Delivering in Doah

SandyHopes were high but realistic when COP18 started in Doah. I for one did not anticipate much after the colossal failure in Copenhagen (COP15). But believing that we have to solve or differences, I did hope that at least something would come out of all the effort put in.

From the outset the ambition was to reduce CO2 emissions significantly in-order to keep the Earth from heating up. Especially the developing countries had hoped for a deal that ensured the possibility for sustainable growth. The impact of climate change have been felt in all the countries that “normally” were against any kind of real restriction on emissions so there is plenty incentive to take action.

The initial target was two degrees reduction in global warming, but now it is more likely that we will hit four degrees no matter what we do. So when the Danish climate minister Martin Lidegaard looks towards 2014 for a start of the negotiation for a solution I for one do not think it is even close to a success. Or as he puts it.

“It is crucial that we will soon have taken decisions to ensure we can keep our political promises. Therefore, I am delighted that we have established that the climate change conference in 2014 will be about how we limit greenhouse gas emissions within the next few years – for example through energy efficiency improvements and the removal of subsidies for fossil fuels”, says Martin Lidegaard.

I do belive that if we continue down this path we are creating the seeds to our own destruction. The current politicians are thinking mare about the next election (for those countries that are lucky) than about how to lead their people safely and wisely to a better tomorrow. For better or worse they are the only ones that can make real changes to global warming if we like it or not.

I have attached the official Danish press release from the COP its in Danish, but the message is clear if you read between the lines – we took a real big step in the wrong direction.


IMF – Why the spike in food/oil price is different from 2008

Wondering if history is repeating? IMF thinks that there are significant difference between the 2008 food/oil price spike and the one we are experiencing now in 2012. Main argument is that volatility is not the same as then and there is no uniform development across crops.

The analysis is sound in my mind. While I do not believe that the “IMF cure” is what we need with its focus on inflation as the only remedy. IMF acts like the surgeon who said “The operation was a success but the patient died”

However, one good point is that governments should reduce tax on food as a way to reduce the impact of a volatile food market.

Judge for your self:

Clean safe water build societies

Česky: Pitná voda - kohoutek Español: Agua potable

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Help build resources for a clean water supply through helping water projects like the Charitywater project in Rwanda. Clean water is key to building societies and at this point it is not going in the right direction.

The rate of improvement in access to safe drinking water has long been in decline; the percentage of the world population with access to safe drinking water rose by 11.1% between 1970 and 1975 but grew by only 2.4% between 2000 and 2006.

Within the next half-century, access to safe drinking water may fall below the level of 1977, when the international community launched its first attempt to increase access to safe drinking water.1

The lack of access to safe drinking water is likely to impinge upon economic growth by 2050,if not earlier.

The emerging economies are expected to be the first to suffer from a decline in access to safe drinking water.

Because the emerging economies are an important engine for world economic growth, the impact on those economies’ performance is likely to have wider implications for the global economy.

Industry, governments and supranational agencies have an important role to play in conserving and increasing the supply of potential safe drinking water.

Water purification at the point of use is expected to make a major contribution in increasing access to safe drinking water around the world.

Clean water saves lives and builds society.

Directions of the CSR movement

For the past five decades we have seen a tremendous development within the CSR movement from a few hippies in the sixties shouting curses at Dow Chemicals to businesses build on the idea of sustainability such as the Body shop and Starbucks. This blog is about what I think will happen in the next few years. The list is far from complete but gives an overview of some of the trends that will shape CSR in the coming years.

Codes of conducts as a “license to operate”. Code of conducts was, a few years ago, seen as a source of competitive advantage, and to some businesses a method to organise its philanthropic efforts. Today they are seen as something that most international businesses have as part of their normal business approach and more a given than an extra feature. Even companies like A.P.Møller-Maersk that until recently did almost nothing within sustainability is now implementing Codes of Conduct and have become member of the Global Compact.

Moving from a fragmented approach to CSR companies now work strategically with philanthropy and stakeholder engagement/management. As described by Porter and Kramer there are real advantages to be gained by working strategically and long-term with the company’ philanthropic activities (Porter & Kramer, 2002). And companies are using philanthropy to gain access to students and other important resources that they will need for their future growth. Apple computers have successfully engaged with university students as part of their strategy, which has moved the company from being marginalised in the market to be directly comparable with Microsoft.

The further evolution of sustainable and social risk management into real tools for business. Where companies engaged with stakeholders because they represented a business risk they would in the future also be part of business development. Globalization have meant that business have expanded its scope and reach significantly. Fuelled by waves of liberation in developing and emerging markets have initiated a significant increase in contact with countries and regions that can be categorized as difficult to do business in. The increased sphere of contact and influence have spread to every coroner of the world and is to a large extend fuelled by the prospect of high returns, first mover advantages and market shares (Haufler, 1997, Mehmet, 1999, Banfield et al., 2003, Gouldbourne, 2003,

Jamali & Mirshak, 2010). According to the World Bank some 1,5 billion people are affected by organised violence or conflicts (World Bank, 2012), this number constitute roughly one fifth of the total population of the world making it one of the world’s biggest social issues. Conflicts are present in all parts of the world and have a direct or indirect impact on the lives of everybody on the planet either through social ties or as part of our professional lives. For people who are directly affected it is an ever-present threat that invades all activities and decision making processes, for the societies involved it puts social lives and development in a state of suspended animation. To a large extend the issues that business needs to confront are outside what can be considered the norm within traditional risk management strategies (RMS) because the issues are socially embedded and complex (Holzman et al, 2003). As seen in the case with Starbucks NGO and companies can work together on areas of common interest and create new products and services (Austin & Reavis, 2004).

Social responsible investments or SRI will become more and more influential on driving investment decisions and thereby the choices of management. It is not argued that investment companies will become more social conscious but customers like institutional investors will become more and more concerned about how they are growing their portfolios (Hawken, 2004). This will not happen because they suddenly become aware that they have a significant social or environmental impact but that the customers of instructional investors are starting to wonder how their pensions are growing.

The raise of the corporate citizen. The idea of corporate citizenship was first seen a few decades ago (Crane & Matten, 2010). The idea of corporations as citizens with obligations and rights really saw its emergence with several big international finance scandals such as scandal around Enron and Arthur Anderson around the turn of the century. The idea of a corporate citizen comes from the notion that companies like people have an obligation to the community they are part of. This means that they are obliged to behave in accordance with ethical norms formulated by society. In many ways the corporate citizen come from the idea of engagement with salient stakeholders and acting in accordance with their expectations and wishes. While there are many companies that claim corporate citizenship a very have moved beyond mere rhetoric.

The inter-linkage between CSR and development studies. Will further develop and as we will see in this book gender will be one of the lessons learned from the field of development studies that will define corporate behaviour in the years to come. For decades development practitioners have known that economic growth, democratisation and security does not happened in a vacuum and that development a sustainable business climate is linked to society and governance structures. As companies increasingly becomes global even at very early stages of business lifecycle so does the issues that they have to confront. But as older companies have had time to cope with different cultures and business environments young entrepreneurs does not have the same privilege. In essence this means that they will have to experience a much steeper learning curve of they are going to survive on the global marketplace. The tools that have been refined through years of development studies will be an integrated part of creating a sustainable business platform for the future.

Since the 80’ties have seen large-scale privation of traditional state enterprises in areas like transportation, communication, healthcare, energy and infrastructure. Mostly influenced by neoliberal thinking in United Kingdom and United States were large-scale privatisation programs were implemented under Margret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan (Bhagwati, 2007:98, Harvey, 2005:57ff). As this happened private business also found its way into areas traditionally controlled by the state and as time have progressed more and more areas have seen either total takeover by private business as we have seen in telecommunication, part privatisation with majority state ownership as with railroads or private companies in direct competition with or as a alternative to state institutions as we have seen in Healthcare and Private security companies (Harvey, 2005, Dicken, 2003, Klein, 2000, Friedman, 2007).

The concept of CSR have found it’s way into the business world largely due to the weakening of the state and as a result of pressure by stakeholder groups to act as information have been more widely available from even the most remote part of the world. Word like ‘Sweatshop’ and ‘child labour’ would not have found its way into everyday language if it had not been for the increased transparency and persistence of stakeholders who have come forward within the last two decades.

Vestas is moving dangerously close to the edge

The crisis in Vestas is now so deep that the group existing only because of their banks want the too. According to a local Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten has Vestas has signed an agreement with banks to ensure that the company has enough money to continue operations. Otherwise they would have to close down operation.

The information has been disclosed in an interim financial statement for the second quarter of 2012.Which follows several years of poor financial performance and inability to change its strategy when the financial crisis hit in 2008.

The situation is now that Vestas has been unable to live up to the loan agreements made with its bank connections a significant step down from just a few years ago when the company was one of the fastest growing companies in Denmark.

Danger in the horizon

“Despite this, financial covenants testing is affected by the disappointing results realised by Vestas in the second half year of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012, which mainly related to the cost overruns in relation to the introduction of new technology” says the statement from Vestas to add: “Vestas has therefore agreed with its lenders to defer the half-year 2012 testing of the financial covenants contained in Vestas’ banking facilities and the lenders have allowed drawings, which in the opinion of Vestas are sufficient for the continued operation of Vestas on usual terms since the company expects to test on normal terms in the future.

According to Frank Jensen from the Danish Stock Analysis information that Jyllandsposten talked to is;

“The fact that banks are easing the requirements shows that the Vestas simply can not live up to them. There is only one explanation, and it is that they do not get the money in the Treasury, as required,” said Frank Jensen

This should be seen in the light that Vestas lost 338 million. euro in the first quarter and during the first two quarters the total is now nearing a total of 633 million euros.

Deficit of despite good figures for renevue

Revenue increased to 1.6 million. Euro. and is increase from 931 million. euros from the same quarter last year. However, the increased revenue is not impressive in the light that it bottom line showed a deficit of 8 million. euros after tax, compared with a profit of 55 million. euro in the second quarter of 2011.

Vestas considers this to be a temporary issue and in the light of the company’s positive results in the second quarter of 2012 combined with the large backlog of firm and unconditional orders, Vestas expects to meet the financial covenants contained in its current banking facilities in the near-term future.

With this in mind it becomes increasingly difficult to believe that Vestas will be able to live up to its financial commitment even after massive layoffs and changes on board level.

The Spanish decease

Mariano Rajoy en Bilbao. Imagen tomada por Ike...

Mariano Rajoy en Bilbao. Imagen tomada por Iker Parriza (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What has the Spanish government done until now? Well on the 11th of July prime minister Rajoy announced the following steps with the endorsement of the IMF.

  • The standard VAT rate was raised from 18 to 21 percent and the reduced rate from 8 to 10 (the super-reduced rate was left unchanged at 4 percent). A number of products have also been moved from lower to higher rates. Other indirect taxes will also be raised.
  • The extra payment in December to civil servants was suspended for 2012 – equivalent to nearly a monthly wage.
  • The mortgage income tax deduction will be removed.
  • Unemployment benefit was reduced (with the replacement rate after six months falling from 60 to 50 percent).
  • Social security contributions are reduced by one percentage point in 2013 and a further point in 2014.

With a unemployment rate of 25% and 50% among the young there are plenty of issues to be confronted. However. There are little signs in the Spanish governments actions to suggest any efforts to stimulate new job creation or any investment that will take the country out of recession. It would seem that they only thing that they are capable of is digging the hole even deeper.