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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Monday, December 2, 2013

Strategic CSR - Human Life

What is the price of a human life? That is a question that actuaries at insurance companies spend a lot of time quantifying. Clearly, however, the answer to the question is relative, rather than absolute. All human lives are not valued equally. Factors such as education, profession, and future projected earnings provide the foundation for the differences. Another variable that is relevant, it seems, is the nationality of the individual. If you are Bangladeshi, for example, and more specifically a Bangladeshi who works in a garment factory, your life is apparently not worth very much:
“A dozen global retailers began two days of meetings in Geneva on Wednesday to negotiate a $77 million compensation package for the victims of two Bangladesh garment factory accidents, as labor unions pressed the companies for payments that would acknowledge their responsibility for the country's worst facilities. …To get to the grand total, labor unions and workers' rights groups applied a formula that has been used in previous Bangladesh factory accidents, awarding 25 years of salary plus various bonuses to the families of the deceased victims.”
Although that may sound reasonable on paper, “25 years of salary” does not add up to much if your salary is not very high to begin with. As such, the bottom line is less impressive:
“Families could receive about $33,000 for each victim, according to calculations.”
Of course, one of the underlying issues that needs to be determined in such compensation packages is responsibility and, therefore, legal liability:
“Some companies are reluctant to make payments to victims of those accidents that could acknowledge their responsibility—and open themselves to lawsuits—for events they believe they couldn't control. Some labor groups counter that apparel companies are broadly responsible even if they weren't producing in the factories at the time of the disasters.”
More details of the proposed settlement—how it is calculated and apportioned among factory owners, trade unions, the government, and the western retailers/brands that were producing in the country at the time—are contained in the graphic that accompanies the story:
Take care
David Chandler & Bill Werther
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Retailers Debate Reparations for Deaths

By Christina Passariello and Shelly Banjo
September 12, 2013
The Wall Street Journal
Late Edition – Final