Business Models for Sustainability – new articles

Organisation and Environment has just granted readers early view access to a couple of upcoming articles on the theme of “Business Models for Sustainability: Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Transformation”.

In the first article, Roome and Louche use two case studies to illustrate what they call a “transformation” to a BMfS (Business Model for Sustainability). They note that the new model is “more socially complex” than the one it replaced. The paper includes some good stuff about organisational change and provides some insight into how organisational approaches to sustainability evolve over time. My one problem with it is that it is assumed that the “new” model these organisations have ostensibly adopted is, first of all, “new” and secondly, “sustainable” or close to it. Issues of impression management and the part played by the business case in the new model are not, I feel, sufficiently addressed.

http://oae.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/07/14/1086026615595084?papetoc

I’m a slightly bigger fan of the other article, where Upward and Jones develop an ontology for a “strongly sustainable business model” (SSBM) and compare it to the conventional “profit-orientated business model”. To create their SSBM, the authors draw from some literature on systems thinking and also from some of the management literature (e.g. Bansal, 2011; Stubbs and Cocklin, 2008). The model itself is not the strongest part of the paper and perhaps suffers from the breadth of ideas the authors attempt to incorporate in it e.g. from stakeholder theory to Layard’s views on happiness. I would also like to have seen reference to some of the more critical ONE (Organisations and the Natural Environment) authors, such as Gladwin or Starik. But the paper offers lots to think about and it’s a worthy attempt at tackling a huge topic.

http://oae.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/07/14/1086026615592933?papetoc

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Roadkill squirrel

I’m deliberately posting this link after lunch. George Monibot has a typically controversial piece in the Guardian today about his recent meal of barbequed squirrel, sourced “dead but still twitching” from the side of the road. After the sensationalist introduction, the article goes on to make some good points about the agriculture industry and the attitude of us, the consumers, to food:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/aug/27/why-i-ate-a-roadkill-squirrel

Also, the article is notable for introducing us to this delectable dish, roast grey squirrel on onion risotto, apparently served at the Manor House Inn in Northumberland for £11.95. I hate to denigrate something so worthy and sustainable but… seriously, who would eat this??!!

Professionally cooked squirrel

Multinationals in Ireland

Today’s Irish Times has an interesting article by Seamus Coffey, an economist at University College Cork, discussing the Irish economy’s dependence on investment from foreign multinationals:

http://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/multinationals-bring-many-benefits-1.2315003

The article’s title is misleading, as Coffey’s main focus is not the benefits brought by multinationals, but the risks involved in relying on their income. He points out that 80% of all corporation tax income in Ireland is from foreign companies, an unsustainable strategy if “better commercial offerings” entice them to move somewhere else.

The corporation tax rate in Ireland has been at 12.5% since 1998, controversially lower than any of our neighbours, eg. the UK – 20%, France, 33%, Germany – 16%, the US (Federal) – 35%. Along with the moral implications of undercutting these countries, this leaves us vulnerable in the event of a multinational exodus, as Coffey argues.

Coffey’s suggestion is that the Government use part of the revenue from multinationals to build up a fund for use in the next economic downturn. Perhaps this might prove more palatable to the Government than increasing the corporation tax rate, a proposal they have proven to be fiercely resistant to.

Finally, for more information on the Irish corporate tax system, E&Y produced a nice little report on its history last year:

http://www.budget.gov.ie/Budgets/2015/Documents/EY_Historical_Dev_International_Context_Irish_%20Corporation_Tax.pdf

Corporate complicity in human trafficking

US Department of State Human Trafficking ratings, 2015

https://i1.wp.com/interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2015/07/human-trafficking/giv-3008050R04cGHh86V/img/person_trafficking-2-0-0.png

GREEN – Tier one (best) | LIGHT BLUE – Tier two, DARK BLUE – Tier two (watchlist) | YELLOW — Tier three (worst) | GREY – No data

(Source: http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/ng-interactive/2015/jul/28/map-countries-worst-human-trafficking)

A couple of weeks ago the US published the 2015 edition of its annual Trafficking in Persons report, which gives every country in the world what is essentially a “performance rating” for its efforts in combating human trafficking. Specifically, the rating is based on “the extent of their governments’ efforts to comply with the ‘minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking'” (http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/).The map above shows which countries have been placed in each “Tier”.

This year’s report focuses on human trafficking in the “global marketplace” and in particular calls for “transparency in global supply chains”. In the report there is a piece on “the private sector: an opportunity to lead” (page 32), which mentions a few standard supply chain measures like assessing trafficking risk and supplier audits. Most interesting is a final paragraph where the reports warn about the “constant pressure on cutting costs” and orders business to “make efforts to ensure that the dignity of workers throughout the supply chain is not sacrificed for higher profits” (page 33). The full report, which is excellent and disturbing, includes a report on each country. Here’s the link:

http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/245365.pdf

From another perspective, here’s an excellent article in the Guardian by Anne Gallagher that explores the political significance of the report and its ratings and also asks why “corporate complicity in trafficking… isn’t even on the table”. The article is well worth reading, perhaps even more so than the report itself:

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/jul/28/without-trafficking-global-wealth-productivity-trafficking-in-persons-report

Sustainability in Practice resources

I’ve been meaning for a while to do some research into internet resources for sustainability “practitioners” i.e. people who engage with sustainability in their workplace. In particular, I was looking for a bit more of a “beyond the business case” perspective. I didn’t succeed with all the sites listed below, but all of them offer some useful and, in some cases, gently challenging resources.

Greenbiz – http://www.greenbiz.com/ – US based site with lots of up-to-date interesting articles and interviews with sustainability practitioners.

Harvard Business Review: Sustainability – https://hbr.org/topic/sustainability – while I’m not a huge fan of the journal from an academic perspective, it does sometimes have nice short, readable articles from some respected sustainability scholars.

World Business Council for Sustainable Development – http://www.wbcsd.org/publications-and-tools/tools.aspx – pretty conventional stuff, but this section in particular suggests some tools to get people thinking about sustainability in their organisation.

Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenshiphttp://ccc.bc.edu/another US site, with some very practical stuff on CSR, Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability.

Forum for the Future – https://www.forumforthefuture.org/our-work – their website is not the easiest to navigate, but this link reveals some of their excellent case studies with big clients.

Global Reporting Initiative – https://www.globalreporting.org/Pages/default.aspx – this page offers links to featured GRI reports from all around the world, to encourage companies to keep up with the Joneses

McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry – http://www.mbdc.com/ – McDonough and Braungart’s homepage. Go to http://www.mbdc.com/cradle-to-cradle/cradle-to-cradle-certified-program/certification-overview/ and then click on the “program documents” link on the left to get all the (very detailed) info on how to get “cradle to cradle” certified.

US Clean Power Plan

Earlier this week the US announced its new “Clean Power Plan”, which aims to cut CO2 emissions from power plants across the country by 32% buy 2022. A number of large businesses, such as Unilever and Nestle, have backed the plan, but opposition is likely from companies and politicians in individual states.

Not surprisingly, the Guardian has extensive coverage on the Clean Power Plan, including this article which does a good job of contextualising its importance:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/03/the-guardian-view-on-climate-change-obamas-plan-is-overdue-but-welcome-all-the-same

Here in Ireland, the Dáil (Parliament) is now on its summer recess so unfortunately the Climate Bill will not be passed until the holidays are over on 22 September.

Postcapitalism: a Guide to our Future

Last week saw the publication of a new book by Paul Mason, who in his day job works as economics editor for Channel 4 News. In Postcapitalism: a Guide to our Future, Mason argues that the ultimate consequences of capitalism are low wages, social revolt and conflict between states, citing the current situation in Greece as an example.

He proposes instead a “postcapitalist society”, where each citizen receives a basic income, bankers are elected democratically and energy is zero-carbon. I’ll try and get a copy of the book and post a full review but in the meantime, here’s a great piece by Mason in the Guardian which gives us an idea of what to expect:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/17/postcapitalism-end-of-capitalism-begun