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11.pp.0243www.iiste.org call for paper-257

  1. 1. Issues in Social and Environmental AccountingVol. 1, No. 2 December 2007Pp. 243-257 Corporate Social Responsibility and UK Retailers Peter Jones Martin Wynn Daphne Comfort The Business School University of Gloucestershire, UK David Hillier Centre for Police Science The University of Glamorgan, UKAbstractThis paper offers a preliminary examination of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) com-mitments and agendas being addressed and reported by the UK’s leading retailers. The paperbegins with a short discussion of the characteristics and origins of CSR and of the current struc-ture of retailing in the UK. This is followed by an illustrative examination of the CSR issuespublicly reported by the UK’s top ten country of origin retailers and the paper draws its empiri-cal material from the CSR reports posted on the World Wide Web by these retailers. The find-ings reveal that the UK’s top ten retailers are addressing and reporting on four sets of CSRthemes namely those relating to the environment; the marketplace; the workplace and the com-munity. The paper concludes with a discussion of a number of general issues relating to thesethemes.Keywords: Corporate social responsibility, Retailers, environment, marketplace, workplace,communityIntroduction ing the management agenda from one of managing for profitable growth to one ofIn presenting its 2006 Global Powers of managing and mitigating risk.’ The re-Retailing report Deloitte (2006) suggests port argues that ‘the uncertainties of thethat ‘heightened concern about the global economy, the complexities of agrowing risks facing retailers is chang- global supply chain, stakeholder de-Peter Jones is currently Professor of Strategic Management in the Business School at the University of Gloucestershire,UK, email: pjones@glos.ac.uk. Martin Wynn is Reader in Business Information Systems at the University of Glouces-tershire Business School, email: mwynn@glos.ac.uk. Daphne Comfort is the Research Administrator in the BusinessSchool at the University of Gloucestershire, UK. David Hillier, is an Emeritus Professor in the Centre for Police Sci-ence at the University of Glamorgan, UK.
  2. 2. 244 P. Jones et. al. / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2007) 243-257mands for greater corporate social and associations reflect the organisation’senvironmental responsibility, techno- status and activities with respect to itslogical innovation, the growth of pro- perceived societal obligations.’ Al-prietary brands, the increasing difficul- though CSR has gained increasing mo-ties in finding and retaining talent, and mentum and prominence across the busi-the threat of terrorism have all com- ness community during the past decadebined to significantly change the land- the underlying concept has a long his-scape of risk management’. In identify- tory. Hopkins and Crowe (2003), foring ‘non-financial risks’ as one of seven example, suggest that there has always‘key risks’ the report argues that ‘being a been a tension between business goalsgood corporate citizen is becoming in- and social goals and they cite the powercreasingly important to the risk manage- of the craft guilds in the Middle Ages,ment agenda’ and that the goal is to the slave trade and the struggles to im-‘bring together economic viability, envi- prove living and working conditions inronmental sustainability and social re- Britain’s rapidly growing towns and cit-sponsibility, integrating these concepts ies during the nineteenth century, asinto the company’s strategy, operations graphic evidence of such tensions.and culture.’ Retailers are very much at Sadler (2004) has argued that ‘the defini-the leading edge of the service economy tion of the functions of the corporationwithin the UK and this paper offers a with relation to wider social and moralpreliminary examination of the extent to obligations began to take place in thewhich the UK leading retailers are re- centres of capitalist development in theporting Corporate Social Responsibility 19th century.’ More generally Mbare(CSR) commitments and agendas on (2006) has suggested that ‘the concept oftheir company websites as part of ‘their CSR is not new, as some would want uscorporate efforts to build trust with to believe’ and that ‘the debate aboutshareholders, consumers and other business as a moral institution goes backstakeholders.’ to the days of philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Marx.’Corporate Social Responsibility Various factors are cited as being impor- tant in building the current momentumCSR is concerned with the integration of behind CSR, which is evidenced by theenvironmental, social, economic and fact that the number of companies pub-ethical considerations into business lishing CSR reports has increased almoststrategies and practices. While Werner tenfold in the period 1996–2006and Chandler (2005) have argued that (Saunders 1997). (Figure 1). Ernst and‘consistent, definitions, labels and vo- Young (2002) suggest that five key driv-cabulary have yet to be solidly estab- ers have influenced the increasing busi-lished in the field of CSR’ numerous ness focus on CSR namely greater stake-definitions have been framed. Wood holder awareness of corporate ethical,(1991), for example suggests that ‘the social and environmental behaviour;basic idea of CSR is that business and direct stakeholder pressures; investorsociety are interwoven rather than dis- pressure; peer pressure and an increasedtinct entities’ while for Brown and Dacin sense of social responsibility. Porter and(1997) ‘Corporate social responsibility Kramer (2006) argue that there are ‘four
  3. 3. P. Jones et. al. / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2007) 243-257 245prevailing justifications for CSR’ age and reputation, which have becomenamely ‘moral obligation, sustainability, increasingly important elements in cor-license to operate and reputation.’ Na- porate success; and the need for compa-tional and supranational governments nies to recruit and retain highly skilledhave been active in promoting CSR. The personnel. Girod and Michael (2003)European Union, for example, promoted adopt a strategic marketing perspectiveCSR in all member states and the Com- arguing that CSR is ‘a key tool to create,mission for the European Communities develop and sustain differentiated brand(2002) argues that CSR has gained in- names’.creasing recognition amongst companiesas an important element in new and The three dominant theories that haveemerging forms of governance because been used to analyse and explain CSRit helps them to respond to fundamental have been succinctly summarised bychanges in the overall business environ- Moir (2001). Stakeholder theory sug-ment. These changes include globalisa- gests that it makes sound business sensetion and the responsibilities companies for companies to understand the needsfind the need to address as they increas- and aspirations of all their stakeholdersingly source products and services from be they investors, governments, employ-developing countries; the issues of im- ees, communities, customers or suppliersFigure 1. Number of companies in the World publishing CSR reports 1996-2006 Number of companies in the World publishing CSR reports 2235 2153 1936 1833 1482 1179 823 639 463 365 267 96 97 98 99 00 01 02 03 04 05 06{Source: Saunders (2007)}
  4. 4. 246 P. Jones et. al. / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2007) 243-257and that these needs and aspirations ‘there is one and only one social respon-should be reflected in corporate strategy. sibility of business-to use its resourcesSocial Contracts theory asserts that com- and engage in activities designed to in-panies may pursue CSR not because it is crease its profits so long as it staysin their commercial interests but because within the rules of the game, which is toit is how society expects companies to say engages in open and free competi-operate. Legitimacy theory stresses that tion without deception or fraud.’ Hen-society grants power to businesses and it derson (2001) has argued that seeminglyexpects them to use that power in a re- growing business commitment to CSR issponsible manner. ‘deeply flawed’ in that ‘it rests on a mis- taken view of issues and events and itsThe business case for CSR is seen to general adoption by business would re-focus on a wide range of potential bene- duce welfare and undermine the marketfits (Bevan et. al 2004). These include economy.’ Corporate Watch (2006)improved financial performance and takes a more overtly political positionprofitability; reduced operating costs; arguing that ‘CSR enables businesses tolong-term sustainability for companies promote ineffective voluntary, marketand their employees; increased staff based solutions to social and environ-commitment and involvement; enhanced mental crises under the guise of beingcapacity to innovate; good relations with responsible.’ More generally Kitchingovernment and communities; better risk (2003) argues that CSR is ‘too narrow toand crisis management; enhanced repu- engage management attention, tootation and brand value; and the develop- broad and unquantifiable to be takenment of closer links with customers and seriously by the financial communitygreater awareness of their needs. How- and just woolly enough to be exploitedever Porter and Kramer (2006) have ar- by charlatans and opportunists.’gued that ‘the prevailing approaches toCSR are so fragmented and so discon-nected from business and strategy as to UK Retailingobscure many of the greatest opportuni-ties for companies to benefit society.’ Retailing is a large, diverse and dynamicThey propose a new framework to ex- sector of the UK economy offering anplore the interdependence between busi- ever-increasing range of goods and ser-ness and society and argue that ‘when vices to consumers. In 2004 there werelooked at strategically corporate social some 305,000 retail outlets within theresponsibility can become a source of UK generating a total turnover of £250tremendous social progress, as the busi- billion (ABI 2005). The DTI’s (2004)ness applies its considerable resources, Retail Strategy Group Report “Drivingexpertise, and insights to activities that Change” looked to capture what it de-benefit society.’ scribed as “The Value of Retail” as fol- lows. “It is a strong user of technologyAt the same time there are those who and an innovator of new products. Bywould champion the case against com- matching consumer expectations andpanies integrating CSR into their core demands with technological develop-business. Such arguments might follow ments the sector provides ever-Friedmann (1982) in affirming that increasing choice at a range of prices,
  5. 5. P. Jones et. al. / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2007) 243-257 247which suits the needs of the community. (Dawson 2004) and it also brought largeRetail continues to invest in people and retailers into direct contact with a largeplaces. It creates new markets, provides number, and often a wide cross section,a focus for the implementation of social of customers. The large retailers arepolicies and plays an important role in widely recognised to have the greatestthe well being of towns, cities and rural impacts on the environment, on theareas.” economy and on society. While some authors depict retailers as the passiveRetail provision within the UK has be- intermediaries between primary produc-come increasingly concentrated and the ers and manufacturers on the one handnumber of small independent retailers and customers on the other, the majorityhas continued to decline as the retail view is that they have an active role inmarketplace has become increasingly driving production and in stimulatingdominated by a relatively small number and shaping customer demand. Thus,of large players. Dawson (2004) reports while Gilbert (1999), for example, de-that the market share of the UK’s ten scribes retailers as ‘occupying a middlelargest retail firms increased from 13.0 position, receiving and passing on prod-% in 1971 to 38.1 % in 2000 and he ucts … to customers’, Wrigley and Lowenotes that “by the late 1990’s all the (2002) argue that ‘the geographies ofmajor retail sectors had a small number production are being actively shaped byof firms that in effect dominated their multi-national retail capital.’respective sectors”. In 2006 the top fourfood retailers viz. Tesco, J.Sainsbury, Frame of Reference and Method of En-ASDA and the Wm. Morrison Group, quiryfor example, had a market share of 72% In order to obtain a preliminary picture(Office of Fair Trading 2006). This con- of the CSR agendas and achievementscentration has increased the power of the being reported by the UK’s leading re-large retailers in channel relationships Table 1: The UK’s Top Ten Retailers 2005Name Retail Sales 2005 Number of Countries of (US$ Millions) OperationTesco 68,868 13J Sainsbury 28,100 1Wm. Morrison 21,840 1Kingfisher 14,503 11Marks and Spencer 13,929 29DSG International 11,721 14John Lewis 9,323 1Boots 8,553 3Somerfield 8,355 1Kesa Electricals 7,423 8{Source: Deloitte (2007) ‘2007 Global Powers of Retailing’}
  6. 6. 248 P. Jones et. al. / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2007) 243-257tailers within the public realm, the top tively, DSG posted a relatively extensiveten UK based retailers, trading in Octo- interactive report along with a 12 pageber 2007, (Table 1), ranked by 2005 Corporate Responsibility ‘Highlightssales, from the Deloitte report ‘2007 Leaflet’, Kesa Electricals posted a lim-Global Powers of Retailing’, were se- ited interactive report and Somerfieldlected for study. The majority of the se- produced a brief 6 page report.lected retailers have a number of tradingformats and /or trade under a number of CSR Overviewbanners while others have a single for-mat. Thus while Tesco’s trading formats The majority of the top ten retailersinclude community and town centre con- claim to be integrating CSR into theirvenience stores, superstores, hypermar- business. Marks and Spencer (2007) forkets and online services and while its example, claims a strong tradition ofprincipal operations are in the UK, it is CSR which it sees as being central to thealso listed as having retail operations in way the company is managed. More spe-12 countries including China, Japan, cifically the company reports its launchMalaysia, Poland and Turkey. By way of of ‘Plan A’, a long term strategy forcontrast Wm. Morrison concentrates on CSR, centred on climate change, waste,its superstore format solely within the sustainable raw materials, health andUK. While DSG International is a spe- being a fair trading partner, which thecialist consumer electronics retailer it company claims will only succeed if it istrades as Currys, Dixons and PC World ‘fully integrated into the way we doand is represented in 14 countries. business.’ In a similar vein Wm. Morri- son (2007) claims that it viewsBowen (2003) has suggested that the ‘sustainable development as integral tomajority of large companies have real- the way we do business and as such, it isised the potential of the World Wide our licence to operate’ and Boots (2006)Web as a mechanism for reporting CSR emphasises its understanding that itsactivities and has argued that its interac- ‘commercial success and our CSR per-tivity, updatability and its ability to han- formance are mutually dependent hasdle complexity adds value to the report- begun to permeate every level of ouring process. With this in mind the au- business.”thors undertook an Internet search usingthe key phrase Corporate Social Respon- Firstly while some of the top ten retail-sibility and each of the top ten retailers’ ers look to measure and benchmark theirnames in October 2007 employing CSR achievements this is not universalGoogle as the search engine. This search practice. Tesco and Kingfisher, for ex-revealed some variation in the extent and ample, report using Key Performancethe detail of CSR reporting on the World Indicators and independent verificationWide Web. Thus while the majority of and assurance to help to measure theirthe selected retailers published relatively CSR performance; and J.Sainsbury re-extensive CSR reports a minority under- port participating in the Business in thetook much more limited CSR reporting. Community Corporate ResponsibilityThus while J. Sainsbury, Kingfisher and Index. Some of the top ten retailers re-Marks and Spencer, for example, pro- port on CSR in a more limited and selec-duced 60, 46 and 40 page reports respec- tive manner and on a number of occa-
  7. 7. P. Jones et. al. / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2007) 243-257 249sions case studies were used as a means tion in green consumption’ to be puttingof illustrating broader CSR commit- “the fight against climate change at thements. Such an approach might be seen very heart,”of this revolution and to beto be user friendly and to offer some setting “an example by reducing CO2simple examples to illustrate what might emissions in our businesses throughoutbe perceived to be dry statements of the world.’” To this end the companycommitments and achievements, but it reports its commitment to “changingdoes not provide a comprehensive re- our business model so that the reductionview or any systematic measurement of of our carbon footprint becomes an im-these achievements. portant business driver.” The company claims to be committed to reducing car-The selected retailers report on CSR is- bon dioxide emissions from all its storessues under a variety of headings. and distribution centres by at least 50%J.Sainsbury (2007), for example, employ by 2020 and here the emphasis will bethe following five headings ‘The best for on investing in energy efficient tech-food and health’, ‘Sourcing with integ- nologies including low energy fans, coldrity’, ‘Respect for our environment’, air retrieval systems and timers on‘Making a positive difference to our lights.community’, and ‘A great place towork.’ Wm. Morrison (2007) use Packaging, waste management and recy-‘Environment’, ‘Society ‘ and ‘Business’ cling are important issues for all the topwhile Kesa Electricals (2007) list ten retailers. John Lewis (2007), for ex-‘Supply Chain’, ‘Environment’, ‘People’ ample, argues that packaging is essentialand ‘Communities’. This paper follows for the integrity and safety of many of itsWhooley (2004) in using four principal products but recognises that over-headings namely Environment; Market- packaging has environmental and finan-place; Workplace; and Community in an cial costs. In 2006/2007 the companyattempt to capture and provide some reports saving some 23,000 tonnes ofillustrative examples of CSR agendas as waste going to landfill and where spacereported by the UK’s top ten retailers. permits it provides recycling points in store car parks for clothing, glass, paperEnvironment and plastics. The company also reports its commitment to recycling 75% of itsEnvironmental issues were the earliest food business waste by 2012 and 50% ofand are now the most commonly re- its non-food waste by 2010. Wm. Morri-ported set of issues amongst the top ten son seeks to prevent waste through aretailers, and a review of these compa- sustainable waste management strategynies’ websites indicates that all highlight that focuses upon optimisation, reduc-the environment as a key driver of their tion, re-use and recycling and reportsCSR agendas (Table 2). These environ- recovering some 72% of all the wastemental issues include climate change, generated in its stores for recycling.energy consumption and emissions, rawmaterial usage, water consumption, Transport is a vital component of allwaste, the volume of packaging and re- large retail operations and the majoritycycling. Tesco (2007), for example, of the top ten retailers report their com-claims to be helping to ‘deliver a revolu- mitment to and/or their achievements in
  8. 8. 250 P. Jones et. al. / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2007) 243-257reducing vehicle emissions. J.Sainsbury, by its own and its supplier transportfor example, transports all its products in fleets by 2010 and here the focus is to becases and the company has set itself the on trying to ensure that vehicles nevertarget of reducing carbon emissions per travel empty on return journeys. Incase transported by 5% (against a March 2007 the company also an-2005/2006 baseline) by 2009. At the nounced plans to convert 20% of itssame time the company also claims to be online delivery fleet to green electricseeking to reduce the distance travelled vehicles. Table 2: Indicators of Commitment in CSR AgendasName Environment Marketplace Workplace CommunityTesco √ √ √ √J Sainsbury √ √ √Wm. Morrison/ √ √SomerfieldKingfisher √ √Marks and Spencer √ √ √ √DSG International √ √John Lewis √ √Boots √ √ √ √Kesa Electricals √{Source: Author analysis of company websites and related publications}The Marketplace reports working with the Scottish fishing industry, for example, to promote sus-The term marketplace is seen to embrace tainability and extending its use of For-both the sourcing of goods and services est Stewardship Council certified materi-and their sale to the customer and as als into food packaging, leaflets, andsuch embraces a wide range of issues. store décor.Sourcing has become an increasingly Sourcing foodstuffs within the globaltopical and increasingly controversial marketplace now offers considerableissue for large retailers, and the majority variety and competitive supply pricesof retailers highlight this as part of their but it has also led to growing pressureCSR strategy (Table 2). Four sets of is- group and public concerns about work-sues receive widespread, but not univer- ing conditions, rates of remuneration,sal, attention namely ethical trading, sus- child labour and health and safety issues.tainable sourcing, sourcing local and At the same time the majority of theregional foodstuffs and animal welfare. leading food retailers recognise that theMarks and Spencer emphasises its com- issue of ethical trading is made complexmitment to ensuring that raw materials by both the distances involved and byare sourced in a way that allows them to the existence of different political andbe naturally replenished. The company regulatory regimes. More specifically a
  9. 9. P. Jones et. al. / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2007) 243-257 251number of the top ten retailers report personal products and its support for thetheir commitment to ‘Fair Trade’ initia- Convention on International Trade intives. J.Sainsbury, for example, claims Endangered Species.that its share of the entire Fair Trademarket is larger than that of any other A strong commitment to customers ismajor supermarket in the UK. widely reported by the top ten retailers and this commitment generally includesWhile global sourcing continues to listening to customers; services for dis-grow, some of the leading food retailers abled customers and promoting healthyhave also been keen to affirm their com- living. J.Sainsbury (2007), for example,mitment to working with local and re- reports “We work hard to make sure thatgional suppliers and to working in part- we are meeting customer expectationsnership with suppliers. J.Sainsbury and continually ask our customers what(2007), for example reports its commit- they think.” In looking to meet thesement to supporting British farmers and expectations the company specificallymore specifically to ensuring that emphasises that it offers its customers“customers have access to fresh, tasty “quality, healthy and affordable prod-and healthy food that is sourced in their ucts and an informed choice so that theylocal region.” The company also reports are able to eat as healthily as possible.”the establishment of its Supply Chain In a similar vein Tesco operates a seriesFinance scheme which is designed to of Customer Question Time meetings inhelp suppliers manage their financial an attempt to identify and respond toflows more efficiently and which en- changing customer needs. In 2006-2007,ables them to leverage J.Sainsbury’s for example, the company held over 250borrowing power if they opt for early events involving some 6,000 customers.payment. The issues raised inform an annual cus- tomer plan which targets improving per-A minority of the top ten retailers report formance in areas identified by custom-on their commitment to animal welfare. ers and enhancing customer loyalty.Somerfield, part of Wm Morrison, forexample, reports that it “continues to Access and services for disabled cus-promote animal welfare by supporting tomers is reported by a number of thefarm assurance schemes” and to “offer top ten retailers. Boots, for example re-free range and organic meat products in ports working to ensure that all its storesthose stores where there is sufficient comply with the 2004 Disability Dis-demand.” (Somerfield, 2007)At the crimination Act thus offering disabledsame time the company continues to ban customers easy access and an enjoyablethe testing of own label lines on animals shopping experience. In addition all theand to operate a fixed cut off from Janu- company’s store employees have under-ary 1st 2000 for the animal testing of taken disability awareness training de-ingredients used in these products. John signed to help them to learn how toLewis argues that quality, traceability modify their normal behaviour whereand animal welfare are intimately inter- necessary when dealing with disabledlinked and it reports a strict no fur pol- customers. The company also reportsicy, a total ban on animal testing for own working with the Royal National Insti-label cosmetics, toiletries, baby care and tute for the Blind to find ways of making
  10. 10. 252 P. Jones et. al. / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2007) 243-257its stores more welcoming and accessi- throughout the UK. These flagshipble to visually impaired customers. stores are to serve as a beacon for other stores in their region and the focus willWorkplace be on providing training for employees in all aspects of modern retailing. At theThe majority of the top ten retailers re- same time the company also reportsport their commitment to their employ- working in partnership with the Union ofees, arguing that caring for their staff is Shop, Distributive and Allied Workersessential to their success, and they evi- trade union in running two lifelongdence this commitment in a variety of learning centres one in the company’sways. Such evidence covers a range of Headquarters in Nottingham and thethemes including remuneration and other in its warehouse in Heywood, Lan-benefits; training and development; cashire, to help employees who need toequality and diversity; health and safety; develop their numeracy, language andrecruitment; retirement; and work-life literacy skills.balance. All the large food retailers indi-cate a commitment to attracting and re- Overall, however, the workplace is per-taining a culturally and socially diverse haps less evident in corporate websitesworkforce and here the emphasis is on and literature than the other factors con-recruiting and retaining the best people sidered in this account (Table 2).and meeting the needs of the communi-ties in which they trade. These commit- Communityments are usually strengthened by theprovision of a mix of flexible working The top ten retailers all have a range ofarrangements and by respecting the bal- impacts on the communities withinance between life and work. Tesco, for which they operate and, in at least someexample, argues that the ability to attract measure, they all report on these issuesand retain staff is the biggest challenge within their CSR reports, with a fewfor any business and in order to achieve companies positioning this higher onthis goal they look to provide a variety their CSR agendas (Table 2). Kingfisherof career paths and patterns of working, (2007), for example, argues that its aima good work life balance and compre- is to make each one of its stores “a goodhensive employee benefits. In a similar neighbour in the community it serves.”vein DSG International (2007) empha- In 2006-2007 the company reports mak-sises that ‘the satisfaction and engage- ing £476,000 in cash donations,ment of our people is critical to the suc- £651,000 worth of gifts in kind andcess of our business’ and it claims to’ £168,000 of employee time as part of itsapply a cradle to grave approach to cor- community investment. Wm. Morrisonporate responsibility best practice from reports that the development planningrecruitment to post retirement.’ for many of its stores has included facili- ties for the benefit of the local commu-Training and development is also a ma- nity and that the company also oftenjor theme. Boots, for example, admits commissions public works of art thatunder-investing in training and develop- reflect local heritage.ment in the past but reports the establish-ment of 30 new ‘Academy Stores’ A minority of the top ten retailers report
  11. 11. P. Jones et. al. / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2007) 243-257 253on their role in urban regeneration. is causing the river to peter out in itsTesco, for example, reports that in the lower reaches thereby dramatically re-period 1999-2007 it co-operated on 17 ducing water supplies to subsistenceRegeneration Partnerships. These part- farmers and threatening the livelihoodsnerships are based around the develop- and lives of nomadic pastoralists.ment of new stores designed to servelocal communities and the focus is on Secondly there is a sense in which aworking with public services, local em- number of the commitments and agen-ployers and community groups to yield das contained in the retailers’ CSR re-social, economic and environmental ports are aspirational and it is not alwaysbenefits in deprived urban areas and on easy to achieve all aspirations in therecruiting a significant number of people fiercely competitive UK retail businesswho have been away from work for a environment. While all retailers are pur-long period of time. Boots reports sup- suing environmental goals and manyporting schemes designed to improve emphasise their commitment to the localand regenerate town centres by address- communities in which their stores areing issues such as crime and environ- located, this is rarely at the expense ofmental decline. In 2005-2006 the com- commercial priorities. In a similar veinpany invested £370,000, for example, in when individual store managers are fac-town centre management programmes. ing problems in staff scheduling, for ex- ample, they may pressure employees into working outside the hours that suitDiscussion their work-life balance or refuse to re- lease employees for training and man-While the majority of the UK’s top ten agement development. This emphasis isretailers have been keen to recognise, reflected in the indicators identified in aand report on, some of the impacts that trawl of company websites and relatedtheir businesses have on the environ- publications (Table 2).ment, the economy and society and arepursuing a range of CSR agendas, and A third set of issues revolves around thethree sets of issues merit discussion. extent to which retailers are harnessingFirstly retailers are aware that it is not CSR to retain and enhance reputation, toalways easy to reconcile their often differentiate and sustain their retailwide-ranging CSR goals. In looking to brands and to pursue competitive advan-assess whether the environmental costs tage within the retail marketplace. Onof importing fresh flowers from Kenya the one hand a number of the top tenare outweighed by the social benefits of retailers are increasingly seeking to in-trading with less developed economies, corporate their CSR commitments andfor example, retailers may have to make the values that lie behind these valuesdifficult trade offs between competing into their retail brands. The past twoand often conflicting goals. That said years have seen the development andthey report little awareness of the prob- adoption of new concepts and a morelems emerging, for example, along the central role for CSR within corporateRiver Ngiro where the large scale ex- culture. Reeves (2007) notes that ‘CSRtraction of water all year round by the is being mainstreamed in some busi-companies producing flowers for export nesses; rather than being a bolt-on, it is
  12. 12. 254 P. Jones et. al. / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2007) 243-257now being embedded in the business ment all help to promote stability, secu-model of some firms’. In the UK, Marks rity, loyalty and efficiency within theand Spencers, have been one of the lead- workforce.ers on this, implementing a 100 point‘Plan A’ to make the company ‘carbon At the same time growing concerns haveneutral’, move towards ‘fairly traded’ been expressed in the UK about the in-products, reduce waste going to landfill creasing concentration of retail power into zero, and use organic cotton in its the hands of a relatively small number ofclothing products. The focus on carbon retailers and about the impact this con-neutrality reflects a renewed emphasis centration is said to be having on a wideon environmental issues within the CSR range of businesses and on communitiescorporate agenda, often led by the com- and the large retailers’ claimed commit-panies themselves, as much as by con- ments to CSR are increasingly contested.sumers (Table 2). Tesco, for example, As investors, trade unions and labourare investing £600m in ‘carbon label- organisations, pressure groups, govern-ling’ its products and making its opera- ments and non-governmental organisa-tions more sustainable (Reeves, 2007), tions become increasingly informed andand other retailers will undoubtedly un- demanding, so retailers may need to bedertake similar initiatives. able to demonstrate, and evidence, their CSR commitments and achievements toTesco’s commitment to a revolution in enhance and retain reputation. A numbergreen consumption and to the fight of pressure groups, for example, haveagainst climate change and the launch of been critical of large retailers arguingPlan A by Marks and Spencer are high that their activities are having damagingprofile examples of such a strategy. That effects on the environment, on commu-said retailers may face challenges in try- nities and on the economy and disputinging to ensure that consumers include their credentials as good corporate citi-CSR considerations when evaluating the zens. Friends of the Earth, (2005) forbrand and they may increasingly be example, have argued that one of thelooking to test the strength of CSR brand UK’s largest retailers is abusing itsassociations at the point of sale within power by forcing small traders out oflive retail contexts. On the other hand it business, destroying the vitality of theis important to recognise that some of high street, bullying suppliers and dam-the CSR commitments reported by top aging the environment. In a similar veinten retailers can clearly be interpreted as the Tescopoly website, launched early inbeing driven by business imperatives. 2006, is supported by a range of organi-Thus while many of the environmental sations concerned about what they per-initiatives addressed in the CSR reports ceive to be the market distorting powersare designed to reduce energy and water of the major supermarkets and about theconsumption and waste emissions, for consequences that their trading practicesexample, they also reduce costs. In a are having for suppliers, farmers, over-similar vein the retailers’ CSR work- seas workers, local retailers and the en-place commitments focusing, for exam- vironment. The large retailers vigorouslyple, upon good working conditions and refute the vast majority of the accusa-remuneration, health and safety at work tions made against them and they consis-and training and management develop- tently argue that their continuing growth
  13. 13. P. Jones et. al. / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2007) 243-257 255reflects their success in responding ef- CSR will provide fertile, though proba-fectively and efficiently to customer bly contested, ground for future enquiryneeds. More specifically many of the top and research.ten retailers are looking to frame theirCSR reporting to communicate their en-vironmental, social and economic poli- Referencescies, achievements and contributions andto emphasise the transparency and ac- ABI (2005) Retail Trade,countability of their activities. w w w . s t a t i s t i cs . go v. u k / a bi / Division_52.asp Bevan, S, Isles, N., Emery, P. &Conclusion Hoskins, T (2004) “Achieving high performance: CSR at theAll of the UK’s top ten retailers publicly heart of business”,report on their commitment to CSR on www.theworkfoundation.com/pdthe Internet though there are marked f/184373017.pdfvariations in the character, the content Boots (2006) “Corporate Social Respon-and the extent of that reporting. Impacts sibility Report”,on the environment are again at the fore http://www.boots-of the CSR agenda, followed by market- csrreport2006.com/place and community issues, with con- Bowen, D. (2003) “Corporate Socialcerns about the workplace being men- Responsibility (CSR) Reportingtioned by all, but lacking equal priority and the WWW: Increasingly En-and focus. While some of these retailers t w i n e d ” ,provide relatively limited CSR informa- http://www.cesjournal.com/pagetion others offer comprehensive reports s/alerts/ref/100304009s.pdfand make a case for locating CSR as an Brown, T. J. & Dacin, P. A. (1997),integral element of their core business. “The Company and Product:At a strategic level these retailers essen- Corporate Associations and Con-tially argue that by integrating CSR into sumer Product Responses”,their businesses they will not only be Journal of Marketing, Vol. 61,better placed to provide long term No. 1, pp. 68-84.growth and financial security for all Commission for the European Commu-stakeholders but also to maintain or en- n i t i e s ( 2 0 0 2 )hance their market position and reputa- “COMMUNICATION FROMtion, and Curran (2003), for example, THE COMMISSION concerninghas explored the link between corporate Corporate Social Responsibility:social responsibility and financial per- A business contribution to Sus-formance and competitiveness. Finally it tainable Development” http://should be stressed that in some ways europa.eu.int/comm?CSR reports and information emphasise employment_social/soc-dial/csr/the retailers’ aspirations which may not csr2002_en.pdfalways be fully reflected in everyday Corporate Watch (2006) “What’s wrongoperations within a fiercely competitive with corporate social responsibil-business environment. The tensions be- i t y ” , h t t p : / /tween the aspirations and the realities of w w w . c o r p o r a t e w at ch .o r g/ ?
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