Friday, October 24, 2014

four commodities from eight countries were responsible for the loss of 3.9 million hectares of forest, an area about the size of Switzerland

"Four commodities produced in just eight countries are responsible for a third of the world's forest loss, according to a new report.

Those familiar with the long-standing effort to stop deforestation won't be surprised by the commodities named: beef, palm oil, soy, and wood products (including timber and paper).

Nor will they be very surprised by most of the countries: Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, Argentina, and Paraguay. "


Innovation Forum's "How business can tackle deforestation - Collaborate effectively with suppliers and NGOs, understand policy and enforcement trends" takes place on 28th-29th October, 2014, London. (That's next week people)

For the full agenda take a look here. Here's the full conference website.

There are still a few places left. If any blog readers would like to come, email me as soon as you can.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Who says US citizens don't care about climate change?

A Florida city voted to split the state in two because of concerns over climate change

So reports the Washington Post.

Of course the decision has to go up much higher for any split to happen.

Which means it probably won't.

But it's an interesting shift in the moods of some in the US, which makes it worth noting.

Quick two minute video on what the pharma/drug companies are doing on Ebola vaccines

If, like me, you've been wondering what the pharmaceutical companies have been doing in response to the terrible events surrounding Ebola, here's a two minute video from Reuters that offers some useful insight. The video discusses Johnson and Johnson, GSK and some investor perspectives. Apparently JnJ and GSK may collaborate on vaccines, according to the video.

This risk briefing that just came out today on Ebola and the reporting of it is also useful.

Get to grips with corporate responsibility with online training

Getting to Grips with CR online training - see the 2014 programme
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The October-only offer on Getting to Grips with Corporate Responsibility

Our online training course Getting to Grips with Corporate Responsibility is our largest and most comprehensive course - over a hundred people have been through it to date. It has not been discounted at all during the last six months but is now available at 30% off until the end of October (just over a week!).

What's covered? It's an eight module course covering:

1. An introduction to basic concepts
2. The business case 
3. CR Reporting
4. Supply chain and human rights
5. Reputation, marketing and communications
6. Business and NGOs
7. Employees
8. Making it happen for your business.

Each module is made up of between 8-16 chapters which are in the form of a 3-10 minute video with a lecturer with powerpoint slides. Once you join, you get access to a new half module each week - although if you choose to work through them more slowly you retain access to the portal for at least six months after joining.

You can see a breakdown of the full content on the website (see link below).

To claim your 30% discount off the standard price of £495 GBP / €595 / $810 USD / $890 AUD, you need to use the coupon code GTG2014F at the checkout. This code expires after the end of the month - no extensions!

Interested to sign up? You can do so at right now, and be working your way through module one in minutes.

Coming soon … community investment with an international flavour

We are in the advanced stages of planning a community investment course, with someone whose international experience in this area is pretty much beyond compare! If this is a course you think you might be interested in, we would would be keen to hear from you - as your voice can help at this stage shape the final content of the course. Get in touch with us at:

Best wishes

Mallen Baker and Toby Webb

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Rainforest Alliance VP on the limits to certification, Forest Stewardship Council and consumer awareness of deforestation

Dominique Gangneux is the sustainable markets vice president at the Rainforest Alliance, where he is working on forestry, food & agriculture and tourism.

I sent him a few questions recently. Here's what he had to say.

Dominique Gangneux
What does Rainforest Alliance do today? What's your elevator pitch? 

It is easy for people to assume that because of the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal all we do is certification, but we are about so much more than that.

We work to help all actors in the value chains we are focusing on – forestry, food & agriculture, and tourism – to embed sustainability practices in their business practices and personal lives.

That includes landowners, producers, farmers, foresters, tourism operators, workers, governments, traders, buyers, producers, brands, and retailers, and consumers.

Standard development and certification is just one tool in our toolbox but we also use education – via technical training, schools programmes and reaching out to consumers about what sustainable choices look like. If you like we are sustainability guides.

How can you scale up certification so it goes mainstream?

Standards and certification is an important tool and one that requires new innovation – something we are currently working on for example with the Sustainable Agriculture Network for our work in agriculture.

Some of the easy wins have already been made, so now it is about repurposing the tool to help us reach smallholders and those producers who are harder to reach to help them access the benefits certification brings – and that’s the key to mainstreaming.

Certification has to focus on meaningful outcomes on the ground; better productivity, growing more on the same amount of land or less, improved quality, better treatment of workers, better livelihoods, healthier environment etc.

And in doing so it helps at the other end of the value chain.  Consumers trust third party certification, and as the benefits the Rainforest Alliance is delivering at the field level become more apparent to them, the trust and value in the standards we work with and with our seals can grow.  Giving consumers a real choice to be part of something better.

Does it matter no one really recognises what sustainability logos mean?

Consumers are already closely connected to many of the brands they buy and use. Through our seal they also connect with the producers, so knowing what our seal stands for is important yes.

We shouldn’t under estimate the importance of 3rd party trusted seals to help consumers to make the right choices and show their support for achieving better outcomes for farmers, foresters and communities. And we shouldn’t underestimate how many consumers are actually making the choice to buy a more sustainable product everyday – actually more than ever across the regions of the world.

For example, according to the last Ethical Consumer Markets Report in 2013, consumer demand for ethical food and drink rose by 36 percent in the UK in 2012, and was worth £10.16 billion.

We also know that from 2012 to 2013, Rainforest Alliance Certified (RAC) coffee production grew globally by 20% (it's now 5.2% of global production), RAC tea grew 28% (now 14% of global production) and RAC cocoa grew 41% (now 13% of global production).

All in all, today, up to 15% of the world’s cocoa and tea supply is now under sustainable management.

That’s close to being a tipping point, right? That is significant. But, there’s still 85% to go. So, we are no longer niche but we are nowhere near there yet.

Could we do a better job of explaining what lies behind that seal? Of course, that’s why we are running our Follow the Frog campaign and working with the Guardian to expand our outreach to consumers worldwide.

At the end of the day the seal is a shorthand for a better choice, so if that’s all a consumer takes away I can live with that.

Labels under pressure
What is your view on the current credibility challenge facing FSC?

The FSC has been one of the world’s most successful sustainability standards. But we need to remember that this is a system that is still relatively young – 20 years this year.

It is facing strains, and there is a need for change but it still represents the best option for delivering responsible forest management globally.

We had a team in Seville Spain few weeks ago for the seventh FSC General Assembly – a gathering of the membership every three years to determine the future direction for the standard and organisation behind it.

There were some clear signals sent by the membership with votes to focus on a global strategy, on working to bring small producers into the system by streamlining the process.

I think the FSC and certification in general is in a really critical juncture – watch this space, it is going to be very interesting.

What's your outlook on sustainable forestry in general? Brazil is improving but SE Asia worsening. Are you optimistic or pessimistic and why? 

We are seeing some really interesting developments in forestry at present. The zero deforestation agenda has reignited debate around the role of forests in the world.

While we are seeing real gains we are also still struggling with the biggest pressures on forests, which are urban sprawl and agricultural expansion. In the case of agriculture expansion the Rainforest Alliance supports standards that build in protection of natural areas as well as the regeneration of ecosystems.

We are increasingly working on these issues in SE Asia, Africa, and Latin America in agriculture – including palm and cattle, and also through our forestry, tourism and climate programmes.

I think we are going to see some innovation in this area, a rethink of the role plantations can have and how they can play a positive role in the protection and enhancement of natural forest for example.

The challenge is far from over, but I think there are signals that are positive and I chose to focus on how we can build upon those.

More from Rainforest Alliance at: / @RnfrstAll_UK

Richard Donovan, VP for forestry at Rainforest Alliance, will be speaking on a number of sessions at Innovation Forum's "How business can tackle deforestation - Collaborate effectively with suppliers and NGOs, understand policy and enforcement trends" on 28th-29th October, 2014, London. (That's next week people)

For the full agenda take a look here. Here's the full conference website.

There are still a few places left. If any blog readers would like to come, email me as soon as you can. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Final agenda for deforestation event next week. 34 speakers from companies, NGOs and others in London

In case I hadn't mentioned it, we're hosting a conference next week on how business can effectively tackle deforestation. It will be in London on Oct 28-29th.

About 150 large companies, key social and environmental NGOs will be there.

We've got 34 speakers, and the event is generously sponsored by Robertsbridge and Sky/WWF.

Just added to the agenda are Asia Pulp & Paper and Cargill, amongst quite a few others.

The latest, full agenda is here, no login or information needed.

It's also embedded below. Full conference website is here. Hope you can make it.

Agenda embedded below. We are quite proud of this one.

The DC version of the event will be on April 14-15 2015. Let us know if you'd like to take part in that. Email if so.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Greenpeace vs. Lego, was the outcome worth the effort?

News that Lego firmly rejects the Greenpeace campaign against it working with Shell emerged the other day.

See: here for the CEO statement.

The real upshot? 

Lego won't work with Shell to promote Lego products to kids beyond the current deal.

That suits both Greenpeace and Lego. 

GP claims 'victory', whilst Lego says it hasn't given in to brand blackmail and hasn't broken a business deal with Shell. 

Shell, meanwhile, probably don't care that much either way. 

Whatever the outcome, Greenpeace is going to continue to target them anyhow. 

I am a monthly donor to, and member of (if such a thing as membership exists beyond marketing) Greenpeace.

But I was not a fan of the recent Lego campaign. It struck me as dreadfully opportunistic and immature. And whatever the outcome, it won't make a blind bit of difference to Shell. 

It was just another excuse to target a vulnerable brand with a small connection to a bigger target. 

Excellent for publicity. But also useful evidence for opponents to point out how Greenpeace can be very small minded and is consumer brand focused to the point of hysteria. 

I appreciate the campaign against Shell drilling in the arctic is a difficult one for Greenpeace. 

But there are surely better ways (safety grounds, spill responses, regulatory breaches, stranded asset arguments etc) than going after brands like Lego with the goal of changing Shell's business plans. 

Greenpeace has built a lot of credibility with big business on issues such as deforestation/palm oil in recent years.

The international leadership needs to reflect on that, and the damage that may be done to their ability to change big business supply chains for the better (as they have helped do on soy, palm oil and forestry) if they lose brand trust (in both senses) by launching more tenuous campaigns such as that against Lego. 

Just because you have tools, that doesn't mean you should always use them. 

When stressed, men are more prone to taking risky bets with little payoff

Interesting NY Times piece this weekend that makes the case for more diversity in stressed decison making:

"Credit Suisse examined almost 2,400 global corporations from 2005 to 2011 — including the years directly preceding and following the financial crisis — and found that large-cap companies with at least one woman on their boards outperformed comparable companies with all-male boards by 26 percent". 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

15 tips on speaking at business events

I have an confession to make. 

OK, an admission. 

I've been responsible for about 100 conferences, maybe more, in the last 15 years.
Scary, but manageable


I know conferences sometimes (often?) have a bad reputation. 

Many are dull. I get that.

In my defence, I've always tried to make mine interesting. 

Generally I hope I've succeeded. But it's not up to me to judge. I may well be delusional. 

Anyhow. My point is that I've been responsible for a fair few, and speak at a fair few more. And have sat through quite a few others, often as moderator. 

I've seen great speakers, I've seen mediocre speakers. I've seen awful speakers.

Last year I was involved in an event where one panellist simply sat, head down, and read out a legal statement. 

She then refused to say pretty much anything else. 

Presumably this was due to percieved legal risk, or lack of confidence, or both.

So, having done all this, which may not amount to much, I realise, I offer below a few tips for speaking at events, based on what I have seen since 1999. 

Many of these tips, I also know, are in the standard blogger event advice, repeated Ad Infinitum across the web. 

So I make no claim to originality. 

But here's a few thoughts on what I believe works when engaging in public speaking, nonetheless.  

1) Don't speak at all unless you've practiced and rehearsed. A bad speech or set of comments is far worse for you than none at all.

2) Go slow. Slower than you think you need to. 

3) Speak less, say more. That way there is no need for notes or prompt cards. Be interesting in a short space of time, make people think. 

4) Tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.

5) Never, ever, ever show a corporate video. If you show video, make it funny.

6) Ban bullet points. In fact, only use PowerPoint if you will show pictures to tell stories with, or some stunning set of stats, or charts.

7) Smile. A lot. But don't grin like a maniac.

8) Make a joke, even a bad joke. People will laugh, that will relax you, and them. 

9) Remember everyone (except perhaps old enemies or competitors) wants to see you succeed and give a good speech. For one simple reason. Because it's their time as well as yours. 

10) Remember there's nothing wrong with a pause

11) People mainly remember stories, not policies. So tell a couple of stories.

12) Thank your hosts. Good grace matters.

13) Turn up early, and reference earlier sessions in your speech. It shows you care enough about engagement to be there earlier in the day. Not just to turn up and be in broadcast mode.

14) Time your speech, practice timing. Sticking to time counts.

15) Build in Q&A time, and end on a note that encourages questions and thought/reflection from the audience. 

I'm sure there's more to add to this list. But any list longer than this risks overwhelming with numerical points, so I will leave it there. Comments on others will be published, unless self-promotional. That's my privilege on this blog.



Three focused, detailed and practical sustainable business events for your diary

How to get beyond policy, manage risk and build relationships

10 November, 2014, London. More details here. (In Association with the Institute of Human Rights and Business)

With: John Lewis, Nestle, First State Investments, Aviva, RBS, New Look, ABB, Ericsson, Novartis, PUMA, the Economist, Oxfam and many others.

An exclusive two-day executive training workshop, certified by the CSR Training Institute

30-31 October, 2014, London. More details here.

With direct experience from: Arcelor Mittal, BP, Anglo American, Rexam, Golden Star, BHP Billiton, Shell, and many others 

Collaborate effectively with suppliers and NGOs, understand policy and enforcement trends
28th-29th October, 2014, London. More details here.

With: Unilever, Lord Mandelson, Greenpeace, Nestle, Wilmar, TFT, ADM, Mondelez, M&S, Waitrose, APP, Golden Agri, and many others 


Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Useful overview on the reputation and regulatory risks of aggressive tax avoidance

We all like a short, useful summary of complex issues.

At least I do, given social media and smartphones, twatter etc, has affected my attention span somewhat. (Hang on, who are you again?)

So here is a short, useful summary of the tax debate, as viewed by consultants Global Counsel.

A few snippets for your delectation and delight:

They're coming to get you, kind of...
"Preliminary judgements published by the European Commission last week into corporate tax practices in Ireland and Luxembourg could result in huge retrospective bills for Apple and Fiat Finance and Trade (FFT). More significantly, the judgements illustrate how the landscape for corporate taxation is changing rapidly in Europe."

"...The Commission investigations concern advance tax agreements, which are supposed to give individual companies clarity on how their corporate tax will be calculated. The Commission alleges that in the Apple and FFT cases the agreements entered into have instead allowed improper transfer pricing, distorting the value of transactions between subsidiaries of the same group, and enabling profits to be diverted to countries with lower tax rates."

"...Both cases will now proceed to full investigations, which could take up to a year. If the findings are confirmed then the Commission could require the authorities in each country to retrieve under-paid taxes going back ten years. For both companies this would be embarrassing and expensive, although it would not ultimately threaten their financial position."

"...The Commission is not acting in isolation. Even though the nominal target is unfair competition, the real target is aggressive tax avoidance. Multiple fronts are opening up against such practices and not only in Brussels. These include actions by individual countries. Last week the UK Chancellor George Osborne told his party conference that he will put an end to abuse of the tax system by those companies that go to ‘extraordinary lengths’ to pay little or no taxes. He singled out technology companies as a particular concern and the press has dubbed his initiative as the ‘Google tax’."

"...The Commission’s investigations into FFT and Apple takes the EU state aid policy into new territory, giving the Commission a locus on tax that it has not enjoyed before. Other investigations are in the pipeline. These include an investigation into the tax treatment of Starbucks by the Netherlands, which is already underway, and investigations into practices in Gibraltar and Luxembourg’s treatment of Amazon, which have only just been announced."

More on all this, here.

Global Counsel's chairman, Lord Mandelson, also former EU trade commissioner, will be speaking at this event on October 28 in London, about how trade policy can and should be adapted to meet growing demands for sustainability.