Friday, October 8, 2010

CSR Weekly Articles Updates: Justmeans

In defense of CSR - Akhila Vijayaraghavan

Today I read something painfully ignorant in BrandLine, The Hindu Business Line's supplementary. The column by Harish Bijoor that is usually spot on and informative was a sad let down. Mr. Bijoor reckons that CSR is nothing more than branding and even those who "deny it soutly will admit it some day or the other."

Bijoor goes on to say, "CSR helps organizations achieve a soft image for themselves." Many companies will beg to differ from this statement because we are seeing companies who are adopting the principles of CSR and retaining their 'hard' business edge and in many cases doing better for it. He elaborates by saying that a company that produce a traditionally unsustainable product "indulges in CSR to escape the guilt-trip the corporate organization finds itself on."

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CSR and Product Stewardship
- Mary Sue Schmaltz

It has long been a CSR principle  that entities which profit along a product chain retain responsibility for the life-cycle impacts of their products and packaging materials.  The U.S., however, has lagged behind in the institution of a federally mandated Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) law also known as Product Stewardship.

At their meeting in June 2010 held in Oklahoma City, the Environment Committee of the US Conference of Mayors put forward a resolution supporting both state and federal EPR legislation.  Since the greater cost of waste and recycling end up being paid for by municipalities, the committee asserted that this cost burden is effectively a subsidy for producers.  According to the Electronics Takeback Commission, e-waste recycling legislation has been passed in 23 states and is being introduced in several more. Earlier this year, the electronics industry filed a lawsuit against New York City's e-waste recycling law, but it was dismissed after the New York State Legislature passed a statewide e-waste law.

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CSR and Conflict Minerals - Mary Sue Schmaltz

Supply chains and local working conditions are vitally important issues in CSR.  Conflict minerals are an especially problematic area, as sourcing of raw materials can sometimes be difficult to discern. Soon, however, it will be mandatory for U.S. companies to adhere to new regulations geared towards creating transparency in the use of conflict minerals.  Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act entrusts the SEC with establishing a regulatory framework as of April of 2011, which will require public companies to issue reports and be audited on their use of conflict minerals.  In light of the complexity inherent in ascertaining which mining operations are controlled by rebels, USAID and the State Department have been directed to map out the constantly shifting conflict territories and guide companies in this process.

The viciousness of the civil war provoked by the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone in the 1990's, brought global awareness to the issue of conflict diamonds.  It became glaringly evident that the appetite of western consumers for diamonds was financing these and other violent insurgencies in Angola, Liberia, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the Republic of Congo. All of these countries are now part of the Kimberely Process which was instituted after much deliberation in 2003, under the auspices of the United Nations.  In order to filter out conflict diamonds from the legitimate diamond trade, the process entails the acquisition of validated government certificates for both rough and polished diamonds and requires that they be transported in tamper proof containers. As a result of this certification process, almost 99% percent of traded diamonds are now considered to be conflict-free.

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CSR - the devil's in the detail - Sarah Brown

Marks and Spencer - the iconic British retailer and pioneer of so many successful CSR initiatives, has come up with another thoughtful idea. They have announced a way of making their clothing labels more sustainable. From next year they will be made from recycled polyester.

It is this level of attention to detail which is so impressive in this initiative, as in many of M&S's CSR ideas.

Care labels on clothing may seem small and insignificant, but as M&S has pointed out, when you multiply one label by 300 million (the amount which will be produced from the new materials) its impact is obvious.

The labels (which represent around two-thirds of all those produced for M&S) will be produced from around 200 million recycled plastic drinks bottles. These will replace labels made of 'virgin' polyester, which requires oil for its production.

The fact that the new labels will mean less need for fossil fuel based plastics, gives this CSR practice credibility.

Making clothing out of recycled plastic (which has long been the case with fleece jackets and is coming into vogue for football shirts) is not always the most sustainable option. This is because it is always better to opt for 'closed-loop' recycling. That is, turning the used product back into the same thing - a plastic bottle back into a plastic bottle, for example. This uses far less energy and is consequently better for the environment. You can easily, for example, make a football shirt out of cotton. If it is organically grown and fairly traded then cotton is a sustainable material. There is actually no need to make a football shirt out of plastic bottles.

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