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, January 30, 2009

Strategic CSR - Quiz

I saw the following five questions last weekend in an ad for the Newsprint & Newspaper Industry Environmental Action Group ( The ad is designed to test the reader’s knowledge of recycled paper and how it is used in the newspaper industry:

1. Can paper be recycled forever?  Yes  No

2. Does recycled paper need new fibers?  Yes  No

3. How much recovered paper do newspapers contain?  100%  49%  80.6%

4. How is the raw material in your newspaper sourced?  Economically  Responsibly

5. What should you do with your newspapers?  Burn them  Recycle them

Scroll down for the answers…..

Have a good weekend

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

Answers (as written in the ad):
1. No, the fibers get worn out.
2. Yes, always.
3. 80.6%.
4. Responsibly, both recovered fibers and virgin pulp.
5. Recycle them, of course!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Strategic CSR - De Beers

The article in the url below is an interview with Gareth Penny, CEO of De Beers. Penny took over as CEO of the diamond company in 2006 in the middle of the ‘conflict diamonds’ crisis (Issues: Country of Origin, p223):

“Rapper Kanye West's "Diamonds From Sierra Leone" in 2005 and the movie "Blood Diamond" in 2006 were triggering a wave of negative publicity about buying "conflict diamonds," which were sold in the 1990s by African rebels to help pay for their wars.”

The interview asks Penny about what he has done to steer De Beers through this (“One hundred percent of De Beers diamonds today are conflict free. … It is estimated that 99.8% of all diamonds in the world flow through the Kimberley Process, which is extraordinary”) and other CSR-related issues. It also delves into his perspective on De Beers’ role as a leader in the diamonds industry today:

“Today, De Beers is "in transition," says Mr. Penny, 45 years old. The company, whose sales slipped 2.8% last year to $6.84 billion, has a new business model and is trying to polish its image. And Mr. Penny now casts himself as an unofficial ambassador for Africa who can help bring businesses and jobs to the continent.”

Take care

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

Boss Talk: De Beers Polishes Its Image --- CEO Penny Refashions Business Model to Tackle Diamond Giant's Flaws
By Vanessa O'Connell
1255 words
7 July 2008
The Wall Street Journal

Monday, January 26, 2009

Strategic CSR - Investors

The article in the url below poses the question: “What sort of ownership do shareholders now provide, and how should managers respond?”

In suggesting an answer, the author makes the case for the negative effect of shareholders’ short term perspective on the ability of managers to implement a meaningful strategic vision of the firm (Figure 1.4: The Shareholder Shift—From Investor to Speculator, p14):

“Building and improving a business takes time. You cannot be judged hour by hour on your performance.”

The author argues that the implications of this divergence in interests between managers and investors extend to the definitions of the boundaries of the firm:

“"How can managers get back to being in control of the companies they manage?" … Perhaps this is a futile question, based on a nostalgic view of what companies should be. Maybe business has changed for good, and companies are now barely even semi-permanent organisations, with their own ethos and identity.”

This development also speaks to the importance of instituting a stakeholder perspective that enables firms to prioritize conflicting interests and meet the needs of those they deem to be most important:

“… today there are perhaps as many as seven different types of owners that businesses may have to reckon with, all of them laying claim to assets in different ways.”

The goal should be to focus on:

“… "intrinsic" shareholders, leaving traders and "mechanical" owners to the investor relations department. In short, do not waste management time on people who do not really understand you and will never make the effort to get to know you properly.”

Take care

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

Short-term owners who leave the C-suite bitter
Stern, Stefan
920 words
24 June 2008
Financial Times
London Ed1

Friday, January 23, 2009

Strategic CSR - Havel & Orwell

In the article in the url below, John Kay draws on the work of Vaclav Havel (The Power of the Powerless) and George Orwell (1984 and Politics and the English Language) to demonstrate both the emptiness and danger of modern-day business language (slogans, annual reports, value or mission statements, etc). Kay points out that business language can be vacuous at worst, but is too often accepted and regurgitated as “a declaration of conformity” because of “the human desire to avoid confrontation”:

“Like George Orwell, Mr Havel described "living within the lie". Both saw how the dishonesty inherent in such acquiescence ultimately corrupted all aspects of life, personal as well as political.”

Kay terms such language “the theatre of empty rhetoric”:

“In western liberal democracies, no one exhibits slogans calling on the workers to unite. But you see similar displays in reception areas of businesses and even in government offices. They urge us to pursue excellence, to delight our customers, to be wholehearted in our embrace of change.”

Importantly, Kay notes danger in the short step from language to behavior. The purpose of such language is to obfuscate, rather than convey meaning. People accept it without protest, however, because it is the easy thing to do. Over time, the failure to question, to hold organizations to account, results in the superficial or vacuous becoming reality. It is here that there is the potential for larger, damaging consequences:

“The self-deception of living within the lie is how banks fell victim to the credit crunch and the US came to be embroiled in Iraq. The greengrocer, and millions like him, perpetuated a great evil by acquiescing in a minor deceit. Dishonesty of speech quickly leads to dishonesty in behaviour because the language we use governs all we do.”

Take care

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
(c) Sage Publications, 2006

Weasel words have the teeth to kill great ventures
Kay, John
677 words
14 January 2009
Financial Times
Asia Ed1

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Strategic CSR - The End of Ideology?

While I would not have chosen Rick Warren as my beacon of hope, the article in the url below by David Brooks makes a compelling argument that the inauguration of Barack Obama represents a shift to a new social environment. Obama is not the beginning of the shift, Brooks argues; instead, he is the latest development in a longer process that has been occurring since the 1960s:

“… societies do mend themselves, slowly and organically. In 2002, Rick Warren wrote a phenomenally popular book called ''The Purpose Driven Life.'' The first sentence was, ''It's not about you.'' That was a sign that the age of expressive individualism was coming to an end. New community patterns and social norms were coalescing.”

In Brooks’ view, Obama both personifies this change process and also carries the potential to take it to the next level—translating the rhetoric and ideas into meaningful action:

“… folks in the Obama camp hope to create a Grand Bargain. That would mean building on a culture of cohesion and tackling the issues that require joint sacrifice -- like reducing deficits, fixing Medicare and Social Security and reforming health care. These problems were insoluble during the era of division and distrust.”

If true, it is likely that this new environment will be more conducive to an argument in favor of CSR, whether moral, rational, or economic (Chapter 1, Towards A Responsible Society, pp. 15-19).

Take care

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

The Politics Of Cohesion
806 words
20 January 2009
The New York Times
Late Edition - Final

Monday, January 19, 2009

Strategic CSR - Welcome Back!

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

The articles in the two urls below offer different year-end perspectives on the progress made by the CSR debate in 2008. The first article is by Bill Baue of and aims to provide a summary of key CSR events in 2008. In particular, Baue highlights the intersection of the economic and environmental crises:

“The economic meltdown of 2008 mirrors the simultaneous environmental meltdown fueled by the climate calamity - both share common roots, and many in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) community believe they share a common salvation. At the most basic level, the global economy is melting down because the belief in perpetual growth, propped up by deregulation and outright fraud, has smacked up against the finite nature of reality. Likewise, our atmosphere is literally melting our ecosystems, primarily because of the growth curve of fossil fuel emissions and carbon concentrations. … The most likely savior scenario likewise entwines economy and environment: a "green" recovery promises to create good jobs and strong companies while transitioning to a low-carbon energy infrastructure powered by renewable resources such as wind and solar.”

The second article is by Mallen Baker (Foreword, pxiii) who, rather than list a series of achievements, seeks to provide insight into what these achievements mean for 2009 and beyond. Of primary importance, Baker argues, is to recognize the negative influence of the search for ‘proof’ that CSR leads to measureable profitability for firms and maximum returns for shareholders:

“First – most people, including the declared supporters of CSR, have not really bought the business case arguments that have been put out there by a range of organisations, research groups and others. … There has been a whole industry based on this line in recent years. Trying to prove cause and effect: successful business = responsible business. It's time to move the argument on. All of those attempts bought into one central assumption – that it is the primary role of business to maximise shareholder returns and therefore any CSR commitment needs to show that it delivers cash to the bottom line in a direct and predictable way. That is the biggest assumption whose future is questioned by recent events.”

Happy New Year!

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

CSRwire Reports Top Corporate Social Responsibility News of 2008
Questions remain for CSR in 2009
A "green" recovery from economic and environmental meltdowns; the advent of Shareholder Activism 2.0 with binding resolutions at TARP banks; CSR adopts Web 2.0 strategies for sustainability reporting; is Wal-Mart really green? and much more...
Press release from: CSRwire
by Bill Baue

CSR: So what did we learn in 2008 that we can use in 2009?
Mallen Baker
January 7, 2009
Let's lose the sloppy thinking about CSR and bottom line benefits to start with, argues Mallen Baker