From time to time, companies want me to shut up or want me to say nice things about them. Consumer watchdogs are the most trusted source of information on business, according to AccountAbility – up in the recession and up from five years ago.
I remember one of the accountancy firms withdrawing a promise of funding for inner city enterprise when I was at New Economics Foundation, because we had published an expose of their control on business life. Nothing better for making us feel like we were on the right track! When at the National Consumer Council, we started to rate supermarkets and sure enough, a big basket of goodies arrived at our office with a note that we had been too mean to one of the poor corporates. It got sent straight back.
At a European telecoms company, in Spain, I was presented with a Real Madrid shirt signed by David Beckham shirt with ‘Mayo’ on the back. I left it there (left foot football not my strong point anyway).
This morning, a box with 48 new fair trade Cadburys Dairy Milk arrived special delivery on my desk – a present from Cadbury’s Global Head of Corporate Responsibility (perhaps as I’m on the Board of the Fairtrade Foundation). The fairtrade accreditation is pretty rigorous and Cadbury’s have just gone fair trade with their Dairy Milk bars. But free chocolates all round… not for me.
Good modern PR or good old fashioned corporate bribery?