International Business Leaders Forum

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Background

The International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF) describes itself as 'an independent, not-for-profit organisation currently supported by over 100 of the world’s leading businesses'. The organisation was founded by HRH The Prince of Wales and advertises that it has worked in over 90 countries since it was established in 1990.

The IBLF states that its 'vision is a world in which companies address social development issues as part of their core business operations, and where economic and social development is achieved more effectively and sustainably because of the full participation of business'[1].

They claim to work towards these goals through 3 key areas of Social Development, Economic Development and Environmental Development and state the 'goal of putting business at the heart of sustainable development'.

Even a cursory glance at IBLF's management structure shows how it is awash with high ranking personnel from companies steering the Forum's strategy. This hardly paints a picture of an 'independent' organisation, as CEO's are employed to further the interests of their employers. It can certainly be argued that the IBLF's Chairman has received a hefty incentive to do so, by commanding tens of millions in renumeration from Coca Cola for his services to the company in one year alone[2]. Coca Cola faces a long list of accusations relating to human rights and environmental abuses which brings a certain irony to the picture of this company's CEO being at the head of a Forum which claims to be a force for corporate responsibility. See Coca Cola, CSR and Human Rights for some examples of the issues surrounding the company. Further information surrounding allegations against Coca Cola can be found on campaign websites India Resource Centre and Killer Coke.

Voluntary Principles

The IBLF is a supporter of the voluntary principle approach to Corporate Social Responsibility. On their website, they express support for the organisation Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and its voluntary code of principles[3] (File:Voluntary Principles on Security & Human Rights.pdf).

Within these principles it is stated that companies take note of their effect on local communities and that they assess the risk 'present in a Company's operating environment'. The ability to accurately assess these risks (whether they be caused by 'political, economic, civil or social factors') is deemed as 'critical to the security of personnel, local communities and assets; the success of the Company's short and long-term operations; and to the promotion and protection of human rights.' When we look at the allegations faced by the company's whose CEO is at the head of the IBLF in 2009 (Coca Cola), the contradiction is glaring.

Another glaring contradiction is Coca Cola's membership with the UN Global Compact. This is a United Nation CSR initiative that the IBLF states its support for, which again faces criticism for how it is influenced by a corporate agenda. This too is a voluntary code which includes amongst its principles that 'Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights' (Principle 1), 'make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses' (Principle 2), 'support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges' (Principle 7) and 'undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility' (Principle 8).

Brushing off accusations of exploitation

Voluntary codes are no substitute for mandatory ones as mandatory codes are enforceable, whilst voluntary ones are not. As Hertz[4] has argued, voluntary measures are in effect quite meaningless as companies can always walk away from voluntary codes. They are unenforceable and if there are breaches, there can be little or no recourse. All that is needed is a stated commitment to ethical codes, but a commitment does not necessarily translate into action and outcomes.

It has also been argued that signing up to voluntary codes for social responsibility is a tactic used by the business world to avoid binding regulations and constraints on corporate power[5]. In other words, so that companies can be seen to be acting responsibly whilst behind the scenes they continue with business as usual. Such measures of corporate social responsibility have also been criticized as being little more than a PR exercise as companies are not driven by concern for people and communities, but by their own reputations[6]. Businesses are commercial entities acting in the pursuit of profit. Currently law states that actions must be in the best interests of their shareholders, in other words to maximise their returns. Their primary interests must be 'shareholder value and profit projections, not justice, equity or morality'[7]. A company's involvement with CSR initiatives works to improve their bottom line as 'cause related marketing enhances corporate image, builds brands, generated PR and increases sales'[8]: this has been termed as 'hypocritical window dressing'[9].

Declarations on ethics such as Human rights are now the norm, but as the Guardian has highlighted, the international business community has mounted a concerted campaign against these norms, arguing that corporations should not face binding human rights obligations. Instead, business has demanded weak voluntary principles instead[10]. The report continues by adding:

'It will come as no surprise to discover that the British government has consistently sided with business against the human rights community. The government's official submission on the UN norms argued that corporations should not face legally binding responsibilities for their actions under human rights law. This week in Geneva [in 2009], the British representative echoed the corporate line yet again by holding up the Global Compact as an example of a bridge between different sectors and standards... The last time the UN drew up a binding code of conduct for multinational companies, the British government joined forces with Germany, the US and other rich nations to ensure such rules never saw the light of day. The final draft of the code was suppressed in 1990, and the UN bodies responsible for it were closed down'.

People

Board of Trustees

Chairmen

In 2009 IBLF Chairmen were listed as[11]:

  • E Neville Isdell - IBLF Chairman (appointed in 2007). Isdell joined the Coca Cola company in 1966 and served a variety of high level positions over the years culminating in his becoming Chairman of the Board & CEO of the company in 2004. [12] [13]. In 2008 he ceased to be the CEO and also announced that he did not intend to stand for re-election as Chairman with effect of 2009. The New York Times reports that in 2007 he received a total package of $21.6 million from Coca Cola[14]. This included a $1.6 million salary and a performance bonus of $6.6 million. The remaining amount included $341,849 for aircraft usage, $80,116 for a car and driver, $117,065 for security, $48,169 for tax reimbursements, $213,375 for contributions to company thrift plans and $3,492 for life insurance premiums.
  • Mark Foster - Vice-Chairman. Foster also serves as a Chief Executive with Accenture (global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company) where he leads Accenture's involvement with the World Economic Forum[15]
  • Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel - Deputy Chairman of IBLF's Board of Trustees and Chairman for IBLF Middle East since 2006. Jameel also serves as President with the company of the similarily named Abdul Latif Jameel Company (ALJ). ALJ is a Saudi firm, described as the sole distributor for Toyota cars in the Middle East since 1955 and as the largest independent distributor for Toyota and Lexus in the world. It also has businesses in the financial services, hotels, consumer electronics, media and real estate sectors[16]

Mr Paul Walsh - Deputy Chairman and Chairman of IBLF Europe & Africa. Walsh also serves as Chief Executive for global drinks company Diageo[17]

Mr John Brock - Chairman of IBLF Americas. Brock also serves as Chief Executive with Coca-Cola Enterprises[18]

Sunil Bharti Mittal - listed as Chairman of IBLF in Asia in 2008 who is also Chairman & Group MD of India's cell-phone and food retail giant Bharti Enterprises. [19]

Principal Business Supporter Trustees

In 2009, IBLF Principle Business Supporter Trustees were listed as[20]:

Malcolm Brinded - Executive Director, Exploration & Production with Shell | John Connolly - Global Chairman with Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu | Abdullah Saleh Kamel - President & CEO of Dallah Albaraka Group | Woong Yeul Lee - Chairman with Kolon Group

Advisory Trustees

Advisory Trustees for IBLF are listed in 2009 as[21]:

Alexsis de Raadt St James - Chairman of the Althea Foundation | Richard Edelman - President & CEO of Edelman Worldwide | Harry Fitzgibbons - CEO with Top Technology Ventures | Ed Fuller - President of Marriott International | Jyoti Munsiff Honorary Counsel - Former Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer for Shell | Stephen O'Brien - President of London First | Clive Strowger Honorary Treasurer | Malcolm Williamson - Chairman of National Australia Bank Europe.

Affiliations

Supporters & Partnerships

Principle Partners

Principal Partners are described as companies which 'receive an enhanced level of customised engagement and in turn play a higher profile role in the IBLF communications programme and have the opportunity to play a more direct role in organisational governance'. Board level representatives are invited from these companies to, amongst other things, guide IBLF strategy.[22].

In 2009, Principle Supporters/Partners are listed as[23]:

Beer company Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) | Accenture | AIG | Abdul Latif Jameel Company | BP | Coca-Cola Company | Coca-Cola Enterprises | Dallah Albaraka | Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu | Diageo | Kolon | KPMG | Oxford Analytica | Perot Systems | Shell | State Street | Volkswagon | YTL

Council Level Partners

Council Level Partners - Board level representatives from these companies are invited from these companies to join the IBLF community of senior business leaders (the IBLF Council) and to guide IBLF strategy[24]. In 2009 these companies were listed as[25]:

Abbott Laboratories | Anglo American | AstraZeneca | AT&T | BG | Cadbury | Chevron | COFRA | Edelman | ExxonMobil | Finartis | ICICI Bank | Interros | Johnson & Johnson | McKinsey & Company | Merril Lynch | Nestle | Nike | Pearson | Pentland | Pfizer | PricewaterhouseCoopers | Rio Tinto | SAB Miller | SAP | Standard Chartered | Starbucks | Siemens | Syngenta | Tetra Laval | Unilever | Weber Shandwick | WPP Group.

Programme Partners

Programme Partners are described as having 'Direct engagement in one or more specific activity, project, event, campaign or location', providing sponsorship and/or in-kind support[26]. In 2009 these companies are listed as[27]:

ABN Amro | Adidas | Allen & Overy | American Express | APCO Worldwide | Asics | Baker & McKenzie | BHP Billiton | Brown-Forman | Citi | City Inn | Credit Suisse | DLA Piper | EDS | Fairmont | Four Seasons | Fresherfields Bruckhaus Deringer | General Electric | Hilton | Host | Hyatt | IBM | Intercontinental Hotels Group | Jumeirah | Linklaters | Marriott | Microsoft | Morgan Stanley | Nokia | Orient Express | Preferred | Phillips | Puma | RBS | Rolls Royce | RusHydro | Scandic | Siemens | Six Senses | Starwood | TNT | TNK BP | UBS | Umbro | Uralsib | Visa | Wyndham

Notes

  1. International Business Leaders Forum What We Do Accessed 24th July 2009
  2. The Associated Press Coke’s Chief Got $21.6 Million in 2007 New York Times. 4th March 2008. Accessed 22nd July 2009
  3. International Business Leaders Forum What We Do Accessed 24th July 2009
  4. Hertz, N. (2001) The Silent Takeover: Global Capitalism and the Death of Democracy Arrow Books
  5. Enoch, S. (2007) 'A Greener Potemkin Village? Corporate Social Responsibility and the Limits of Growth'. Captalism Nature Socialism. Volume 18, Number 2. June 2007.
  6. Christian Aid (2004) Behind the Mask: the real face of corporate social responsibility. Christian Aid Publications
  7. Hertz, N. (2001) The Silent Takeover: Global Capitalism and the Death of Democracy Arrow Books
  8. Ibid
  9. Bakan. J, (2005) The Corporation. Constable & Robinson Ltd
  10. Hilary, J. (2007) Corporate abuse: Efforts to hold multinational businesses accountable for human rights violations are meeting stiff resistance 30th March 2007. Accessed 14th April 2009
  11. International Business Leaders Forum Board of Trustees Accessed 22 nd July 2009
  12. International Business Leaders Forum History Accessed 22nd July 2009
  13. Coca Cola Company 2008 Annual Report 26th February 2009. Accessed 22nd July 2009
  14. The Associated Press Coke’s Chief Got $21.6 Million in 2007 New York Times. 4th March 2008. Accessed 22nd July 2009
  15. Accenture Executive Leadership:Mark Foster Accessed 22nd July 2009
  16. International Business Leaders Forum IBLF elects Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel to Middle East post 13th February 2006. Accessed 22nd July 2009
  17. International Business Leaders Forum Board of Trustees Accessed 22nd July 2009
  18. International Business Leaders Forum Board of Trustees Accessed 22 nd July 2009
  19. International Business Leadership Forum Board of Trustees, accessed 13 February 2008
  20. International Business Leaders Forum Board of Trustees Accessed 22nd July 2009
  21. International Business Leaders Forum Board of Trustees Accessed 22nd July 2009
  22. International Business Leaders Forum Corporate Partnerships Accessed 22nd July 2009
  23. International Business Leaders Forum Partners Accessed 22nd July 2009
  24. International Business Leaders Forum Corporate Partnerships Accessed 22nd July 2009
  25. International Business Leaders Forum Partners Accessed 22nd July 2009
  26. International Business Leaders Forum Corporate Partnerships Accessed 22nd July 2009
  27. International Business Leaders Forum Partners Accessed 22nd July 2009