Category Archives: Politics

2SER Radio Interview about the Catalyst CSR Dashboard and Corporate Reporting

Annamarie Reyes from 2SER’s Radio Atticus talks to Martijn Boersma, Researcher at Catalyst Australia and the University of Technology Sydney, about the Catalyst CSR Dashboard and the poor corporate reporting on labour standards and supply chains.

Mind the Gap: Company Disclosure Discrepancies not Sustainable

The recent decision by two Australian retailers to sign an accord protecting suppliers in Bangladesh has highlighted discrepancies in company disclosure of sustainability issues and the need for clearer reporting guidance.

Kmart and Target became the first Australian companies to sign the Global Union Federations’ building and safety accord, following the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh. According to Oxfam Australia, Big W and Cotton On are also making moves to sign the accord; however, a lack of information on which companies have suppliers in Bangladesh means a potential lack of other Australian signatories.

Recent research by Catalyst Australia, a collaborative policy network, shows that this lack of supply-chain information is not an isolated incident and that significant gaps exist in sustainability reporting by Australian companies. Continue reading Mind the Gap: Company Disclosure Discrepancies not Sustainable

How Rotten is Apple’s Core? Tax Avoidance and Human Rights Abuses

The Apple brand is not only one of the most famous in the world, it is also the one with the highest value. Although Apple shares have plummeted during the last months, the latest brand value rankings show that the brand remains the best in the world. In addition to this, in the third quarter of 2012 Apple had a market capitalisation of US$ 625 billion, by far the largest in the world, on top of which it had and it had a US $117 billion cash hoard. You would think that a company this size would pay a fair amount of tax, but Apple thinks differently.

Continue reading How Rotten is Apple’s Core? Tax Avoidance and Human Rights Abuses

Catalyst Australia Launches CSR Dashboard Assessing Australian Companies

Today Catalyst Australia launched its CSR Dashboard, which assesses the corporate social responsibility (CSR) of 32 of Australia’s largest companies across six different topics: gender equality, environment, labour standards, supply chain, community investment and engagement. The breadth of research and data analysis that underpins theCSR Dashboard gave the researchers some overall impressions about social and environmental reporting in Australia. Surprisingly, the majority of our leading companies were not up to scratch. Despite being based on well-established global and local standards of good practice, in most cases the criteria used in the CSR Dashboard were too aspirational to be met by the companies in the sample. Only four of the 32 companies provided enough public information to rate their performance in all 20 of the indicators. Ten companies had three or less reporting gaps. At the other end of the spectrum seven of the 32 companies did not achieve a rating in more than half of the 20 indicators. Some topic areas were widely overlooked, such as supply chains. Companies also disclosed selectively around labour standards. The website provides a visual representation of the full results for all companies and topics, as well as background information about the project.

Catastroika: A Must Watch Documentary About Privatisation of State Assets

In exchange for providing Greece with a multibillion bailout package, the European Union demanded the implementation of a massive program of privatisation, which means that Greek state assets like ports and airports are going to be sold. The purpose of this privatisation plan is to reduce Greece’s level of debt, i.e. pay back the Troika (EU, ECB and IMF). The creators of Debtocracy, a documentary addressing the beginnings of the current global economic crisis, the non-viability of the Euro and its contribution to economic situation in Greece, compellingly analyse the dramatic shifting of state assets to private hands in their latest documentary called Catastroika. Catastroika is a crowdfunded documentary that has placed privatisation in developed countries in a historical perspective, and provides a warning against the negative impacts of privatisation of state assets.

Observations by a Dutchman in Australia: Why Cycling is Not Taking Off in Sydney

After starting a new job in the Sydney CBD four weeks ago, I have been enjoying cycling into work every morning. My trip takes me over the Anzac Bridge into Pyrmont, after which I slalom around tourists while cycling through Darling Harbour into the city. After biking it to work for a month, and getting fined for not wearing a helmet two days ago, the time has come to share my observations.

Firstly, what’s with all the lycra people? 80% of all commuting cyclists in Sydney dress up as if they’re a team mate of Cadel Evans. The pre-9am exhibition of clean-shaven and steel-cabled calves gives me the impression that I have taken a wrong turn and have unwillingly entered a stage in the Tour Down Under. And the serious expressions on those faces! Waiting at the traffic light is like waiting for the start of an individual time trial. Believe me when I say that it is not a good look. Apart from this being an aesthetical observation, I also truly believe that this way of dressing, and the display of attitude that apparently goes with it, is keeping cycling from being accepted as a normal mode of transportation in Sydney. Continue reading Observations by a Dutchman in Australia: Why Cycling is Not Taking Off in Sydney

Smashing the Glass Ceiling: Getting Women into European Boardrooms

Leading up to International Women’s Day, European Union (EU) justice commissioner Viviane Reding announced that she is considering enforcing a quota to break the glass ceiling and increase the participation of women in the boardrooms of European companies. This suggestion has stirred debate about the possible downsides of such a quota, especially in comparison with voluntary targets that aim to increase gender equality in European big business.

Sexist objections include platitudes such as the board meeting having to end at three o’clock because the CEO must pick up the children from school, half of the board of directors having synchronised menstrual cycles causing the top of the company to be instable, and CFO’s only being available on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Obviously, there are also serious objections to the quota. Hypothetically, a quota could mean that women that are insufficiently qualified will become members of boards, merely to meet the numbers prescribed by the European Union. This would not only make these women token board members, but it would also mean that a potentially sufficiently qualified male would be denied a job that he would be more suitable for. And would an emancipated woman really want a job that has been created thanks to a job quota? Wouldn’t she be regarded as merely having made it into the board room due to EU regulation? Continue reading Smashing the Glass Ceiling: Getting Women into European Boardrooms

Online Privacy: Terms and Conditions in Five Bullet Points Please

“Time is running out to clear your browsing history before Google’s new privacy policies come into force!” Countless blogs and websites rang the warning bell on Google’s latest evil ploy to gather every single piece of information on individuals using their services. The URL to Google’s web history was eagerly re-tweeted and visited, in what seemed to be a true online civil action against the violation of privacy. But to what extend is the latest online privacy outrage justifiable?

Although the Google web history madness seemed to constitute a moment of communal outrage, I am quite certain that only a relatively small number of the stupendous amount of individuals that use the Google search engine on a daily basis are aware of this matter at all. I am also fairly certain that a substantial amount of the people that re-tweeted and spread the news about Google web history did so simply because of the appeal of the header “Clear your Google Web History before the big privacy change!” Continue reading Online Privacy: Terms and Conditions in Five Bullet Points Please

Bradley Manning: Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues

Bradley Manning, the US soldier who is being accused of supplying classified military documents to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks, appeared in front of a military court on 17 December 2011. Using a rather unusual strategy, his defence team argues that Manning has been experiencing issues regarding gender identity and sexual orientation, which have made Manning emotionally fragile and unstable. It will be very interesting, for Manning and other people experiencing issues with gender identity and sexual orientation, to see how the US legal system will deal with these statements.

Same-sex sexual orientation and the military are two topics that have a turbulent history. Bill Clinton’s policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was only abolished by President Obama earlier this year, which obviously doesn’t make it any easier for individuals with same-sex sexual preference to serve in the US military. The fact that Bradley Manning experienced difficulties with his sexual orientation whilst serving in the army is not surprising. Stories of gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals experiencing difficulties in the military have made the news in multiple cases over the years. Something that is more surprising to be brought up in this context are Manning’s gender identity struggles. Although sexual orientation and the army have a known and troubled history, the history of gender identity issues and the army constitutes somewhat of a dark spot. Continue reading Bradley Manning: Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues

Conspiracy Theories: Why The Revolution Will (Not?) Be Tweeted

A new catalyst of civil uprising many believe has been identified in the form of social media. Examples range from the election protests in #Iran, the ousting of #Mubarak, the #ArabSpring as a whole, #WikiLeaks with its #Cablegate and the latest showcase, the #Occupy events in the United States. The matter whether social media like Twitter and Facebook actually contribute to these forms of civil disobedience or are just a form of ‘clicktivism’ has been discussed to a great extend. More recently, the debate has turned against Twitter with claims that the social network had a hand in some hashtags not becoming a trending topic.

It goes without saying that this is the kind of stuff for conspiracy theorists: the government is aware of the power of social media and is quietly instructing Twitter to suppress certain hashtags from making it to the trending topics list. Then again, the way in which 700 protesters were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge shows an unrelenting crackdown on civil disobedience by the American government. In addition, the track record of governments around the world, including the United States government, shows plenty of violation of digital privacy and intrusive online behaviour. So, you wouldn’t really put it past them either. Continue reading Conspiracy Theories: Why The Revolution Will (Not?) Be Tweeted