects that it is supposed to be evaluating:

“Sellers of carbon credits would have to pay to have their products rated, while buyers would also pay to gain access to the ratings.”

The virtues and problems associated with carbon trading schemes and the carbon credits that underwrite them are covered in a longer article that appeared recently in Fast Company magazine:

http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/127/carbon-boom.html

Take care
Dave

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
© Sage Publications, 2006
http://www.sagepub.com/Werther

Stern launches carbon credit ratings agency
By Fiona Harvey
920 words
24 June 2008
Financial Times
London Ed1
18
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/897fc1b4-4219-11dd-a5e8-0000779fd2ac.html

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Strategic CSR - Product (Red)

The press release in the url below contrasts the cynicism it says people feel towards the idea “that we can help poor victims of AIDS in Africa by going shopping” with the notable success of Product (Red) (http://www.joinred.com/):

“Then again, there’s this number: $110 million. That’s the amount of money that (Red) partners have generated for the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to provide AIDS treatment in Ghana, Rwanda, Swaziland and Lesotho.”

Product (Red) was launched in January 2006 by, among others, Bono and the range of products now available is extensive:

“… now you can buy (Red) phones from Motorola, (Red) iPods from Apple, (Red) greeting cards from Hallmark, (Red) laptops from Dell, (Red) shoes from Converse and (Red) watches from Emporio Armani.”

In spite of this success, however, the author outlines three reasons for concern that expose the limitations of such campaigns. The first reason argues for greater transparency among the participating firms:

“… if all these companies want credit for supporting a good cause, we ought to be able to know how much financial support they are actually delivering.”

The second reason questions whether consumption provides a sustainable solution to any social problem:

“But Americans already consume way too much stuff. The message of Product (Red) is that we can buy that new cell phone or wrist watch and feel good about it because we are helping victims of AIDS.”

And, the final reason raises the potential that Product (Red) might result in an overall decrease in social engagement:

“But what if, after buying that Gap T-shirt, consumers feel they’ve done their part? What if Product (Red) becomes a substitute for either activism or charitable giving?”

Take care
Dave

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
© Sage Publications, 2006
http://www.sagepub.com/Werther

Better (Red) Than Dead
Marc Gunther
CSRwire Weekly News Alert
August 5, 2008
http://vcr.csrwire.com/node/9680