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

    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.

  • Fran 10:23 am on January 10, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , NGO, social responsibility   

    Five for Ten 

    Let’s raise a glass to the new decade. Happy New Limbo! Oh dear – no meaningful climate change agreement and at the same time, a pressing need for action. Though uncomfortable, the vacuum does give us space to reflect on last year and focus on the future. And it’s not all bad.

    So here are five key trends for 2010 to banish the Copenhagen blues.

    1. Investment in cleantech flourishes

    In 2009 the cleantech sector attracted more venture capital ($5.6bn) than any other, including biotech and software. And research by Deloitte and Cleantech predicts that irrespective of Copenhagen’s outcomes, investment will continue to grow and strengthen in 2010.

    2. Businesses place new emphasis on ethics
    With the banking sector still reeling from the financial crisis, most companies want to avoid the ‘socially useless’ label. MBA students are discussing morality, the pharmaceuticals sector is addressing human rights/health and IT and telecommunications will focus on bridging the digital divide. But will finance change its spots?GSK

    Andrew Witty, Glaxo Smithkline’s CEO, on poverty

    3. Scientists engage enthusiastically
    Climategate sent shock waves throughout the scientific community, whose meek response was so last decade. 2010 will see them get communications know-how, engage pro-actively – and watch their backs.

    4. Relations with China defrost
    Copenhagen’s low point was surely the key negotiations at which China’s premier failed to show, leaving his vice-foreign minister He Yafei to block a series of proposals from frustrated world leaders. Apparently blushing over its diplomatic bungle, China has removed He Yafei, giving hope to warmer relations with the West.

    5. Environmental NGOs target developing countries
    The pressing need to combat poverty has traditionally given developing countries holy cow status in the eyes of environmental NGOs, which rarely criticise their stance on climate change. In 2010 we’ll see a major shift in NGO scrutiny as global economic power transfers to China, India and Brazil.

    We’ll be tracking our predictions throughout the year – and in the meantime, let’s hear yours!

    • Maura 4:00 pm on January 13, 2010 Permalink

      Dear Fran: I agree with your first and second points wholeheartedly and I’m glad that you brought these discrete trends to light. In fact, I think you might have even understated the immanent impact of cleantech and ethical finance on our society in sustainable transition. Ethical Markets Media (www.ethicalmarkets.com) announced last month that private investment in cleantech companies (solar, wind, geothermal, ocean/hydro, energy efficiency and storage, and agriculture) totalled over USD $1.248 trillion since 2007. It’s meaningful to point out that nuclear, “clean coal”, carbon capture and sequestration, and biofuels were intentionally omitted from their accounting for their reputation as band-aid solutions and/or dubious sustainable benefits. George Soros alone has committed USD $1 billion for investment in clean tech companies.

      Tomorrow, in New York City, the UN will host the 2010 Investor Summit on Climate Risk: Developing a Low-Carbon Economy, Leveraging Private Investment and we should not expect the same wet noodle response from this crowd as we saw in Copenhagen. This is a high-level forum for investors to analyze emerging investment strategies and opportunities resulting from climate change. Hundreds of institutional investors and asset managers from around the world, representing trillions of dollars in assets, attended previous Summits in 2003, 2005 and 2008. Indeed, ethical finance would be easier with government support, but so many of our advancements in sustainability thus far are thanks to corporate initiatives acting purely on profit motives, not by government mandate. If the case for action on climate change can be made in the finance community tomorrow, it may in fact, be the conference that actually catalyzes the shift we seek albeit with less fanfare.

      I’m curious to check back with your blog to see how our predictions unfold!

  • april.streeter 4:22 am on October 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , employment, social responsibility   

    Sacked for Sustainability 

    Some of us treat our sustainability beliefs as a religion. We religiously recycle, religiously ride our bikes to work, religiously buy organic foods, and religiously defend the idea that practices such as these make a difference to the world.

    But should these beliefs be protected under Britain’s (or any country’s) religious discrimination laws?

    That’s the question Tim Nicholson, formerly employed at Grainger property company, wants the courts to decide.

    Nicholson lost his job in 2008, and he says Grainger chief executive Rupert Dickinson “treated with contempt” his ideas on sustainability.

    Not hard to imagine in the clash of priorities between a CEO and a sustainability officer, but it does seem rather callous to fire the person you essentially hire to give that type of view a voice in the company.

    Nicholson said he had a hard time doing what he considered his job, and was unable to put together a carbon management strategy for Grainger because he couldn’t get access to necessary data.

    Grainger, on the other hand disagrees that Nicholson’s views should be protected under the UK’s Employment Equality (Religion and Beliefs) Regulations, because they are “scientific” or political rather than philosophical or religious.

    Here’s company representative John Bowers quoted in The Guardian:

    “A philosophical belief must be one based on a philosophy of life, not a scientific belief, not a political belief or opinion, not a lifestyle choice, not an environmental belief and not an assertion of disputed facts.”

    That’s a great irony, for if Grainger absolutely believes Nicholson’s beliefs around global warming could be scientific, i.e. provable and true, than instead of firing him they should be letting him take over the company.

    Here is Nicholson from a story at the Oxford Times:

    “I believe we must urgently cut carbon emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change. This affects how I live my life … I encourage others to cut their carbon emissions and I fear for the future of the human race.”

    Putting aside for the moment the legal question of whether Nicholson’s firing should or shouldn’t be protected, what should sustainability advocates do when faced with the these differences of opinion with their employers?

    Most people’s gut reaction might be – they should find another job. But if we are all accepting of the “facts” of climate change and furthermore the threat of some catastrophic results of that change, shouldn’t we all be pushing as Nicholson did, even if the effort is ultimately futile?

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