Corporate Responsibility & Society

Utilitarianism: a protection for Volkswagen’s immoral, but legal, emissions cheat?

Kate O’Dwyer

28 January 2016

The recent automobile emissions scandal involving Volkswagen provides us with the opportunity to explore corporate social responsibility, specifically relating to the concept of what is legal versus what it ethical. Please click here to read the full article.

Issues with Amazon’s CSR Strategy

Lacey Taubin

12 December 2015

In what follows we analyze Amazon’s corporate social responsibility strategy, the initiatives they put forward and how they might improve their CSR record. The company has been criticized for their unethical practices, and is striving to improve in this regard. Please click here to read the full article.

Inside Apple’s Factories: do Apple factories meet ethical working conditions?

Destiny Medina

10 December 2015

Apple, Inc. is well known for their technology but also their treatment towards employees. Over the past few years, many stories have surfaced about the poor treatment that employees receive at Apple’s biggest suppliers, Foxconn and Pegatron in China. Apple employees are dying and committing suicide because they’re overworked (McCarthy, 2015). Please click here to read the full article.

Can Obesity Research and Soft Drink Companies Share the Same Goals?

Dylan Curry

2 December 2015

The Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN) is a relatively new, not-for-profit organization that uses the science of energy balance to identify innovative solutions that work to prevent and reduce diseases associated with inactivity, obesity, and poor nutrition. They rely on engaging experts of many fields to achieve a standard of healthier living while creating a virtual hub of awareness and providing a platform for voices in science. Please click here to read the full article.

Lidl’s new wage policy

Nikita Zolotarev

1 December 2015

This article will discuss Lidl’s new wage policy in the United Kingdom. Lidl was established back in the 1930s as a grocery wholesaler in Germany. Since then, it has grown into one of the main grocery retailers in Europe. Its first retail shops were opened in 1973. The chain became very popular in Germany by the 1980s. After achieving success in its homeland, Lidl began to open stores throughout Europe. Lidl intends to continue the pursuit of new markets both within and outside Europe. Please click here to read the full article.

FIFA scandal

Larissa Jaeger

10 November 2015

The Swiss authorities raided the hotel Baur au Lac in Zurich on 27 May 2015 and the US Department of Justice subsequently presented a formal indictment against nine current and former FIFA officials as well as five marketing executives over allegations of fraud, bribery and money laundering. Since the corruption scandal broke in the news, many new pieces of evidence have surfaced and different angles to the story are being explored both by the media and the authorities. This article will critically analyse the criminal investigation into several current and former FIFA officials, with a focus on the issues of legal jurisdiction by way of the pending extraditions, as well as on the seemingly untouchable FIFA president, Sepp Blatter. Please click here to read the full article.

Kickstarter’s CSR model

Sean Russell

9 November 2015

Corporate social responsibility, or CSR, is the idea that businesses have obligations to society beyond the pursuit of profit. An example of a company that illustrates this is Kickstarter. The company was founded on April 28, 2009 by Yancey Strickler and Perry Chen. Their mission was to bring creative projects to life. They measure the success of their company by how well they achieve that mission, not by the size of their profits. Please click here to read the full article.

Nike’s most recent CSR faux pas

Hauwa Gwarzo

5 November 2015

One of the most recent criticisms attracted by Nike Inc. is for the endorsement of American sprinter Justin Gatlin in March 2015 despite having failed drugs test twice. The fact that Justin Gatlin was banned twice for using performance enhancement drugs means that, Gatlin is not particularly the right ambassador for Nike or the best role model for children aspiring to become future athletes and the general public is against use of drugs therefore in order to promote the right corporate image, businesses are better off not associating themselves with athletes like Gatlin who have failed drugs. Therefore the fact that, Nike Inc. endorsed Gatlin after failing drugs test twice means that, they have failed to relate themselves to the expectations of the general public or community. Please click here to read the full article.

Dan Price: The $70,000 Man

Everett Reed

28 October 2015

Dan Price, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Gravity Payments, has made an immediate change in the lives of his employees. At his credit card processing firm located in Seattle, he reduced his own million-dollar salary down to $70,000 and increased the minimum salary of his 120 employees to $70,000 with a scaled policy. The details of the policy are as follows: an immediate raise to a minimum wage of $50,000 was established immediately after the announcement, by the end of 2016 the minimum salary would rise again to $60,000 and then to $70,000 by December 2017. Mr. Price found inspiration for the implementation of this wage increase after reading a Princeton study which found that one’s emotional well-being rises with income until the person is making about $75,000. He figured that by raising the salary of Gravity Payments that they too would receive a boost in emotional well-being, which would result in a positive effect of the company. Please click here to read the full article.

Walmart Ends Sale of Rifles

Lilybeth Silva

27 October 2015

On August 26, 2015 Walmart announced that they would no longer sell rifles, such as the AR-15, in their stores across the United States; the very kind of rifles that have been used in shootings like that of the Colorado Theater in which 12 people died and the Sandy Hook Elementary School which resulted in the death of 20 children and 6 adults, just to name a few incidents. Walmart’s spokesperson, Kory Lundberg, makes it clear that their decision to discontinue the sale of rifles and guns that hold multiple rounds of ammunitions was based purely on low customer demands, not politics. However, Mr. Tabuchi (2015) claims “the decision followed years of public pressure on the retailer to stop selling some of the most lethal weapons”. Please click here to read the full article.

The Rana Plaza Incident – An Analysis

Pramila Siwa

16 October 2015

When the 8-storey Rana Plaza building collapsed and came crashing down on the ill-fated day of 24th April 2013 in Bangladesh, amidst the dust and deaths of over 1,100 victims buried under the rubbles, came to surface one of the biggest issues in global garment production industry and demands of fast fashion out of cheap labour – the issue of workers’ safety. Furthermore, the haziness of the supply chain and the legal obligations, implementations of regulations and audits, or lack thereof, were all brought to much-needed attention of authorities, global spectators and consumers. The disaster unveiled the difficulties of the unprotected workers that are often away from the public sight but form the foundation of modern day global economic production (Agarwala, 2014). This paper aims to unravel the hard realities of the garment industry, the shortcomings of the international retailers in ensuring appropriate standards in factories of production in line with their code of ethics, analysis of the situation against theory of Utilitarianism, and the measures to be taken in order for this industry and its processes to be made more ethical. Please click here to read the full article.

Red Bull: the ethical saga

Florian Ramsauer

16 October 2015

Red Bull, an energy drink maker that has existed for over three decades, is a leading seller of energy drinks all around the world. While some of the company’s marketing tactics have been called into question, the company’s overall tactics suggest the company engages in environmentally friendly and ethical practices. Please click here to read the full article.

NSA´s surveillance leak by Edward Snowden – a utilitarian analysis

Jose Camero

30 September 2015

Edward Joseph Snowden was born on the 21st of June 1983 and in 2013 became the catalyst and centre of attention regarding his alleged mass reveal of classified National Security Agency documents which indicted the U.S. government of unlawful mass civilian surveillance. Snowden began working for the NSA as a contractor stationed near Tokyo and eventually transferred to Hawaii where he was assigned to be the NSA´s lead technologist at Booz Allan Hamilton. It was there that he copied and smuggled more than 1.7 million top secret documents to journalists. Among the many revelations brought forth by Snowden was the existence and usage of PRISM, a bulk metadata collection programme run by the NSA containing evidence of mass American communication surveillance. Please click here to read the full article.

TOMS Shoes: A CSR Case Study

Peter Hopkins

24 September 2015

In the year 2006, an entrepreneur by the name of Blake Mycoskie traveled through Argentina. On his trip, he noticed that mass numbers of children were without something that is essential to someone’s life: a pair of shoes. Later that year, Mycoskie created a company, known as TOMS Shoes. To this day, TOMS Shoes has been a top force driving the footwear industry, but with a twist. TOMS presents itself as a company where their corporate social responsibility is fully integrated into their business model. Their CSR is known as the “One for One” philosophy (TOMS, 2006). The “One for One” strategy is simple. Whenever someone buys a pair of TOMS Shoes, TOMS effectively will donate a pair of shoes to a child in need. Please click here to read the full article.

Chevron’s Ecuador Pollution Case

Gaia Cenci

23 September 2015

As corporate social responsibility becomes an increasingly pressing issue in the global business framework, companies and international firms are continuously put under the spotlight for their corporate misconduct, sometimes alleged, and sometimes demonstrated and prosecuted. The oil and gas industry has historically been a very sensitive sector to corporate wrongdoing, as a result of the aggressive nature of its operations as well as of the propensity to conduct business in resources-rich developing countries that are often exploited and tend to not only accept, but even encourage the use of bribery and corruption to succeed in the field. Please click here to read the full article.

Apple Inc. and Tax Avoidance:

Multinational Corporations and the Game of Loopholes

Phebe Garver

9 September 2015

In 2013, the US government brought forth the findings of their investigation on Apple, Inc., in which they raised the question of how much tax may or may not have gone unpaid or been avoided by Apple. In his article for BBC, Robert Peston explains how and why Apple relocated their taxable locations: “Apple transferred offshore into low-tax countries the economic rights to its intellectual property – its valuable and usually patentable knowhow – with the result that it avoided around $10bn (£6.5bn) of US tax every year” (Peston, 2013). Please click here to read the full article.

India’s New CSR Law

Akash Chhabra

8 September 2015

The Companies Act that has been revised in 2013 has put into effect various new requirements that are bound to have a sizable impact on the way Indian businesses operate. Out of the several new clauses that have been included in the amended Companies Act, 2013 (Ministry of Law and Justice, 2013), one of them happens to be the clause that necessitates large Indian businesses to adopt Corporate Social Responsibility [CSR] as a part of their business objectives. Please click here to read the full article.

Calls for governance reform at the Co-op Group

2 May 2014

If there was ever a need to illustrate the importance of good governance (which entails openness, accountability and transparency) and its impact on business activities, the Co-operative Group is, at the moment, one of the most poignant examples to use. Sadly, it is not a positive one. Since the merger with Britannia in 2009, the group has lost its way to the point of near collapse last year, when it was faced with a £1.5bn capital shortfall. A recent report exposes chronic failings across the business, and it calls for reform of both governance structure and the organisational culture of the group. This would entail increased accountability, a new board structure, and a deeper understanding of risk among all staff. Please click here for more information about the report.

To be clear, the reforms would not question the organisation’s cooperative status; none of the advisors who have investigated the situation at the Co-op Group and proposed a reform of its governance suggests that the principle of mutuality should be abandoned. It is the quality of leadership – and its values applied into practice – that will help turn the situation around, rather than the type of ownership, thinks Lord Myners, an expert in the governance of life mutual offices, who in December 2013 was appointed to undertake an independent review of the Co-op Group’s governance. Please click here for more details about the review, which is due to be published in late 2014. Ten years ago, Lord Myners published a report urging all life mutuals to adopt ‘corporate governance best practice’. For more information on what counts as such, please click here.

Cross- Atlantic calls for regulations on high-frequency trading

15 April 2014

Michel Barnier, the EU commissioner responsible for financial service reforms, has expressed concerns regarding the practice of high-frequency trading, which can cause serious instability in the market (and indirectly the wider society). This is fundamentally dubious both from a moral and from a legal point of view, because it allows a small group of traders early access to information and the chance to act on that information, before the rest of the market can react. Details of the practice, which exploits lacks and inefficiencies in regulation and technology, have recently been detailed and denounced in Michael Lewis’s new book, Flash Boys.

New EU rules will be put in place to ensure that traders who buy and sell in milliseconds have their algorithms tested and are subject to regulation. Please click here for more information.

This mirrors concerns raised in the US, where New York’s attorney general has called for curbs on services provided to high-frequency traders. Last month, he said “I am committed to cracking down on fundamentally unfair – and potentially illegal – arrangements that give elite groups of traders early access to market-moving information at the expense of the rest of the market”. Please click here for more information.

BP compensations for the oil spill

5 March 2014

A federal appeal court upheld an earlier judgment that companies seeking compensation under the settlement agreement would not have to bring in evidence to prove that they had suffered damage as a result of the 2010 oil spill. The company announced last month it was facing a charge of £26 billion for the accident, up from the initial estimates of £5 billion. This would include a £333 million payout in claims that BP consider fraudulent or irrational. Despite this, the company announced profits of £2.3 billion for the last quarter of 2013. As a result of the lost bid to curb compensation payouts, its shares fell 1½p to 491½p. Please click here for the full article.

Women activists for human rights

26 February 2014

Three years ago, IM-Defensoras was set up in Central America, as an initiative to provide women rights defenders in the region with protection mechanisms that are flexible and adapted to the context. The initiative includes women’s rights activists ranging from those focusing on large collective campaigns to defend land and cultural rights, to individual activists for women who have been imprisoned for abortion.

One such endeavour is women’s efforts to keep indigenous lands in Honduras free of companies that plunder their natural resources, in particular trees. More than a hundred people were killed in the last four years, in the conflict between local farmers and palm oil magnates. The country’s biggest producer, Dinant Corporation, strongly denies any involvement in death squads or human rights violations. For more details about the wider context of the conflict, please click here for more information.

The initiative uses national networks of activists (e.g. in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua) to encourage and help them overcome obstacles in their work. Please click here for more information.

Stafford Hospital public inquiry

6 February 2013

Stafford Hospital, run by Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, is undoubtedly the biggest scandal in the history of the NHS.

Between 2005 and 2009, up to 1,200 patients died there prematurely; they were left unattended and some of them were left so thirsty, that they drank water from flower vases. Apparently decisions about which patients to treat were left to receptionists, while inexperienced junior doctors were put in charge of critically-ill patients, and nurses switched off equipment because they did not know how to use it.

All of this supposedly happened, because managers attempted to cut costs and meet Labour’s central targets; this way they could achieve the desired “foundation status” for Mid Staffordshire NHS trust – enforcing 160 job cuts along the way.

Robert Francis QC, a specialist in medical legal issues, is the inquiry chairman and the author of the subsequent report. The 139-day inquiry, which costs £13 million and produced a 1,782-page report with 290 recommendations, has heard testimony from victims, their family members, medics etc., but it refused to name and shame bosses, because the inquiry failed to identify particular individuals or organisations that were to blame. Instead, Mr Francis QC said that “regrettably, there was a failure of the NHS system at every level to detect and take the action patients and the public were entitled to expect”. NHS managers and regulators were equally responsible for the appalling failures.

Unfortunately for the victims and their families, these findings come too late, but for the millions who depend on the NHS, they will be absolutely crucial for the “urgent reform” that needs to take place at the NHS.

For more information please click here:

BBC – 6th Feb 2013.

The Sun – 6th February 2013.

The Telegraph – 6th January 2013.

Legal v. moral responsibility

5 January 2013

David Sokol used to be one of the closest allies of the world famous investor Warren Buffett and former Berkshire Hathaway executive. Two years ago, he resigned as chairman of MidAmerican Energy Holdings, a subsidiary of BH, when it emerged that he had bought $10 million of shares in Lubrizol, a chemicals company, which he knew BH was soon going to acquire. When the deal was made in March 2011, Mr Sokol made a $3 million profit.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has dropped the allegations of insider trading, but Warren Buffett made no effort to hide his disappointment when asked about Mr Sokol’s dealings: “He violated the code of ethics. He violated our insider rules. He violated the principles I lay out every two years.” Unfortunately, however, such lack of moral responsibility falls outside the remit of American regulators.

Please click here for the full article.

SA prosecutors drop case against Lonmin miners

2 September 2012

Everybody heard about the recent unrest at the Lonmin platinum mines in Rustenburg, NW of South Africa, where at least 46 miners out of more than 3,000 were killed when police opened fire, trying to disperse their illegal strike. Other 78 are wounded and many are missing. The miners went on strike in early August to demand higher wages from the company that owns the mine, London-based Lonmin (a FT100 listed company). Mainstream media reported this as a war between unions and, in an odd legal twist, 270 of the remaining miners were accused with murdering their own colleagues (through an obscure legal doctrine called ‘common purpose’). This has outraged the community, inducing panic and confusion amongst people. Now the prosecutors have provisionally dropped the charges against the miners, and said they had not ruled out charges against the police. The episode is a painful reminder of the wider conflict over the distribution of economic and political power in South Africa, where the workforce has long suffered continuous disappointment over mining companies’ failure to deliver their promises to improve working conditions. Please click here for the full article.

Corporate sin and the common good

21 July 2012

In a recent interview, Bishop Welby of Durham – former oil executive, Libor scandal inquiry member and possible next Archbishop of Canterbury – discusses the notion of corporate sin, the power of the City, and the pragmatic aspects needed to be put in place in order to ensure systemic accountability. It is reassuring to know that a member of the above mentioned committee believes in better regulation and concrete checks and balances more than in good human beings. Please click here for the full article.

UN tribunal finds its ethics office failed to protect whistleblower from reprisals

New York, 27 June 2012

A veteran American diplomat was fired and then detained by UN police after raising suspicions of corruption. The UN’s dispute tribunal has ruled that the organisation’s ethics office failed to protect him against such reprisals from his bosses, and that UN’s mechanisms for dealing with whistleblowers were “fundamentally flawed”. Of the 297 cases where whistleblowers complained of retaliation for trying to expose wrongdoing inside the UN, the ethics office fully sided with the complainant just once in six years. Please click here for the full article.

Recruiting future stock market regulators – Calls for reform

19 March 2010

In the aftermath of the Lehman Brothers report, a debate has been initiated about how to better recruit and train regulators who will be responsible for enforcing laws against stock market violations. The New York managing editor at a financial services information firm thinks that financial regulatory agencies should look to the example of the Foreign Service. Click here to read the full article.

UN cuts back on investigating its own fraud

12 January 2010

Over the past year, not a single significant fraud or corruption case has been completed, compared with 150 cases a year in the past. Click here to read the full article.

Shell to go on trial for oil spills in Nigeria

30 December 2009

Legal action taken by four Nigerian victims of Shell oil leaks, in conjunction with Milieudefensie, the Dutch division of Friends of the Earth, started at the court in The Hague. Click here to read the full article.

UN Ethics Office Press Conference

May 2006

The UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the recently established UN Ethics Office holds press conference to explain the creation of this new office as part of the wider UN reform aimed at ensuring transparent and accountable governance for the institution. Please click here for the full article.