Thursday, May 28, 2009

CSR Social Evening, June 09

Singapore Compact's CSR Social Evening will be held on the 4th June (Thu). The venue will be at the Union Square (Amara Shopping Centre). Drinks are available at low prices and some food will be provided. The networking event is open for all. Just walk in if you have interest in CSR and would like to meet up with CSR folks.
CSR Social Evening is an informal opportunity for CSR professionals and enthusiasts to network.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

More MPs with criminal record in Indian parliament

Indian parliament now has the highest ever number of MPs with criminal background. In the just concluded parliamentary elections, 153 candidates with criminal charges against them have made it to the lower house. This is up from 128 candidates with criminal background who won in the last elections held in 2004.

According to a report by a non-profit organization National Election Watch, 73 out of the total 153 tainted MPs who won this year have serious criminal charges being investigated against them. This number is also up from 55 in 2004.

The largest opposition party BJP has the highest- 43 MPs- who have criminal investigations pending, followed by the ruling Congress party which has 41 MPs with criminal charges.

The only silverlining is that 26 candidates with a criminal record lost in this year's elections. Most of them were either sitting MPs or were former MPs. Partly, this was a result of a natiowide campaign by National Election Watch asking voters to reject dubious candidates.

An increasing number of MPs with criminal record is not a good sign for Indian businesses and economy. These criminal-politicians will breed even more potent corruption and undermine the rule of law. Unfortunately, corrupt companies will be able to find more friends among the lawmakers to influence government contracts while those companies which prefer to run a clean business will be at a disadvantage. More MPs with criminal histories will also mean more businesses receiving more extortion calls.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Complexities of handling corruption in Asia

Suicide committed by South Korea's former president Roh Moo-hyun points to socio-political complexities involved in addressing high-level corruption in Asia. Roh, who was being tried, and was facing a potential arrest over bribery charges, has suddenly become a national hero garnering sympathy from the man on the street.
Roh's suicidal death has created nationwide waves of anger among the opposition parties and Roh's supporters. They are blaming the conservative government headed by president Lee Myung-bak for Roh's death. They say that the government treated Roh harshly which pushed him to commit suicide.
Roh had won the presidency in 2002 on the promised agenda of cleaning up the government of corruption. In fact, he later took pride in claiming that his government was one of the cleanest in South Korea's history.
But he lost elections to Lee last year and himself came under investigations for bribery. Damaging details of the investigation were fed in to the local media on daily basis. The local media, which operates like a powerful cartel, has little regard for the former president as he unsuccessfully tried to break media cartels during his reign.
The result was a total loss of face for Roh. Found guilty of corruption, his brother is already serving a jail term. His other family members, including his wife, are under investigation. In fact, earlier this year, Roh publicly apologised for his involvement in a bribery case.
The loss of face is the most terrible thing to happen to someone in Asia. Roh perhaps found the humiliation too much to live with. And decided to end his life.
Now the tables have been turned. The backlash against the current administration is so threatening that President Lee's government is planning a state funeral for Roh in an attempt to control damage from anti-government protests.
In Asia, high-level corruption invariably involves high-level politicians and bureacrates. Many of these politicians belong to powerful political dynasties. They enjoy unprecedented privileges and luxuries of life. South Korea's powerful business heads, called Chaebols, are usually at the centre of large corruption scandals. Regulators rarely touch these big-wigs, irrespective of who is in power. But when any administration does so, the issue can transform into a socio-political crisis as is happening in South Korea.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Governments worried over ISO 26000

Some governments, including the US and China, are growing discomfort with the upcoming ISO 26000, a global standard on social responsibility.
An article in Ethical Corporation magazine says that "Most controversial is a proposal for text outlining a globally applicable set of minimum norms for organisational behaviour and setting a principle on how these should be applied. Most ISO 26000 participants believe this is necessary for the standard to reflect good practice in social responsibility. However, since the norms currently proposed draw on international laws in areas such as labour, environment and human rights, the guidance is threatening to countries whose national laws differ."
ISO 26000 has been in the making for quite some time and is expected to be rolled out in 2010. ISO 26000 will be a volunatry standard and thus will not be certifiable. In December 2008, the ISO circulated a draft ISO/CD 26000 Guiddance on Social Responsibility for comments.
Yesterday, the Working Group began its meeting in Quebec to consider the comments received on the draft guidance document. This meeting is likely to witness louder voices of concerns from the US, China and other governments which are worried by the prospects of a global standard on social responsibility.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Code of Conduct Pandemonium

This feature in the current issue of Ethical Corporation magazine examines the confusion, cluatter and chaos in the market resulting from a multitude of voluntary sector initiatives in corporate responsibility.

And an entry on the UNGC blog rightly asks whether we need a code of codes?

What do you think? Is there a need to standardise the standards? Or, do we need a super standard- the mother of all standards?

Friday, May 15, 2009

New President for Singapore Compact

Singapore Compact for Corporate Social Responsibility has a new president. Ms. Olivia Lum, Group CEO and President of Hyflux Ltd has been elected as the new president for a 3 year term from 2009 to 2012. Ms Lum takes over from Ms. Claire Chiang, Senior Vice President, Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts who was the first president of Singapore Compact.

Let's hope that Ms. Lum- the Water Queen of Singapore- will provide the much needed boost for CSR in Singapore.

Other members of management committee include Ms April Lee from SembCorp Industries, Mr Chan Tee Seng from SNCF and Mr Sean Tan from AUPE. Other members are Mr Seah Kian Peng from NTUC Fairprice, Mr John Lim from SID, Ms Esther An from CDL, Madam Halimah Yacob from NTUC, Ms Mavis Kuek from Shell, Mr Peter Heng from Singtel and Mr Koh Juan Kiat from SNEF. See annex for list of office holders and members in the new management committee.