Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Why corporate responsibility must be more than "window-dressing"

If companies are to be taken seriously about their stance on corporate responsibility then they must actually take responsibility.

Many of you will have read of the tragic death of a Liverpool licensee, Paul Lee, when a faulty gas-fire caused him to experience a heart attack, from which he subsequently died.

The owners of the pub that Mr Lee rented, Enterprise Inns, had not properly inspected or maintained the gas fire in Mr Lee's pub and were found guilty of Health and Safety breaches incurring costs and a fine of £300,000.

As an isolated case it would be bad enough, but the Health and Safety Executive also discovered that Enterprise had failed to carry out 474 other inspections on gas appliances it was responsible for.

Calls from campaign groups such as Justice for Licensees have echoed the calls from Mr Lee's family for the CEO of Enterprise to resign and have now been articulated in an Early Day Motion brought by Mr Lee's constituency MP, Bill Esterson.

Mr Tuppen and Enterprise have remained silent on the matter but would do well to look at the words of Jane Simms in the Institute of Directors magazine from August 2009:

Corporate responsibility could be a saviour of British business if larger companies embraced the idea with more enthusiasm. But too many seem to have lost their moral compass .... The financially driven and short-term culture endemic in so many large organisations is at odds with the more inclusive and longer-term approach to a range of different stakeholders that being “responsible” implies.

The result is the kind of moral bankruptcy that we see in corporate attempts to force through “payments for failure”. It is also evident in the big pub companies’ abuse of their tenants—the majority of whom earn less than £15,000 a year—as revealed in a Business and Enterprise Select Committee report"

That or stand as accused by Joel Bakan in The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Power - 

"Corporate social responsibility, though sometimes yielding positive results, most often serves to mask the corporation's true character, not to change it."

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