FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Corporate Social Responsibility Programs are a Fraud

by CORPORATE CRIME REPORTER

Anti-sweatshop activist Jeffrey Ballinger says that corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs such as codes of conduct for contractors are undermining worker rights.

Ten years ago, Ballinger and his group Press for Change led the charge against Nike’s mistreatment of workers in southeast Asia.

The anti-sweatshop movement had Nike and the shoe industry on the run.

Ballinger said that by co-opting public interest groups and with deft application of CSR, Nike and multinational sporting goods companies won the public relations battle.

Ballinger says that by spending on CSR, Nike and the other large retailers are able to appear socially responsible, instead of actually being socially responsible.

“The CSR cost for Nike is about $10 million to $12 million a year, just for the CSR staff and expenses, to go to these sustainability meetings all over the world,” Ballinger told CORPORATE CRIME REPORTER. “They have two or three Nike people at every meeting. That’s part of the CSR game.”

“I figure 75 cents per pair of shoes to the worker would fix the problem,” Ballinger said. “If Nike instead paid workers 75 cents more per pair of shoes, do you know what that would cost Nike compared to the CSR cost? That would cost them $210 million a year.”

Ballinger says that industry critics like Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange played into the hands of Nike and helped deflate the anti-sweatshop movement.

“We would have a conference call every three or four weeks,” Ballinger said. “And at one of these, in about 1997 or so, Medea Benjamin from Global Exchange let it slip that she was talking to Nike. I said ­ what do you mean you are talking to Nike? We have workers fired in Indonesia. You don’t talk to a company until first they have agreed to get that contractor to rehire these 30 workers at one factory and 18 factories at another factory. The military would give a list to the factory manager telling him who the troublemakers are. And I said to Medea ­ you just don’t go and talk to Nike. But she was unmoved. And it was after she talked to Nike, that other activists started talking to Nike. But Medea opened the door. She was the point person in the United States, getting all of the attention. And she sent the signal ­ if I can talk to Nike, you can talk with Nike too.”

Ballinger says that activists won round one ten years ago against Nike and the other apparel makers. They have lost round two, with companies winning the public relations battle, getting Americas to believe, through CSR that they are doing the right thing.

“Round three would be exposing the fraud of CSR,” Ballinger said. “And getting back into another kind of game where we are saying ­ we don’t want self-regulation. We want to know what the governments are doing and why are these companies are in the most lawless places on earth? We want you to document that and put it on your web site.”

Ballinger said he was often vilified by other activists for taking a strong stance against sweatshops.

“I cannot tell you how often I have heard ­ don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” Ballinger said. “The perfect invariably meant worker empowerment, the good was usually a corporate self-regulation scheme. What is wrong with being uncompromising? I thought that it was good to be uncompromising. Certainly, businesses say that they are uncompromising when it comes to quality. Activists should be able to say ­ we won’t compromise on a living wage or collective bargaining, where a union has won majority support among workers, shouldn’t they?”

“I recall being accused of trying to split the movement because I objected to anti-sweat groups touting a new ­ vague and unenforceable ­ initiative that big brands like Reebok were only too happy to sign on to. Much favorable publicity for the corporations followed, of course. Naysayers were marginalized as extremists,” Ballinger said.

[For a complete transcript of the Interview with Jeffrey Ballinger, see 21 CORPORATE CRIME REPORTER 22, May 28, 2007, print edition only.]

CORPORATE CRIME REPORTER is located in Washington, DC. They can be reached through their website

 

 

May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
Dean Baker
Time for an Accountable Federal Reserve
Ted Rall
Working for US Gov Means Never Saying Sorry
Dave Welsh
Hunger Strikers at Mission Police Station: “Stop the execution of our people”
John Eskow
The Death of Prince and the Death of Lonnie Mack
May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
Nicolas J S Davies
Escalating U.S. Air Strikes Kill Hundreds of Civilians in Mosul, Iraq
Binoy Kampmark
Class, Football, and Blame: the Hillsborough Disaster Inquest
George Wuerthner
The Economic Value of Yellowstone National Park
Rivera Sun
Celebrating Mother Jones
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir and Postcolonialism
Mairead Maguire
Drop the Just War Theory
Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail