Reading through the blizzard of reports and utterances from the great CSR news community is not one of the most positive experiences right now. There are so many stories knocking around about company practices which reflect variable standards of business ethics that it would be easy for the uninitiated to believe that business continues to operate in an ethical vacuum.
This balance of news is reflected in this edition of Ethical Performance.
We have HSBC facing big fines in the US for money laundering, and BP facing truly enormous fines for the culpability it has admitted for the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
The Tazreen Fashions garment factory blaze in Dhaka is yet another depressing reminder of the misery that many workers face in that industry – surely, the drip-drip effect of factory fire deaths will have a cumulative effect on consumer consciousness of fashion brands?
Then there is the question of ethics in medical research and the development of much-needed new cancer treatments: can medical research companies ever justify building their profitability by refusing to share valuable data, thereby delaying medical breakthroughs at a cost of lives lost waiting?
Meanwhile, our CSR Breakfast round-table discussion on the financial services industry has given rise to an interesting feature (on pages 12 and 13) on the ethical landscape in which banks and finance houses now find themselves. As ever, the headlines obscure a less clear-cut truth.
Rather clearer, however, is the attempt by US industry bodies to neuter the Dodd-Frank Act: this time on the use of conflict materials, following on from last month’s action over reporting on corruption and facilitation payments.
Though the US Chamber of Commerce and its lawsuit partners claim the Securities & Exchange Commission has overstepped its authority and that the regulations could cost US jobs, this is surely just a pretext for protecting practices known to cause harm and injustice in vulnerable regions of the world.
Corporate citizenship and business ethics
To many outside the CSR and corporate bubble, these any other headlines do little but confirm the prejudice that business is, ultimately, out for itself at everyone else’s expense.
But we know that many, many companies take their corporate citizenship and business ethics very seriously. And so, for this reason, I have taken the opportunity to detail the winners of the Responsible Business Game Changers awards, the first event of its kind in the UK, run by Business in the Community.
We hardly ever do this sort of thing here at Ethical Performance, but we have included their names, organisations, profile pictures (where possible) and a short sentence on why they have been nominated. These people have vision, passion, dedication and tenacity to get things done and they are proof that business really is an agent for change.
• Originally published in Ethical Performance in December 2012