The appropriate level of corporation tax has always been something of a mystery. The law is clear that there is no duty to maximise tax paid. But of course there is no duty to minimise it either. Nevetherless, the apparent tax rates for many large companies can approach zero. Interesting then to see the Korean approach to over-zealous tax strategies: give those who report evasion a reward.
The tsunami of 2004 seems like an “Act of God” over which humans have no control or influence. Except that we do: just not on the causes, but on the effects. Where and how we build and live can affect what happens. And just as many large animals are reported to have left the scene shortly before disaster struck, perhaps, in our own way, we can be more sensitive to hazards. And we could probably get very good at being alert to those which defiinitely are of our own making…
Paul Hawken has challenged the Socially Responsible Investing industry over whether it is really responsible. He asks why the portfolio of SRI funds is almost identical to ordinary funds. It is true there ought to be a difference. BUt how do you define what that difference should be? Whose values should count here? Those of the investment manager, those of its clients – or those of Paul Hawken?
Is offshoring inevitable? McKinsey seems to think so. And who does it benefit? No doubt the cash position will be better in the short to medium term. But do workers benefit? It is hard to see that – as work moves from the UK to India, and then to China – and then abolished due to technological change. So does bowing to the commercially inevitable make for good CSR….?
At a seminar last week the new CSR minister, Nigel Griffiths, said he liked to think that CSR was written through corporate DNA like the writing in a stick of rock. When I asked, however he could not say whether the writing would also be written through the rock of government. So perhaps this is the writing on the wall for CSR…
Reporting a war means embedded reporters. What status should their views have? Not only are their reports limited in scope, they are also prohibited from reporting security information. We are trading understanding for the gritty excitement of shaking cameras. We also try to embed sustainability within companies. What is the trade off here? Can companies be sustainble all by themselves – or do they need to interact with their environment, and their stakeholders, to achieve a judicious view of their responsibilties?
Bush again. Why do I feel depressed? Perhaps because of the sense of powerlessness. After all there has been an election which will affect everyone in the world, but most of the world’s people haven’t been able to vote. And most of us will find Bush’s policies taxing, but we have no representation. And when was the last time you voted for someone at the UN?
The Newsnight programme on Shell, coming after its latest high profits, raises the question: Will the re-design of Shell’s corporate governance following shareholder pressure make a difference to its impact on other stakeholders and the environment. There is little sign so far.
Homo floresiensis – a new species of humankind from Indonesia. If any were found alive today, would they be granted ‘human rights’? How far can the concept of ‘rights’ be extended? Does nature have rights? Do we only offend humans when we destroy the world? Some work is being done on this – see Thomas Berry and Cormac Cullinan for example.
I heard yesterday how BAT thought about their social repsonsibility. An extremely slick presentation. It is not surprising that CSR has got a bad name. The marvel was how large an elephant it was possible to have in the room without naming it! It appeared that they do not know, or do not wish to share, how many deaths their products cause. And if a significant group of your stakeholders will not talk to you, what is the significance of what the rest say?