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  • ChristineNT 8:05 am on February 3, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , human health, Middle East, Revolution, , , ,   

    Will the Middle East become more responsible? 

    Is the Middle East ripe for sustainability? Corporate Knights, “the magazine for clean capitalism” just published The global 100, its take on the world’s most sustainable corporations. Not one of them is based in the Middle East, nor has there been an entry from this region since the list began in 2005.

    Unfortunately, Transparency International‘s Global Corruption Report 2009 paints a dire picture for the MENA region: “Corruption is prevalent and widespread in the MENA countries… it is deeply rooted in the political infrastructure of the state (mainly military dictatorships, totalitarian regimes or monarchies); the institutional infrastructure of the public … and develops as a result of the relatively limited opportunities for public participation. Several other factors that contribute to providing opportunities for corruption and encourage limited transparency in the region include regional and/or national insecurities, the prevalence of conflict and heavy dependence on oil revenues.” Yet we’d like to believe there is a chance that this will soon change.

    Monumental are the demonstrations in Northern Africa where people are expressing their discontent with the way things are. They are demanding a change of leadership—one that will respect human rights, freedom of speech and improve living conditions for all, not just a few. Beginning in Tunisia, the so-called Tunisia effect has inspired similar demonstrations in Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen and now Egypt where there is real potential for dramatic change.

    For the moment, sustainability, let alone corporate responsibility, is not top of mind as fed-up citizens fill Cairo’s Tahir Square in support of a more sustainable social system based on freedom and an end to corruption. Might a more transparent and responsible government allow for more transparent and responsible business too? At a minimum, more attention to this matter? Northern Africa’s hot and dry climate make it particularly vulnerable to climate change.

    There is hope. A new survey of the region’s corporations by the Sustainability Advisory Group, suggests that although sustainability reporting has a long way to go (too many of the business leaders they surveyed did not see climate change, water conservation and waste as important to their business) strides are being made. More companies are recognizing the benefits of corporate responsibility. To assist them there are organizations like Carboun an advocacy initiative promoting sustainability and environmental protection in the Middle East and SBAan international NGO active in the promotion of sustainable and environmental action in the Arab and West African countries. This and the promise of new leadership make this area ripe indeed.

  • andrea 5:20 am on May 19, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , human health, , value chain   

    It’s health, Jim, but not as we know it 

    One issue looming large on the One Stone radar screen – and which we predict will increasingly dominate the corporate responsibility agenda throughout 2010 and beyond – is health. Not in the sense of the corporate Health, Safety, Environment (HSE) approaches that prevailed in the 1990s. And not just for health-related sectors like pharma, food and beauty. This time, it’s health in a wider context – namely the degree to which corporate activities add to or detract from societal wellbeing.

    There are several reasons for this. First, demographic trends such as ageing societies and the time-bomb of preventable ‘diabesity’-type diseases are putting health concerns centre-stage, threatening public health systems’ ability to cope with future demands and raising questions over whether they should continue to pick up the tab for unhealthy consumer habits.

    Second, in line with the World Health Organization (WHO)’s 2008 call for the renewal of primary healthcare, there’s a shift underway from ‘cure’ to ‘prevention’. As individuals start to take more personal responsibility for their own health, the issue of health-related transparency along the corporate value chain is becoming key. A raft of recent nutritional ‘right-to-know’ laws in the US bears testament to this – such as the pioneering 2008 New York calorie posting law and President Obama’s 2010 federal law which, according to the New York Times, will require “restaurant chains with 20 or more outlets to disclose calorie counts on their food items and supply information on how many calories a healthy person should eat in a day.”

    Under the same ‘prevention’ banner, public-private partnerships are paving the way for reductions in ‘harmful’ ingredients such as salt: in the UK, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has been working with the food industry since 2003 to lower dietary sodium, while in April 2010, New York City’s National Salt Reduction Initiative, saw some 16 corporations including Heinz, Kraft, Mars, McCain, Starbucks and Unilever commit to salt reduction targets in restaurant and packaged foods – where the problem of so-called hidden salt is especially acute.

    But the health trend is not restricted to the food and beverage industry and the move to greater transparency is a cross-sectoral issue. Hand-in-hand with the growing quantity of health information available through digital media, consumers are increasingly well-informed, and interested in health impacts along the value chain. This is confirmed by the latest Edelman Health Engagement Barometer 2010 which reveals a growing global public perception that “sustainability is as much about the health of people as it is about the health of the planet.”

    With concern about scarce resources, toxics and biopersistence building, expect a lifecycle approach to human health impacts to become the new corporate responsibility benchmark. Increasingly, too, brands, products and processes will be assessed according to how much these a) contribute to wellbeing and b) add to the burden of disease – at a personal as well as a societal level. In the same way that the new Volans report The Biosphere Economy calls for heretofore ‘free’ biosphere services – clean water, biodiversity and carbon sinks – to be incorporated into markets, so health-related externalities should be factored into balance sheets.

    Rising to the emerging corporate health challenge poses risks – reputational, legal, technical and financial – but it also offers opportunities, a space One Stone is actively exploring. At the heart of this new business challenge is the fundamental human right to health: helping consumers fulfill – and maintain – this right is a golden business opportunity as well as a societal good.

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