Submitted by Christian Aid
The image of companies working hard to make the world a better place is too often just that - a carefully manufactured image - says Behind the mask: the real face of corporate social responsibility, a new report from Christian Aid. Its target is the burgeoning industry known as corporate social responsibility - or CSR - which is now seen as a vital tool in promoting and improving the public image of some of the world's largest companies and corporations.
But, as the case studies in this report - featuring Shell, British American Tobacco and Coca Cola - demonstrate, the rhetoric can also mask corporate activity that makes things worse for the communities in which they work.
'Some of those shouting the loudest about their corporate virtues are also among those inflicting continuing damage on communities where they work - particularly poor communities,' says Andrew Pendleton, senior policy officer at Christian Aid and author of the report. 'Legally binding regulation is now needed to lessen the devastating impact that companies can have in an ever-more globalised world.'
Behind the mask: the real face of corporate social responsibility demonstrates how over the past decade companies have used an image of social responsibility to oppose regulation and convince governments in rich countries that business can put its own house in order. The report concludes that the voluntary approach to improving corporate behaviour is wholly inadequate and that international legally binding standards are now needed.
'Governments must now adopt an international set of standards for the behaviour of companies. Rich countries like Britain have regulations that bind companies to good ethical practice at home. So why should companies not be tied to similar standards when they are working in poor countries?' asks Mr Pendleton. 'Instead of talking about more voluntary CSR in Davos, governments including Britain's should be discussing how new laws can raise standards of corporate behaviour. '
Journalists/editors: for interviews with Andrew Pendleton ring 07720 813 865 or Judith Melby on 07720 467 679.
Notes to editors:
1. The World Economic Forum's annual meeting is held in Davos, Switzerland from 21-25 January 2004.
2. Andy King, the Labour MP for Rugby and Kenilworth, will introduce The Performance of Companies and Government Departments (Reporting) Bill, a private members' bill aimed at improving the UK's regulation of companies overseas, on 30 January 2004.
3. Christian Aid's key campaigners around the country will be writing to their MPs asking them to support Andy King's bill.
4. Christian Aid is a member of the Corporate Responsibility (CORE) campaign, which is backing the Performance of Companies and Government Departments (Reporting) Bill.
5. You can download the report Behind the mask: the real face of corporate social responsibility at http://www.christian-aid.org/indepth/0401csr/index.htm. For hard copies of the report ring 0207 523 2421 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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