Thursday, September 29, 2011

Corporate Social Responsibility is by any other name ...

A number of articles in the last month question the whole idea of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

The first, and biggest, of these was the extremely damning report by the UN on the oil industry and its environmental impacts on the Niger River delta in Nigeria. The report stated that "oil contamination in Ogoniland is widespread and severely impacting many components of the environment"(Executive Summary, p.9).(A long report, but read at least the executive summary -- it is fascinating)

Probably the biggest thing the report leads to is the Shell company's role in the whole mess. Shell has for a long time claimed that it has always acted responsibly in the Niger Delta (and elsewhere). Finally we now see that this was nothing more than propaganda.

Then I saw the report a few days ago that ExxonMobil was fined $126,000 by the US Occupational Health and Safety Agency for safety violations at an oil refinery. This is a company which has an annual profit of $40 billion (and yet pays no corporate tax). In other words the fine was the amount of profit made by Exxon every two minutes. And this is the company which supports climate change deniers by the millions (dollars that is).

Now the news is that the company behind the red sludge disaster in Hungary has been told by the Hungarian government that it will not be allowed to go under.

I will give two other examples. The Register has an interesting series about overpackaging. Giving a number of examples and ending up calling HP the world champion at overpackaging (The Register is an on-line IT magazine). It then notes that HP was given an Australian award as a good packager!

Finally, the example that pisses me off the most (well, after Shell that is). It is Chevron's ads about how it is socially responsible. Yet this is the same company who was sued by the government of Ecuador for leaving a mess in the Amazon and refuses to accept responsibility.

To be honest I am getting sick and tired of the bullshit of "corporate social responsibility" (aka CSR). It has become a meaningless phrase which is used only to make the company look better.

Update (16 Nov.): There is a new Amnesty International report about the Shell oil spills in the Niger Delta. Shell still shows denial.

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