Although most sizable public companies have some sort of Corporate Responsibility policy and department in place, it's hard not to be suspicious of construction contractors or soap manufacturers that claim to be governed by anything other than the profit motive.
Even if the corporate responsibility staff are genuine, the department is often used by the company as little more than an additional public relations department.
But, by holding companies up against the standards they claim to follow, you can sort the wheat from the chaff. Like last year, when I pointed out that building airports for the Burmese generals rather undermined the claim of Downer EDI, one of Australia's biggest engineering groups, that it upheld a "no harm" policy. To its credit, Downer EDI subsequently withdrew from the project.
Earlier this week, it was brought to my attention that InterContinental Hotels, the UK-based global hotel group, was advertising for a "good looking" public relations manager to join the staff of its Hanoi Westlake hotel.
This seemed to go against InterContinental's rather pompous Corporate Responsibility policy regarding its own staff, which is called "The Deal". This policy supposedly "celebrates difference" and offers employees "room to be yourself".
What about ugly public relations professionals? Are they not part of The Deal?
I contacted Eric Lee, InterContinental's head of communications in Asia (presumably he must be a handsome chap), who in turn checked with the Hanoi hotel management.
"They regret that description in the job profile," he said in an email. "They are making arrangements to remove that description from the profile as soon as possible." (the ad, online here, has already been changed)
He also stressed that "our hotels would never place appearance above other criteria and that all hotels are committed to our equal opportunities policies".
So they've changed the wording but will the actual recruitment process change?
It's not uncommon to see job ads in Southeast Asia that stipulate that the successful candidate must be a looker. Perhaps they should just use the Western HR euphemism of choice: "well-presented".
Hat-tip to Our Man in Hanoi, who drew the initial job ad to my attention via Twitter.