As Europeans headed for their long-awaited summer holidays, bankers had good reason to celebrate. The annual return across the board has been exceptionally favorable. For green and ethical fund managers it has been a bumper year. As of June 2005, there were 375 “socially responsible” funds available to investors in Europe, 6 % more than the year before, and this year promises similar growth in funds using ethical, social and environmental criterion for portfolio development.
From the second quarter of 2004 to the same period in 2005, managed “ethical” assets grew 27%, from 19 billion to 24 billion mid term 2005. The U.K. leads the ethical banking community in Europe. 33.2% of the SRI funds offered to the public are registered there. France is considered the strongest growth market based upon the value of assets under management and a 20% growth rate in the number of funds offered for the second consecutive year. Sweden and Italy make up another 10% of the market for SRI products.
From Parks and Rec in Europe to the Pittsburgh Pirates – Transforming supply chains through Ethical Procurement
In Europe, pressure to have verifiable quality ratings recognized throughout the European Union has corporations working hard to obtain the ISOs necessary to sell their goods throughout the E.U. and keep pace with the competition, but with increasing numbers of suppliers located in developing, non-unionized countries, certifying sources and achieving anything close to socially responsible procurement is still a problem throughout the continent.
Since the 1990s, community groups have engaged in individual campaigns primarily aimed at boycotting both European and foreign manufacturers who violated human rights or harmed the environment. These actions made companies and consumers aware of the social liability of doing trade with ethically dubious corporations, but did not result in stronger networks that worked with and rewarded compliant suppliers. Local and regional governments began to respond to citizen pressure for ethical practices in government procurement and since 2003, an increasing number of local governments throughout Europe have been working jointly to establish and enforce mandatory ethical standards for their suppliers. One such network is “Clean Clothes Communities“, which is focused on workers´ rights in the textile trade.
Three cheers for Concha Guerra, Vice-Consul for Economics and Technology Innovation for the Community of Madrid and Leonor Perez Pita, director of Madrid’s “Pasarela Cibeles”, Spain’s top fashion show. Reacting to protests against the gaunt image projected at last year’s Cibeles, they announced this week that new health guidelines would be enforced for screening models participating in this year’s event. As part of an integral plan to address a growing epidemic of anorexia and bulimia in Europe, models participating in future editions of Madrid Fashion Week will now be screened according to an acceptable body mass index. Application of professional medical criterion has eliminated 30% of the models expected to work the catwalks of Cibeles, including supermodels Kate Moss and Esther Canadas. Elite, and other top modeling agencies worldwide are up in arms, wailing that they are victims of scapegoating, but Guerra and Perez Pita stand firm for a new healthy image for Spanish fashion.
Cibeles is the third largest fashion event in Europe, on par with Paris and just behind New York and Milan. In fact, the mayor of Milan, Letizia Moratti, has spoken in favor of Guerra’s decision and may introducing similar measures for Milan fashion shows. London is monitoring the industry and public feedback to events in Madrid and initial scoffing has given way to serious consideration of implementing changes there.
For me, some of the most interesting marketing news this year has been the declaration of war between the big retailers for the organic food market, both in the States and the U.K. AdAge kicked off the campaign in mid July with an article about Wal Mart’s multimillion-dollar campaign “focused on its new organic food offerings,” their “first ever” organic logo and the advertising tagline “What will you bring to the table?” According to Janel LaMonica, VP-creative director at Bernstein-Rein, there have always been two things holding back the growth of the organic food market: one, the difficulty in finding organic products, the other, the difficulty of affording them. She makes the claim that “Wal-Mart has taken down both these barriers.”
There is a lot of talk these days about rising energy prices, but many U.S. agricultural sector websites still insist on telling Americans that they live better than anyone else in the world because their food is cheaper. Calculating from a base of the percentage of one´s annual wage that is dedicated to food expenses, the statistics are quite astonishing. According to the USDA/Economic Research Service, the percentage of family income spent on food in the United States has dropped from 24.2% in 1930 to a mere 9.5% in 2004. A UC Davis education site puts the figure at less than 9%, adding a eulogy that Americans should be truly grateful.
According to Food Check-out Week, another site published by the California Farm Bureau, in 2006 “the average household will earn enough disposable income — that portion of income available for spending or saving — to pay for its annual food supply in only five weeks”. Five weeks compared to nine weeks for the French, thirteen weeks for the Japanese and a whopping seventeen weeks for the Mexicans.
Before I started writing about sustainability, I used to take on freelance work as a language, public relations and corporate communications coach for Spanish executives in a wide range of sectors, from tourism to manufacturing. I helped them negotiate contracts with foreign partners, compete for high-level positions in multinational corporations and survive foreign takeovers of their companies.
I was often sought out because I was an American and the American executive model was the most admired. From time to time, I served as a human resources consultant for Northern European and American companies. After a candidate was hired, I was often asked to coach the new executive to improve his or her language skills and inter-cultural communications. Most of these executives had shelves full of books about American management and marketing concepts. To perplexed FC Barca and RCD Espanyol fans, I explained the business terminology related to American and British sports vocabulary; what it is was to field or bunt for another person, cover all the bases, have targets and goals, to huddle, and to establish a level playing field. In those days, Europe looked almost exclusively to North Americans for advice on how to reach the heights of success; from stolen cheese theories to the strategy of selling one’s Ferrari after one reached the top. Things have changed a bit since then.
”Those who can, build. Those who can’t, criticize,” was a famous line of the late Robert Moses. Although he never held elected office, Moses charted the course of urban planning and development of New York City for the best part of the twentieth century. For those too young to remember, or too far from the Big Apple to have lived its transformations during Moses´ long trajectory as the eminence grise of New York City government, I recommend Robert Caro´s monumental biography, a visit to New York Transit Museum’s exhibition The Triborough Bridge: Robert Moses and the Automobile Age, on view until April, 2008, or at least a quick scan of his 1981 New York Times obituary.
It was Moses’ “cherished ambition… to weave together the loose strands and frayed edges of New York’s arterial tapestry,” according to the transit authority press release for the exhibition, a sentiment that could be used to describe Sweden based multinational corporation Skanska AB´s relationship to the same city. Just as few people identified Moses as the man behind the changing landscape of New York from the 1930s to the 1960s, few people today would relate the name of Skanska with the renovation of the Lexington / 53rd St. subway station, The World Trade Center transportation hub project at Ground Zero or the transformation of the FDR Drive. In the most recent issue of its own company magazine, “Worldwide”, the company suggests that, “Skanska could well be New York’s best kept secret,” and lists no less than 27 Skanska projects in the greater New York area.
Reading about World Water Week in Stockholm, I remembered one of my all-time favorite Treehugger articles: Ryan’s Well – It’s Not Who You Are, it’s What You Do. When 6 year-old, Canadian born, Ryan Hreljac found out that in other parts of the world people were dying for lack of clean water, he thought that he should personally do something about it. Thinking that a well in an under-developed country cost around 70 USD, Ryan badgered his parents to give him paying chores until he dutifully saved the amount needed to give a far away community a source of clean water.
Cheerfully presenting his hard-earned savings he discovered that seventy dollars was the cost of the pump – the pump and the well together would cost around 2,000. We´re talking about a six-year-old and a six-year old´s concept of personal goals and world realities. However, the bad news did not faze Ryan. His indignation that children died daily for lack of water was too strong. He continued to save money, tapped his friends and community and a well was dug in Northern Angola. To date, Ryan, now within the framework of Ryan´s Well Foundation, has raised more than a million dollars and built 277 wells in ten countries.
Last week the International Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) celebrated World Water Week. With the big-picture, multi-disciplinary approach that the Swedes take to almost everything, the city became a showcase for the proposition that problems as diverse as poverty, hunger, illiteracy, environmental degradation and gender inequality can be addressed through water and sanitation projects.
More than 1500 participants from 140 countries met for a program that included workshops, panel discussions and partnership-building events.
This year’s conference theme was “Beyond the River – Sharing Benefits and Responsibilities” and focused on trans-border co-operation over shared sources of water, land and water management and how to cope with weather and climate-related disasters.
Ed Note:I’m happy to announce Jenni Lukac from Barcelona as a 3P contributor. This is the first of 5 in depth pieces that should add a little more variety to the site, as well as a bit of European flair! Withour further ado…
If I mention the names Amancio Ortega and Inditex to anyone outside of Spain I usually receive the puzzled response, “Who?” If I mention these names in Spain, they are almost universally received with a mixture of sincere admiration and ill-dissimulated envy – and I know what the other is thinking: “Him, again. How on earth does he do it?” Son of a railway employee from León, 70-year-old Ortega is the founder of Inditex, the richest man in Spain, the seventh richest in Europe and recently ranked 23rd in Forbes´ list of wealthy individuals worldwide.
Zara, the largest of Amancio Ortega’s companies and the flagship of his Inditex empire, recently moved up from 77th to 73rd place in Businessweek´s list of the 100 World’s Best Brands, the first Spanish firm to rank in Businessweek´s top 100 and the highest ranked name in fashion. The company also scored an astounding fourth place in Google’s Europe and Africa rankings, following Nokia, Ikea and Skype and ahead of fifth place BMW. Since 2002, Inditex has formed a part of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and the FTSE4Good Index. No other Spanish company can compare with the rate of expansion and the CSR and environmental protection credibility that Inditex has sustained over the years. Having eclipsed his domestic counterparts and outpaced the foreign competition, such as H&M, Ortega’s empire stands in a class of its own.