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
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.
2007 could have been called the Year of Shopping Dangerously. First there was the pet food scare, then toxic toothpaste, then a bevy of poisonous toys being recalled, one after another – containing lead, asbestos and other toxic materials. Many of the toxic products came from manufacturing outsourced to China. Do we have to choose between products that are cheap or products that are safe? Or is our regulatory system broke? With the US and China set to sign agreements soon to try to make Chinese exports meet U.S. standards, our interviewees today probe the deeper issues, and help us understand how much more it will take to end the flood of toxic products.
Cohost Sanford Lewis speaks with Melissa Brown of the Association for Sustainable & Responsible Investment in Asia (ASRIA) and Lauren Compere, an investor with Boston Common Asset Management, who discuss the failures of third party audits and the challenges of a multilayered China supply chain, and Stacy Malkan, author of Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry, who says that toxic products are not just a China problem – in fact the United States has some of the weakest product toxicity regulations in the developed world. This episode of CWR produced with support of the Investor Environmental Health Network.
We visit with Andy Bichelbaum of the Yes Men. This two person team of corporate impersonators have passed for executives of Exxon, Halliburton, Dow Chemical and the WTO. We’ll learn how they do what they do, and why. Interviewers Sanford Lewis and Francesca Rheannon.
Is there too much or too little shareholder activism and democracy? The Securities and Exchange Commission, in recent roundtable discussions, called for reexamination of the rights of shareholders to place shareholder resolutions on the corporate ballot. Attorney Sanford Lewis and Journalist Bill Baue, Corporate Watchdog Radio cohosts, discuss the array of ideas and pressures at work on the SEC. We hear excerpts of comments from David Hirschmann of the US Chamber of Commerce, Damon Silvers of the AFL-CIO, Bill Mostyn, Bank of America, and Delaware Judge Leo Strine. The future of shareholder democracy may hang in the balance.
Article by cohost Bill Baue on the SEC Roundtables
Bottled drinking water is an $11 Billion per year US industry, and the withdrawal of water has been referred to as a “Blue gold rush.” With impacts to local water supplies and quality of life looming, citizens groups are challenging the right of corporate water companies such as Nestle to withdraw drinking water from local supplies. In March 2006, Barnstead, New Hampshire, (population 4,800) passed a law banning corporations from mining and selling town water. The law also purports to strip corporations of their constitutional power and authority.
Corporate Watchdog Radio cohost Sanford Lewis interviews Ruth Caplan, chair of Sierra Club’s project on water privatization.
In the current corporate annual meeting season, shareowners have stepped up demands on companies to seek alternatives to toxic materials in their products. A shareholder resolution at Apple calls on the company to set an accelerated timetable for ending the use of certain toxic materials. But why has the Board of Directors, which includes Al Gore, unanimously recommended against the resolution? At DuPont shareholders are continuing their quest for the company to end the use of the so-called Teflon Chemical. Corporate Watchdog Radio cohost Sanford Lewis, who is counsel to the Investor Environmental Health Network, discusses these and other fights with Richard Liroff, Director of the Network. Other companies discussed include Chemlawn, Bed, Bath & Beyond, SC Johnson, CVS, Dow Chemical, Wal-Mart, Mohawk Carpet and others.
As goes the Chinese stock market, so may go US markets. But what happens when the volatility in China is of a different kind – consumer panic over product toxicity concerns? American companies selling products in Asia can suffer extremely volatile product sales due to “regulation by scandal.”
We speak with Melissa Brown, director of ASRIA — The Association for Sustainable & Responsible Investment in Asia. Then, we talk with Stephen Davis regarding his book “The New Capitalists: How Citizen Investors Are Reshaping the Corporate Agenda.” He talks about how citizens, through their retirement savings, are beginning to reshape the agenda of mutual funds and corporations.
Cohosts Sanford Lewis, Bill Baue and Francesca Rheannon
Just in time for spring – a better way to care for lawns, without using toxic chemicals. Bill Ravanesi, grassroots activist from Longmeadow, Mass, describes his campaign in Longmeadow to prevent the town from using toxic pesticides and herbicides on town property.
Andrew Shalit of Green Century Capital Management, discusses the shareholder resolution to phase out toxic chemical usage that will be voted on at Servicemaster, the parent company of Chemlawn. And Jody Shapiro discusses the broadcast documentary in production, The Truth About Cats, Dogs, and Lawn Chemicals, which she is coproducing with Corporate Watchdog Radio cohost Sanford Lewis.
Sanford Lewis interviews Glenn Evers, a former DuPont chemical engineer, and Attorney Alan Kluger, who is suing DuPont regarding Teflon. Evers, who worked for DuPont for more than 20 years, recently flagged concerns regarding health impacts of Dupont products used to coat fast food wrappers. Kluger has filed a $5 billion lawsuit against Dupont over the alleged toxicity of Teflon coated cookware. Lewis is himself a representative of DuPont Shareholders for Fair Value, a group of DuPont shareholders including Amalgamated Bank, United Steelworkers and others concerned about the financial impacts of these issues on DuPont.