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Launched on 2 November 2003, Philosophy for Business is an e-journal published by the International Society for Philosophers, looking at philosophical and ethical aspects of business practice.

We are aiming for a wide circulation to companies and corporations around the world, as well as academic philosophers.

In order to gain the widest possible readership, articles should be written in simple, non-technical language. The target length is 2500 words.

Some themes that we will be looking at:

   Globalization and monopoly
   Is business ethics possible?
   Philosophy of economics
   Practical ethics
   Idea of a code of conduct
   Freedom of speech
   Industrial democracy
   Whistle blowing
   Ecology and sustainability
   Education and health
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   Tax avoidance and evasion



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LIST MANAGER

Geoffrey Klempner

klempner@fastmail.net




EDITORS

Daniel Silvermintz
Silvermintz@uhcl.edu

Tom C. Veblen
SuperBizRT@aol.com

Marco Senatore
marco.senatore@tesoro.it

Peter S Borkowski
p.borkowski@aui.ma

Dena Hurst
dena.hurst@appa.edu

Sean Jasso
sean.jasso@pepperdine.edu





International Society for Philosophers
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P H I L O S O P H Y   F O R   B U S I N E S S           ISSN 2043-0736
http://www.isfp.co.uk/businesspathways/

Issue number 19
1st June 2005

CONTENTS

I. 'Corporate Social Responsibility and Ethical Dialogue' by Geoffrey Klempner

II. Geoffrey Klempner in the Czech Republic

III. Conference: Reinventing Accountability for the 21st Century

-=-

EDITOR'S NOTE

I flew back from Prague, Czech Republic on Monday after an unforgettable week.
My most abiding impression was of the good will and sincerity of the people I
talked to - from both the business and academic worlds. People in the Czech
Republic have learned from the errors of the past. They are less ready to
embrace simple formulas, whether for achieving social justice or economic
prosperity. They are becoming aware that business is a complex, many-sided
activity which requires the right political conditions to thrive, yet is also
partly responsible for creating those conditions.

Yet there is real danger. Battle lines are being drawn, as they have been drawn
many times elsewhere, between increasingly powerful and vociferous opponents of
'big business', and entrenched interests whose only concern is to preserve the
status quo and their own comfortable positions. Meanwhile, the status of
workers rights in some areas seems worse than America in the 30's, the business
news magazines are full of scandals about kickbacks. It is tough for business
people who are genuinely concerned with the issue of corporate social
responsibility to make their voices heard.

One organization which is taking a leading role is the British Chamber of
Commerce. After meeting their representatives last Wednesday, I am optimistic
that the right way forward will be found which leads to a better future for all
the people in the Czech Republic.

In this issue is the complete text of the Open Lecture on corporate social
responsibility which I gave at Prague College. Also included are my impressions
of the lecture and of my meeting with the British Chamber of Commerce taken from
my online notebook.

Finally, I have reproduced the flyer for an important conference, 'Reinventing
Accountability for the 21st Century' to be held at the beginning of October by
Accountability.org.uk, an organization who featured in Issue 16 of Philosophy
for Business.

Geoffrey Klempner

-=-

I. 'CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICAL DIALOGUE' BY GEOFFREY KLEMPNER

     You could have been more
     Than a name on the door
     On the thirty-third floor in the air
     More than a credit card
     Swimming pool in the back yard
     
     Joni Mitchell 'The Arrangement'
     
Joni Mitchell's words paint a bleak picture of modern business life and its
corrosive effect on personal relationships. The song is from a 1970 album, and
reflects what some would call the 'hippie' view of the business world. That
view has not gone away. The momentous events of the 60's have left us all with
a bad conscience. 

I have no doubt that the business world has its victims, and amongst these are
many who 'succeed' in material terms as well as those who 'fail'. That much is
true. 

But I think we can be more. We are more. I don't just mean that we can be human
beings when we come home from work. That is just part of the popular perception,
or misperception - amongst those on the outside looking in - of business as an
activity of money grabbing and its only motive profit. 

I have a different vision. I see business people as the gladiators of the
modern world. We are the gladiators of the business arena. We compete for a
wide variety of motives, not just profit or material gain. 

And what about me? 

I have been running my philosophy business Pathways to Philosophy for nearly
ten years now. Selling philosophy comes somewhere in between taking coals to
Newcastle and exporting ice cream to Eskimos in the list of promising business
activities. But I love my product and want to make other people love it as much
as I do. That is not such an uncommon motive as some might think. - But more of
that later. 

-o- 

I'm going to be talking about two concepts, two ideas. Just remember they are
just words. What matters is what the words are meant to refer to, the reality
which they represent - or not, as the case may be. The concepts are corporate
social responsibility (or CSR) and ethical dialogue. 

Ethical dialogue is my term, or, rather, a term I have appropriated, for a
particular way of approaching moral philosophy. My view of ethics is strongly
objective in this sense: as a matter of metaphysical necessity, the other is
real. I am not the centre of my solitary universe. (You might ask why I would
bother talking to you if I were, but actually it is perfectly possible to be a
solipsist and talk about your philosophy to a room full of solipsists.) 

The other is real but the only way I can show recognition of this is in my
actions, by my willingness to see and judge things from the other's point of
view. This means letting our dialogue together - or the dialogue we ideally
could enjoy together - decide what is to be done. 

The other is real, because otherwise there is no such thing for me as truth.
The world of the solipsist is a world without truth. Or, rather, it is not a
world at all but merely an insubstantial dream. - That's not a knock-down
argument. You can't force someone out of a solipsist position, you can only
raise the stakes sufficiently high to make solipsism a pretty unattractive
option. 

What the ethics of dialogue rejects - and this is where it departs from other
moral theories - is the idea that being moral or taking an ethical standpoint
involves attempting to see things from a purely disinterested perspective,
where my personal commitments, interests, relationships are ruthlessly
discounted; where I see myself as just one individual - one 'claim' - amongst
the multitude. 

Rejecting the disinterested perspective, I no longer need to be concerned to
maximise happiness or 'utility'. Still less is it my concern to live by
principles of conduct which are necessarily valid for every rational being. 

This is a very demanding view of ethics because you have to approach every
situation as if it was the first time you ever had to make a moral judgement.
You can't take anything for granted. And however much you do, however much you
think and deliberate, you are always aware that you could have thought and done
more. 

I am not saying that this is the only possible approach to ethics. There may be
others that we could talk about. It is sufficient for what I want to say here
that the ethics of dialogue as I have described it cannot be applied in the
business arena. That seems a highly paradoxical claim: I am bound by the ethics
of dialogue, yet not bound, or bound in certain relationships but not in others.
How can that be possible? 

-o- 

In ethical dialogue we work together towards a goal that we can agree on, a
fair and reasonable adjustment of our conflicting claims. In the business
arena, by contrast, we meet as potential competitors. Someone must win and
someone must lose. That doesn't mean you can't be magnanimous and lend a
helping hand to your bruised and battered opponent. But at the end of the day,
his loss is his loss. You don't owe him an apology for wiping him out. 

Not long after I published my article, The Business Arena (2004) I came across
an anonymous article in Wikipedia on the philosophy of business which compared
my account of the business as a game to a notorious 1968 article by Albert Carr
in the Harvard Business Review. Carr argued that in business, as in poker,
bluffing is an integral part of the game, and consequently any action which
doesn't break the law is compatible with business 'ethics' so-called. 

The game that Carr describes is not the business arena as I recognise it. It is
altogether harsher, meaner. But there are meaner games still. Carr distinguishes
between the poker player's bluff, which is an integral part of the game, and
keeping an ace up your sleeve, which is the equivalent of breaking the law. But
there is another card game called Belotte, where the skill lies in cheating more
cleverly than your opponent. Here is a colourful description from David Faber,
an English professor who is also one of my Pathways students: 

     Belotte... is also very popular in Marseilles, I'm told - a
     sort of street-theatre. Wizened old life-long cheats
     commonly seen expostulating, scandalised at their
     opponents' cheating, standing up as if they're about to
     walk away in disgust, and even starting to walk away,
     having carefully laid their cards face-down on the table
     (they know they'll be back), and probably having taken the
     opportunity to drop one on the ground, so that when the
     round comes to an end they'll be found to have been dealt
     one card short, and there'll have to be a re-deal.
     Appalling to your average Englishman.

A case can be made that the practice of not a few corporations and businesses
is closer to belotte than poker. The rule is not, 'Do anything within the
letter of the law,' but rather, 'Break the law whenever you can get away with
it, or whenever the consequences of getting caught are sufficiently minor as to
be outweighed by the benefits obtained from your misdemeanour.' 

In football, the latter is known as a 'professional foul'. As fast as football
governing bodies - or government committees - patch up the rules to make it
harder to gain any advantage from a professional foul, new forms of
professional foul appear which aren't covered by the rules. 

So much for the worst examples of business practice. But if your game is not
poker or belotte, then what other games are there? 

Why go into business at all? That's the first question we have to ask.
Nietzsche spoke of the will to power. Whatever you think of this as a universal
theory of human motivation, it seems particularly apt in the business arena.
Power can be influence over people, to be admired, respected - or feared. It
can mean the ability to bring about change in the world, to put your individual
stamp on things. It can simply mean to enjoy the increase in one's own
capacities, to be a better negotiator or trader or manager. There are the
workaholics who are forever 'overcoming themselves', who practice self-denial
or even asceticism for the sake of the goal they have set. Then there are those
who identify with the products of their work, who compete to win awards for
'best computer' or 'best hi-fi'. 

Aston Martin produce cars of legendary quality, each hand beaten into shape. I
read somewhere that the entire production run of Aston Martins since the
founding of the company is equivalent to less than one day's production in
Detroit. But Aston Martins are superbly designed cars. Think of how many more
you could sell if you made a production line. The only exp °nation can be that
the directors don't want more money. Pride in their unique product is more
important. 

Business is a team game, and loyalty one of its supreme virtues. Consider the
case of the Director of a small firm who allows his company to go to the brink
rather than make staff redundant. Why? It doesn't make any sense in sheer money
terms. This isn't melting compassion, but once again the will to power. The
leader exercises the virtue of leadership, demonstrates his power, by taking
responsibility for what happens to each and every one of his employees. The
reward, in many cases, can be fierce staff loyalty. But that wasn't the motive
for risking bankruptcy. 

Like the gladiators of old, the business men and women of today take pride in
their prowess. They watch each other closely, read about one another's
achievements with admiration or jealousy. - You can see the evidence for
yourself, in any business newspaper or magazine. 

By all means take these examples with a pinch of salt. You have to apply them
to your own experience, and every experience is unique. All I am seeking to do
is remove the ideological blind spot which insists on painting everything in
the same shade of black. If you like to play poker or belotte, go right ahead,
I'm not stopping you. 

-o- 

So what is the deal with CSR? Here's British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon
Brown: 

     Today, corporate social responsibility goes far beyond the
     old philanthropy of the past - donating money to good
     causes at the end of the financial year - and is instead an
     all year round responsibility that companies accept for the
     environment around them, for the best working practices,
     for their engagement in their local communities and for
     their recognition that brand names depend not only on
     quality, price and uniqueness but on how, cumulatively,
     they interact with companies' workforce, community and
     environment. Now we need to move towards a challenging
     measure of corporate responsibility, where we judge results
     not just by the input but by its outcomes: the difference we
     make to the world in which we live, and the contribution we
     make to poverty reduction
     Corporate Social Responsibility p.2

The anonymous author or authors of the government document in which this quote
appears have this to say about the 'philosophy' of CSR: 

     CSR has continued to be a highly topical and debated
     subject. It has increasingly provided the focus for
     exploration of broad philosophical questions about the
     roles and responsibilities of companies and their
     relationship with the roles and responsibilities of
     government and other stakeholders. But it has also provided
     the context for debate about more particular questions from
     employee volunteering, to health concerns about mobile
     phones, world trade rules, poverty eradication and AIDS.
     Does this mean that CSR risks being about everything and
     nothing?
     
     Although debate about CSR has continued to grow, we remain
     a long way from consensus on what it means and its value.
     Some suggest that it is just about glossy reports and
     public relations. Some see it as a source of business
     opportunity and improved competitiveness. Some see it as no
     more than sound business practice. Others see it as a
     distraction or threat. Is it a framework for across the
     board regulation of all of the relationships between
     business and the rest of society, nationally and globally?
     Is it just about the activities of North American and
     European multinationals in developing countries? Is it
     relevant and useful to companies of all sizes no matter
     where they are based and operate? Lively debate will
     continue on these and many other questions
     Corporate Social Responsibility p.6

As a technique for reading philosophical texts, it is good practice to take
every question or implied question seriously as a question and not assume that
it is being asked rhetorically. I remember one of my lecturers telling me that
what made Kant such a great philosopher is that 'He never asks rhetorical
questions'. But I think that we should apply the same approach to the writings
of ordinary mortals. Let's see how this works. 

'Does this mean that CSR risks being about everything and nothing?' - The
implication here is that a description which applies everywhere or to
everything is vacuous. If every concern that one might raise relating to how
companies are run comes under the heading of 'corporate social responsibility'
then none do.  

That is a fallacy. There is another explanation in this case. We are dealing
here with a fundamental philosophical question. Just as one can ask, 'Why
should I be moral?' or 'What does being moral require?' in the context of an
investigation into moral philosophy, so one can ask, 'What kinds of action can
companies be held ethically responsible for, and why should they care?' In
other words, the whole point of this question lies in its generality. 

Let's continue with our reading. 

'Some suggest that it is just about glossy reports and public relations.' - In
Philosophy for Business Issue 4 David Gold reports: 

     I recently was the lead speaker for the motion, 'This house
     believes that Corporate Social Responsibly is a PR
     fig-leaf.' This was held at the Institute of Directors. We
     narrowly won!
     
     I started off believing that CSR was a good thing, however
     the limited formal and informal research that I conducted
     brought me to the conclusion in complete support of the
     motion. So much of what companies do as good corporate
     citizens is aimed at improving reputation and gaining
     market share.

Does the interest in 'improving reputation and gaining market share' mean that
CSR is no more than a 'PR fig-leaf'? Not if the authors of this report are to
be believed. It could almost have been drafted as a reply to the Institute of
Directors debate. One of the propositions which the report seeks to demonstrate
is that it is perfectly OK to pursue CSR for self-interested reasons. However,
that implies that your commitment to CSR goes beyond the narrowly selfish
concern merely to appear socially responsible by cynically going through the
motions and making up a PR song and dance about it. 

'Some see it as a source of business opportunity and improved competitiveness.'
- The business opportunity in question is the opportunity to corner the
marketplace in ethically aware products, or more generally to gain a reputation
for social responsibility which has some positive market value. The question
that the Institute of Directors debate posed is why make the extra effort to go
for the real thing, if you can put up a convincing facade? 

'Some see it as no more than sound business practice.' - What does the term
'sound' mean in this context? Isn't this just a label for something we approve
of? Or do they just mean a well run business? The Nazi death camps were well
run. 

'Others see it as a distraction or threat.' - To my sensitive ear, the rhetoric
is beginning to creep in here. Notice how the authors of the report seem to gain
specious credibility for their case by implying that anyone who disagrees with
them either feels 'threatened' in some way, or has their eyes too narrowly
focused on immediate goals to tolerate external 'distraction'. 

'Is it a framework for across the board regulation of all of the relationships
between business and the rest of society, nationally and globally?' - Here, we
come to the core of the Government's case. The very definition of CSR implies
freedom from 'regulation': 

     We see CSR as the voluntary actions that business can take,
     over and above compliance with minimum legal requirements,
     to address both its own competitive interests and the
     interests of wider society
     What is CSR? 

Repeatedly, the report stresses the impracticability of legislation, the need
for a voluntary approach. But little argument is offered for this. And why
should any be needed, given the above definition?! 

Finally, 'Is it just about the activities of North American and European
multinationals in developing countries? Is it relevant and useful to companies
of all sizes no matter where they are based and operate?' - Rhetoric. The
answer to the first question is, No. The answer to the second question is, Yes.
On these questions, as far as the authors of the report are concerned, there is
no room for debate. 

So we see that the view of the UK government, insofar as it has a philosophical
position, is essentially an appeal to our better nature combined with a tempting
appeal to self-interest. 'As good corporate citizens, you really ought to be
concerned with CSR, and, guess what, your company will reap the benefits too!' 

I feel like saying: two arguments are worse than one. You put forward argument
A, then, realising that A doesn't really convince, you back up your case with
argument B. But argument B, insofar as it carries conviction, assumes the
complete opposite of argument A. Are we going in for CSR out of self-interest
or altruism? Which is it to be? 

A full appreciation of your wider self-interest may lead you to take some tough
decisions in sacrificing short-term benefits, but at the end of the day you are
not going to take any action that leaves you worse off than you were before.
There are considerable benefits in being perceived to be concerned with CSR.
But that is all. 

But here's a funny paradox: wobbly arguments can make good politics. What
companies fear more than anything else is losing ground against their
competitors. It would be OK if everyone did CSR. The problem comes if I do CSR
and my competitor doesn't. 

This is the familiar prisoners' dilemma. There is no rational solution to the
prisoners' dilemma. Following reason, everyone is guaranteed worse off. That is
why, at some point, trust has got to come in. You take an action and trust that
the others will keep in step and not take advantage. One tried and tested way
of achieving this is propaganda - if you can get people to believe it. 

-o- 

That is not a very satisfactory outcome. As a philosopher, I am not happy about
promoting propaganda. I am even less happy with the thought that that's all my
case for CSR amounts to. I would like to try for something better. So my
question, once again, is: Why be concerned with doing CSR in reality if the
benefits accrue equally to merely appearing to be concerned about CSR?

This is the crux of the philosophical debate, which raises an issue first
illustrated by Plato in the Republic in his famous story of the Myth of Gyges.
Would you still be moral, if you had a magical ring of invisibility which
enabled you to do whatever you liked, and still maintain your reputation as a
fine, upstanding citizen? 

Plato's response, in essence, is that it is in our own interest to be moral
because the immoral man has a disordered soul. People who lie and cheat their
way through life, who betray their friends for personal gain cannot attain true
happiness. Such a life is a perpetual false facade, your only comfort sensual
gratification and material possessions. 

One could argue about that. But what would the head of a corporation say, if
you put Plato's question? 'We don't want to be happy. We just want to make a
profit!' Businesses which don't make a profit, or don't make enough profit,
don't survive. Whatever you do, don't neglect the bottom line. 

In reply, it is tempting to deploy the following specious argument. 'Of course
the bottom line is important, but you need to distinguish between short-term
and long-term gain. In the short term, 'take your profit while you can' may be
good advice, but this might be less prudent when seen in the long term.' -
There's a lethal response to this. The best long-term investment is to make a
series of highly profitable short-term investments, each time getting out
before things go pear shaped. If you sit around and wait for the long term, it
might never come. 

Here I will just make an observation. One of the more depressing aspects of the
psychology of business people, is their fixation on the idea that if you are not
pushing all the time to make the maximum profit, your competition will catch up
with you and you will go under. The image that comes most readily to mind is
the shark, which 'must keep swimming or die'. Like all fixations, there is an
element of truth. There are markets where companies struggle to keep alive
against intense competition. But one has to ask: why choose to trade in an
over-crowded market in the first place? What is the benefit? It can't just be
the profit motive. I strongly suspect that the individuals concerned crave the
excitement and thrill of competition just as much as they desire wealth. 

Maybe a version of Plato's approach can be made to work. But that requires a
far more radical re-thinking of why we play the business game, what our
ultimate motivations are. Can a company have a 'disordered soul' and why should
that matter? I'll leave that for you to ponder. 

-o- 

I started off opposing ethical dialogue to the business arena. But that doesn't
quite make sense. Ethical dialogue, if it is to be opposed to anything, must be
opposed to some other form of dialogue. 

We have already seen one example of non-ethical dialogue: the words and actions
of the poker player. In a poker game, words are tools designed to cause the
appropriate effect. Translated into the real world, what that means is that
your statement is not a thought expressed in words intended to capture truth,
but only a lever which you pull or push for the appropriate effect. People are
not people, but parts of a machine which either produces the results you want
or not, depending on how skilfully you manipulate the levers. 

Is there any alternative? I think there is. 

Out there in the world, people make their concerns known. They may be your
employees, or your customers, or your trading partners - or your local
community, or environmental pressure groups, or representatives of the
different religious faiths. In CSR-speak, a new word has appeared in the
English language, 'stakeholder', which clumsily attempts to capture this
seam-burstingly broad idea. (In a quick poll, I found that most of the people I
asked didn't know the difference between 'stakeholder' and 'shareholder',
raising the strong suspicion that the similarity between the two words is a
deliberate ploy.)

Let me say something blindingly obvious: in business, just as in the world
outside business, we negotiate. That means saying what you think, listening and
being heard. That much business negotiation has in common with ethical dialogue.
Only the aim is different. It is understood in business that you are fighting
for your corner, as you have the right and necessity to do. It's the same
whether you are a corporation or a pressure group. In the business arena we are
all chauvinists. 

How you negotiate a path through this minefield will depend very much on your
company philosophy, on the things that are important to you. Survival is pretty
important, no-one doubts that. But unless you are on the ropes, other things
will be uppermost in your mind. You want to do well, in terms that you have
defined as having particular saliency from your unique company perspective. All
the things we listed before, all the ways in which businesses and business
people compete, are relevant here. 

If I am right about Nietzsche's will to power, if it is competition and
displaying prowess which ultimately makes the business world go round, why not
start a competition at who can be the best at CSR? To be sure, it would take
something highly imaginative to make this work, but in business people get paid
to have imaginative ideas. 

Let's say that you open up a new factory in a deprived area, providing much
needed economic benefits to the local community. That's a fine thing to do, but
the motive wasn't altruism. Labour will be in plentiful supply, you can count on
generous incentives from the government. However, it occurs to you that you
could still do more. Other companies have built factories in deprived areas and
shown similar results. You can go one better. You can transform the town into a
thriving cultural centre. Build an art gallery, or a sports stadium. That puts
your competitors on the back foot. They can try to even the score. - Or get one
up on you. 

Here's an observation which few would disagree with. Human beings are
influenced powerfully by example. If you can persuade just one company to
practice CSR - it doesn't matter how - then that provides a strong incentive
for other companies to follow suit. In this respect, there is no difference
between the psychology of companies or individuals. Set a good example, and
others will follow. For anyone concerned to promote CSR, this suggests the
government strategy of targeting companies who are most likely to be amenable
and persuading them with generous incentives. - Just light the touch paper,
then retire. 

I expect there will be those who will tell me that this is 'nonsense from an
economic point of view'. I'm not impressed. The behaviour of the poker or
belotte player in business is just as much a copycat phenomenon as the ideas
sketched here. And - if the reports are to be believed - there is a case for
saying that the fireworks have already started. It is happening now. 

References 

Albert Carr 'Is Business Bluffing Ethical?' Harvard Business Review 46,
January-February, 1968, pp. 143-53
http://falcon.tamucc.edu/~sencerz/Carr_Business_Bluffing.htm

David Gold 'Response to Mike Parry and Robert Dunham' Philosophy for Business
Issue 4 8th February 2004 http://www.isfp.co.uk/businesspathways/issue4.html 

Geoffrey Klempner The Business Arena Philosophy for Business Issue 5 7th March
2004 http://www.isfp.co.uk/businesspathways/issue5.html 

HM Government 'Corporate Social Responsibility: A Government Update' 2004
http://www.societyandbusiness.gov.uk/pdf/dti_csr_final.pdf 

HM Government 'What is CSR?' 2005
http://www.societyandbusiness.gov.uk/whatiscsr.shtml 

Wikipedia 'Philosophy of Business' 2005
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_business 

Web sites 

Pathways to Philosophy http://www.philosophypathways.com 

International Society for Philosophers http://www.isfp.co.uk

     This paper was read at Prague College, Czech Republic on
     25th May 2005, for their Open Lecture Series. See:
     http://www.praguecollege.cz/article.php?id=206
     
     The full text of the paper can be found online at:
     http://klempner.freeshell.org/articles/responsibility.html

(c) Geoffrey Klempner 2005

E-mail: klempner@fastmail.net

-=-

II. GEOFFREY KLEMPNER IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC

     From the Glass House Philosopher 27th May 2005
     http://sophist.co.uk/glasshouse/notebook2/page66.html

...Wednesday was my big day. Luncheon was at the fine U Modre Kachnicky
restaurant courtesy of the British Chamber of Commerce. Despite its name, the
BCC is a Czech organization representing Czech companies as well as
international companies with operations in the Czech Republic. At the lunch
were PhDr Miroslav Sedlak, a former university professor who is now Director of
the Board of Directors of the BCC as well as External Relations manager for
Provident Financial, Renata Scharfova, Executive Director of the BCC, Jiri
Krejca Managing Director in the Czech Republic of Travelex another financial
company, and Joel Tait from Dunross Central and Eastern European Recruitment.
Joel later came to my lecture at Prague College on Corporate social
responsibility and ethical dialogue. 

The BCC are conscious of their traditionally 'staid' image, and are looking to
take the initiative in promoting corporate social responsibility in the Czech
Republic. Last year they produced a survey of CSR in the Czech Republic with
case studies but now they want to build on this and move forward. I had come,
along with Bruce Gahir and Doug Hajek from Prague College to 'say some useful
things and give us some hints for launching our own CSR initiative'. I don't
think they were quite prepared for a philosopher who had thought through the
nitty gritty practical issues as well as the theoretical side. 

I told them about my ideas for starting a symbolic competition between
companies at being best at CSR. What motivates business people, as I argued in
my paper, is not simply profit but the desire to be recognized for one's
corporate prowess: for example by putting time and resources into CSR. 

Then I talked about more practical matters. The best way to stimulate this
symbolic competition would be to launch web site where successful CSR projects
would be showcased, demonstrating the 'palette of opportunities' for any
company interested in CSR. Whatever you do, I said, don't let company PR
departments contribute the copy. The BCC should look at the evidence and form
their own judgement. Success of the web site would critically depend on winning
the trust of the companies participating in the scheme that the pages would be
fair and balanced and free from any PR slant.

I think they bought it.

How did an academic philosopher come to be interested in all this? I explained
the unique position of Pathways and the guiding mission of the ISFP to apply
philosophy to the real world. In response to a question from Joel Tait who had
taken philosophy courses for his degree, I described some of the weird problems
that worry philosophers (including myself!) like the implications of body
duplication or the reality of the past. But then I went on to explain that
philosophy is a whole. You can't just split off one part which deals with
practical matters and ignore the rest. Plato is the best example, I said, of a
philosopher who worked on deep metaphysical problems, while also spending much
time thinking through the practical application of philosophy to politics and
ethical conduct. 

At the end we all shook hands and went our various ways. I left the restaurant
with a wallet full of business cards and some indelible memories. 

There was a packed house for my evening lecture at Prague College. I realized
that I needed to break the ice before reading my paper, so I told the audience
how I had shown my paper to 'my closest collaborator' who couldn't understand
it. 'So be warned!' That raised a laugh. 

At the end of my talk I faced some tough questions. We spent quite a while on
the issue of whether doing CSR was a moral obligation or not. If it was a moral
obligation, I argued, then companies who pulled their weight in attending to CSR
issues could be justified in feeling resentful of companies who slacked. I
didn't like that idea at all. On my approach, it is perfectly OK for some to
stand on the sidelines and watch the others compete. It isn't about altruism
but about outcomes which everyone agrees would be good to bring about. My case
is that symbolic competition is the best way of achieving those outcomes...

(c) Geoffrey Klempner 2005

E-mail: klempner@fastmail.net

-=-

III. REINVENTING ACCOUNTABILITY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

Monday 3rd - Wednesday 5th October 2005, New Connaught Rooms, London WC2

As many of last century's most extraordinary accountability innovations are
themselves now beginning to face crises, new accountability challenges continue
to emerge, impacting on, and demanding a response from, business, governments
and civil society organisations, both nationally and internationally.

At all levels of society, from the local neighbourhoods to the UN, from new
business and public sector joint ventures to trans-national initiatives, the
emergence of unaccountable public private partnerships with a lack of clarity
as to who is in charge, who can be held to account, and who will pay the price,
is emerging as a global challenge.

This two-day international event and training day will convene people working
in business, civil society and the public sector to explore innovative
approaches to building accountable leadership and organisations in the 21st
century. 

Reinventing Accountability for the 21st Century will give business,
politicians, civil society and public bodies the indispensable opportunity to
consider and anticipate - and ultimately innovate and change - the future of
accountability.

     Keynote Speakers
     
     Mary Robinson Director, Ethical Globalisation Initiative,
     Former President of Ireland and Former United Nations High
     Commissioner for Human Rights
     
     Anwar Ibrahim ex-Deputy Prime Minister and Finance
     Minister, Malaysia and Senior Visiting Fellow, The Paul H.
     Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS),
     Johns Hopkins University, Washington D.C
     
     Other Leading Speakers Include
     
     Martin Wolf, Chief Economist, Financial Times
     
     Bob Monks, Deputy Chairman, Hermes Focus Asset Management
     
     Will Hutton, Chief Executive, Work Foundation Kumi Naidoo,
     Secretary General, Civicus Achim Steiner, Director General,
     IUCN - The World Conservation Union
     
    Jane Nelson, Director, CSR Initiative, Kennedy School of
     Government, Harvard University
  
This two-day international event marks a staging post in the wider exploration
and dialogue around accountability innovations which can overcome today's
impediments to creating a society where sustainable development is achievable.  

In high quality plenary panels, global business, civil society and public
leaders will offer insights and analysis on tomorrow's accountability
challenges, and how they are most likely to be met.

Focussing on current accountability innovations in more detail, a series of
interactive Accountability Forums will consider how challenges from poverty to
global climate change are being addressed. Delegates will be able to select a
session relating to their needs from amongst the following:

     * Accountable Sector Futures, including Apparel and
       Textiles; Water; Pharma
     
     * Mainstreaming the Margins, including Demographics and
       Inter-Generational Accountability
     
     * Partnership Governance and Accountability, including
       Collaboration; Global Action Networks; Lobbying
     
     * Communications, Technology and Accountability, including
       Public Relations; Smart Mobs; ICT
     
     * Economics of Accountability, including Business Strategy;
       Donors and Civil Society Organisations; Responsible
       Competitiveness
     
     * Leadership and Accountability, including Civil Society;
       Education; Social Entrepreneuring
     
     * Accountable Cultures, including Working Cultures;
       Innovations from the Margins
     
     * Standardising Accountability, including Assuring; ISO
       Standards
     
Through innovative Marketplaces, participants will have the opportunity to
display and promote their own work, approaches and insights. 

Accompanying the formal proceedings, a high profile networking drinks reception
and dinner with guest speaker will supplement the debate on day one.

Wednesday 5th October 2005 Practitioners' Training Day

As a suitable conclusion to the conference or as a stand-alone event, the
training day will offer professional hands-on training, covering key topics
from stakeholder engagement to multi-stakeholder institutional governance and
assurance.

Sponsorship Opportunities: This event provides an excellent and timely
opportunity for those with ideas, products and services to promote, as well as
representing a chance for organisations active in this area to position
themselves as leaders. A variety of sponsorship options are available, from
headline sponsorship through to the sponsorship of a specific training stream
or networking events.  

For more information please contact Yvonne Le Roux, Sponsorship Research
Manager at Neil Stewart Associates, on +44 20 7324 4334 or via email at
yvonne.leroux@neilstewartassociates.co.uk. 

AccountAbility is leading the debate through initiating and stimulating
dialogues to enable exploration and innovation.   Business, civil society and
public sector organisations are being brought together through networks and
meetings across the world. 

For further information visit: http://www.accountability.org.uk

Who Should Attend?

Reinventing Accountability for the 21st Century will convene an international
audience of people working in business, civil society and public sector
organisations to explore innovative approaches to building accountable
leadership and organisations in the 21st century.

Those working in the following roles will  benefit from attending

Business Leaders
Business Managers
Social Entrepreneurs
Civil Society Leaders
Assurance Providers
Corporate Responsibility Managers and Directors
Investor Relations Professionals
Internal Audit Managers
Development Practitioners
Foundations and Donors of Civil Society Organisations
Communications Directors
Public Affairs Professionals
Finance Directors
Lawyers
Risk Managers
MPs and Select Committee Members
National Parliament Representatives
Government and Industry Regulators
Researchers and Academics

Representatives from the following sectors will benefit from attending

National and International Corporate Sector
National and International Non-Governmental Organisations
Development Corporations
PPP and PFI Partnerships
Banks and Funding Agencies
Service Providers
Central and Local Government
Local and Regional Governance Groups
Regional and Regeneration Bodies
Public Sector Organisations
Voluntary and Community Groups
Charity and Not-For-Profit Organisations
Consumer Groups
Campaign Groups
Think Tanks
Trade Unions Universities

Reinventing Accountability  for the 21st Century Monday 3rd - Wednesday 5th
October 2005, New Connaught Rooms, London WC2

To register online visit: http://www.neilstewartassociates.com/accountability21


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