Friday, May 22, 2015

In It Together: Why Less Inequality Benefits All

The latest OECD report on inequality paints a disturbing picture. The world is getting more unequal. The richest 10% of the OECD population now earns 9.6 times more than the poorest 10%. In 2012, the poorest 40% owned 3% of the household wealth in the OECD countries -- while the top 10% controlled over half; with the top 1% owning 18%.

Increasingly, the culprit is low paying, non-standard work (temporary and contract). Between 1995 and 2013, 50% of new jobs created fell into this category -- and the disproportionately are youth and females. No surprise there. The OECD warns that the long term economic and social cohesion impacts will be significant if governments don't take steps to address the gap. Businesses also need to step up, as there is a direct impact to their viability.

In Canada, income inequality has not increased during the economic downturn -- with Canada trending with the OECD average. But, the gap in pay between full-time workers and non-standard workers is huge. The OECD average has temporary workers earning 75% of their full-time counterparts. In Canada, that number is a a staggering 57%. Canada has the worst poverty numbers for non-standard workers than other OECD countries. And it gets worst. Unlike other OECD countries, the tax and benefit system doesn't do as much to address the inequality gap. Children are at most risk to being impacted by poverty, at 14.4%. Women fare better, by having better participation in the labour market than the other OECD countries -- but women in Canada suffer the greatest in gender pay gap, at 19% compared to the OECD average of 15%

The OECD recommends the promotion of gender equality, greater investment in education and skills, and redistribution of wealth via taxes and transfers -- specifically calling out the need for policies to be strengthened to ensure wealthier individuals and multinational firms, pay their share of taxes.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Peter Foster: Why a $2-billion lawsuit against Loblaw, Joe Fresh could bring unintended results to Bangladesh

I don't entirely agree with Foster's take, but he provides a context for the state of worker safety and rights in Bangladesh; as well as the unintended consequences that could result from the lawsuit against Loblaw (there's one in the US as well, against Wal-mart, et al).  The issue is more complex than western businesses taking advantage of cheap labour.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

International Development Research Centre

I didn't know about the IDRC ... discovered the organization today, and they were too exciting not to share.

This how they describe themselves:
IDRC believes that research and innovation hold the keys to progress in developing countries. 

To make knowledge a tool for addressing pressing challenges,
  • we provide researchers in developing countries with the financial resources, advice, and training that will help them find solutions to the local problems they identify
  • we encourage sharing knowledge with policymakers, other researchers, and communities around the world
  • we foster new talent by offering fellowships and awards
  • we disseminate research findings and strive to get new knowledge into the hands  of those who can use it.
In doing so, we make an important contribution to Canada’s foreign policy, complementing the work of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, and other government departments and agencies. This helps promote Canadian values such as political and intellectual pluralism and intellectual diversity, evidence-based policy-making, and democratic dialogue.

They do some amazing research, and their publications are freely available.  Topic areas that may be of interest to us standards folks, include: natural resources, the environment and health.

I'm currently browsing, Women and Land: Securing Rights for Better Lives (, 2011.  
Land is an important source of security against poverty across the developing world, but, in many places, unequal rights to land put women at a disadvantage, perpetuates poverty, and entrenches gender inequality. Surprisingly little detailed information exists on women’s relationship to land, and even less is informed by women themselves. This book aims to help fill that gap, drawing on research funded by IDRC over many years.
The core of the book focuses on recent findings from sub-Saharan Africa, where researchers in 14 countries explored the topic from many angles – legal, customary, political, and economic. Researchers from non-governmental organizations, academics, and grassroots activists worked together with communities on the research, exploring the experiences of women in specific contexts.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Ethical Sourcing Forum: Subcontracting More Prevalent Than Brands Believe

I had the opportunity to attend the ESF (an Intertek shindig) in NY.  So much of my last two years have been tied up with worker safety efforts in Bangladesh, that I took note of the presentation given by Sarah Labowitz of NYU Stern.  The Sourcing Journal has a piece on her presentation that may be of interest:

Labowitz describes Bangladesh’s RMG sector as a hub and spoke model of production, where the hub factories are the ones that have direct relationships with foreign brands, are often in good condition, with their own power plants, and are well lit and ventilated. And those hub factories have a lot of relationships with spoke factories.
“The spoke factories are the invisible factories,” Labowitz said. They are often in mixed-use buildings, above auto repair shops, for example, and some don’t appear on any registry of factories in Bangladesh. Labowitz and her partner Dorothée Baumann-Pauly, co-authors of the report, “Business as Usual is Not an Option,” are currently conducting research on how many unregistered facilities there are in Bangladesh. “The riskiest facilities are those in the spoke universe,” she said.
But because audits and inspections are directed at the hubs, no one pays attention, Labowitz said. “What brands are doing is pushing subcontracting further under the ground.”

It is well known that despite the work being done by the Alliance and Accord in Bangladesh, the surface is only being scratched.  It's hard not to feel overwhelmed at the size of the problem, and the lack of support from the government of the country -- and that's despite pressure from the ILO and governments from Europe and NA.  Most brands only have visibility their direct suppliers -- but there exists a huge, unregulated, unseen supply chain below the direct suppliers.  These factories do everything and add significant capacity to the sector.  After the Alliance and Accord work is completed with direct suppliers, it will be interesting to see if any focus moves to the hidden supply chain.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ontario's Climate Change Discussion Paper

The Ontario government (Minister of the Environment and Climate Change) is currently in public consultations on Ontario's plans to tackle climate change.
The government is looking to implement a carbon pricing policy, with four potential approaches: a cap and trade system; baseline and credit system; carbon tax; and, regulations and performance standards.

Have your say, here: Environmental Registry

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

WHO calls on countries to reduce sugars intake among adults and children

It's time to drop a double from your double-double.  The World Health Organization finds that there are significant benefits to health (obesity and tooth decay) with the reduction of sugar intake.  

The "WHO guideline recommends adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake. A further reduction to below 5% or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits."

These are steps that most could take.  It doesn't require significant lifestyle changes -- just a little nudge in the right direction.  No sugar in coffee and tea; water instead of juice or pop; and read nutrition labels, you'd be amazed at what you find.

Monday, March 16, 2015


Recently, MIT Sloan Management Review published the above titled report.  It makes for an interesting read.  If you're working in industry, it doesn't matter your size -- sustainability isn't something you can tackle alone and in isolation.  It's something that requires collaboration -- and not just the basics of collaboration -- but meaningful effort beyond the sharing of ideas, best practices and standards.  Effort to develop and implement solutions to collectively have a bigger impact than one company, one industry, going at it alone.

"In the 2014 Sustainability Report, new research by MIT Sloan Management Review, The Boston Consulting Group and the UN Global Compact, shows that a growing number of companies are turning to collaborations — with suppliers, NGOs, industry alliances, governments, even competitors — to become more sustainable. Our research found that as sustainability issues become increasingly complex, global in nature and pivotal to success, companies are realizing that they can’t make the necessary impact acting alone.

Corporate sustainability has evolved from expressing good intentions and looking for internal operational efficiencies to addressing critical business issues involving a complex network of strategic relationships and activities. As sustainability issues have become more global and pivotal to success, companies are realizing that they can’t go it alone. Through their strategic networks, business can, and arguably must, tackle some of the toughest sustainability issues, such as access to stressed or nonrenewable resources, avoiding human rights violations in value chains or moderating climate change."

Read or download the report, here: