I find some of the disparaging remarks on facebook and twitter about this mornings prayer vigil at City Hall to be deeply upsetting, especially when they are proffered by leaders and professing Christians.
As a follower of Jesus, I am reminded, in all this mess, that He told us the second to greatest commandment is to “Love your neighbour as yourself”. He also told us “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.
Belfast I pray for you, my beautiful City, all its citizens, wake-up from this nightmare, look-up to Jesus example and teaching, and I pray be reconciled.
Peace be with you.
Is your company a good citizen?
How is your contribution to your society and community perceived?
Will such attacks start to impact on sales, or will brand/product attraction prove too strong?
We are finding that these issues of corporate responsibility and ethics are becoming main board agenda items. It is good to consider what is going to come over the horizon before it does.
Who likes to pay Tax, to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s?
The tax affairs of the rich and famous are emblazoned across the FT Weekend again today, indeed two of the three front page stories focus on the affairs of celebrities like David Beckham, Lord Lloyd-Webber, Bob Geldof, Freddie Flintoff and Mitt Romney.
We all are careful to use the allowances and deductions available to us to minimise the tax we have to pay and that is what we are supposed to do. Indeed, on whatever side of the Atlantic you reside, the respective tax collectors will tell you, many millions of pounds/dollars worth of allowances go unclaimed (in no small part due to lack of awareness and impenetrable process).
However in these challenging times, when ordinary people, most of us, are facing hardship and feeling it in our pockets, there is a notable rise in public outcry about prominent individuals and corporations using every available provision, measure and initiative to minimise the tax they pay.
Undoubtedly Tax Advisors and clever Lawyers conjure up increasingly sophisticated plans to exploit any loop-holes in Tax legislation, and their counterparts in HM Revenue and the IRS run faster to head them off at the pass.
That aside, there is public incredulity, whipped-up by populist press. The sentiment is that everyone has to shoulder their fair share of the burden and somehow these people (with better knowledge….well who can afford better advisors) are shirking their responsibility and adding to the burden of everyone else. The fact that a tiny percentage of top-earners contribute the lion’s share of the the tax-take isn’t typically mentioned. The focus today isn’t on facts and statistics it is on celebrity. We love them, yet we resent them.
The issue of Tax Transparency is looming large, alongside environmental responsibility and ethical trade as one of the biggest risks to corporate reputation and business sustainability. Companies and prominent people ought to expect that NGOs, concerned citizens and the aforementioned media will be on their case. It is open-season.
Look at Mitt Romney’s experience, struggling to shake off his past-tax affairs, featuring again in the FT and many other papers today, having to bow to pressure from the Democrats to release details of tax payments.
Implementation of a proactive and robust policy, and the preparation of a considered, reasonable and defensible strategy is surely advisable, as opposed to having to fight as onslaught.
I am typing this on an Apple MacbookPro which provides a great illustration that Corporations and their Executive and Non-Executive Boards need to be looking over the horizon and considering Public Opinion and Social trends as much as monitoring the business environment and emerging legislative and regulatory framework.
Apple has always been proud to promote its Environmental credentials and the fact that it considers the end-of-life recyclability of its products at the design stage.
Indeed Apple was a founder and an active participant in the VOLUNTARY register of the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) registry in 2006, which is determined to identify which electronic devices pose the least risk to the environment.
However I understand, with the sophistication of the new MacbookPro and its bespoke ‘innards’ it is apparently less easy to recycle and seemingly Apple decided to backout of EPEAT. Que Public Opinion and a Twitter Storm and one of the most remarkable and swift corporate U-Turns.
I reiterate, it was not a Regulatory requirement for Apple to be part of EPEAT, it was a voluntary act. The Public in this respect is well ahead of our Governments in desire to see higher standards of environmental responsibility adopted.
I have increasingly noticed a proliferation of billboard adverts in the USA, famed as the home of gas-guzzlers, for new cars boasting their excellent miles per gallon or miles between fills. Again a sign that societal trends rather than legislation is determining corporate strategy.
It ought to be a Main Board recurring agenda item to consider Corporate Responsibility and the Environmental Impact of operations, products and services - from the Carbon Footprint (and cost) of facilities or distribution channels, to the role of their supply chain partners. The Corporate Responsibility (environmental sustainability, employment practices, ethics, social concern) of a company or one of its suppliers can have a serous impact upon reputation as Apple discovered to its costs with this EPEAT escapade and in the past with respect to suppliers employing under-age staff.
I applaud Apple’s Executive Team for taking swift action. I commend their Board for their actions in requiring their supply chain partners to be audited and to monitor employment practices. I recommend all boards do likewise.
Footnote: I should also say, I love my new MacBookPro which I consider to be a design masterpiece, from the hand of Sir Jony Ive and his talented team at Apple.
I am off to London again next week, looking with funding colleagues at a number of opportunities. For approaching a decade I visited the Capital most weeks and always profited from the experience, in one way or another.
London and the SE is an entirely different world economically (indeed in so many ways) from the rest of the UK.
For a kick-off, it has approaching 8 million people in the Metro.
Speaking to colleagues today, reportedly the influence of the Olympics (construction phase) is dying down, but next its the CrossRail project, sewers infrastructure and then, by the looks of it, Boris island Airport.
Infrastructure spend and the sheer spending power of this massive ecosystem determine the role of the rest of the UK and Ireland is one of support of this global market phenomena.
That support function is expressed in myriad ways - the supply of talent, produce, leisure / recreational relief, utilities, fuel, etc, etc.
As Scotland considers its identity and potential for sustainable ‘independence’, whether by Devolution Max within the UK, or closer association with Europe at the expense of the Commonwealth of Nations, our cousins are going to have to be realistic and honest in their assessment.
I am comfortable with who I am, I love where I come from, I am proud of the influence of my provincial countrymen and women, and I accept our biggest export market is London.