Warm Words, Cold Deeds. (Corporate Social Responsibility)

Article excerpt

It's a pretty remarkable story that provokes a "no comment" response from the head of policy at the Institute of Directors. But the usually fluent and voluble Ruth Lea did not feel able to add to the official statement, put out by the IoD this week, concerning the nonappearance of a joint IoD/Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) report into corporate social responsibility or CSR.

The project had begun with the best of intentions. The champion of free-market, laissez-faire business, and the prominent left-leaning think-tank, were to combine forces in an analysis of current business attitudes towards CSR. Five hundred IoD members from a range of businesses were polled by NOP, and the results studied and reported on by the IPPR.

But after several months' collaboration, including some limited (and agreed) revision and editing of the research findings, relations between the two bodies broke down at the last minute. The IoD, which paid NOP's bill and allowed its members to be polled, instructed the IPPR not to publish the report.

The two institutions appear to agree on very few details of this story. The IoD claims that the report is effectively its private property, and insists that its own analysis of the data will be published "in due course". At the IPPR, meanwhile, there is frustration that an important and original piece of work has been suppressed on the eve of publication. Perhaps we shall just have to mark this down as the latest example of a failed public/private partnership.

The pity of it is that CSR is urgently in need of this kind of thorough, critical analysis. The IPPR had sensibly designed the research to be carried out with mainstream business people, and not with superstar chief executives and stock-market heroes. …