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Archive for the ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ Category

“Domestic Violence: Your Coworker’s Dark Secret” is a Fortune online article that blew my mind.  First, I was surprised to see that someone in the established media was willing to take on the subject; Second, it’s a well-written, well-researched, and heart-rending article that captivated my attention.  From the article:

Now a small but growing group of CEOs is saying that it’s time for corporate America to confront the issue head-on. Domestic violence affects the bottom line, they say. It threatens workplace safety. As an HR issue, it’s much more volatile and potentially dangerous than drug addiction or alcoholism.

“I’d like to see more done about this,” says Thomas J. Wilson, CEO of Allstate, one of the CEOs who sees it as a major issue affecting employees, customers, or both. At Verizon Wireless, which handled about 100 abuse cases internally in the past year and roughly 225 more through its employee-assistance programs, “the numbers speak for themselves,” says Martha Delehanty, vice president of human resources. “This is an issue we must address.”

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In a study of three large companies spanning 39 states, 10% of workers who responded to survey questions said, “Right now I am going through this,” says Anne O’Leary-Kelly, a management professor who conducted the study.

The article gives stark portrayals of the women who have faced spousal abuse, and seen it spill over into their work lives.  More heartening, however, are the workplaces that have taken the initiative and responded to this blatant disrespect for human lives with an outpouring of support for the abused.

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Green trends and sustainable practices are the talk of everyone in business–well, almost everyone until now. Deloitte reports that companies involved in Mergers & Acquisitions haven’t been paying much attention to them. Read their report, “How Green Is the Deal? The Growing Role of Sustainability in M&A”. From the press release:

The “greening” of products and business operations has become a central theme in virtually every industry. In today’s environment, companies that have strong corporate responsibility and sustainability (CR&S) programs in place are likely to be rewarded for their efforts. As CR&S wields growing influence on the strategy and operations of a company, so too will it become an increasingly important aspect of mergers and acquisitions (M&A).

In this paper, we provide an outline of six key areas of focus for executives, and discuss how greater consideration of sustainability related issues, when evaluating potential M&A transactions, can help to improve deal success.

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Fortune online has two new “10 Most” lists: “10 Most ‘Accountable’ Big Companies” and “10 New Gurus You Should Know.” What I found interesting was that the first guru, BJ Fogg, whose big idea is that “mobile technology will be the most powerful way to influence consumers in the next 15 years” while the first most accountable company was Vodafone–coincodence?

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Thanks to Jeff, a SOM library student worker, for reminding me about the United Nations’ great website, WomenWatch.  The site acts as a clearinghouse for all subjects related to women in the world, from news to research to events.  You could spend the day looking at all of information they have, there’s just so much of it.  Examples are the Women2000 and Beyond report, a series publication that addresses world gender issues that aren’t at the forefront.  Their most recent report, in honor of International Day of Rural Women (October 15th) focused on:

the situation of rural women and the full diversity of their experiences in the context of the changing rural economy, including their position within households, community and economic structures; the gender division of labour; their access to and control over resources; and their participation in decision-making. It focuses specifically on the situation of rural women in developing countries. This publication aims to highlight women’s contributions to the social, economic and political aspects of rural development and raise critical issues for improving the situation of rural women.

These publications are fascinating and freely available online.  Other examples of the breadth of WomenWatch are the topics they cover:  Women and the Economy; Women in Power and Decision Making; Women and Armed Conflict; Women and the Media; and many others.

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The Economist has an interesting and fun-to-read article about the entrepreneurial-promotion efforts of Russell Simmons, the hip-hop mogul and philanthropist.  My favorite part is the description of an upcoming event hosted by his Hip-Hop Summit Action Network:

It has recently taken up the challenge of promoting financial literacy to the young hip-hop fans who attend its events. Mr Simmons describes this as “a bunch of rappers and Suze Orman” (a popular financial adviser), with stars such as Doug E. Fresh literally leading fans page by page through a financial-literacy textbook.

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The United Nations, International Labour Organization, and Cornell University’s ILR school have collaborated on “Green Jobs: Toward Sustainable Work in a Low-Carbon World”, which was released today. It’s billed as “the first comprehensive study of the ‘green economy’ and its impact on the work world” and features some interesting findings, as well as taking the argument beyond going “green” for the environment’s sake and using this as a platform to address economic inequalities. From Cornell’s press release:

Optimistic findings in the report include:

  • green jobs could grow by the millions by 2040
  • billions are being spent this decade to retrofit buildings, creating jobs
  • “clean tech” investment shot up 60 percent from 2006 to 2007, to $148 billion
  • renewable energy jobs – now at 2.3 million — are expanding rapidly

Formidable challenges to advancing the green economy are also cited:

  • only a tiny portion of work worldwide can be described as green
  • many “green jobs” may be “dirty, dangerous and difficult”
  • energy research spending is down for government and the private sector
  • green employment does not have a foothold in most developing countries, home to 80 percent of the world’s workers.

The report goes on to state:

There is nothing intrinsically fair or just about either the process of becoming green or the end result . . . . The issue is not simply about the transition itself, but what follows the transition – the goal being a new mode of production and consumption that allows for greater social inclusion, equity, and opportunity.

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“How Firms Respond to Being Rated”, an HBS working paper, investigates whether companies respond when being ranked according to their corporate environmental policies and actions. In their preliminary findings, companies responded to a low ranking by improving their performance. From the abstract:

While many independent rating systems are designed primarily to help buyers overcome information asymmetries when making purchasing decisions, we investigate whether these same ratings might also influence the companies being rated. We focus on corporate environmental ratings, the primary purpose of which is to help investors select “socially responsible,” and avoid “socially irresponsible,” companies. We hypothesize that company ratings are particularly likely to spur responses by firms that receive poor ratings, especially those that face lower cost opportunities to improve and that operate in highly regulated industries. Our empirical analysis examines how nearly 600 firms in the United States respond to corporate environmental ratings issued by a prominent independent social rating agency, and avoids selection issues by taking advantage of a natural experiment that arose when the agency expanded the scope of its ratings. We find empirical support for our hypotheses, and present implications for managers of rated companies and of private and public rating agencies. While negative ratings may “shame” firms that are performing poorly, the threat of regulatory action and the presence of “low hanging fruit” are important drivers of how firms respond to information-based incentives.

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