Thursday, 10 March 2011

Vodafone and social responsibility.

Vodafone has been under the spotlight nationally recently over whether or not it pays enough tax.  Certainly there is a real feeling that the company ought to pay a whole lot more and that its behaving irresponsibly by not doing so.  I am not a particular expert about this but anyone who reads the newspapers will know that Vodafone's reputation has been taking a trashing and that the protests don't show any signs of going away (as you can see here)

When big companies are not socially responsible, this often shows itself in small actions as well as big ones.

In fact you could argue that unless you have a culture right through a company of being genuinely socially responsible, things will be done that turn communities against you, often because of a lack of care or a feeling that rules can be ignored.

Which brings me to the case of Brodie Avenue, L19.

Residents and Councillors have tried to resist first a telecomms mast and then a replacement mast which is bigger.  The case was lost, but in the losing we at least managed to get some conditions put in.  Vodafone was told it had to explain before it started any more digging exactly how it was going to go about protecting the young trees and how it was going to go about its digging and mast installing work.  The trees were put there to help screen the mast from view a little so they are valued by people living in Brodie Avenue.

We were worried because the last time Vodafone (or to be fair their contractors as I can't swear that the guys were actually employed by Vodafone directly) dug on the site they caused damage.

We hoped the conditions would at least stop that happening this time.

We were being naive.  With literally no notice the workmen arrived on site and started digging away.  It turned out that they hadn't bothered with all that fiddly communicating with the council about their method first, they had just thought "lets get on with it".  I asked the Council's planning enforcement officer to look into this.  He has and has confirmed Vodafone have not done what the agreement says they have to. What's scary about this example is that it is by pure chance that a resident spotted this going on and (through an intermediary) phoned me.  This is an area in which many people would be out at work at the time the workmen arrived.

On one level this is a small issue affecting a few people on Brodie Avenue.  On another level it's another example of how a big business thinks it's OK to ignore things they don't like.

I feel sure Vodafone's PR people will spot this and I'll get a snotty letter.  I don't really care as we need to highlight these smaller issues of (lack of) CSR as well as the big ones.

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