Every time I flip on my computer these days a new alert pops up from down under about another skirmish between the Aussies and one of the many carpetbagger activist groups that have taken up residence in their country. Last month the Australian Tax Office (their IRS) threatened to yank the tax-exempt status of some activist groups for inappropriate political activity. Now, according to news reports, a group called Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) is trying to force People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to release the names of its worldwide corporate and individual donors.
Why the hubbub? AWI represents the wool growers. PETA claims to represent the sheep and has launched a boycott of Australian wool. The rock star currently known as Pink has joined the fracas by narrating a pro-boycott video. Move over Al Gore, Pink wants an Oscar too!
So, the fur (or wool) is flying in various courts of law with AWI's lawyer arguing that the donor list "may reveal that PETA is tailoring its boycott activities to serve the commercial interests of its donors." The Australian wool people obviously suspect that someone may be paying PETA to attack their product. PETA's lawyers have strenuously objected to AWI's courtroom pleas.Once again, this wool war underscores that international activist groups should be held to the same standards of transparency and conduct that they constantly seek to impose on corporations by yammering for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). If PETA was as transparent as say, Exxon-Mobil, the Aussies would not be forced to beg the courts for access to some top secret donor list. If PETA was required to prove that its policies and practices truly benefit society, perhaps government officials wouldn't be so sheepish about challenging the group's status as a tax-exempt charity.
Business executives under pressure to drink CSR cool-aid should take a cue from the Australians and insist that the activists first drink from the same cup. If that message was sent loud and clear, I suspect it would stop all the yammering and have a chilling effect on future efforts by groups like PETA to pull the wool over our collective eyes.