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:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

International Women's Day

I've been absent for a while, but thought I'd impose by reminding you, who don't need reminding, that there's a huge untapped potential in terms of science, economics and general progress in our species.  Do your bit to promote equality.

Related reading:
  • Women, Business and the Law 2014: Removing Restrictions to Enhance Gender Equality (PDF)  -- analyzes laws that impact women entrepreneurs and employees globally. The new edition highlights reforms carried out over the past two years and expands coverage to examine legal protections addressing violence against women.
  • Women and Leadership (PDF) -- According to the majority of Americans, women are every bit as capable of being good political leaders as men. The same can be said of their ability to dominate the corporate boardroom. And according to a new Pew Research Center survey on women and leadership, most Americans find women indistinguishable from men on key leadership traits such as intelligence and capacity for innovation, with many saying they’re stronger than men in terms of being compassionate and organized leaders. So why, then, are women in short supply at the top of government and business in the United States?
  • The Third Billion -- Strategy& (from PWC) recently published rankings of 128 countries by how they are empowering women to be economic agents.  "A huge and fast-growing group of people are poised to take their place in the economic mainstream over the next decade, as employees, employers, producers, and entrepreneurs. This group’s impact on the global economy will be at least as significant as that of the billion-plus populations in both China and India. But its members have not yet attracted the attention they deserve. China and India each represent 1 billion emerging participants in the global marketplace, and this group of the same size, this “third billion,” is made up of women, in both developing and industrialized nations."

Edit 2015/03/16: Added "The Third Billion" link above.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

End of Peak Oil

The Economist declares that the notion of "peak oil" is being dealt a death blow in its latest special report on energy and technology.

There is no shortage of hydrocarbons in the Earth’s crust, and no sign that mankind is about to reach “peak technology” for extracting them.

That of course, is a short-term view.  We are living off the past with hydrocarbons, and as large as the planet is, and as long as the past is, hydrocarbons are a finite resource.  Cutting dependence on this finite resource that has long term negative consequences to sustaining a planet as we know it.  And here, the Economist helpfully suggests curbing subsidies that encourages dependence on hydrocarbons.

For now, though, low oil prices put money in consumers’ pockets and give a bit of breathing space to governments, making it easier to cut fossil-fuel subsidies (and perhaps even tax carbon emissions). In 2013 some $550 billion was spent on subsidising fossil fuels, a policy of extraordinary wrongheadedness that favours the rich, distorts economies and aggravates pollution.

While oil prices are dropping, policies should target subsidies at renewable energy sources.  The boost in renewable capabilities and capacity would certainly prepare us for when oil prices return to their highs.

Other reading:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Remington: Don't Call Gun Fix a 'Recall'

Remington is being forced to fix 7.85 million guns with a firing mechanism known as the Walker trigger.  The issue: the guns are prone to firing without the trigger being pulled.  But is it a defect?  Remington denies they have a defect and insists the thousands of consumer reports they've had are "user errors."
Recalls are still seen as a bad thing in lawsuit happy jurisdictions.  Admitting to a defect and recalling a product opens companies up to liability claims.

This is what being between a rock and a hard place must feel like.