Monday, July 27, 2015

Women at the top is better for business and the environment

The Guardian recently ran an article referencing a few pieces of research that make a compelling argument for a balanced executive team.  Numbers are numbers, and while there are always exceptions to the rule, apparently, having women in leadership roles bode well for environmental and social issues.  Women seem wired to take the long view, where men are focused on the short-term -- which isn't a bad thing if you have shareholders.

Vision, and the ability to convey it convincingly to others, are two core attributes that McElhaney ascribes to female leadership, and ones that differ from male traits of goal-driven short-termism. 
They also help explain why, according to McElhaney’s research (pdf), companies with higher female representation on their boards tend to give higher priority to environmental and social issues. The more gender-balanced an executive team, the more likely the company is to invest in renewable power, low-carbon products and energy efficiency, her study of more than 1,500 global corporations revealed.
The findings reflect another more recent study by Credit Suisse (pdf) which shows the positive correlation between female leadership and financial performance. Between 2005 and 2013, firms with more than one woman on the board returned a compound of 3.7% a year over those with no women. Despite that, fewer than one in seven (12.9%) of those in top female management globally are female, the Credit Suisse report finds.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Mapping the Global Population: How Many Live on How Much, and Where

Related to my previous post, Pew Research recently published findings on how richer the world is getting -- and from this marco perspective, it's a lot of good news. Overall, the world is getting richer, and more people are being pulled out of poverty. The greatest shift is of course, coming from China, where there is a rapidly growing middle class -- but the promise of a global middle class is still a dream. The rich world remains the same -- North America, Western Europe and Australia.

More, here: Mapping the Global Population: How Many Live on How Much, and Where | Pew Research Center

There's lots of data and graphs to explore.


The future job market looks bleak, even as unemployment drops

The race to the bottom continues. The OECD Employment Outlook 2015 is bad news cloaked in good news. Yes, unemployment is dropping across the world, but those returning to work are coming back part-time and/or for less money.

Read more:

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