With the kerfuffle over tax evasion in general and corporate tax evasion specifically, I thought it would be a nice way to end the year by looking at the Corporate social responsibility policies of some of the players involved in the drama and compare them to a company that seems happy to pay it’s dues. After all, what better way of being socially responsible is there than contributing to the society you’re trading in via payment of taxes?
Giving back to communities and the environment. Treating people with respect and dignity. Serving the world’s best coffee. Every day, we demonstrate our beliefs in the guiding principles of our mission statement in the way we do business.
Just before Christmas, Starbucks circulated new contract terms that included the removal of paid lunch-breaks an end to cash incentives for becoming manager or partner of the year and the removal of a bonus scheme for women returning after they have had a baby. Respect and dignity? Ha!
Over the past three years, Starbucks has reported no profit, and paid no income tax, on sales of 1.2 billion pounds in the UK. However investor and analyst calls over 12 years show Starbucks officials regularly talked about the UK business as “profitable”, said they were very pleased with it, or even cited it as an example to follow for operations back home in the United States.
At Amazon, we believe that innovation has the power to change the world. As we strive to become Earth’s most customer-centric company we constantly look for new ways to innovate on behalf of our different customers: individuals who shop our global websites, merchants who sell on our platform, developers who use our infrastructure to create their businesses, and creators of the books, music, and films we sell through our websites. We believe that our greatest contribution to the good of society comes directly from these core business activities.
Amazon also do a lot for disaster relief and also a lot for charity work worldwide. Mind you, they employ 15,000 people in the UK and have paid a tiny pittance of corporation tax here, which in my book (HA!) isn’t particularly social or responsible.
You can make money without doing evil
Google doesn’t appear to have a coherent corporate social responsibility statement (at least I couldn’t google it!). The above is point 6 on their 10 things they know to be true page. This is slightly at odds with the way their boss said he was proud of their tax avoidance schemes.Google generated around £2.5 billion in UK sales last year but paid just £6m in corporation tax.
The Californian based search giant has also been revealed to have sheltered nearly $10bn of its revenues in Bermuda allowing it to avoid some $2bn in worldwide income taxes in 2011. That tax revenue would certainly have done a lot of good in my book. Is it evil not to pay it?
My final company wasn’t embroiled in the tax avoidance scandal for a very good reason: They don’t avoid paying their taxes but I thought it would be interesting to show that being a multinational doesn’t automatically mean you seek to avoid/evade as much tax as possible:
We supply energy, which helps support economic growth and development. At our operations we try to address social concerns and work to benefit local communities, to protect our reputation and support our business.
I’m part of the Shell Network of Champions, so wanted to include Shell in this review because i) they’re one of the biggest companies in the world and more importantly ii) I’ve done a lot of cool stuff with them and wanted to make sure they were on the level as far as this aspect of corporate behaviour goes.
I asked Shell what they paid in UK corporation tax and was pointed to a report that showed they paid $1.174bn in 2011. (The figures are in dollars because the report is for the consolidated US accounts.) When it comes to companies I choose to work with I try to be careful. I avoid certain sorts of company because I’m not comfortable with the industries (betting/payday loans etc) but from now on in, I’m also going to look closely at their corporate social responsibility statement.
Regardless of what you think of the petrochemical industry, Shell have paid their fair share, which is more than a lot of other companies have.