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

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Strategic CSR - See you in the Fall!

This will be the last CSR Newsletter for the Spring semester.
Often accused of being too skeptical by my students, I leave you on a positive note for the summer.
See you in August!

In order to solve some of the most intractable economic, social, and environmental problems we face, it seems that we have, at the extremes, two choices: We either reduce significantly our consumption levels and living standards (i.e., the sacrifice option), or we invent new ways of doing the things we already do (i.e., the innovation option). Some combination of both would, no doubt, be ideal.

From much that I read in the daily news and CSR newsletters I receive (together with what I know of human nature—politicians, in particular), while I think the sacrifice option needs to be an important part of the puzzle, I also think it is highly unlikely.

If true, that leaves us relying on the innovation option. If this is to work, there are many fundamental questions that remain unanswered: Can we find technical solutions to problems such as climate change? If so, can we implement them on a global scale? And, most importantly, can we do all this in time (i.e., before we reach the tipping point of no return)?

If it is possible, I think the answers to these questions may well come from new institutions such as the Singularity University. This new university, outlined in the article in the first url below, is located in the heart of Silicon Valley and backed by organizations such as Google and NASA:

“In a spare one-room office at Nasa's Silicon Valley campus, a small band of futurists is plotting to save the world. The means are not a revolutionary technology or a new world order (though both may be byproducts). Rather, a new, pseudo-academic institution called Singularity University is going to solve our grand challenges: poverty, hunger, energy scarcity and climate change. Among others. Through a combination of techno-optimism, wide-eyed idealism and belief in the perfectibility of human beings, these well-connected geeks are creating an institution meant to legitimise their most extreme thinking.”

Some more extreme, out-of-left-field innovations that are circulating in science circles are outlined in the second url below:

“The science of altering the world's natural systems is called geo-engineering. Once on the whacky fringes of scientific research, the subject is rapidly becoming mainstream, attracting serious attention from academics and governments.”

Have a great summer!

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

Have These People Seen The Future?
By David Gelles
2795 words
25 April 2009
Financial Times
FT Magazine

Changing the planet might help preserve it
By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent
800 words
9 May 2009
Financial Times
Geo-engineering - altering the Earth's systems - may soon be our only option, says Fiona Harvey

Monday, May 11, 2009

Strategic CSR - TerraCycle

The article in the url below profiles an innovative recycling entrepreneur, Tom Szaky, and the business he founded, TerraCycle (

“Tom Szaky, an eco-entrepreneur in his late 20s, who gave up his studies at Princeton University to pursue his dream of a zero-waste, worm-excrement-based business.”

Initially an entry to a business plan competition at Princeton, Szaky’s idea was to:

“… use worms to turn the university's cafeteria waste into an excrement-based fertiliser.”

Packaging for the product was:

“… re-used and relabelled 20 oz plastic drinks bottles.”

Eventually attracting the attention of Home Depot and Wal-Mart, TerraCycle took off:

“… with sales up from $70,000 in 2004, to $1.5m in 2006.”

Importantly, Szarky’s business strategy rejects the price premium that many associate with CSR:

“"eco-capitalism" will only work when it delivers goods that do not require the buyers to pay a premium.”

Take care

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

The adventures of an eco-entrepreneur
By Jonathan Birchall
742 words
23 April 2009

Friday, May 8, 2009

Strategic CSR - Emissions Reporting

The article in the first url below deals with the announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. that it will seek to make greenhouse gas emissions reporting mandatory for “a broad range of industries” in 2011 (reporting 2010 emissions):

“The proposal … would require about 13,000 factories, power plants and other facilities to report their emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other gases that climate scientists link to global warming.”

The proposal covers firms in industries such as cars, oil, and cement production, which, according to the EPA:

“… would account for 85 percent to 90 percent of the country's emissions of heat-trapping gases, although small manufacturers would be exempt.”

The logic behind the move is that there needs to be an accurate account of current emissions in order to establish an effective cap and trade market that avoids the large price fluctuations seen in Europe last year:

“The E.P.A. estimated that the cost to industry would be $160 million in the first year, then fall to $127 million a year.”

The article in the second url below indicates how compliance with such a rule would be more challenging for some firms than others. A study of the oil industry by PFC Energy (an “industry consultant”) evaluated emissions reporting by six major oil companies in terms of “the level of detail, frequency and coherency of emissions disclosures”:

“PFC, which based its rankings on publicly available data from corporate sustainability reports, annual reports and corporate websites, scored Shell at 1.15 out of 5 on its carbon disclosures. That compares with 3.05 for BP, 2.76 for Exxon, 2.64 for Conoco-Phillips, 2.4 for Chevron and 2.03 for Total.”

The article offers a few possible explanations for Shell’s relatively poor rating, but its findings of significant variance in firm performance indicate that firms that are best able to anticipate stakeholder needs are best placed to cope with an ever-changing business environment.

Have a good weekend.

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

E.P.A. Proposes Tracking Industry Emissions
387 words
11 March 2009
The New York Times
Late Edition - Final

Emissions disclosure study puts Shell bottom of the big oil class
By Carola Hoyos in Vienna
410 words
16 March 2009
Financial Times
London Ed2

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Strategic CSR - Generation Y

The article in the url below analyzes Generation Y from a marketing perspective—attempting to understand what drives today’s 18-30 year olds and how to harness that energy:

“In 2007, I fielded a global quantitative study of Gen-Yers in 13 countries and was surprised to find the No. 1 attitude unifying the generation was: "I would fight for a cause I believe in." … Gen-Yers have an activist bent. But their activism is different from the idealism and rebellion of their Boomer parents in the 1960s and '70s. … They treat themselves and their dreams almost like causes.”

According to the study, “Gen-Yers” feel passionate about specific values. To pursue them, they will either join firms or purchase brands that match those values, or they will create their own opportunities:

“According to the Wall Street Journal, half of all new college graduates now believe that self-employment is more secure than a full-time job. According to a Gallup pool, over two-thirds of high school students say they intend to start their own companies.”

The conclusion, however, is not just that Gen-Yers want to support specific brands and campaigns; it is that they want to participate and shape movements for change:

“Some are social movements -- the sweatshop-free and socially responsible clothing movements are making clothing brands like Timberland, American Apparel and Patagonia must-have items for GenY. Others are cultural movements -- rather than selling processing speed, Apple invites GenYers to join a creativity movement. Obama became the choice of Gen-Y voters because he asked them to join a movement for change, not simply to vote for him.”

Take care

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

Engage: Gen Y—The Rise of Cultural Movements
Chip Walker
Center for Media Research
Thursday, April 3, 2009

Monday, May 4, 2009

Strategic CSR - Trust

The article in the url link below reports on an experiment in “social radicalism” by a town (Lewes) in the South of England that introduced its own currency last September:

“Two years ago Lewes joined a growing international movement of "transition towns" in countries as diverse as the US, Japan, Australia and Italy where residents believe that the best way to preserve the values of their communities and combat climate change is to favour local produce and business over the standardised offerings of the global economy.”

The residents of Lewes believe that introducing their own currency encourages an ethos of barter, better integrates people with the local economy, and preserves the town’s social values. The article reports “12 local currency schemers” in the U.S. and two in the UK (with a third announcing its intention to follow suit this September).

Overall, the scheme is helping make Lewes a more attractive place to live. This attraction is reflected in the town’s property prices, which have remained relatively robust in the face of the economic downturn. More specifically, the currency appears to be having the desired effect of strengthening the bond among individuals that is the foundation is a functioning society:

“Legal tender is made acceptable by law [but] the Lewes pound is not, so each act of acceptance by a customer or business is an act of trust, of buying into the deal.”

Take care

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

Noted for trust; Towns around the world are fostering community spirit with alternative currencies
Leney, Fiona
1632 words
28 February 2009
Financial Times
Surveys RES1

Friday, May 1, 2009

Strategic CSR - CSR Film Festival

The press release in the url below contains the announcement for the first annual “Corporate Citizenship Film Festival” organized by Boston College’s Center for Corporate Citizenship. Rather than criticizing corporations, the Festival’s goal is to celebrate the social value they add. On the surface, this appears to be a good idea:

“Since so much media focus has been on the negative, it's easy to overlook the positive contributions business makes to society," said Bradley K. Googins, executive director of the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship. "We've launched this annual film festival to provide the public another dimension of business.”

Too often, the CSR debate fails to recognize that the relationship between business and society is symbiotic—society needs and benefits from business in the same way that business needs and benefits from society. Both sides have value to add; both sides also fall short in some respects. The way the Festival is currently structured, however, indicates that it is likely to fail to live up to its potential. I am trying not to be too cynical, but by allowing firms to submit their own films (rather than have a Festival for independent film makers, for example), my sense is that the films will largely be social responsibility ads:

“Each video is between 1 and 3 minutes in length and captures how each company is having a positive impact, typically in partnership with nonprofits, customers and employees, on social and environmental challenges.”

Those firms willing to commit the most money to the project will produce the best infomercials. What will be lost in the process is an objective evaluation of the net value added by any given firm.

This year’s competition was won by FedEx (

Have a good weekend.

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

CSRWire Press Release
Press release from: Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship
March 12, 2009
Caught on Video: Companies Doing Good
Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship sponsors Film Festival; vote at