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A soft line on hard choices?

Microsoft has been accused of complicity in aiding the Russian State to crack down on NGOs. In standing firm against software piracy, it appears to have provided help to the Russian police.

One interesting aspect of this story is that it concerns civil and political rights, rather than economic, social and cultural rights, with which companies are usually more closely connected.

The situation described by the New York Times shows that working with States requires constant vigilance and can present many ethical choices.

Microsoft has said that it will be reviewing the situation.

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ISO 26000 will become an official standard

ISO 26000 has been approved. Until the vote by national standards bodies, it was not clear whether the standard for social responsibility would become a full standard or some lesser, technical document.

But 93% of ISO members voted it through. The most significant votes against were from the USA and India. And China voted positively.

The new standard is expected to be published in November.

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How do you drill for oil responsibly in the Falklands?

Falklands Oil & Gas is all set to start drilling for oil around the Falkland islands. Is it possible to do this responsibly?

There are issues around environmental impact – many of which are shared with all other oil companies. But there is also the issue of the political ramifications of drilling in contested waters. However in their most recent Annual Report, there is just 1 page on responsibilities (and no accompanying Sustainability Report). There is not even a single mention of Argentina!

I suppose ‘caveat emptor’ is a basic business principle.

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Dealing with the shame of Copenhagen

Unfortunately the world’s major powers at Copenhagen forgot to ask the planet to sign up to the Accord. So while the ‘world’s leaders’ heroically managed to save face, they haven’t managed to save the world (or our place in it). But still, saving face is apparently one step towards saving the world…if only the journey wasn’t a marathon and we weren’t already late.

Trying to be positive: one thing Copenhagen has achieved is to make the lack of planetary governance plain for all to see. It is no good blaming the chaos of Copenhagen on developing countries, as Brown and Milliband have done. Chaos may be inconvenient to the tidy PR-dusted process that ‘world leaders’ normally enjoy through the UN, but it has exposed the actual situation we face and the real issues that threaten us.

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Accountability in a drugged haze

Alan Johnson is tackling his political disagreement with the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs by calling for greater accountability from them. He is apparentlyconcerned that they may have been over-stepping their remit. Perhaps there’s a question to answer.

But there is also a question as to Alan Johnson’s accountability to the scientific community. We need to see the audit trail of decision-making that led to the rejection of the Committee’s advice.

Of course drug misuse is just one example of many: consider nanotechnology or climate change. How is the scientific and expert advice for these issues treated?

We need to be able to see clearly how scientific advice is being used – or abused – by the government.

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Racial antiVenom

The Question Time program with Nick Griffin attracted over 8m viewers – the highest ever for any episode. What a pity that the quality of discussion seemed to be the lowest ever.

Nick Griffin and the BNP attract so much venom and raise so many issues, that especially at the start of the program, most of the great and the good on the panel could not actually marshall their arguments properly. Instead they resorted to slurring Griffin’s character which simply generated sympathy for him.

The BBC is apparently not ruling out inviting Griffin onto the programme again. If they do they will need a far more capable chair than David Dimbleby. But I fear he may be the best there is.

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Dealing with lunatics

Poor old Douglas Carswell, MP for Clacton…he cannot believe that climate change is happening. If one were unkind, it would be tempting to say that those who believed that sea level changes depended only on the moon and its tides were the real lunatics.

But the serious point here is that an elected representative can think he is fairly representing his community with such extreme views. And fairly representing the scientific community to his constituents. Carswell’s views seem to be a grotesque irresponsibility.

Maybe it really is hard to accept the truth if you live in such a low-lying area as Clacton on Sea.

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Taxing Corporate Citizens

If companies would like to be seen as ‘corporate citizens’, then they should expect other citizens (the public) to judge their actions from a moral perspective. They must expect the same horror of corporate tax avoidance as is shown towards MPs fiddling expenses. At the moment the public is largely unaware of the issue – but when informed, they are in no doubt as to the injustice of corporate tax policies.

As I pointed out some time ago in Corporate Truth, many of the solutions are well known – and some have even been espoused by the G20. But what is really lacking is the political will to follow through.

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He may be ahead, but what about a heart?

David Cameron seems to be ahead in the polls. But how far does he have the interests of all at heart? Regulation is the acid test: how far do you let markets decide – and how far do you decide for the markets?

Cameron has spoken about the need for regulation. But until the mantra of ‘the market knows best’ is dropped, the market will continue to be treated best. Does he agree with George Osborne’s view that ‘laissez-faire is dead’?

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Self-defence & the art of transparency

It must be galling for BAE to see yet more reports on the darker side of its deals – this time in South Africa. Especially after the Woolf Report, which made transparency and open-ness a key recommendation, and which was positioned as a clean break with the past.

But given that the Woolf Report is for BAE of ‘fundamental importance to how we do business now and in the future’, it is also a shame that there is so little indication of BAE’s involvement in corruption in its most recent Annual Report.