Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Free webinar: Strategies to develop smallholder farmers’ livelihoods and productivity

This webinar explores how companies can create strategies to develop the smallholder bases that supply their soft commodities. Listen to it here.

The webinar had a particular focus on sugar cane farming but also explores the transferrable lessons that can be taken from other crop experiences. 

The speakers addressed such questions as: 

  • What is the general state of smallholder farming globally? What are the major risks and opportunities on the horizon? 
  • What opportunities do smallholder development programmes present to the major corporates such as Unilever and Coca Cola? What is the commercial case for them to bother? 
  • What are the common issues that keep smallholder yield and productivity to a faction of its potential? 
  • When designing a programme to systematically improve the state of a corporate smallholder base, what are the key strategic decisions to take into account? 

Speakers on the webinar:

  • Juni Sul, private sector advisor, agricultural markets and enterprise, Oxfam 
  • Sven Sielhorst, programme coordinator, sugarcane, Solidaridad Network 
  • Jon Walker, product manager, sugar, Fairtrade Foundation






Monday, May 25, 2015

Small holder famers & deforestation in southeast Asia - Podcast with Dr Nirarta Samadhi, country director, Indonesia, World Resources Institute

Helping smallholders be sustainable is key
Companies are making zero deforestation pledges, and putting an emphasis on transparency.

But what can government and NGOs do?

And how can small holder famers be incentivised to stop burning forests?



An eight minute podcast with Ian Welsh, editorial director, Innovation Forum.

Innovation Forum's Ian Welsh talked with the WRI's Dr Nirarta Samadhi at the recent Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources, held by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs

Upcoming relevant, PowerPoint free, discussion-based business meetings from Innovation Forum:

(if you read all the above, these are where you can meet fellow executives from companies working on all these issues)


  • How Business Can Tackle Deforestation - 28-29 September 2015 - Singapore - A make or break issue for Asia’s corporate reputation? With APP, Cargill, Forest Peoples Programme, Golden Agri Resources, Robertsbridge, Sime Darby, TFT, Unilever, Wilmar International, World Economic Forum and many more. Email Charlenne.Ordonez@innovation-forum.co.uk for more information. 

UK corporate country reporting – kicked on down the road?


The new UK government may not introduce country-by-country financial reporting, but clean companies might actually benefit from more voluntary exposure

A little remarked-on footnote to the recent general election campaign in the United Kingdom was the issue of country-by-country reporting – the disclosure by multinational companies of their revenues, profits and taxes paid per country, rather than on an aggregated basis.

A country-by-country reporting rule took effect in the UK even before the election. The UK Finance Act 2015, which came into law on 26 March, contained provisions allowing the government to bring in country-by-country reporting – though the fleshing out of the obligation for companies has been left to a later date.

The UK approach to country-by-country reporting is based on work done within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which published guidelines in 2014.

Fair tax slice 

Country-by-country reporting is intended to help individual governments judge if they are receiving a fair tax slice from the profits multinationals make in their jurisdictions, but there is also an intention that governments should share information. The OECD must develop guidance on how this should be done before the UK can fully implement the rule.

Country-by-country reporting is therefore still a work in progress, and one that the major political parties referred to in their election manifestos. There was a clear dividing line between them.
The opposition Labour party said that they would require companies to publicly disclose their country-by-country reports. But the, ultimately victorious, Conservative party said only that it would “consider the case for making this information publicly available on a multilateral basis” – in other words, if other countries also agree to a public disclosure rule.

Onto the back burner 

The surprise Conservative victory in the election is likely to result in the public disclosure issue being kicked into the long grass. The Conservative government is likely to take the view that country-by-country reporting is a valuable tool for tax authorities, but any public disclosure requirement would represent an unnecessary burden on business.

A paper issued by the UK tax authorities in December 2014 showed that country-by-country reporting would affect “approximately 1400 UK-headed multinational groups”, but that the government expects relatively limited extra revenues as a result.

The “Exchequer impact” in tax coming in will rise to £15m in 2019-2020 – or a mere £10,715 on average for each of those 1400 UK companies. These numbers suggest that the government expects to turn up relatively little evidence of unjustifiable profit-shifting.

The likely pull-back from public disclosure of country-by-country information will disappoint campaign groups.

The Tax Justice Network says that public disclosure is needed so that citizens of countries can make their own judgements about whether corporations are paying fair levels of tax – and whether tax authorities are applying the right degree of pressure.

Tax risks

For sustainable investors meanwhile, aggressive corporate tax planning is increasingly seen as a risk.
Sustainability investors RobecoSAM, who work on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes, recently introduced tax strategy criteria into their corporate sustainability assessments.

They argued that companies that shift profits around face reputational risks and might have poor relationships with the countries where they try to minimise their taxes, leading to “approval delays or the rejection of projects, for instance, or in the worst case, companies risk losing their license to operate”.

All this evidence begs a question of multinationals that have so far not reported their tax arrangements on a country-by-country basis.

If the UK government, which is considering introducing a rule, expects to find little bad behaviour, and if there are risks to non-disclosure in the eyes of investors, why would companies not consider voluntary country-by-country disclosure?

Why indeed.


If you've any comments, do get in touch businessbrief@innovation-forum.co.uk.

From the Innovation Forum weekly Business Brief. Sign up at: http://innovation-forum.co.uk



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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Can Sugar be sustainable? Companies and NGOs meet to debate whether and how

I wanted to make you aware of an event we are hosting on sugar sustainability next month.

These companies are all taking part: Coca Cola, AB Sugar, Tesco,  Mars, SAB Miller, Nordzucker, Heineken, Mondelez, PepsiCo, ED&F Man, Ferrero, Tate & Lyle.

The conference is called the Sustainable Sugar Forum (London, UK, June 16-17). The event provides a platform where the sugar cane and beet communities gather to discuss the range of sustainability opportunities and issues in the global sugar value chain.

You can see the full details on the event brochure we have just released.

 The event tackles a range of issues such as:
  •  Human rights, labour issues such as child and forced labour, and preventing land grabbing
  • Smallholder farmer development, securing livelihoods, financing, improving productivity and yield
  • Water management, building water-stress resilience in vulnerable climates, and reducing water use
  • Environmental protection, soil structure conservation and promoting biodiversity
  • Climate change, technology developments, climate-smart farming
  • Responsible sugar sourcing strategy, implementing effective programmes to source 100% sustainable sugar, traceability and transparency

You can see the full agenda with speakers here.

 Over 50 organisations are confirmed to participate so far including The Coca Cola Company, AB Sugar, Illovo Sugar, Tesco, Tereos, Mars, Czarnikow, SAB Miller, Nordzucker, Heineken, Mondelez, PepsiCo, ED&F Man, Ferrero, Tate & Lyle, to name a few.

This week we have the last chance deadline on delegate passes to the conference. For delegate passes, you can register for the event here

Contact:

Boris Petrovic

Project Director

Innovation Forum: Events and Insight for Sustainability

O: +44 (0) 203 780 7430 D: +44 (0) 203 780 74 34

E: boris.petrovic@innovation-forum.co.uk

Alex Edmans, Professor of Finance at London Business School on the business case for social responsibility

Here's Alex's TEDx talk on “The Social Responsibility of Business”, which covers his recent paper showing that employee well-being leads to superior performance, and more generally the business case for social responsibility.

Here's a link in case its of interest. In the video Alex Edmans talks about the long-term impacts of social responsibility and challenges the idea that caring for society is at the expense of profit.

Alex will be talking about his findings, alongside some leading companies, here at the end of June.

Free webinar: strategies to develop smallholder farmers’ livelihoods and productivity

A message from my colleague Boris Petrovic at Innovation Forum:

I would like to invite you to listen into a complimentary webinar we are hosting on smallholder farmer development.

The webinar will explore how companies can create strategies to develop the smallholder bases that supply their soft commodities. The discussion will have a particular focus on sugar cane farming but will also will look to explore the transferrable lessons that can be taken from other crop experiences such as palm oil, cocoa, coffee etc.

You can sign up to the webinar here

The speaker will address such questions as:

·           What is the general state of smallholder farming globally? What are the major risks and opportunities on the horizon?
·           What opportunities do smallholder development programmes present to the major corporates such as Unilever and Coca Cola?, what is the commercial case for them to bother?
·           What are the common issues that keep smallholder yield and productivity to a faction of its potential?
·           When designing a programme to systematically improve the state of a corporate smallholder base, what are the key strategic decisions to take into account?
·           What are the lessons-learnt and best practices from programmes that have attempted to develop smallholders? Where did they see measurable, quantitative improvements?

Confirmed speakers include:

·         Juni Sul, private sector advisor, agricultural markets and enterprise, Oxfam
·         Sven Sielhorst, programme coordinator, sugarcane, Solidaridad Network
·         Bouke Bijl, project coordinator, Phata Sugarcane Outgrowers Cooperative, Malawi

The webinar discussion is one-hour in duration and will take place on 26th May, 14.00 - 15.00 BST.

If you cannot listen to the webinar at this time, we are sending recordings to everyone that signs up.

Once again, you can register for the webinar here

I hope you can join.

Best,

Boris Petrovic
Project Director
Innovation Forum: Events and Insight for Sustainability
O: +44 (0) 203 780 7430  D: +44 (0) 203 780 74 34
E: boris.petrovic@innovation-forum.co.uk


Upcoming relevant, PowerPoint free, discussion-based business meetings from Innovation Forum:

(if you read all the above, these are where you can meet fellow executives from companies working on all these issues)


Webinar recording: How to quantify the value of sustainability

Innovation Forum hosted a webinar last week on ‘how big business measures and values sustainability

The discussion focused on how businesses from different sectors are prioritising their CSR valuation. 

The panel included:

  • Joanna Gluzman, director of analyst relations & SRI, BT Group 
  • Mat Roberts, director of sustainability strategy, Interserve 
  • Sandy Stash, VP - safety, sustainability & external affairs, Tullow Oil 
The webinar previewed some of the discussions that will take place in London on 29-30 June 2015 at The Measurement and Valuation of Corporate Sustainability – does it all add up?

You can see more information here: http://innovation-forum.co.uk/sustainability-measurement-and-valuation.php


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Corporate managers, remember what goes around comes around

Update 23/05/15. I had a lot of responses to the below when I published it a few days ago.

They ranged from "rock on" to "you seem very angry" to "what a rant" and "well said". 

I wasn't in a bad mood, and many commentators were right, this doesn't just apply to corporate managers. 

I was going to delete the post. But I've decided to leave it up for now. Got to stand by what you publish.


I, and a number of people I know, have noticed some corporate people becoming ruder in recent years.

By this I mean say, sending emails, then never replying to responses.

Or saying they want a quote for some work, then never replying.

Apparently, if you work for 'the man', for big corporate, you can treat people like this.

But in the real world, in 97% of most economies, i.e. SMEs, you can't ever treat people like this.

The funny thing is, the corporate people who act like this, often end up out on their own in a year or two or three anyhow.

Then you get the email. "Hi, so and so here, I'm now 'freelance', fancy a coffee?"

"No" is the answer.

"Bugger off" is the subtext.

Just because you did big corporate, doesn't mean the rest of us forget you were rude because you felt like you had the right to be.

You didn't.

You just felt like you did.

What I am saying here is, if you work for a large company, you are not special.

Big companies anyhow generally have zero loyalty to you, and soon (ish) you will end up back in the real world with the rest of us.

There's one simple message in this post:

Just because you work for big corporate doesn't mean you are special. You are not.

And pretty soon, or at some point, you'll need friends outside your little corporate cult bubble.

So best remember that, and the basic politeness any good parent would have taught you.

(I am also available for childen's parties, as the late great Bill Hicks once said)


20/05/15 Update: People keep asking me if this is based on anything in particular or if I am having a bad week. Neither is the case, although I appreciate the kind inquiries. Just wanted to make the point really. A large glass of wine did have something to do with it.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Ecomagination's 10th birthday marks GE's progress from polluter to pioneer

Guest post by Mallen Baker, taken from the excellent Business Respect newsletter, here.

On the 10th anniversary of the launch of GE's Ecomagination initiative, it has been a part of the business landscape for such a long time that it would be easy to forget how big a gamble it represented back in 2005.

Before 2001, when Jack Welch had been in charge, GE was one of the most admired companies in the country, led for two decades by one of the most admired leaders.

Welch brought an obsessive focus on speed and efficiency, with the insistence that the company had to be number one or two in each of its markets.

He was known as one of the most successful businessmen of his generation and he retired on a high, with GE riding high in the stock markets and in terms of its performance.

But he had one reputational blemish. His concern for the environment, and for the social impact of his company's operations, seemed somewhat lacking.

Most famously, the company fought hard - with Welch leading the charge - against any acknowledgement that the company had been responsible for polluting the Hudson river with PCBs. Whilst being the tenth anniversary of Ecomagination, it is also only now that GE's ultimate agreement to dredge the Hudson river for PCBs is now coming to an end.

The problem was that Welch was - by all the standards of his peer group - the most fantastically successful CEO. He was revered by many, and remains so. His company made more money than it ever had, and was studied for the lessons it could teach others.

Those who felt that the companies that were careless of their impact on the environment should by all rights be demonstrably less successful than their socially responsible counterparts were constantly frustrated by this shining beacon to the contrary.

Then Jeffrey Immelt took over, and things began to go wrong. Within days of his appointment, the September 11th terrorist attacks hit GE's aviation, power generation and reinsurance businesses hard. Later, with GE Capital providing half of the company's profits, the financial crisis also took a major toll.

As Immelt announced Ecomagination, GE's stock price was in the process of falling way below the level that Welch had taken it. It was a difficult time to be creating a new direction. It could easily have been that Immelt would have been abandoned midstream and his initiatives confined to the corporate scrapheap.

The truth was that Welch had carried on the balancing act for as long as could have realistically been achieved. He got out just in time, his reputation intact but his legacy a difficult one of consequences.

Immelt's strategy - to reduce dependance on financial services and to make environmental sustainability a key part of GE's portfolio for growth - was obviously needed only in retrospect and was never going to deliver results overnight. But the world had changed. GE had to change with it.

Immelt focused on investment in key growth areas for the company - and one of these was clean technology. The brand 'Ecomagination' was created as an umbrella and focus for this work, and concrete targets were set when it was launched in 2005.

The company said it would more than double its research investment in cleaner tech from $700m in 2004 to $1.5bn in 2010. It said it would introduce more clean-tech products annually, doubling its revenues from such products from $10bn at the time of launch to at least $20bn by 2010. It also pledged that, alongside this process, the company would reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions even as its activities grew.

In the event, it exceeded these initial targets and then continued to build on them. The company had made $15bn investment in cleaner tech by 2014, and had generated more than $200bn in revenue from Ecomagination products. It had also reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent.

Since the early falls, GE's stock price has gradually been engaged on an upward trajectory - although it still hasn't regained the dizzy heights of the end of the Welch era.

What sort of innovations have come out of Ecomagination? Some of the highlights include:
  • The GEnx aviation engine - the quietest, most energy-efficient engine of its type.
  • Movement Planner software that enables trains to move freight faster and more efficiently on existing rail lines.
  • The ZeeWeed ultrafiltration system for water treatment.

None of these have the public profile of consumer gadgetry, but they are all part of the process of reducing the environmental impact of everyday engineering.

It hasn't been a journey without its controversies. Some of the Ecomagination technologies - such as those to do with clean coal or with fracking - are not considered by some to be that green.

And the fact that Immelt has spent $14 billion on companies aiding oil and gas drillers - with oil and gas accounting for a quarter of the company's industrial revenue in 2014 - has even mainstream commentators questioning whether Immelt's strategy is now outdated in the way that Welch's was before him.

Whilst Ecomagination has proven, over its ten years, to be a highly successful branding and consolidation exercise, raising the profile of GE as a generator of solutions for the sustainable age, it has arguably been an incremental change on the old model, rather than a revolution.

Perhaps we have been spoilt by certain consumer-facing companies, such as Unilever, more radically setting the bar to change their business model. But at the same time, it is impossible to underestimate just how much Immelt's actions at GE changed the mood music for what was expected of the major corporation in the 21st century.

Certainly today, the idea has gained considerable currency that - not only can a successful business achieve that success whilst being at ease with the planet, but perhaps that is much more than ever a precondition for such success.

Click to enlarge below.




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Does ethics have an image problem?

Yes, argues Katherine Bradshaw of the Institute of Business Ethics. She offers some solutions in this guest post.

This week’s results of EY’s 2015 Europe, Middle East, India and Africa (EMEIA) Fraud Survey show that while nearly half of UK survey respondents said regulation in their sector had increased, only 15% said this had resulted in an improvement in corporate ethics.

Less than a third of UK respondents rated their own company’s ethical standards as ‘very good’, showing the disconnect between regulation and business behaviour.

If regulation doesn’t work, how do you create and maintain a strong ethical culture?

The language of compliance, of punishment and mistrust isn’t working.

Stories about ethics focus on bad apples, fraudulent employees intent on misconduct. But the reality is that the majority of employees want to do their best for their organisation.

Ethics is personal. Just as everybody thinks they have a good sense of humour, so everybody thinks they are ethical.

That’s why it can be a challenge for companies to communicate to employees what they mean by ‘doing business ethically’.

Sometimes, unethical behaviour may be so ingrained into a company’s culture as to be considered ‘the way business is done around here’, and so may not be considered unethical at all.

Talking about ethics can raise different emotions in people: they might be offended (“How dare you? I have been working here for years; no one has ever suggested I was anything but ethical!”) or too busy (“I don’t have time! I’ve got real work to do.”) or just don’t care (“Whatever.”)

Ethics has an image problem – it’s seen as being about misconduct, corruption, black and white, bad behaviour, but it is more than that.

By the coffee machine, in the staff room, at the away day, you will often hear people talking about ethical issues without even realising it; issues of fairness or trust, conflicts, and dilemmas.  Employees communicate about ethics, regardless of any communication programme.

Communicating ethical values is not as simple as informing employees about regulations, facts, figures and procedures and checking they are compliant.

Ethics goes beyond compliance and springs from intrinsic values – like honesty, fairness, openness - that underpin behaviour. That’s why discussions about ethics must start with concepts that touch employees’ sense of self.

The very reason why values are the key to ethical behaviour – the fact that everyone has values and values inform everyone’s behaviour – is also the reason why ethics can be difficult to pin down.

To change behaviour, messages about ethics not only need to be understood intellectually, they need to be part of the organisation emotionally.

To create a culture of ‘doing the right thing’, we must reframe messages about behaviour.
Stories define who we are, what we do, and why and how we do it.

Company culture develops from the stories we tell each other.

So the stories we tell should cast employees as the heroes. We should celebrate the guardians of the company’s ethical culture. Employees are the protectors of its reputation. They need support, not regulation, to help them do the right thing.

Communicating Ethical Values Internally: an IBE Good Practice Guide is available here.


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