Saturday, March 5, 2011

Are Major Polluters Bribing Environmental Watchdog Groups?

     I recently received an email and, no, it wasn’t a hoax. It was a thoroughly detailed and thoroughly documented writing that proved beyond doubt that oil companies and other such corporations routinely donate large sums of money to well-known environmental watchdog groups. These groups include Greenpeace and the Sierra Club.
     If you’re a liberal, you may take this to mean that major polluters are bribing environmental watchdog groups to look the other way. If you’re a conservative, it could mean that environmental extremists have been extorting millions of dollars from honest businessmen.
     If the title of your doctoral dissertation in Business Administration was Monitoring Corporate Social Responsibility, it’s likely to mean neither. As it is, that really was the title of my doctoral dissertation.
     Those of us who are working to restore the American government to the American people have enemies besides the obvious enemies that threaten our way of life.
     We must jealously guard our credibility. We must also guard against time wasters. Getting into a lather because we’ve misread a situation undermines our credibility and causes us to spend time on non-issues instead of issues of real import.
     Corporate social responsibility (CSR) isn’t simply a matter of doing good works at the expense of profits and otherwise being a good person. Thinking that you’ll stay out of trouble just by being a good person is a recipe for a CSR disaster. You can be blindsided by anything that happens anywhere along your supply chain, and you can’t watch everything at once.
     We’re accustomed to the schema that corporations and watchdog groups are natural enemies. Depending on your perspective, corporate managers will try to get away with anything they can (such evil corporations as Monsanto come to mind) or watchdog groups are “gotcha brigades” just looking for honest businessmen to slip. In most cases, neither schema is accurate.
     Most watchdog groups want corporations to behave responsibly, and most corporate managers want to avoid being labeled as irresponsible. It’s in the interest of both sides to see to it that the corporation isn’t seen as socially irresponsible.
     As I’ve indicated, supply chains have become so long and complicated—many of them experiencing some changes from one batch to another—that it’s not possible for one CEO or one vice president in charge of CSR to watch every link in the chain at once. There are many ways for a company to monitor CSR, including several uses of information technology (IT) for monitoring CSR. Astute CEO’s make use of as many ways as they deem necessary.
     There is, however, no substitute for eyes on the ground; and there’s no substitute for an early warning system. Effective watchdog groups serve both purposes.
     Put yourself in the CEO’s place. Your company’s reputation and sales depends on the accuracy of reports that cross your desk. Suppose those reports were all you had to indicate that a supplier in the Andes Mountains was acting responsibly toward the rainforest and rainforest natives. Would those reports be enough to put your mind at ease? The late Peter Drucker, whose books (such as The Effective Executive) revolutionized business management, wrote, “An effective executive will go out and look.”
     That’s what watchdog groups do. For most corporations with long and complex supply chains, staying on good terms with watchdog groups is the most cost-effective way to go out and look.
     If it can be shown that environmental watchdog groups are giving major polluters a clean bill of health in exchange for hefty donations, then we’d have an issue. In fact, if the major polluters in question happen to be Chevron or BP, we’d have prima facie evidence of a corrupt bargain.
(Shown at right:: "Steven Donziger, shown above in Ecuador in 2003, was accused of doctoring evidence in the pollution suit."  Source:

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