Corporate Social Responsibility in Context:




1. General Updates on CSR:

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/apr/27/bulldoze-the-business-school - provocative piece, that tends to dismiss CSR as ‘cosmetic’. After all, ‘business’ is tied to capitalism, and currently therefore to the neo-liberal worldview.


‘My green pod’ issued with the Guardian, Spring 2018, has several articles that go much further than CSR: www.mygreenpod.com Particularly useful are the articles on ‘being conscious’ which spell out the view that everything in existence is connected to everything else, and we therefore should care about everything. The interview with the twelfth Gyalwang Drukpa I would sympathise with most strongly: Founded a thousand years before Christianity, in India, the Drukpa Lineage has millions of followers. The Gyalwang Drukpa emphasizes caring for the environment, which is especially important in the Himalayas, where glaciers are melting and there are storms and avalanches which are more frequent now. They plant trees to bind the soil and prevent floods. He speaks of ‘open-eyes meditation’ – observing and reflecting on what is happening around you and through you.


Other articles in this issue deal with teaching children a healthy diet, the B Corp label (see www.bcorporation.uk), Body Shop (now part of Natura www.natura.com), Triodos www.triodos.co.uk, community energy, Octopus (green energy supplier – www.octopus.energy) – etc!!! I hardly need to update these notes any more since nearly all the ideas here are being pushed forward in mygreenpod!


2. Updates to various chapters:


For Chapter 5: the consumer by topic, in alphabetical order:




#child labour

#coffee (and Starbucks)



#makerspacesAditya Chakrabortty on an alternative to large-scale capitalist enterprises

#product placement


#turbo-consumers (also Baudrillard…)


For Chapter 6: the environment (general topics) go to (Social Movements Chapter 8) environmental movements updates and especially Protecting the Planet (a course of lectures).


For Chapter 7: the 'third world': topics in alphabetical order:




Britain and the developing world.

fair trade

Financial crisis


multinational companies



tax transfer



For Chapter 8: Inequality, go to: Chapter 8: Inequality Updates.


Chapter 5 updates:

Adbusters: – were one of the sparks that lit the ‘Occupy’ movement (see pp18 updates).



Eliane Glaser has received flack for her book: Get Real – in Guardian Review 31.03.12 she replies especially to those who say that ‘people are not stupid’: we are all being manipulated and persuaded of things – and she still uses the concept ‘false consciousness’ (see Marxism...). Points out that Nudge idea was promoted in 2010 by Cameron in his ‘nudge unit’ it was to work with such as McDonalds and PepsiCo, and it was directed by David Halpern, former advisor to Blair, and author of: ‘Mindspace: Influencing Behaviour through Public Policy.’ Government, he says, should ‘shift the focus of attention away from facts and information ‘and towards ‘automatic processes [and] altering the context in which people act’. It should become a ‘surrogate willpower’. See:



(Jessica Shepherd, G 151209):

Government (DCSF) inquiry, under Prof. David Buckingham, finds that children as young as five should be taught how to deal with the onslaught of advertising aimed at them… Companies now sponsor school awards, playgrounds (outside school), computers etc. Debatable whether the new products etc introduced are of benefit. Some online marketing techniques ask children to recommend products to their friends…


The Real Mad Men – about Madison Avenue – see csr books…


Brand names: in China Western brand names are being carefully translated: Nike = ‘Enduring and Persevering’ (pronounced Nai ke), BMW = ‘Precious Horse’ (pron: Bao ma), Coca-Cola = ‘Tasty Fun’ (pronounced Kekoukele), Heineken = ‘Happiness Power’, Tide = ‘gets rid of dirt’ (pron: Taizi), Reebok = ‘quick steps’ (Rui bu), Marriott = ‘10,000 wealthy elites’ (Wan hao) ... (Michael Wines, NY Times 27/11/11)... China’s market for consumer goods is growing by more than 13% annually, and luxury goods sales by 25%


Child labour: – and exploitation of third world workers: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/28/india-sweated-labour


Coffee/Starbucks: (review NS 250208):

Book: Starbucked: a double tall tale of caffeine, commerce and culture – Taylor Clark, Sceptre, L12.99. Good account of the problems of coffee production, and promises to deal with ethical issues, but is weak on these: not good on unions, and ignores plight of coffee-producers (better conditions during Cold War, as US introduced guaranteed prices and quotas, because afraid of unrest in Latin America turning to pro-communist movement…


Food: (Gdn 25/10/07 Leo Hickman?)

Tim Lang (prof of food policy, City Univ) says “we ought to have a worker-sensitive, pro-public health, climate-friendly, ‘right-on’ food supply system. Instead the focus is always on the big three – price, convenience and hygiene…’ He also argues that Government and business together have to agree standards (it can’t be left to Tesco!). In 2006, the Sustainable Consumption Roundtable concluded (Looking Forward, Looking Back): “The evidence suggests that, historically, the green consumer has not been the tipping point in driving green innovation. Instead, choice-editing for quality and sustainability by government and business has been the critical driver in the majority of cases.” i.e. unsustainable etc goods need to be cut out before they get on the shelves!


If object to “choice-editing” (i.e. argument that should be left to consumer) problem is that “there are already people in these companies controlling how and when a bean is grown, what it is sprayed with, whether it is flown in etc. They are already choice-editing.” (Says Tim Lang)


Only question then is, do we trust government and business to do the choice-editing?


‘Greed culture’: Average American consumes more than his weight in products each day, according to annual report of Worldwatch Institute. The cult of consumption and greed could wipe out any gains made from action on the environment. Project director Erik Assadourian: environmental damage is driven by ‘unsustainable habits’. In the last decade, world consumption of goods and services rose by 28% (to £18.8 bn). These habits are not a natural result of growth but due to ‘deliberate efforts by business to win over consumers’.

Average western family spends more on their pet than is spent by a human in Bangladesh.

Younger generation more aware, and school meals had improved (less wasteful, more nutritious). ‘Has to be a wholesale transformation of values and attitudes’ (Suzanne Goldenberg, G Jan 2010).


Makerspaces 28th March 2018 by Aditya Chakrabortty – I really like this, as it links biodiversity with economic diversity…

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/28/britain-ideas-factory-uk-industry-creators-economy - in the premises of what was once a college, space is turned over to people with enterprising ideas. It’s small-scale but dynamic – the opposite of the large companies that seem to control the economy. (Also in imagining alternatives).


Product placement: 16th June 2008:

In America, product placement (products mentioned in TV programmes or films, as a form of advertising) is widespread: 117,976 individual placements across the top 11 TV channels in the first 3 months of this year (Nielsen Media Research, from MediaGuardian 160608). Reality TV has many companies involved – such as weight-loss products (a $60 bn market!) for the programme The Biggest Loser. American Idol contained more than 3,000 placements. AT&T is rumoured to have paid up to $50 m for a mix of PPs and ads.

Total yearly spend on PP in the US is between $7 bn and $10 bn – slightly more than the GDP of Paraguay!!!!


Smoking: (AlexanderChancellor, G 191208).

Kills 87,000 people a year in England alone.  The brand “Death” was such a success in the ‘90s that ‘the tobacco industry ganged up to suppress it’…


Supermarkets: there are just over 8,000 supermarkets in UK, they account for 97% of total grocery sales! Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons take 76% of that market. The share of non-food retailing has increased by 75% since 2003 (to 14%). In two years up to Nov 2010 planning permission was given for 480 new stores for the big four. One pound in seven in Britain goes to Tesco alone.  Article by John Harris, G magazine 6 Aug 2010.



Neal Lawson: All Consuming www.allconsuming.org.uk – G 030809: we are now turbo consumers – shopping is the predominant way in which we know ourselves and each other – consumer industrial complex of: designers, advertisers, psychologists and retail consultants… the point is to leave us unfulfilled so that we go back for more (nothing new there then! See Vance Packard and John Berger). Totalitarianism … now arrives with a smile on its face as it seduces us into yet another purchase… we are watched, recorded and ordered by our shopping desires. Millions refuse all this, either downsizing or doing ethical shopping – but they are leaderless.


See also Zoe Williams on the psychology of the August 2011 riots: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/09/uk-riots-psychology-of-looting - links with Baudrillard: reference in Current Affairs and Issues notes. 


Chapter 7 updates


Aid: ‘Third world’ and aid: New International Devt Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, supports overseas aid (NS 020810). Mentions that 4,000 die from malaria each day, of whom 75% are children under five.  Govt has pledged £500 million a year on this. Overall health aid budget is less than £1 bn. Cites Paul Collier: The Bottom Billion. Argues that aid is effective: Britain educates 4.8 million primary school children in Britain, and 5 million around the developing world at a cost that is 2.5% of what is spent in Britain

See www.newstatesman.com/writers/james_macintyre 


Interesting and worrying piece by George Monbiot, on how Bono has fallen into the trap of becoming a lackey for western governments and business:



BAE: (see CSR Ch 7, SM Ch 4, Section 4) now admits charges of false accounting and making misleading statements, in dealings with SFO in Britain and dept of justice in Washington. It will pay £300 million in penalties, £30 m. in UK and £257 m. in US. Some of the British money would go to Tanzania (who bought a useless air defence system from BAE, thanks to Tony Blair). Full story in Guardian 060210.




Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/bhopal


Indra Sinha:







Britain and the Developing World: Useful piece by G Monbiot, G 090609:


Britain ‘outsourced’ unrest for 300 years – today it’s come home to roost.

Current ‘expenses scandal’ has little to do with MPs’ expenses: it’s come about now because ‘our economic system can no longer extract wealth from other nations’. For 300 years Britain has avoided revolution – despite the misdeeds of its political leaders – because it has been able to bring in wealth from abroad. After decolonization, the banks still extracted money from our former colonies.


We had peace in Britain while we suppressed uprisings in: Ireland, India, China, the Caribbean, Egypt, South Africa, Malaya, Kenya, Iran etc (“it was the price of political peace in Britain” – not sure I follow the link he makes…).


See: Hamza Alavi: Capitalism and Colonial Production – the resource flow from India to Britain between 1793 and 1803: £2 million a year. We impoverished India, whilst using the wealth gained to drive our industrial revolution. Later we made India dependent on us for manufactures, thus boosting our employment and income again.


Ralph Davis: The Industrial Revolution and Overseas Trade: from the 1760s India’s wealth enabled us to buy back our national debt from Holland and others.


Hobsbawm: The Age of Revolution: in France the monarchy was brought down by its debts – half its national expenditure was used to service its debt, then the American war broke the back of the monarchy.


While the French overthrew their monarchy, our aristocracy was using enclosure to seize wealth from the poor, as well as taking remittances from India and the Caribbean.


John Newsinger: The Blood Never Dried: in 1748 Jamaica sent 17,400 tons of sugar to Britain – by 1815 this had risen to 73,800 tons – all from slave labour… And we took grain from Ireland during its famine, and food from India when they were starving:


Mike Davis: Late Victorian Holocaust: between 1876 and 1877 wheat exports from India to the UK doubled whilst several million Indians died of starvation. For a generation “the starving Indian and Chinese peasantries… braced the entire system of international settlements, allowing England’s continued financial supremacy to temporarily co-exist with its relative industrial decline.” Thus Britain became the world’s financial capital – and the banks played a crucial part in the exploitation of the colonies (e.g. Rothschild’s ‘fraudulent’ loan to Egypt which contributed to its bankruptcy and the British takeover in 1882 – Newsinger).


Joseph Stiglitz: Globalisation and its Discontents: northern traders gained hundreds of billions of dollars from Asian economies through the IMF’s enforced liberalization of capital – and this precipitated the Asian financial crisis of 1997-8.


Is the dominance of the City of London now over, though? (see John Lanchester in London Review of Books) – is the anger at the government because they cannot insulate us from this collapse?


Fair Trade: article in NYT/Obs Dec 11th 2011 about row developing within the movement: Fair Trade USA wants to break with the man body and make changes such as taking coffee from large plantations (otherwise banned) and to put seal on products with less than 10% fair trade ingredients (elsewhere is 20% minimum).

Sales of Fair Trade goods were $5.8 billion globally in 2010, and $1.3 bn in USA. US group also complains about high fees paid to FT Int ($1.5 million last year) and receiving little in return. US group accused of diluting standards. About 8% of Starbucks coffee came from fair trade farms in 2010. The ‘small farms’ (and co-ops) rule only applies to coffee and cocoa.


Financial Crisis: impact on poor in developing countries:


See G: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/mar/27/global-crisis-impact-poor



Invisibility of the Developing world:

How appalling, that so little TV time is allocated to factual programmes about the ‘majority world’ – for example Phil Harding (G), reporting on Oxfam study:

www.oxfam.org.uk/globalswitchoff: ITV broadcast 5 hours of factual coverage of the developing world in 2007. Most of our programmes are about US and Europe, US largely crime, Europe: travel and property. Africa: small, mostly wildlife. South America: almost nothing. Report has 10 recommendations, esp: each main broadcaster ought to have an international strategy.


Kony 2012: – video about the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, made by Jason Russell. Observer 03.03.13 has piece on how it and his charity – Invisible Children -  was attacked. Kony had abducted 30,000 children and turned them into soldiers and sex slaves. The video ‘went viral’ (in six days it had 100 million hits). But when Jason had a breakdown, 10 days after the release of the video – probably suffering from post-traumatic stress – this too became a viral video and was then used to discredit his charity. And Google hits for Kony went from zero to 100 in a day, then went down to zero again. 


Jason feels his breakdown was because he got reactions that were polar opposites: Bono et al praising him, and others attacking him as a ‘white saviour’ sending money to corrupt places etc. The video was dismissed as ‘slick’ – even though it represented nearly 10 years of interviews etc in Uganda.


Lessons: the power of the internet (where you can find statements that Kony is dead... Says Jason: ‘This is a generation raised on Instagram and a tweet That’s your

news. That’s your actual news... a multiverse of stories – the truth never has a chance’), hostility to aid, suspicion of mental illness... And the difficulty of ‘getting’ people like Kony...


Article at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/03/jason-russell-kony-2012-interview


Multinationals: from NYT/Obs Dec 11th 2011: US MNCs are cutting jobs at home and creating more abroad: in 1999 – 2009, added 683,000 in China (a 172% increase) 392,000 in India (542% increase), Latin America 477,500 – across world: 2.9 mln added in same decade, while lost 864,000 at home. They also gain from lower taxes and cheaper loans. Corporate profits in America were up 35% during the third quarter of 2011, while workers wages only rose 1.8%.


In France leading MNCs have been recording record profits while unemployment has been rising, and in Britain there has been the row over bonuses and pay. All this translates as a serious long-term problem for Western societies. (So what’s new?!)


Record corporate profits as proportion of US economy were reached recently (i.e. 10%) – last time such a peak was reached was in 1929 (at 8.98%).


Poverty: Bono claims – at TED conference on global poverty (Feb 2013) that proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty ($1.25, i.e. 80p, a day or less) has declined from 43% in 1990 to 21% in 2010. If this rate continues, extreme poverty would hit zero% in 2030.


Slums: G Weekend 190708: on slums: more than 1 billion people live in slums. This is one third of urban dwellers. And since 2008, more people now live in cities than in rural areas.


Examples: Dharavi, slum in Mumbai – approx. 1 million residents (two-thirds of popn of M live in slums, M is richest city in India). 1 toilet per 1,440 people.  But slum is ‘prosperous’ with economic output of  $1bn .p.a. – thousands of single-room factories, sweatshops, recycling centres etc.


Kibera houses ¼ of Nairobi’s popn.


50% of Caracas popn. Live in barrios – 100 homicides a week… Jonas Bendiksen: The Places We Live (Aperture, £22) has photographs.


Tax transfer:


G 270110: tax lost to developing countries through corporations’ tax avoidance is between 30 and 180 bn each year – compare Britain’s aid budget of 6.3 bn last year!!! Stephen Timms, Treasury minister, wants OECD to take action. Christian Aid has lobbied the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), but there are investors represented on it who don’t want to rock the boat, and it’s funded by banks, investor bodies etc. Investigation is needed because of the secrecy involved. Some argue that most corporations pay tax, and the problem lies with hedge funds etc.


From Guardian, 06 and 07.11.07:  companies in the banana trade are paying less than half the tax expected, by locating subsidiaries in low-tax havens (transfer pricing).


Tax paid by UK-quoted companies in 2000 was 26.6%, and in 2004: 22.1% (would expect 30%). They say they are cutting costs to the benefit of shareholders, but tax is not a cost, but a distribution out of profits. Tax is a return to the society in which a company operates, and pays for use of infrastructure (physical and e.g. legal), education of workers that the state has provided etc.


A company is a legal entity, and this gives it a licence to operate, which in turn carries an obligation to pay tax on profits – and that tax should be paid where it operates, since here it finds staff, customers and infrastructure.


Transnationals pay tax where their “brand” or “purchasing network” or “distribution network” are located. They are assisted by lawyers and accountants, e.g. Pricewaterhouse Cooper is alleged to have been involved in setting up a tax haven in Jamaica.


This is not only avoiding their social responsibility, but leads to public paying higher taxes (e.g. in Britain ordinary people’s tax rates have risen as companies’ have fallen) and encourages people to think the way ahead is to opt out of society.


By Richard Murphy, director of Tax Research LLP, see www.taxresearch.org.uk/blog


Water: August 2008:  Five thousand children die every day around the globe from preventable water-related diseases. (Water Aid Journal: Oasis)


The lack of sanitation is the biggest killer of children under five in the developing world. Hopes of eradicating poverty and hunger depend on sorting out safe sanitation, more than on any other intervention.  www.wateraid.org