While waiting for the wind called Ernesto to make its way up the East Coast - bent on flooding our basement for the second time this year - a Google Alert blew into my inbox from the website www.worldchanging.com. I expected to be accosted by yet another diatribe on how Ernesto was caused by global warming, which in turn was caused by evil doer corporate polluters and their leader - the devil incarnate - George W. Bush. I was wrong.
The headline on the posted article caught my eye: “Is Capitalism Growing More Socially Conscious?” The article opined that “recent trends suggest that both corporations and investors are taking socially responsible investing more seriously.” As proof, the author cited a recent study revealing that 34 companies listed on the S&P 100 had issued Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports based on a third-party standard - the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines.
As an investor and a long-time critic of corporate socialism, my curiosity was piqued. Surely, 34 blue-chip companies would not embrace these so-called Sustainability Reporting Guidelines without first determining with whom they were getting in bed. Was this Global Reporting Initiative a counter-balance to the whacky, anti-free enterprise dogma preached by the kill-kapitalism crowd that launched the CSR movement in the first place? Was industry finally getting its act together? I fired up my turbo-charged laptop to find the truth.
Truth be told, the 34 companies that have adopted the reporting guidelines advanced by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) are either blissfully ignorant or they have joined the ranks of corporate appeasers and capitulators in the Neville Chamberlain Club.
It turns out that GRI is run by Ernst Ligteringen, a former Executive Director of Oxfam International and a past consultant to the International Labor Organization. The U.S. representatives on GRI’s board are Sean Harrigan, who previously served as an official with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, and Joan Bavaria, who has served as President and CEO of the Trillium Asset Management Corporation, a social investment firm. For the record, Ms. Bavaria also sits on the boards of Earthjustice and the Earth Day Network. She is on the advisory boards of the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Greening of Industry Network.
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