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Corporate responsibility goes Hollywood

Michael Jarvis's picture

DicaprioIt seems Hollywood executives are taking their concerns for social responsibility and the actions of multinationals beyond driving a Prius. The latest topic to get the real blockbuster treatment: conflict diamonds. Leonardo DiCaprio leads a star cast in Blood Diamond, a film focusing on the effect of diamond sales on prolonging war in Sierra Leone in the 1990s. The movie comes out at an awkward time; the industry's Kimberley Process is already under public fire for failing to do more to stop feeding the civil war that hit the Ivory Coast.

This follows the success of films like the Oscar winning Constant Gardener, which looks at the pharmaceutical industry in Africa, the Oscar nominated documentary Darwin’s Nightmare, which exposes the impacts of the fishing industry in Lake Victoria, as well as films focusing on US corporate excesses including The Corporation and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. A genre appears to be emerging that challenges big business practices around the world.

On the current movie festival circuit is another documentary, Black Gold, that Consumers International has praised for highlighting the lack of transparency and sustainability in the coffee industry. Without having seen the film it is hard to comment on the filmmakers' claims, but it is interesting that the big coffee companies - including Starbucks - refused to be interviewed for the film.  Those same companies are now on a public relations offensive, even asking UK employees to speak out against the film's inaccuracies.  Recalling how McDonalds' attempt to ignore Morgan Spurlock in the making of Super Size Me backfired, this might not be the best strategy.

Both Black Gold and Blood Diamond open in Washington DC on December 8, so World Bankers can prepare for a very socially responsible double bill.

Update: The Washington Post agrees.

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Michael Jarvis, a former DJ and now a corporate responsibility specialist for the Business, Competitiveness & Development Program at the World Bank Institute, mentions Blood Diamond on his blog and ci...

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