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North America

November 28th, 2016
Trump, and Why Corruption Matters

The New York Times recently carried a blog post by columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman about US president-elect Donald Trump and the worries that Trump would be unable, or simply unwilling, to disentangle his business dealings from his activities as president. Krugman argued that the real danger was not that Trump’s entanglements would […]

March 19th, 2014
Farmlachsindustrie setzt stärker auf Nachhaltigkeit statt Wettbewerb

Boston (csr-news) > Auf der Seafood Expo North America in Boston werden die Global Salmon Initiative (GSI), der World Wildlife Fund (WWF), die Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) der Vereinten Nationen (UN) und die Rabobank zum ersten Mal in den USA ihre Kräfte

February 27th, 2014
Sometimes safety regulations hurt the poor more than they help them

Sometimes regulations aimed at helping the poor end up hurting them. That doesn’t mean we should eschew regulation, but it does imply reason for caution. Housing provides one example. The Portland Tribune recently carried an interesting piece on the way that building codes and other regulations keep the price of housing high, and reduce the […]

November 9th, 2013
Rob Ford should stay

Toronto, that once sleepy capital of Canadian business, ‘New York run by the swiss’, a city widely seen as boring and ugly (esp. compared to its once-competitor Montréal) – has made global news: A crack smoking mayor! Match that, London, New York or Berlin! All the mainstream media here (and globally) are pretty unanimous in their call for Rob Ford’s resignation, or at least for him taking a break.

That in itself is a reason for suspicion. In my business ethics course this week I had a vivid exchange with my students. We were discussing discrimination and how it is unethical to apply criteria such as race, gender, sexual orientation, recreational habits etc. to job qualifications and hiring. On that note, calls for Ford’s resignation are not very convincing. After all, on many accounts, he has done a good job as Toronto’s major. The city’s finances are healthy; public services are running smoothly, key infrastructure projects, such as the construction of new subway lines have finally taken off; and the major successfully tamed the beast of an otherwise dysfunctional federal/provincial/municipal layered bureaucracy to get even more public infrastructure projects off the ground. This alone, in a city whose infrastructure is stuck somewhere in the 1970s, is reasonable ground to consider him a success on his job.

Of course, there were other things in the past, where arguably Ford violated the terms of his job. Toronto Star investigative reporter Daniel Dale – a former student of us - digged out a number of occasions where the mayor took advantage of his role for personal issues. But nothing really stuck.

As much as some have made an ethical case here against the mayor, I do not think these arguments really touch the heart of the controversy.

Two things spring to mind to any reflective observer. First, much of the vitriol directed at Ford in my view is just based on the persistent WASPy (as in White Anglo Saxon Protestant) subculture of North America. Ford likes to use recreational drugs, has all the wrong, politically incorrect friends and, yes, is probably an alcoholic. Mind you, at least it was not about sex. But in some ways his fate resembles the one of Bill Clinton or Elliot Spitzer: Ford does not live up to the public morality and style, which is deemed politically correct in Canada. It is worth noting that consuming crack is not illegal in Canada. And the fact that he admits to it in public and simply continues with his job just infuriates all those who either have succumbed to this pubic consensus of stuffy morality or otherwise suppress it and live it out in private. After all, Canada’s alcohol consumption is twice the global average and him talking about his ‘drunken stupors’ as a regular occurrence probably just represents an average recreational practice in this country.

Little surprise of course, that much of the hunt on Ford – representing the right wing Progressive Conservative Party – is coming from the ‘liberal’ press here. It not only shows how small ‘c’ conservative even Canada’s liberal elites are but also reveals that all those who hated Ford as a mayor to begin with now take whatever moral resource as their disposal to finally finish him off.

This points to a second observation. Rob Ford epitomizes the aches and tensions of a country which has been the most relaxed and forward looking in terms of immigration. His constituency are the ‘905ers’ based on the area code of Toronto’s suburbia. That is also where he is from. These are mostly people with a first generation immigrant background coming from south and east asia. The other lot,  who hate him and are currently fanning the flames of ousting Rob Ford are the ‘416ers’, those who live in the core downtown of Toronto. None of them voted for Ford and they never felt represented by a fat, white, uneducated, loud bloke from the suburbs.

Ford’s approval ratings have soared in the aftermath of him admitting his drug use. This is no surprise. He represents people who struggle to make ends meet; who are sick and tired of commuting to work in a city with the longest commuting time by far; who get little kick out of taxes being spent on things that do not relate to their everyday struggles; and who know from their own experience that fighting your way out of, say, Bangladesh to Brampton (a 905 suburb) – yes – takes determination, hard work and not too much concern for what their then constituency back home thought of them. Rob Ford, the small time entrepreneur, in his stubbornness just represents them.

So what does this amount to? On day one of his election I thought Rob Ford was a disaster. Mostly because I believe in Toronto’s potential as a great global city that deserves a mayor of a different stature and outlook. But at the same time I also believe that a mayor has to represent the city that voted him in. And boy, Rob Ford fits that bill. So rather than trying to get this ugly representation of what Toronto actually looks like out of sight, the real smart reaction to this scandal would be to say that Rob Ford – with all his preposterous faults – is the one that the people of Toronto chose to represent them. So lets allow him to continue to represent us. And if we don’t like what we see - until we can vote him out - maybe we find the courage to address the underlying issues. Rather than killing the poor guy who currently just displays them.
Photo by Eric Parker, reproduced under the Creative Commons license.

July 22nd, 2013
The future of CSR

Our collaborator on the forthcoming second edition of our CSR textbook, Laura Spence from Royal Holloway, University of London, has been musing recently on the future of CSR. So we asked her to pen another guest post for us about where she thinks things are going. Here's what her crystal ball says...
I’ll let you into a secret. Sometimes, as I travel from conference to conference, I wonder if we are getting anywhere at all in the study of CSR.  As the field has developed, there are some topics and theories which have somewhat of a stranglehold on our thinking. With every new conference presentation that yet again tackles the well-trodden ground of large, Western multinational corporations, corporate social performance, stakeholder theory, or institutional theory, my heart sinks a little, though I also work on some of these. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of good work on these topics coming out, but we are in danger of throwing all our energies at an ever-decreasing circle of subjects when there is so much more out there to do. Couple that with the assessment by some that CSR has come to its natural end and it is sometimes hard to stay positive for the future of CSR.

And yet, in the last few weeks, I have had to rethink my doubts. It all started with an event on Gender and Responsible Business at Nottingham University’s International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility. Somehow CSR – of all subjects - has more or less overlooked the gender perspective despite some pretty long standing powerful contributions.  Every presentation I saw contributed something refreshing, different and relevant, demonstrating a huge potential to shine a new light on CSR in the future. It is well worth joining the continuing conversation through the LinkedIn group: ‘Gender & Responsible Business Network’.

The inclusion of marginalized voices was to my delight also explored at the ‘Corporate Responsibility: Towards Inclusive Development’ stream at the European Group of Organization Studies (EGOS) conference in Montreal.  In a field dominated by US and European corporate perspectives and authors, this stream surfaced a young, vibrant and diverse group of scholars working on regions that constitute most of the world but a small proportion of CSR publications. We heard about CSR in Asian, South American, Middle Eastern and African countries, drawing on important cultural, political, economic, social and religious perspectives that are usually sidelined. Is the future of CSR in Europe or North America? I doubt it. The level of social need, different governmental roles, critical challenges and changing economic structures in developing and emerging economies should encourage us to look well beyond the usual contexts.

And I was not the only one pondering the future of CSR. At a special workshop at the EGOS conference, Christopher Wickert (VU University Amsterdam) and Arno Kourula (University of Amsterdam) led a focused workshop ‘Debating the Future of CSR’. Bringing together PhD students and early career researchers (and let’s face it, they should be the ones that determine what’s around the corner) with a few more established academics, we had the opportunity to really dig in to three key aspects: contextuality in CSR; theoretical criticism of CSR; and stakeholder perspectives and marginalized voices in CSR. The topics discussed were wide ranging and included the role of non-governmental organizations, CSR as a political project, activism, the role of the state, frustration with the ‘business case’, the performativity of language around CSR, listening to the polyphony of  voices and the dangers of stereotyping.  I really hope that the participants at the workshop go on to publish on some of these perspectives in more detail – it will make fascinating reading.  

Some of these waves of CSR research are captured in an earlier Crane and Matten blog and a brand new chapter in our second edition of CSR: Readings and Cases in A Global Context(Crane, Matten & Spence, Routledge, July 2013). There we add to the debate on the future of CSR in terms of new business models such as social entrepreneurship and social innovation, the influence of new social movements, forms of regulatory rather than voluntary CSR, the outcomes of CSR, and the positive prospects of CSR as a profession and an academic subject.   

So, as summer starts in earnest in the UK, I am optimistic for the future of CSR. If space is made for the rising waves of research I have been privileged to see in the last few months, you never know, we might actually make a difference. 

Laura J. Spence

Photo by eelcowest. Reproduced under Creative Commons licence

April 26th, 2013
Bangladesh, Joe Fresh and the burden of responsibility

In Bangladesh, on Wednesday, a building collapsed, killing at least 260 people. The factories in the building made garments for a number of global retailers, including Canada’s Joe Fresh. This weekend, I’m very likely going shopping at Joe Fresh, and with a clear conscience. People threatening to boycott the brand are woefully misguided. Their sorrow [...]

April 1st, 2013
Why India’s Novartis ruling is good for innovation

Today’s news that the Indian supreme court has effectively denied the Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company Novartis the patent protection for its ‘new’ blood cancer drug Glivec (Gleevec in North America) has been discussed controversially i...

March 29th, 2013
"How does one use film to describe a woman who thinks?"

This, in her own words, was one of director Margarethe von Trotta’s main challenge when shooting her 2012 movie ‘Hannah Arendt’, which will be released in North America this spring. Arendt, a German-Jewish intellectual who narrowly escaped concen...

February 8th, 2013
The beautiful game? You bet!

Ethics in sports has become a big talking point. In North America, we are just at the end of a humongous news cycle on Lance Armstrong’s ‘confessions’ on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Armstrong’s story very much turned – as many ethical issues tend...

October 8th, 2012
The future of CSR? 5th International Conference in Berlin

What is the future of Corporate Social Responsibility? More than 500 CSR practitioners, scholars, business executives, consultants, students, politicians and NGO representatives from 50 countries gathered at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin last weekend to discuss this open question at the 5th International Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility – and came up with a wide range of answers, but no single solution.

September 24th, 2012
Chinatown: The Other Walmart?

Controversy has arisen recently over plans to build a new Walmart in Los Angeles’s Chinatown neighbourhood. Some residents support the plan, welcoming the idea of a convenient source of low-price groceries, clothes, and electronics. Others worry about the effect on small businesses, as well as the potential impact the retail giant would have on Chinatown’s [...]

September 13th, 2012
Samsung, Chinese Workers, and Labour Rights

Samsung and Apple recently shared the spotlight as the parties to a billion dollar intellectual property lawsuit. Now, Samsung has replaced Apple as the tech company in a different spotlight — the spotlight, that is, consisting of accusations of mistreating Chinese workers. A report by the New York-based NGO China Labor Watch says that Chinese [...]

July 11th, 2012
Are Americans working too much?

With many people currently enjoying or looking forward to their summer holidays it is sobering to consider some of the differences in expectation that workers in different countries will have about how much paid time off they can enjoy. Statutory minim...

June 20th, 2012
Marx is back

Well, this headline only works if Marx was ever gone, if you know what I mean. But no, now he is literally back, and this in no less a becoming space than on the new edition of Mastercard issued by the German savings bank Sparkasse Chemnitz. And this b...

November 8th, 2011
Corporate Partnerships Director at Vestergaard Frandsen (New York, USA)

ABOUT VESTERGAARD FRANDSEN Vestergaard Frandsen is a rapidly growing company specialized in complex emergency response and disease-control textiles. We are guided by a unique Humanitarian Entrepreneurship business model, the “profit for a purpose” approach that has turned humanitarian responsibility into our core business Our innovative

November 18th, 2010
259 Investors Representing $15 Trillion Call for International Action on Climate Change

Statement Calls for Policies to Unlock the Vast Potential of Low-Carbon Markets and Avoid Economic Devastation Caused by Climate Change (London) – The world's largest global investors have a powerful message for climate negotiators in Cancún and all national governments: Take action now in

June 15th, 2010
World Cup Fever and Employee Productivity

The FIFA World Cup is one of the few events capable of diverting the world’s attention from the BP oil spill. I’m sure for many it’s a relief not to have a world-class disaster as the focus of their attention during every waking moment. In that regard, even for non-soccer fans, the World Cup is [...]

April 22nd, 2009
A World Wide Survey of Business Ethics

A global survey of Business and Economic Ethics as field of Teaching, Training and Research has been commissioned by Globethics.net . The project is directed by Prof. G.J. (Deon) Rossouw (Rossouw@globethics.net). For the purpose of the survey the world has been divided into eight

April 18th, 2008
Landmark Report from AccountAbility finds that Development Partnerships will fail unless Governance improves

The findings and recommendations from Governing Collaboration: Making Partnerships Accountable for Delivering Development are relevant for those concerned with development, particularly founders, managers, participants and public and private investors Increasingly partnerships are viewed by thought leaders writing for the Brooking Institute, United Nations, and

November 28th, 2007

ETHICAL SOURCING FORUM North America 2008 – save the date! Many of the world’s leading companies already have 13-14 March 2008 in their diaries. This is set to be the busiest Ethical Sourcing Forum yet with a packed programme of topics including: ”Green” is the

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