Wednesday

Companies aim to use CSR to boost image in the Philippines

CSR stands for Corporate Social Responsbility. It is a response from businesses for demands that they respect human rights, the environment and the communities in which they operate.

For some it is a genuine attempt to change company practices for the better, but for others it is an attempt to improve their public images so they can continue with business as usual. Claimed voluntary action is used to argue against regulations. Nestlé is firmly in the second camp. Its Chief Executive, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé is on record as saying that support for good causes has to benefit shareholders. This is not altruism. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/03/nestle-generosity-to-good-causes.html

And Nestlé's record on transparency for its activities is abysmal. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/01/nestl-put-up-transparent-smokescreen.html

In short, Nestlé brings CSR as a whole into disrepute, as we reported in Update 38.

Now a journalists' organisation in the Philippines, called Newsbreak, is being funded by the British Embassy to try to get the media to publicise the CSR activities of businesses. Yup. That's right. Our government is pushing the corporate agenda of CSR.

This is taking place in the Philippines, remember, where the Ministry of Health has been taken to court by the pharmaceutical industry as it tries to strike down baby food marketing regulations. You can view a film from UNICEF Philippines showing the type of promotion on its impact on infants and their families at:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/05/watch-film-from-philippines-here.html

According to one definition: "Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interactions with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis"

Newsbreaks Business editor encouraged journalists to look at CSR closely. The Newsbreak report states: "Rimando encouraged reporters to dig deeper. 'Journalists need to put CSR activities into context, and report them as part of a bigger story on a company’s activities,' she explained. 'Where is the budget coming from? If it comes from the marketing budget, it comes across as just public relations. But if it’s embedded in corporate activities, then that’s genuine.'

Is it? I suggest journalist need to dig deeper still. Nestlé claims to have systems in place to ensure the baby food marketing requirements are followed, but its policies and practices show that it is, in reality, malpractice that is institutionalised. The recent case of Nestlé marketing in Bangladesh illustrates this. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/06/seeing-nestl-clearly.html

But Newsbreak is encouraging journalists to see CSR stories as good news stories. One of those present raised a good question: "If you [businesses] want to be charitable, then just give piously. Why do you need publicity?"

Another good question is, why doesn't Nestlé stop publicing how well it claims it is following the marketing requirements foor baby foods and instead actually bring its policies and practices into line with them? That would help to save infant lives and ultimately bring an end to the boycott.

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