Our latest issue of PR Watch exposed the gap between words and deeds at the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. Amid lofty-sounding proclamations, the Bush administration and business lobbyists are blocking measurable standards and accountability, while pausing for periodic photo opportunities with the same environmental, labor and human rights groups that they are working to neutralize.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Coinciding with the World Summit on Sustainable Development taking place in Johannesburg, the Green Oscars announced this year's winners. In the category of Best Green Actor for achievement in Corporate Greenwash, the award goes to BP, for their Beyond Petroleum rebranding campaign, and their "Oil is old news" ad.
In the wake of recent corporate scandals, Business Ethics magazine, which promotes the movement for corporate social responsibility, is facing up to some unpleasant realities. "It appears that much of the corporate social responsibility movement has dealt in peripheral matters, in language, in mechanical social screens.
"Even the executive from Philip Morris Companies Inc., the parent company of the largest cigarette maker in the United States, couldn't ignore the irony that he had been scheduled to speak about corporate responsibility," writes Marc Levy in an Associated Press report on a speech delivered on Monday by PM vice president David Greenberg.
"British American Tobacco (BAT) has vowed to plow on with its corporate social responsibility program (CSR) -- despite criticism that its first-ever CSR report is simply a PR exercise," PR Week writes. BAT's released its CSR report last week "after a series of face-to-face forums designed to establish dialogue with its critics." But according to PR Week, more than 130 organizations targeted by BAT refused to participate in the dialogue.
During the recent meeting of the US Conference of Mayors, DuPont received special attention as a partner with the mayors in Cities United for Science Progress (CUSP).
Radio stations won't let environmentalists at the Sierra Club run a radio ad urging the US car industry to build more fuel efficient cars. The ad spot specifically names Bill Ford Jr. of Ford Motor Company, an executive who excels at greenwashing his company with rhetoric, while failing to 'walk the walk.' Ford gives lip service to fuel efficiency, but staunchly opposes laws that would require it. Radio stations doing business with Ford and running its car ads are refusing to run the Sierra Club's radio spot.
"Greed and corruption have always lingered at the edges of Corporate America, from Civil War profiteers to inside-trading scandals of the '80s," observes Gary Strauss in USA Today. "Yet the new millennium has ushered in a wave of fraud, corporate malfeasance, investment scams, ethical lapses and conflicts of interest unprecedented in scope." Not coincidentally, more and more corporations are issuing feel-good reports about their achievements in the field of corporate social responsibility (CSR). According to the KPMG accounting firm, the number of U.S.
Paul Hawken writes that McDonald's recent 'Report on Corporate Social Responsibility' is "a low- water mark for the concept of sustainability and the promise of corporate social responsibility. ... This is ... a report about how a corporation that's been severely stung by bad publicity, poor service and declining earnings now wants to plead its case to its critics. ...
More and more corporations are catching the corporate social responsibility (CSR) wave, promoting themselves as good global corporate citizens. The PR industry has taken note observes PR Week. "Many [PR firms] have identified CSR as a major growth area for their business, and an opportunity to operate at the highest levels, counseling board members and even CEOs, rather than just focusing on more junior employees," PR Week writes. "All these agencies see CSR and PR not only as a natural fit for one another, but almost as one and the same.