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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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Strategic CSR - ESPN

There is an interesting moment happening in the U.S. – both in terms of the level and intensity of social discourse.
You will all have seen the articles in recent weeks focusing on the pressures CEOs are increasingly feeling to take a stand on political/social/activist issues. At least in the U.S., there is a similar debate happening in the world of sports.
The focus is on Colin Kaepernick – a quarterback, made famous for his time with the San Francisco 49ers, whose declining productivity caused him to be kicked-off the team last season. What made the separation controversial was that Kaepernick had also made a very public protest against the U.S. national anthem (in support of the Black Lives Matter movement) – a brave decision given the hyper-patriotic PR machine that is the NFL.
In spite of the focus on Kaepernick, there are other athletes taking more public political stances. Lebron James has been at the forefront of this movement, but other athletes have also been inspired to speak-up (e.g., Steph Curry has been very vocal with his key sponsor, Under Armor). A common story has been a championship team invited to the White House, causing some players to decide between their principles and celebrating their team's success.
Into this hyper-politicized environment wades ESPN – the TV sports network. While I am in favor of political sensitivity (bordering on correctness), you can only feel sorry for ESPN's attempts to navigate the current new and volatile political environment, as noted in the article in the url below:
"The latest episode of the culture wars to wash into sports, and the news media that cover it, was prompted (unintentionally) by a broadcaster named Robert Lee. His employer, ESPN, announced Tuesday night that the name he shares with the Confederate general made him a poor choice for calling a University of Virginia football game in Charlottesville, where a recent protest over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee left a woman dead and became part of the national dialogue. It was a story tailor-made for America's present hyper-polarized, kinetic and more than slightly absurd moment, and it has left one inescapable conclusion: However many times sports media outlets — and chiefly the biggest of them all, ESPN — are implored to 'stick to sports,' the centripetal force of politics is bound to make a battlefield of almost anything."
It is unclear if the correct response is to laugh or to cry:
"ESPN made the decision with Lee, the company said in a statement Tuesday night, 'as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name.' 'In that moment it felt right to all parties,' the statement said. 'It's a shame that this is even a topic of conversation and we regret that who calls play-by-play for a football game has become such an issue.'"
The story was first reported by a FOX Sports commentator, who has been a longstanding critic of the network, which he accuses of introducing a "liberal bias" to its coverage of sports. Things went downhill from there:
"Compounding matters, Lee is Asian-American. The Asian American Journalists Association said in a statement that 'it is unfortunate that someone's name, particularly a last name that is common among Asian-Americans, can be a potential liability.'"
Social media, of course, had to get in on the act. While you can imagine some of the responses, it is always reassuring to see those with a sense of humor not miss an opportunity to air their specific grievances. The best response I saw:
Apologies to those of you outside the U.S. (or who are less interested in sports) who might miss the Joe Buck reference, but it is quite funny.
As I mentioned, it is an interesting moment. In The New York Times a couple of days ago, Tim Cook was quoted saying the times had changed and CEOs need to respond accordingly:
"The reality is that government, for a long period of time, has for whatever set of reasons become less functional and isn't working at the speed that it once was. And so it does fall, I think, not just on business but on all other areas of society to step up. … I think we have a moral responsibility to help grow the economy, to help grow jobs, to contribute to this country and to contribute to the other countries that we do business in."
It will be interesting to see where this takes us.
Take care
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ESPN Pulls Announcer and Starts a Storm
By Marc Tracy
August 24, 2017
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final

Monday, August 28, 2017

Strategic CSR - Uber

From a CSR perspective, there are not many firms that have had a worse year than Uber. Just to mention a few 'highlights' – there was the #deleteUber campaign; the CEO caught on a dashcam screaming obscenities at one of Uber's drivers; the CEO bowing to public pressure to leave the President's advisory council; the exposure of the firm's sexist culture; the forced resignation of the CEO; and the very public boardroom battle to replace him (resolved, at last, earlier today). I might have missed some things. In short, it has been a bad year. In spite of that, as the article in the url below notes, the company is thriving:
"Uber has spent the past eight months reeling from a series of corporate scandals. Yet those have done little to deter people from hailing an Uber for rides. That became clear on Wednesday, when the ride-hailing company shared its latest financials with investors. According to the disclosures, Uber's gross bookings continued to increase in the second quarter, while its losses narrowed. Trip requests from riders also more than doubled over the past year."
If we are to believe the business case for CSR, it is hard to know where that leaves us. While Uber is still far from profitable and in spite of all its transgressions, it's performance has improved significantly throughout 2017. Specifically:
"In the second quarter, Uber's gross bookings rose to $8.7 billion, up 17 percent from the previous quarter. Uber's adjusted net revenue — or the amount of money earned after paying out its drivers — jumped to $1.75 billion from $1.5 billion over the same period. Ride requests increased 150 percent from a year ago, though Uber did not disclose the number of rides requested."
A key part of the framework underpinning Strategic CSR is the idea that firms survive and thrive by creating value for their collective set of stakeholders. If stakeholders do not care how a firm creates and delivers its product (and who it abuses along the way), but only care that the product satisfies their immediate needs, then we will get companies like Uber. In contrast, if stakeholders care about the way a firm conducts itself and seek to reward that behavior, then we will get others kinds of firms with different priorities. Either way, Uber is not the problem here – the firm's set of stakeholders (including its customers) have built a company that reflects their collective interests. If you continue to reward Uber with your loyalty in light of the problems that have been exposed this year (especially as there is a very effective, more socially-responsible competitor in Lyft), then how can we expect the company ever to change its business model? Especially when that model has worked for it so far (and continues to do so).
Take care
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site:
Strategic CSR Simulation:
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Uber, Mired in Scandals, Sees Uptick in Bookings
By Mike Isaac and Tiffany Hsu
August 24, 2017
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Strategic CSR - Welcome back!

Welcome back to the Strategic CSR Newsletter!
The first CSR Newsletter of the Fall semester is below.
As always, your comments and ideas are welcome.
The article in the url below contains a map that shows the extent to which robots have transformed manufacturing in the U.S. In particular, the map shows the density of robots per worker in each county of the U.S.:
"The upper Midwest, particularly Michigan, was ground zero for the robot explosion from 1990 to 2007. That makes sense, since the automobile industry uses more robots than any other. The other hot spots also make sense on closer inspection. In Beaumont, Texas, lots of workers are employed in the plastic, chemicals and pharmaceuticals industry, another big user of robots. Wilmington, Delaware, has a big chunk of workers in that industry and others in car manufacturing, according to Restrepo, one of the researchers."
A second chart demonstrates the effect a higher density of robots has had on employment:
"Those increases tended to mean fewer jobs. Of course, lots of factors weigh on employment. Foreign competition, overvaluation of the dollar and rising productivity all play a big part, too. But even after taking all those other factors into account, [research] found that additional robots in an area reduces workers and cuts local wages."
The article also does a good job of identifying industry-specific trends. As you might expect, certain industries are more negatively affected by an influx of robots than others and, contrary to general perceptions, the effects are still pretty localized:
"The first industrial robots were developed for the auto industry, which still accounts for over half of U.S. robot orders."
There is no indication that robots have started teaching CSR classes, … yet!
Hope you all have a great semester.
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site:
Strategic CSR Simulation:
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More Robots, Fewer Jobs
By Mira Rojanasakul and Peter Coy
May 8, 2017
Bloomberg Businessweek