Is CR just PR? – a Transition Highgate Discussion Evening

Around 30 people turned up to discuss Corporate Responsibility, in the congenial surroundings of The Bull pub and restaurant in North Hill. Adam Garfunkel, who campaigned against pollution at Friends of the Earth before becoming a corporate social responsibility consultant, offered some guidelines for spotting genuine CR from PR or ‘greenwash’. Look at the main activities of the company, he said, and ask if the CR actions are in harmony with them. If a large supermarket chain gives money for a sports centre but sells a chicken for just £2 – then the sincerity of their environmental motives seems questionable. He discussed about how hard it is to have a consistent approach across a large company; so Starbucks decision that all their coffee should be Fairtrade had an enormously positive impact on farmers, but if they aren’t paying their taxes their credibility is seriously undermined.

Andrew Thornton, owner of Budgens foodstores in Crouch End and Belsize Park spoke about his passionate belief in the importance of sustainable food and working with the community. Against all commercial advice he fitted doors to his chiller cabinets: customers continued to buy the food, and he made a 40% saving in electricity. We learned that Thornton offers grey squirrel on the meat counter (from nearby farms), which he said was nutritious, sustainable and delicious if cooked as for lapin a la moutarde. He praised the new CEO of Unilever for dropping quarterly reports to encourage long-tern planning rather than short term profits He talked about the impact of social networking. When he announced on Twitter that Thorntons would no longer be selling the News of the World the media beat a path to his door, (though he doesn’t take personal credit for the newspaper closing the next day!).

Jill and Dorothy Boswell