July 22, 2017 at 7:14 am
To attempt new Topic 20 successfully and to have sufficient discussion I think you should try to be able to criticise the company you choose on AT LEAST 3 of its ACTUAL CSR aspects. In a nutshell the new topic (and in fact the old to a certain extent) requires you to challenge what the company says it does with what it actually does using relevant fairly recent examples and supporting evidence from articles from the business press.
In answer to what ‘Weak social responsibility practices’ means I have offered some examples.
‘Weak social responsibility practices’ refers to where companies are not doing enough to be good corporate citizens compared with other companies. As an example in the UK with Starbucks – they make various claims in their CSR statement but the reality shows a different picture or the company attempts to disguise the facts e.g. proclamations about recycling however very few (I think it is less than 10%) of their paper cups are recycled; they say they pay all their tax due however whilst this may be strictly true they arrange their tax affairs and have complex transfer pricing mechanisms so that on paper they show low profits and pay artificially low amounts of tax; recently food hygiene inspectors discovered high levels of faecal bacteria in ice destined for customers drinks due to poor staff training and low standards of hygiene.
Some of the issues are not just confined to Starbucks but probably extended to others (I know that the same inspectors found poor hygiene in other major coffee operators and fast food chains) and the tax issue is found in many global organisations. What it means is that by not paying fair amounts of tax such companies take money from communities but give little back whereas local coffee shops and restaurants not only pay their fair share of tax but tend to give something back too as they also tend to use local suppliers and services (which in turn minimises their carbon footprint).
Another thing is that companies will emphasise charitable initiatives but these should be viewed against executive pay and dividends to shareholders and I have found sometimes there is an inverse relationship between how much space in the annual report is given over to telling people about their charity donations etc and the actual physical amounts given away. Also be aware that with some company foundations and charitable trusts as much money comes from donations from the public as from the company but the latter glosses over this fact to promote a picture of inflated philanthropy.
Another area where companies are economical with the truth is supply chain -I know one French cosmetic chain claims it has an award for its water usage, water recycling and energy use. This makes it look ‘green’. However the reality is that its face creams are over packaged in larger plastic jars than needed (so the it looks as if there is more in the jar from its external appearance). Not only is there deception in trying to make the customers think they are getting more product than they are but the large plastic tubs are imported so the waste of plastic, the toxic substances used in the manufacture of plastics and the energy used to create the jars does not enter the energy and sustainability calculations of the French firm so these negatives are ignored. However a company serious about being a good corporate citizen would not just simplify and minimise its own carbon footprint ( having simpler product packaging and less plastic waste but would look at its supply chain and try to influence good practices there to encourage best practices in every aspect of sustainability and environmental issues.
To do the new topic 20 well you need to read up on what constitutes good practice (maybe the Global Reporting Initiative could be a helpful resource here and put a few key words in and use Google Scholar as a search engine to find articles). Then you will need to research the practices of a few companies to help you decide on a company to use. Remember on its own the company’s CSR statement will be next to useless -it must be used with caution therefore and applied in an appropriate context. However the CSR statement could be helpful when you want to compare reality (what really happens) with myth (what the statement says) or perhaps occasionally to show that the statement is true as you have found external sources that support it.July 24, 2017 at 1:20 pm
For the past one year I have been researching T20 but work and family commitments have prevented me from submitting. I have made contact with an organization(bank) that is willing to make available to me primary information and I feel like I now have a good grasp of the topic and I’m ready to work on and submit this November. However I am worried that the slight change in topic will mean that I have to base the research on another organization or change topic all together because in another thread relating to T17 the tutor suggested using an organization that has faced a scandal and from all I have read on here the approach to both T17 and T20 is similar. The organization I have in mind has not faced any scandals but then again in my part of the world (west Africa) CSR is not such a big issue and corporations do get away with not doing the needful so even if my proposed organization is not doing well a scandal is unlikely.
I don’t want to change topic as I feel all my efforts so far would have gone to waste
so I would like you to give any advice on this new topic and how to tackle and differences in approach compared to previous.
ThanksJuly 25, 2017 at 6:36 am
@imaan – I understand your frustrations, however you will have to choose an organisation that definitely has had issues. The markers will take a tough stance (as they do with Topic 8 and 15) and if the company does not meet the criteria you will just get a straight fail.
The rationale for changing the requirements for both Topic 20 and Topic 17 apparently was that in some parts of the world OBU felt that mentors were issuing students with a ‘tick sheet’. The RAPs though not plagiarised in the strict sense of the word were not entirely original, markers reported they were remarkably similar in approach and that they were very ‘same-old, same-old’. The whole idea of a degree is that a student should be able to demonstrate they can think for themselves.
The new titles should stop the ‘tick-box’ approach and it will be more obvious if a mentor has gone beyond their prescribed role of guiding and directing and is laying out a blueprint for the student just to fill in the gaps. The University is also keen to encourage students to conduct detailed research and think about the dynamic aspects of companies in their environments and the idea behind the new titles is that they will encourage this and prepare students better for both work, further study at Masters level and life generally.
I have tried to set out the type of approach that you need to adopt in our existing forum for Topic 20 and giving examples of the types of social issues to look for but the emphasis is on examples – there can be no comprehensive list. (As I do not think we need a new forum topic for Topic 20 I shall be merging this one with it in a few days as much of the advice and what is on there is still relevant to the new title)July 25, 2017 at 6:53 am
I would point out that where there has been a MAJOR breach of a. CSR issue such as the Volkswagen emissions scandal, a report could be based on mostly this one issue However it would need a very detailed analysis of the full issue (a) to be able to be 4,500 words (the minimum for the evaluation and conclusions section) and (b) it would have to explore the full ‘fall-out’ of the issue. For example yesterday it was announced that VW was not going to compensate the City of London in respect of the false figures (the authorities in London in order to reduce congestion in the city and to improve air quality and cut down on pollution levy a ‘congestion’ charge based on vehicle emissions).
Debate about the surrounding issues and impact on stakeholders would therefore need to be fairly comprehensive to satisfy the assessment criteria for a pass.July 27, 2017 at 1:58 pm
thanksJuly 27, 2017 at 3:07 pm
From above you have advice that we identify those companies which are not doing well(this information will be publicly available in the media for eg) .You also suggested accessing the company based on their csr statement (whch may also be publicly available).So does access to primary information impact the research on this topic at all ?
Also on topic 17 forum you suggested using a company that has faced a recent scandal but what if the issues the company has relates to maybe just one or two areas of CSR say for example staff and community issues and maybe they are doing well in other areas(environmental ) will this organization still qualify to be used in the research??July 28, 2017 at 6:23 am
@imaan – generally primary data e.g. questionnaires are not done well by students so I advise the main focus should be on secondary research particular using the business pages of quality newspapers and online Reuters and Forbes. In relation to the company’s CSR statement this, as I think you have grasped, must be used in a balanced way (useful as something to refer to but not necessarily to be trusted 100% as just because a company says something does not prove it is absolutely true as they may not be stating the full facts).
However with T20 there is some scope to conduct a brief face to face survey around the issues you have found. For example with Amazon you could ask if respondents agree (using a Lickert scale or a simple agree / disagree/ Don’t know type response) with the statements: (i) is it morally right that global corporations should be able to move most of their taxes off shore or to jurisdictions with low tax regimes even if this is not technically illegal? (ii) are the working practices and regime at Amazon* unacceptable? (iii) low tax payments and minimum wages can be justified if they mean lower prices for customers (iv) I would never buy from this company because of its record on these issues. And ask for any comments. You could then do a comparison with whether the answers to the specific questions on issues (i) and (ii) actually impacted on their decision to be potential customers / decisions to buy [questions (iii) and (iv)] and whether there was a slight change of attitude in the respondents views. (In my family we will only buy anything from Amazon as a very last resort preferring to support local businesses even if it means paying more as we strongly disagree with Amazon’s tax and work practices -one family member actually received a gift card and returned it to the giver explaining that she could not accept the gift as she felt so strongly about the company’s working practices and ethical stance and that these were so bad she could not use the gift card).
This type of simple questionnaire could be adapted for other companies to accommodate their perceived CSR failings.
With the last question you ask you seem to be mixing up T17 and T20 – the practices you mention seem to be CSR and therefore T20, not T17 related. With T17 the scandal in the first instance must normally be something that the Board has done in violation of a law or CG Code or have condoned in relation to knowing the law or Code was being circumvented.
*see this and similar articles so that these practices can be outlined to interviewees https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/aug/18/amazon-regime-making-british-staff-physically-and-mentally-ill-says-union
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