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Monday, November 2, 2009

Dilemmas in Corporate Responsibility – Privacy and Safety

In my mind, the most challenging issues for corporate responsibility officers involve conflicts between different CR priorities. In the ICT sector the tensions between privacy, freedom of speech and online safety is one of those issues.

Balancing these priorities can present real ethical dilemmas. Here are just a few of the dilemmas in this space that have been enhanced by the internet;

    • How much privacy do you allow individuals on line - a battered woman seeking help needs to remain anonymous but what about an adult trying to engage in predatory online chats with children?
    • In my eyes a private citizen battling the authorities in an oppressive regime deserves the protection afforded by privacy, but I don’t want someone battling with deadly weapons where I live. I might prefer we stopped them using the internet to enhance their plans.
    • What level of access prevention is applicable for sites that are illegal, hateful or immoral?
    • As a consumer, what components of information from my online activities can be used to select the advertising presented to me?

There are cultural differences to consider too. I think it is generally true that Europe (including the UK) puts a higher priority on online safety at the expense of privacy and freedom of speech. Whereas, relative to Europe, America tends to balance freedom of speech and privacy more highly.

Later this week I am attending the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) conference in DC. FOSI (of which BT is a member) is one of the organizations that works with companies to consider these issues, exchange views and develop conclusions and solutions that balance the issues appropriately. FOSI’s focus is protecting kids and families on line. I attended last year and found the discussions important and fascinating – true ethical dilemmas. I plan to tweet from the conference this year so I can share my thoughts in real-time.


  1. Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for your blog. I’m writing to you today to let you know that JohnsonDiversey is one of 22 leading corporations partnering with the World Wildlife Fund to establish ambitious targets to voluntarily reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. I’m thrilled to share with you that during a recent webinar on their commitment to LEED certified buildings JohnsonDiversey President and CEO Ed Lonergan announced that the company has tripled their initial goal of an 8% GHG emission reduction over 2003 to 2013 - to a 25% GHG emission reduction target for this same time period! The company announced it will invest $12 million to achieve the changes, but anticipate operational savings of $32 million, demonstrating that sustainability is the right approach for both the environment and the bottom line.

    President and CEO Ed Lonergan stated that it is thanks to the individual commitments of JohnsonDiversey employees, who went above and beyond the proposed changes, that the company can triple their target goal. He also emphasized the company’s integrated bottom line – clarifying that JohnsonDiversey sees no separation between People, Planet, and Profit.

    Join this webinar on November 18th at 1:30 ET to discover how WWF Climate Saver companies JohnsonDiversey, Nokia, Johnson and Johnson, and IBM are finding innovative solutions to combat climate change and secure our energy future while increasing their bottom lines:

    We cannot rely upon government alone to make the changes we need to save our planet. Voluntary commitments by major corporations such as JohnsonDiversey show us that the private sector has a big difference to make. And so I am inviting you – to triple your own commitment to the environment on both a corporate and a personal level. If a multinational corporation operating in 175 countries can do it, so can we! Here’s an EPK to help start you out:

    Among the many digital assets are Take Action Banners that lead to the World Wildlife Fund's Take Action page where you’ll learn new ways to help slow climate change. Please feel free to add any of these assets to your blog or page.

    I’m trying to get this inspiring message of corporate environmental commitment to as many people as possible, so I would be very grateful if you could forward this letter to your readers and anyone else you think might be interested. If you have any questions please message me!


  2. Jacob, thanks for your thoughts. If you haven;t already, please do take a look at the guest post from Emma Stewart of Autodesk here which I think is one of the most cutting edge commitments out there today. (I wonder if you meant to post your comment against that post actually ?) I think the key question we need to ask ourselves of any carbon footprint reduction target is, if everyone followed the same targeting methodology, would it achieve climate stabilization ?