Each January for the past several years, Bill has surveyed the top Corporate Social Responsibility news stories of the past year for CSRwire.com, where he is a contributing writer. Here’s this year’s edition:
A “green” recovery from economic and environmental meltdowns; the advent of Shareholder Activism 2.0 with binding resolutions at TARP banks; CSR adopts Web 2.0 strategies for sustainability reporting; is Wal-Mart really green?; and much more…
The economic meltdown of 2008 mirrors the simultaneous environmental meltdown fueled by the climate calamity – both share common roots, and many in the Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility (CSR) community believe they share a common salvation.Read the show transcript
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On this, the last-ever episode of Corporate Watchdog Radio, we take a stroll down memory lane to revisit the best moments in CWR’s history. The exchanges that had us on the edge of our seats, straining into our headphones to hear every syllable. We hear from a crotchety Barney Frank, a reflective Frances Moore Lappe, a tentative but ultimately optimistic Bill McKibben, a hopeful George Monbiot, and an eloquent Paul Hawken. Starting in 2009, CWR is changing its name to Sea Change Radio to cover the shift to social, environmental, and economic sustainability.
In June, the Century Foundation and the The New York Times Foundation invited Corporate Watchdog Radio to a seminar for a select handful of journalists on “Billionaires and Their Impact.” There, CWR co-host Francesca Rheannon heard Chuck Collins speak on a panel about the “Billionaires’ Club” and the impact of extreme wealth on the rest of us. A co-founder of United for a Fair Economy and a senior fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, Collins wrote the lead article in a special issue of The Nation on “The New Inequality” that helped frame the seminar.
The ViewPoint from BEN — the Business Ethics Network — comes from Bjorn Claeson of Sweatfree Communities about its recent report, Subsidizing Sweatshops: How our tax dollars fund the race to the bottom, and what cities and states can do.
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.” Shareholder activists have long promoted transparency in corporate reporting. Now, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) acknowledges its rules governing company disclosures aren’t good enough. So FASB is proposing new rules. Today, we speak with Corporate Watchdog Radio co-founder Sanford Lewis about his shareholder activism promoting better corporate disclosure on environmental and human health risks. Lewis, who serves as general counsel for the Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN), identifies several strengths — as well as some disconcerting weaknesses — in the proposed rules. IEHN has issued an action alert outlining these strengths and weaknesses to guide submissions during the public comment period ending August 8.
Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, comments on toxics in cosmetics. Malkan points out that companies are allowed to label products ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ and still use harmful synthetics. Her award-winning book, Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry (New Society, 2007), tells the inside story of the campaign’s five-year effort to hold the beauty industry accountable to women’s health.
Each generation reinvents the world inherited from the previous generation. A new generation is inheriting a wounded planet and a dysfunctional economy. Youthful energy seeks to heal our world and revitalize our economy using new strategies and adapting existing tools. Today, we focus on new generations in sustainability. First, we hear from Tim Cohen-Mitchell of the Young Entrepreneurs Society in Orange, Massachusetts, from a presentation he made at the recent Pioneer Valley Sustainable Investing Summit that Corporate Watchdog Radio helped organize. Then, CWR co-host Francesca Rheannon speaks with Jeremy Daw about the BioTour, an initiative brainstormed by an enterprising group of 20-somethings at Burning Man, an annual art event and temporary community based on radical self expression and self-reliance in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. The BioTour is about to embark on a journey across the US in a biofuel bus to raise awareness on sustainability.
Francesca and Bill ain’t exactly spring chickens, but we’ve got a lot of youthful energy, so we’re joining this trend in linking social networking with corporate sustainability by launching CWR pages on Facebook and MySpace this week. Thanks to our new intern, Tom Hartmann-Boyce, an international affairs student at Skidmore, for getting those pages up and running. Check out our website for links to these pages, and join us there as “friends.”
Corporate Watchdog Radio co-hosts Francesca Rheannon and Bill Baue speak with Laura Berry, executive director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. Founded in 1971, ICCR pioneered the modern practice of shareowner activism by reviving an obscure rule allowing shareowners to file resolutions addressing social and environmental issues at company annual meetings and on their proxies. Now, over three-and-a-half decades later, ICCR is a coalition of about 275 faith-based institutional investors with over $100 billion in assets who filed over 300 resolutions this proxy season.
Berry clarifies common misconceptions about how the ins and outs of shareowner activism. For example, media accounts often report a less-than-majority vote as a “defeat,” when in fact, companies often implement what resolutions request when they receive 20 percent or more support. She also discusses transformations she sees taking place in the corporate social responsibility landscape.
CWR also debuts a new segment with headlines on corporate sustainability developments from the past week, the first in a series of exciting changes to enhance the show.
Corporate Watchdog Radio co-hosts Bill Baue and Francesca Rheannon speak with Larry Lohmann of the Corner House, a UK-based environmental and human rights NGO, about the book he recently edited, Carbon Trading: A Critical Conversation on Climate Change, Privatisation and Power.
Lohmann debunks the myth of carbon trading as an effective solution to climate change. He points out that sulfur dioxide trading, widely touted as a solution to acid rain in the 1990s and hence a model for carbon trading, is neither. Lohmann also discusses shortcomings of the Kyoto Protocol Clean Development Mechanism, and suggests that traditional solutions such as regulation are more efficient and effective in addressing environmental problems than creating a market that diverts attention from the main problem and introduces social inequalities.
Corporate Watchdog Radio co-hosts Bill Baue and Francesca Rheannon speak with Auden Schendler, who heads the sustainability program at Aspen Skiing Company and has stirred up a heap of controversy as the subject of a recent BusinessWeek cover story entitled “Little Green Lies.”
Schendler calls into question the degree to which companies, within our current capitalist structure, can actually enact meaningful change toward true sustainability. Having convinced his company to commit in a big way to renewable energy credits (RECs), he has since become disillusioned, noting that many RECs fail to add new renewable energy projects to the world, and questioning exaggerated claims of RECs’ actual impact on reducing carbon emissions.
Peter Senge and Joe Laur of the Society for Organizational Learning (SoL) discuss how corporations need to transform, the central theme of the Summit on the Future of the Corporation on November 13 and 14 in Boston that SoL is co-sponsoring along with Corporation 20/20. Corporate Watchdog Radio co-hosts Bill Baue and Francesca Rheannon ask Senge and Laur about specific projects advancing corporate change such as the SoL Sustainability Consortium run by Laur that helped Nike achieve 80 percent carbon dioxide equivalent emissions reductions by changing the gas used in Nike Air sneakers. Senge describes the Sustainable Food Lab, a collaboration between SoL and the Sustainability Institute that he participates in.