May 2011

Date Archive

Leeora Black By Dr Leeora Black, Managing Director, ACCSR.

I recently had the privilege of participating in a discussion about the contribution of the Responsible Business Project to the advancement of business practice in Australia. It made me think about how far we have come since the 2006 inquiry into corporate responsibility by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services.

Here’s my report card.

Magalie is an Associate with the Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (ACCSR) and a guest lecturer in Business & Society and Corporate Governance at the La Trobe University (Melbourne), Graduate School of Management.

Magalie MaraisA new Insights Series paper by ACCSR – “Universities and CSR: Thought Leadership and Competitive Advantage” – highlights the growing importance of universities and education to the CSR agenda.

As a lecturer in corporate social responsibility (CSR), I am always surprised to notice the lack of knowledge of my students, undergraduate or post-graduate, about CSR. Most of them have heard of the term, but asking them to propose a definition typically draws a blank.

Leeora BlackWhen my extended family gets together for dinner, a favourite request is for my husband Bob’s baked trout. He douses it with grape juice and bakes it in foil for an hour. Simple and delicious. Recently Woolworths and Coles announced moves to introduce more certified sustainable seafood options. So Bob rang our fishmonger at Victoria Market and asked them how sustainable our favourite trout is.

The trout comes from a family-run company in Tasmania and is farmed. Their website inspired our confidence, but there is no certification. Should we care?

Certification frameworks like The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and local initiatives like The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Sustainable Australian Seafood Assessment Program should give comfort to consumers. Woolworths and Coles are both introducing MSC-certification and are respectively involved with the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Foundation and World Wildlife Fund. Even my cat could eat certified sustainable fish now.

But how genuine is this rush by the major retailers to sustainable seafood? The commercial reality is that Coles and Woolworths want to differentiate themselves from each other. They want a competitive branding edge to deliver more sales. They are appealing to the growing market segment of the ethically conscious consumer. But will there be any real benefit beyond the check-out?

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