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When Good Companies Do Bad Things: Responsibility and Risk in an Age of Globalization by Peter Schwartz

1999; 194 pp. $29.95. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

This book is for corporate executives who would like to develop a social conscience?and for activists who would like to persuade corporate executives to want one. At its core are case studies of companies that have come under intense social criticism following events or revelations that damaged their reputation: Union Carbide after Bhopal; A.H. Robins after the Dalkon Shield; Exxon after Valdez; Nestle and infant formula; Shell in South Africa; Texaco and racial discrimination; Unocal and Burmese human-rights violations; Nike and Asian sweatshops.

It also contains brief but interesting discussions of the "best practices" of some of the world's most socially responsible companies: the partnership between American Express and Share Our Strength; Hewlett Packard's "HP's Way" philosophy; Land O' Lakes's trading initiative with Chiapas; Levi-Strauss's anti-AIDS project; and Bata Shoe Company's village-based cooperative manufacturing project in northeast Thailand.

The argument is that because today's consumers are more socially conscious, companies that don't behave in socially responsible ways will increasingly risk their bottom lines. Those that do behave well can do well, by doing what's right. The authors make a case for corporate boards and top management integrating social responsibility into their companies' business plans through stakeholder analysis. Their basic approach, however, won't satisfy critics who believe that corporations are embracing voluntary codes as a public-relations ploy designed to fend off what they really worry about?lawsuits, government regulation, and sanctions.


ISBN: 0471323322

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