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 29, 2010

Strategic CSR - Green IQ

This “Green IQ” test appeared in a special report on the environment that appeared in the WSJ just before the Copenhagen summit last December. The test was fun and enlightening, so I thought it worth passing on. Some of the best questions are copied here, while the whole test (with the answers) is available in the article in the url below:

1. Match the share of electricity generated this year to the fuel source:
A. Coal 1. 3.4%
B. Nuclear power 2. 22%
C. Natural gas 3. 45%
D. Hydroelectric 4. 21%
E. Other renewables 5. 7.4%

4. In rough terms, the amount of electricity wasted [by electronic products left in standby mode] in the U.S. each year is equivalent to the output of:
A. 0.8 nuclear power plants
B. 1.8 nuclear power plants
C. 8 nuclear power plants
D. 18 nuclear power plants

7. What's the most prevalent greenhouse gas in the earth's atmosphere?
A. Methane
B. Carbon dioxide
C. Water vapor
D. Tropospheric ozone
E. Hot air from politicians

10. What percentage of the world's water is fresh and liquid? And what percentage is also found above ground, in lakes and rivers?
A. 10% and 2%
B. 5% and 1%
C. 3% and 0.5%
D. 1% and 0.3%

Have a good weekend.

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

Environment (A Special Report) --- How Green Is Your IQ? So, you think you know the environment; Let's see
By Keith Johnson
1273 words
7 December 2009
The Wall Street Journal

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Strategic CSR - The Rights of Corporations

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court decided an important case on the free speech rights of corporations. This topic was discussed in a CSR Newsletter about the case last October, which featured the objections of the NYT to the proposed changes (copied below).

Like most rules or laws, there is the theory (which may be defendable) and the reality (which may be subject to abuse). This decision by the Court seems to fall under these concerns.

The article in the url below is an NYT editorial castigating last week’s decision that allows corporations greater freedom to finance political ads/campaigns (for more background, see these related news articles that appeared in the NYT on the same day: and The NYT editors are not happy, to say the least:

“With a single, disastrous 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century. Congress must act immediately to limit the damage of this radical decision, which strikes at the heart of democracy.”

The core of the issue centers on whether corporations enjoy the same first amendment rights to free speech protection as individuals. Although the majority in the decision used well-established Supreme Court precedent to claim that they do, it is harder to understand why the decision to treat corporations as individuals was made in the first place:

“The founders of this nation warned about the dangers of corporate influence. The Constitution they wrote mentions many things and assigns them rights and protections -- the people, militias, the press, religions. But it does not mention corporations.”

The NYT characterizes the Supreme Court’s decision to accept the case and use “a narrower, technical question” and to elevate it “to a forum for striking down the entire ban on corporate spending” as “shameless judicial overreaching.” In short:

“The majority is deeply wrong on the law. … It was a fundamental misreading of the Constitution to say that these artificial legal constructs have the same right to spend money on politics as ordinary Americans have to speak out in support of a candidate.”

The consequences of the decision are projected to alter the face of political campaigns, increasing the numbers of attack ads and favoring those candidates that support corporations. The NYT accuses the “conservative majority” on the Court of having:

“… distorted the political system to ensure that Republican candidates will be at an enormous advantage in future elections.”

The editorial does not mince its words in calling for a legislative response. However:

“The real solution lies in getting the court's ruling overturned. The four dissenters made an eloquent case for why the decision was wrong on the law and dangerous. With one more vote, they could rescue democracy.”

For a calmer perspective on what corporations can and cannot do in relation to political ad spending as a result of the decision, and an argument that the consequences of the Court’s decision will not be as momentous as the NYT editorial implies, see:

“As the court noted, 26 states and the District of Columbia already permit independent corporate and union campaign spending. There have been no stampedes in those states’ elections. Having a constitutional right is not the same as requiring one to exercise it, and there are many reasons businesses and unions may not spend much more on politics than they already do.”

Take care

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

The Court's Blow to Democracy
836 words
22 January 2010
The New York Times
Late Edition - Final

From: David Chandler {msbbe096}
Sent: Monday, October 26, 2009 9:16 AM
Subject: Strategic CSR - The Rights of Corporations

The article in the url below is a recent editorial in the NYT that discusses “the rights of corporations” in relation to a case the U.S. Supreme Court is currently hearing:

“… the court is considering what should be a fairly narrow campaign finance case, involving whether Citizens United, a nonprofit corporation, had the right to air a slashing movie about Hillary Rodham Clinton during the Democratic primary season.”

Instead of deciding the case in terms of this narrow point of law, however, the Court decided to expand its consideration to include broader implications under the legal doctrine of “corporate personhood”:

“The courts have long treated corporations as persons in limited ways for some legal purposes. They may own property and have limited rights to free speech. They can sue and be sued. They have the right to enter into contracts and advertise their products. But corporations cannot and should not be allowed to vote, run for office or bear arms. Since 1907, Congress has banned them from contributing to federal political campaigns -- a ban the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld.”

It would be interesting to see an editorial from the WSJ on the same case to see an alternative perspective (for an op-ed piece, see:, but it is clear that the NYT does not think the Court’s current view of corporate rights should be expanded. The NYT also thinks a narrow interpretation of a corporation’s rights represents a purer reflection of the original intent of the Constitution:

“John Marshall, the nation's greatest chief justice, saw a corporation as ''an artificial being, invisible, intangible,'' he wrote in 1819. ''Being the mere creature of law, it possesses only those properties which the charter of its creation confers upon it, either expressly, or as incidental to its very existence.''”

In particular, there are strong arguments to be made that corporations are not the same as individuals in their ability to amass resources that can then be used to distort the political debate. As such, the editorial argues that, in areas of political speech in particular, the Court should be wary of expanding corporations’ Constitutional rights to allow these kinds of polemical statements to be made.

Take care

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

The Rights of Corporations
623 words
22 September 2009
The New York Times
Late Edition - Final

For an article that highlights the broader implications of a change in the campaign finance law regarding corporations, see:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Strategic CSR - ISO 26000

The article in the url below provides an update on progress towards the ISO 26000 standard on CSR that is due to be finalized in Copenhagen this May:

“As things look now, however, its passage to final approval is far from being a given. … As ISO’s first attempt at a “soft” (ie non-technical and non-management) standard, its goal was from the outset nobly ambitious but fraught with challenges. The draft ISO 26000 standard aims, in effect, to be the first global one-size-fits-all standard, providing guidance on social responsibility to all – and not just business – organisations.”

In spite of considerable progress, the article identifies three issues of contention that have arisen in the final stages of negotiations. The author categorizes these three areas of concern as “content, certification and cost”:

“On the content side, there is a bundle of unresolved issues. These range from concerns about the trade and competitive implications of the standard – the US government sent WTO trade lawyers to the last two negotiating sessions – through to its utility to SMEs and its consistency with existing intergovernmental-agreed norms.

The certification point was an issue of contention from the outset. Some proponents wanted a standard that could support claims of good practice. In the event, it was decided by ISO to develop a guidance standard that is not intended for certification.

The cost issue relates to ISO’s business model, where the organisation’s costs in developing a standard are recouped by sales of the standard. Here, a split has arisen between the ISO and the many participants who want the standard to be available free of charge, in keeping with the goal of maximising its uptake.”

The alternative paths forward lie between the pursuit of an absolute ideal versus the practical need to institutionalize the progress that has already been made:

“After five years of intensive negotiations, energy and budgets are also running low. A push to launch on schedule may increase the risk of a “no” vote by ISO member national standards bodies and probably create some media attention. But it is not clear whether most participants have the will to engage in a fundamental review of the text.”

Take care

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

ISO 26000’s long and winding road
The long awaited ISO 26000 international standard on social responsibility is due to be launched this year. Paul Hohnen argues that its clear passage is far from certain
Paul Hohnen
June 7, 2009

Friday, January 22, 2010

Strategic CSR - The Long Now

The Long Now Foundation ( is an organization that focuses on combating the “here and now” culture in which we live and trying to get people to think in terms of the bigger picture and a longer time frame. The organization posts these guidelines for thinking in the longer term:

  • Serve the long view
  • Foster responsibility
  • Reward patience
  • Mind mythic depth
  • Ally with competition
  • Take no sides
  • Leverage longevity

Notice how all the years on the website (e.g., 01996 = 1996) are written in terms of 10,000 years, rather than 1,000 years.

The Long Now Foundation was established in *01996 to creatively foster long-term thinking and responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.

The organization’s major project is the 10,000 Year Clock, which was first proposed by the computer scientist, Daniel Hillis:

"When I was a child, people used to talk about what would happen by the year 02000. For the next thirty years they kept talking about what would happen by the year 02000, and now no one mentions a future date at all. The future has been shrinking by one year per year for my entire life. I think it is time for us to start a long-term project that gets people thinking past the mental barrier of an ever-shortening future. I would like to propose a large (think Stonehenge) mechanical clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium."

Hillis is currently working on his second version of the clock. The first design is on display at the London Science Museum.

As Stewart Brand, the California activist who “For more than 40 years … has been at the nexus between California’s counterculture and its technological avant-garde” and is also involved in the Clock of the Long Now, puts it in an interview with the FT (

“I had been perturbed for a long time”, Brand says, “about how short-term thinking is rewarded a lot and institutionalised a lot. Quarterly reports. Elections every two years for congressmen. A prototype of the clock is now in the Science Museum in London. “The first thing I almost always hear from somebody who I encounter is, ‘How’s the clock coming?’ The clock doesn’t even exist yet, and it’s already working.”

Have a good weekend.

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Strategic CSR - Welcome back!

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

Over the break, I received the following e-mail about a report by the Network for Business Sustainability that outlined the “top seven sustainability challenges facing businesses in 2010.”

  1. How can we measure and value a firm’s ecological impacts (i.e. its ecological footprint)?
  2. How can we build an enduring corporate culture of sustainability?
  3. How can we promote and ensure sustainability within our supply chains?
  4. How can we incorporate sustainability into employee incentives?
  5. What business risks are associated with water quality and water shortage?
  6. What is the aboriginal perspective on business sustainability, and what are the best approaches for constructively engaging aboriginal communities?
  7. How do we measure the economic impact of NIMBY (“not in my backyard”)-ism?
More detailed reports about each of these “challenges” is available at the Network for Business Sustainability’s website:

While it is hard to argue with the items on the list (although I am not sure these are necessarily the top seven), what struck me is the sheer scope of these “challenges” and how you could probably have formed a very similar list 20 years ago.

The list in some ways, therefore, shows how far we have come by outlining huge goals that advocates feel are within reach (by the end of 2010??). It also, however, shows have far we still have to go.

Happy New Year!

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

Friday, January 1, 2010

Strategic CSR - Green Noise

The article in the url below introduces the concept of “green noise”:

“green noise” -- static caused by urgent, sometimes vexing or even contradictory information [about the environment] played at too high a volume for too long.”

The idea of “green noise” adds value to the debate. While terms like “greenwashing” describe the conduct of firms, “green noise” presents a consumer perspective on the exponential growth in information on issues related to the environment and climate change that is often contradictory. The overall effect is to obfuscate, rather than clarify, whether deliberately or with good intentions:

“An environmentally conscientious consumer is left to wonder: are low-energy compact fluorescent bulbs better than standard incandescents, even if they contain traces of mercury? Which salad is more earth-friendly, the one made with organic mixed greens trucked from thousands of miles away, or the one with lettuce raised on nearby industrial farms? Should they support nuclear power as a clean alternative to coal?”

In outlining the concept of “green noise” the article also highlights the effect of this information overload on consumer behavior:

“… consumers surveyed in 2007 were between 22 and 55 percent less likely to buy a wide range of green products than in 2006. The slipping economy had an effect, but message overload appeared to be a major factor as well.”

There is an interesting relationship between the amount of information and effective decision making—the idea that more information is better, but too much leads to paralysis and, consequently, bad or non decisions:

“Diane Tompkins, a founder of the Curious Company, a market research firm based in San Francisco … has conducted focus groups to investigate the psychological barriers to taking action for the sake of the environment. The activist groups ''believe that, surely, if I just gave them one more reason why they should do it, then they would,'' she said. ''But the fact is, people are not motivated by more facts. That can just reinforce their feeling of helplessness."”

Take care

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

That Buzz In Your Ear May Be Green Noise
1540 words
15 June 2008
The New York Times
Late Edition - Final