A Kaleidoscope of Corporate Responsibility on a Page

The front page of last week’s Washington Post is an executive tour of the landscape of issues in the world of trust and corporate responsibility. Three of the four headline stories cover issues that are directly relevant to our field.

“Regimes’ Web tool made in the USA” describes the apparent discovery that equipment made by Blue Coat – a leading provider of Web security and management (a company that I’ve blogged about previously ) has been used by autocratic states to censor web sites and monitor the communications of dissidents. Similarly to  how companies are increasingly held accountable for activities in its supply chains, here is an example of held accountable for activities carried out by an organizations’ customers’ use of our products and services.

To enrich the challenges even further, Blue Coats web-filtering product enables parents and companies to manage their childrens’ or employees’ access to content they find objectionable.  An interesting reference towards the end of the article refers to Blue Coat removing “lesbian, gay, bisexual  and transgender” from its blocking categories because of its discriminatory nature.

This is a wonderful set of examples of the true dilemmas faced by businesses trying to do the right thing and get the balance right between personal choice, rights, freedom and security.

In another headline, “Disaster in Canada puts focus on oil transportation” the Washington Post looks at the impact of the Canadian rail tragedy on the XL Pipeline.  Does this help the argument to stop the pipeline by demonstrating the danger of any fuel transport? Or perhaps it hinders the argument by illustrating the dangers of rail transport and so perhaps the relative safety of pipelines? And how do you compare the claims made by the rail industry that it is a more carbon efficient form of transport than alternatives against the fact that a mainstay of its business is transporting fossil fuels?

Not only are these stories interesting but  most important in their resolution is that civil society has trust in the organizations that are making decisions.  Or does trust matter?

In the third article, “I think people are willing to give me a shot”,   two politicians, Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner, in New York are anticipating electoral support after massive breaches of public trust involving sex scandals. I believe in forgiveness and giving people a second chance, but are there really no equally good candidates for roles at the center of public trust who have not been at the center of major scandals?

That these candidates can get onto the front pages of the paper and anticipate significant levels of electoral support is a dilemma for me.  Although trust should be at the center of our survival, it doesn’t seem to me that civil society rewards trustworthy behavior.

These are all thorny issues, true dilemmas, and the bread and butter of corporate responsibility.  What other issues have you seen that demonstrate the true dilemma of CR? Drop a comment below and let me know what I’m missing.


  1. Comments 1

  2. Hosting 1:55 pm on June 4, 2016

    You could forgive such business leaders for responding that LGBT+ was one more example of the extraordinary ramification and fragmentation of the corporate responsibility agenda — but that certainly wasn’t Polman’s view.


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