- 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-unionOctober 2, 2017 at 3:43 pm
I am currently doing my RAP on topic 20, and as we all know the title of the topic has been changed to new one from period 35. Since the title mentions “Select an organisation that has been identified as having weak social responsibility practices within the past 5 years”, should I reflect financial and non-financial measures of the company for last 5 years in the appendix or only 3 years will do. I am really concerned regarding this matter.October 4, 2017 at 4:02 pm
Please note: we request that students only start a new thread if absolutely necessary. Although the title has changed, unlike with Topic 17, there are still many similarities between the new and old topic 20.
Regarding your actual query: the 5 years in the title is because OBU does not want students dredging up issues that have been done to death (e.g. if there were no constraints I could guarantee that about half of students would do Enron for Topic 17!!!). So when it comes to the financial information 3 years may be adequate. It would depend upon whether your aim is to show the impact the knowledge of the poor CSR has had on earnings etc.
I suggest that you read through some of the latest posts on the existing Topic 20 thread. I have made some suggestions there about what constitutes weak CSR and just today in the news both Apple and Amazon face challenges to the way they have paid tax on business revenue in Europe. In addition previously Amazon has been criticised for poor staff working practices and Apple for inflated prices (the cost of their latest iPhone has an inflated price in the UK compared with the USA).
Be careful how you interpret the figures though as ‘one size will definitely not fit all’. In the cases cited above and particularly with Amazon the stringent staff practices (limited breaks and poor pay) is likely to have held down COS. However even though the decision by the European Commission to levy a demand for back-tax will be challenged by both companies they will still have to make huge provisions both for legal costs and for potential payment of the tax demanded and while the issue is pending it is likely to affect share price (as will most poor CSR practices once exposed).October 8, 2017 at 7:28 am
since the topic 20 changed. so resubmission students have to follow the new topic as well??December 16, 2017 at 6:38 am
Sorry I missed this query – you can normally resubmit under the old rules if you choose since the new rules relate only to those who make a first submission in P35. However if you want to go for the new rules you can.December 16, 2017 at 6:43 am
Looks like Uber is setting itself up as a ‘model’ company for the new T20 !!
There are links within the article to other relevant issues and there is the on going battle about zero hours contacts and with the UK government concerning self-employed status in relation to Uber driversDecember 31, 2017 at 8:51 am
….and Apple may also be considered a contender: using mechanisms to avoid paying tax, over-priced products and spare parts and the underhand way it has been slowing down older iPhones to encourage new sales. I find latter fact doubly pernicious as how many millions of people have been conned into buying a replacement unnecessarily and how much resources (energy, plastics and packaging and shipping etc.) are wasted in this whole process – really just so that Apple can increase its bottom line??
Also I don’t think it’s just the phones Apple is interfering with – a friend of mine has been complaining for about a year that their IPad was very,very slow – and just before the deliberate slowing down of phones story hit the headlines guess what? They brought a new iPad! So probability that iPads too are involved in this deception.
Other points for discussion could revolve around the ‘Error 53’ problem (which I am not sure was ever resolved) https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/feb/05/error-53-apple-iphone-software-update-handset-worthless-third-party-repair
and also when it refused to unlock a suspected terrorist phone see both of the following links for a more balanced opinion on this:
One can balance this with a few positives where it might have good CSR and critically evaluate what it gives back to society or measure what it might do better e.g. charitable initiatives as a percentage of profit. (Do be aware though that sometimes charitable trusts are set up by companies but it is their employees and customers who contribute as much if not more than the actual company)August 8, 2018 at 8:40 am
hie guys plz help me.Topic 20 states that ” SELECT AN ORGANISATION IDENTIFIED AS HAVING WEAK CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY PRACTISES WITHIN THE PAST 5 YEARS.Help me guys with clarificatuion of the following a) does it neccessarily have to be 5 years?(2013-2018) .can i use 3 yrs e.g (2014-2018)
b) can i use a company that collapsed and closed its operations or strictly the company must still be in operations to the current date?
ASSESS ORIGINS OF THE PROBLEM
how do i go about this one?
do i have to write a brief history about corporate social responsibilty 30-40 years back?
ORGANISATION”S RESPONSE AND IMPACT ON STAKEHOLDERS?
do i have to research about impact on stakeholders before or after the organisations response or impact on stakeholders of the weak corporate social responsibility practises.
your help will be greatly appreciatedAugust 8, 2018 at 8:43 am
is it possible to research on a company and its subsidiaries as well.For example ZESA has subsidiaries,ZETDC,Powertel,ZPC,ZETA ?August 8, 2018 at 10:04 am
GillianM – OBU Registered MentorModerator
As long as the parent company has significant control of the other companies (in this context I would suggest a controlling interest of >50 %) then it would be acceptable to deal with their weak CAR practices as a group (and exclude any where the holding is less than this). You might also look at who sits on the boards of each company as the directors.
To do this topic successfully you to have several issues to analyse and discuss. Ethics may also feature highly as in some parts of the world bribery and corruption, personal enrichment via exploitation of contracts (with the demand for commissions and kick-backs) are common fraudulent business practices. Such practices are outlawed in some jurisdictions e.g. under the UK Bribery Act 2010 and in the US The Foreign Corrupt Oractices Act has worldwide applicability meaning no US company or its subsidiaries may have any dealings with any overseas company or individuals engaging in such activity and v.v. no individuals. foreign company or its subsidiaries may operate within the US.August 15, 2018 at 9:49 am
High rates of executive pay have reached the headlines (yet gain!). Probably an issue that relates to most companies in the FTSE top 250 (not just the top 100). So iif applicable Is probably something that could be mentioned in the analysis of your report alongside the other scandals and points of weakness (how independent really those Remuneration Committees who agree these levels and how does it impact on employees in the organisations when at best they have just cost of living increases and at worst no increase at all?)
I made above post in relation to Topic 17 but the subject of high executive pay. Is also a CSR issue as the rates paid to CEOs compared with the average worker is now socially divisive, so also relevant to Topic 20August 15, 2018 at 2:21 pm
can some assist were can i find appropriate journals/writing on corporate social responsibility and an appropriate definitionAugust 15, 2018 at 9:45 pm
GillianM – OBU Registered MentorModerator
This is an interesting topic and I hope you might consider doing it as you would find it quite rewarding if you select the right company.
There is a variation of Google called “Google Scholar” where you may find academic articles (however access to some of these is subject to payment / subscription). Using key words you will find relevant articles. Note: The links below are to free accessible articles.
There is no one definition of CSR. It is more a series of concepts and in the last decade or so has also focused on sustainability for the planet. For an appropriate overview look at the two links.
and this (although the title of the link itself looks odd !)
Have a read through this article from the Harvard Business Review which sets out how good CSR policies can be advantageous and the OECD guide to gain deeper insight into the topic
also take a look at the Global Reporting Initiative website and
All of these will give you an excellent background on which to increase your understanding and help you with your project but bear in mind that concepts are expanding and evolving and in particular best use of resources has now become more prominent (maximising natural energy, minimising pollution and eliminating waste- the all important sustainability element)
Then you need to select an appropriate company and in respect of your chosen company see where in particular is it falling down and is not performing well on CSR front on a number of aspects – also bear in mind the sorts of issues that are high profile – these are general examples: insufficient recycling initiatives (some of the coffee companies and supermarkets using too much plastic packaging for example), companies not paying their ‘fair share’ of corporation tax (making statements about paying all the tax due is not quite the same thing when tax loopholes and tax havens are used to avoid tax: Facebook, apple, Google and many other big name global corporations); poor working terms and conditions (Amazon, Sports Direct) ; exploitation of child labour in poorer parts of the world by clothing retailers and also lack of security over customer and employee data (websites being hacked and such data being stolen).
You will also need to use a model. I suggest Carrolls Pyramid (see this article)
It is useful to use this pyramid as the structure for Part 3 using the various heading e.g. Philanthropical, Ethical, Legal and Economic although you might also want to add Environment. Alternatively you could use different headings such as “People, Planet, Profit’
The crunch comes choosing a company –this may help with European companies https://tu-dresden.de/bu/wirtschaft/bu/ressourcen/dateien/dateien/veroeffentlichungen/good-company-ranking-2013-eng?lang=en
With US companies you may find that articles may praise some companies for CSR that personally I would question (e.g. Amazon for its poor working practices and tax avoidance and Apple – a company that deliberately incorporates obsolescence in its products to maximise sales and profit in my opinion is not adopting responsible CSR practices) so you do need to subject the company chosen to object scrutiny.August 16, 2018 at 4:14 pm
Sorry shiver I missed your earlier questions:
“a) does it neccessarily have to be 5 years?(2013-2018) .can i use 3 yrs e.g (2014-2018)
b) can i use a company that collapsed and closed its operations or strictly the company must still be in operations to the current date?”
The wording is ‘WITHIN the last 5 years’ so any issues in that period, so if in the last 3 years that is fine.. If it collapsed, was it mainly for CSR reasons? A company that has ceased trading can be used (for example with Topic 17 Carillion is acceptable as its failure relates to Corporate Governance issues) however there must be a string suggestion and evidence if using it for Topic 20 that CSR practices were at least linked to its downfall I think. However could check with acca@Brookes.ac.uk on this.
“ASSESS ORIGINS OF THE PROBLEM
how do i go about this one?”
Only a very brief outline of the development of CSR is needed. How did the CSR issues come to light is what is mostly required here.
“do i have to research about impact on stakeholders before or after the organisations response or impact on stakeholders of the weak corporate social responsibility practises”
As long as both are covered that is the main thng – there can be no hard and fast rule. With poor CSR customers might boycott the product/service forcing the company to respond. Alternatively a company may react straightaway to press reports or government condemnation and do something to prevent the problem getting worse e.g. with serious environmental problems. Often though if it is going to cost a significant amount corporations will hold back on throwing money at it unless they feel they have to… bad publicity, loss of customers to rivals and revenue loss being the sorts of things that force them to take action. So the serious company response is often after the fallout.September 9, 2018 at 11:04 pm
Im about to start my RAP and for T20 i have chosen Sports Direct as the organisation. In my opinion issues regarding Sports Direct such as appalling workplace conditions, minimum wage level, health and safety issues, six strikes policy etc all relate to CSR. Correct me if im wrong.
Secondly, im concerned whether i’ll be able to produce a report of 7500 words by just discussing the above mentioned issues.
I’ll use a comparator or compare Sports Direct against best practice. Models i am planning to use in my analysis are Corrall’s Model, Stakeholders Theory and Triple Bottom Line Model.
Im too stressed out and dont know how to start with all the research i have done.
Your suggestions and guidance would be appreciated.September 10, 2018 at 12:24 am
Well done for making a decision on this. Usually the problem with the RAP is exceeding the word count. Although a comparator as such isn’t necessary comparisons with best practice are advisable.
You have some good ideas and there is also some advice above about the General Reporting Initiative and OECD definitions of CSR.
You now need to formulate some report objectives and research questions. There is some general advice in the Information Pack but you really need a mentor to help direct your work (and a good one will take most of the stress away for you by removing the ‘guesswork’ and by monitoring your progress keep you on track. Remember your work has to be signed off by a mentor when you submit).September 10, 2018 at 7:00 am
I’ll be having my first mentor meeting in a day or two. Atleast now im relieved that the topic and Organisation i chose are fine. Thankyou for your timely response, you’re the BEST !!September 12, 2018 at 2:10 pm
chwang wai sumParticipant
May i know more about Apple Inc weak CSR?
Thank youSeptember 12, 2018 at 10:06 pm
I have set out some points in an earlier post above.
Here is an article from 2013 about how apple uses manipulation techniques to lock customers into its products by imposing high ‘switching costs’ (often in terms of inconvenience that mean customers just find it easier not to switch
Another of Apple’s customer complaints is that the advertised low cost battery replacement service is a bit disingenuous as customers are expected to pay full price first for non- existent faults before any battery replacement
The idea though behind all of the RAP work is that the student should do the research!
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