The Speak-up Series

Scandals like Volkswagen or Fells Fargo made it clear again: Before a scandal erupts, many, many people in the company knew about the ongoing ethics problems for quite a long time. But, why did they not speak up? Bettina Palazzo will explore in this series:

  1. How leaders discourage that their team members address uncomfortable truths and what they can do about it.
  2. How leaders need to conduct speak conversations that make it safe and worthwhile for employees to speak up.
  3. Why employees do not speak up and who the courageous people are that do dare to speak up.
  4. How employees can prepare am effective speak-up conversation and how they can conduct this difficult talk with courage and confidence.

#1 Speak-up : The Role of Leadership is crucial

Speaking up on topics of ethics and compliance is hard to do. Already speaking up when you disagree or have bad news can be difficult in organizations.

But speaking-up is important because companies need to know about ethical problems early, before they become a major scandal. Research shows that before a corporate scandal is revealed, people in the company knew about the problem for at least a year.

In order to encourage speaking-up, you need a climate of trust, where coworkers can speak up in a safe environment knowing that their opinion counts and that they do not have to fear negative effects for themselves and their careers.

Very often, though, leaders discourage speaking-up without even noticing :

  • Leaders are bad role models and do not speak up to their superiors themselves. Coworkers will always model their behavior to how their superiors behave. An example: Regular hand-washing is very important to prevent infections in hospitals. The most important factor in increasing hand-washing is when senior doctors act as role models and frequently wash their hands.
  • Leaders have an authoritarian leadership style that is based on command and control. Clearly this is unfavorable for the creation of a relationship between managers and coworkers that allows to speak up easily. An authoritarian leader presumes he/she knows best and does not empower coworkers to freely share their own, dissenting opinion. When coworkers disagree, they use the force of their authority to get their will.
  • Leaders do not listen to their coworkers.
  • They do not actively ask for their coworkers’ opinion.
  • They are not open to feedback.
  • They do not give constructive feedback themselves to coworkers.

We can see, if leaders want their team members to speak up, they need to work on a more participatory leadership style and create a climate where giving and receiving constructive feedback is normal. Only if this open and safe culture is well established, employees will speak up.

The importance of the leader’s role in speaking up cannot be over-estimated. This quote from the book « Making Conflict Work: Harnessing the Power of Disagreement » by Peter T. Coleman and Robert Ferguson sums it up so nicely:

People with low power who are not convinced their honest perspective is really valued instinctively withhold their ideas. A leader has to do much more than say things like «My door is always open» or «I really want to know what you think” to get the goods from subordinates. The leader has to prove again and again through statements and actions that honesty is valued and that constructive disagreement goes unpunished.

So how can leaders create a speaking-up culture?

They have to do seemingly simply things like listening to their team members. Easier said than done. We are often hard-wired to respond instead of taking the ideas of others in. Especially leaders are tempted to jump too quickly to conclusions and offer solutions. Understandably so, after all a manager’s job is to solve problems…sometimes they are so eager to solve the problem, that they do not take the time necessary to really understand what is going on by using tools like active listing and asking the right questions. Leaders should never underestimate the small problems their team members might address. You never know, they might be the beginning of bigger problems or the tip of an iceberg.

Furthermore, leaders need to sharpen their senses and watch out if coworkers fall into silence over a topic. If everybody is chronically of the same opinion in team meetings and nobody ever offers a dissenting opinion, it is time to take a trusted team member a side and ask some open questions.

Finally, leaders need to make speaking up normal:

  • They should explain to all of their team members form their first day of working together, that sharing their open opinion with him or her, is vital and that they will be receptive to constructive feedback and always say “thank you”.
  • Leaders can integrate speaking-up into their team meeting routines. Of course, they will need to role-model this first.
  • Leaders need to prove that their followers can trust them and that speaking-up will be safe and worthwhile.

So we see, speaking up is first and foremost a communication and relationship problem. If you have good communications and a good relationship with your coworkers, if they trust you, if you do share responsibilities with them, speaking up is much easier.

Stay tuned and watch for the next episode of the speak-up series!
Prof.-Bettina-PalazzoAuthor: Dr. Bettina Palazzo
Professor at BSL

Competencies that count: Where are Responsible Leadership and Sustainability proficiency listed in the job descriptions?

Recently, and through different announcements, a number of large global corporations have made public their intention to remove University Degree requirements from (some of) their job descriptions and requirements. They argue that the correlation between holding a degree and being good for certain jobs is weak and too many good candidates are discarded because of this wrong filter. They plan to use new and innovative online tests that will do a better filter job according to them.

I look at this with interest as I have never been convinced that current degrees, and business degrees in particular, are representative of the important skills our future leaders need (and by leaders I mean leader in whatever position they hold, not only senior management). Among the many important skills future and current leaders need are responsible leadership and sustainability proficiency. Or not?

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My feeling is that if you ask the question directly to a hiring manager, they will certainly answer yes. At the same time, have you ever seen these two competencies in any job description? I am trying hard but, unless I come across some very specific job related to sustainability, I have seen no trace of the demand for these two important competencies. I am embarrassed by this. At Business School Lausanne, we have made a clear commitment to facilitate learning around sustainability and responsible leadership all across our program and courses. We design innovative pedagogy around these crucial competencies as we believe that there is no way the world will progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals unless new practices are embedded within any single next decision that business people are required to make. What is the next ingredient you will source for your product? Will you ship it by train, track, plane, boat? Will you ask for a local production? How much money will you allocate budget for personal development of your team? Will you invest in a social venture? Will you close an eye on your current polluting factory? Will you ask for innovation toward sustainable practices? Will you engage with all relevant stakeholder when making impactful decisions? And the list can go on and on forever. Almost every single decision business people are asked to make, presents a choice to go for more or less responsible and sustainable solution. Do you want your employees to be conscious of that option? Do you want them to be fluent with the consequences wrong decisions can lead to (and clearly not only financial)? This is a call for every job seeker to add where they stand with their responsible leadership and sustainability proficiency on their CV. This is a call for all hiring manager to make sure they make it clear they demand such competencies.

Let a new purposeful market grow around jobs and competencies that count and will make the world a better place!

Author: Carlo GiardinettiActive in Program Development, Holacracy and directing the BBA, Masters and E/MBA programs Business 

African Handmade Shoes

African Handmade Shoes” is a start-up created by one young guy, Paul Burggraf, from Lugano in 2013.The company fairly employs thirty shoemakers from Cape Town, South Africa, to produce shoes (espadrilles) sold worldwide. It is an innovative project as well as a supportive business idea that creates a bridge between South Africa and Ticino, Switzerland.

The idea is very simple: producing handmade shoes in Africa and sell them online in Switzerland and worldwide. In addition, the project is characterized by an ethical attitude that provides fair wages and optimal operating conditions for the thirty artisans working in the Cape Town laboratory, differentiating it from other shoe manufacturers who exploit their workers through poor working conditions and with low wages. Nevertheless, “African Handmade Shoes” are fully aware of these problems and they are ready to make the difference.

In 2007, Paul Burggraf made his first of many trips to South Africa. Since then, he has fallen in love with South Africa – a colourful country, incredible, so full of potential.
The idea of “African Made Shoes” was born through meeting Arnold – a young South African craftsman who ran a small shoe shop. Paul was immediately interested and impressed by his work and his products. He realized there was serious potential for fashion export. Thus “African Handmade Shoes” was born.

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They started with a Facebook page collecting orders and received good feedback. They subsequently figured out the brilliance of their idea. They now have a thirty-man strong workshop in Cape Town, a website through which the product reaches around the world and a logistics base in Ticino: https://africanhandmadeshoes.com/.

The main sales channel is e-commerce, however, it is also possible to find temporary stores during festivals and events such as the “Locarno Film Festival” and so on. Currently there are a few stores in Ticino and Switzerland, it is even in the most prestigious Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich.

Transparency and fairness are very important; in spite of the few resources available,
social media has been key to make them known. Through these channels they have decided to completely document what was going on in the workshop of Cape Town. In short, the complete manufacturing process is documented for final consumers to see.
Pride in their craftsmanship, dignity and self-worth in their employees, respect for workers, earn a living wage, multicultural and happiness are values important for the brand. Workers are simply local people, they are friends and they are also neighbors.
Trusting workers is important to get maximum quality for the final product.
They have also helped to maintain a trade, that of the shoemaker, which globally is disappearing. Those who learn this profession with them can support themselves in the future. In the African social reality, in which education and apprenticeship training are lacking, giving people a future by learning a job is a huge added value.

Finally, they believe in African culture as well as the promotion and growth of the African economy. Therefore, the company is conducting a competition for local entrepreneurs called “Startaboom”: Three projects of local entrepreneurs are presented on the website of “African Handmade Shoes”. The public chooses what business will get financial support by voting on the website. The entrepreneur who receive the most votes will get the 10% of 2015 profit of “African Handmade Shoes” in order to help the project grow.

The success of “African handmade Shoes” is very simple: The colours and fabrics of these shoes make a product with a long cultural history, tradition known globally. Companies like these show us that business does not have to about profits only, but can be economically successful by helping to solve social problems and making people in Switzerland and South Africa proud of what they do.

Here a few links for more information:

Video presentation
Founder speech about local entrepreneurs (new start-up)
One of the three local entrepreneurs

Author: Riccardo Bonfitto, Master in International Business student, 2016

We’re hiring for DNA!

Today started with a strange email in my inbox. One of the three final candidates in a current open position for which we are hiring wrote that he is retrieving his application. He explained that after having completed the two assignments we ask all advanced candidates in any position at BSL to complete, he understood after intense reflection that given the internal structure of BSL with our strong focus on business cases in sustainability, he would not be able to contribute to the overall goal of the circle for which he was under consideration to the degree he would wish. Interesting, I thought. The two assignments were the completion of a strength-finder self-assessment and an essay about Holacracy at BSL, and more precisely about how a candidate thinks of and places himself in the organizational context of Holacracy. This is the first sign that our recruitment process is truly working both ways. Thanks to a very transparent sharing of who we are and how we work with each other, a potential candidate has decided that this was not an environment for him. Brilliant! I feel that we have just made a big leap forward. A year ago, it would have been very possible for us to end up hiring such a person who would subsequently end up being a misfit with our organization, without having had the tools, wisdom and processes to screen for this hugely important cultural aspect.

This is a week full of people changes. A long-term collaborator will end his contract with us on Friday with his new energetic replacement having started just a few days ago. And another member of our team has gracefully announced that she will be leaving us to pursue other opportunities related to her dream. We are a small team and this is a lot of change for us. A colleague mentioned to me that somehow her circle felt as if the blood was changed in a person and that she needed yet to get used to how the new person would feel that her circle was transitioning into. When I shared with her the story of the email I had received, she smiled and said: “well, now, we are hiring for DNA”. She referred to a most recent hiring decision where we opted for the candidate who brought the most desirable attitude to us, at the expense of the perfect expertise his counterpart had offered. And indeed, I realize that what has happened over the past six months is that somehow, we have found our own DNA as an organization and that in our continuous adaptation of our recruitment and onboarding process, we have learned to create processes, questions and assessments that allow us to filter for this DNA when recruiting new members of the team.

This is something that has occupied many of us deeply over the past year as we have learned to find words and spaces to express how we sense that the organization needs to evolve. This is something that the tension-based process of Holacracy has invited, and maybe even forced, us to do. We have gone through a period where we found increasing courage to attempt to bring words to misalignments in this domain and in entering in daring, personal conversation about how to develop further and how to overcome our shadows and shed light on blind spots. We are in the middle of a newly developed self and peer assessment that those with an interest in designing such things have co-created. I am curious to see how honest and caring conversations we are able to have, with ourselves and with each other. I have opted to select those partners in the organizations who I suspect are the least happy or the most critical of my performance and I am hoping for real insights into how I can improve and develop. In my self-assessment, I have completed a view on myself that should shed light on my dilemmas, regrets, poor choices and areas where I judge lacking performance and I hope that this courage will be contagious so that my partners will be similarly critical in their care to help me advance. I so look forward to their point of view.

My heart was singing of joy as I walked out of a BSL company governance meeting (the super circle of most other circles) where a BSL partner joined us to express serious concern about a policy that had been introduced 5 months ago. We had adopted a “partner retention policy” from Holacracy One after a Holacracy Coaching training course a few of us had attended and which contained also steps of how to let go  (fire) an employee in case a committee would not vote to retain a partner. A policy that was entirely foreign to our HR practices but that seemed the way to advance with Holacracy. I doubt that many people were comfortable with the policy and yet nobody had expressed a tension about it, which itself was source of a tension for at least a couple of people. So finally, today, a partner addressed her concerns and in a most direct, open, daring and courageous sharing, deep fears, concerns and worries were voiced in such a way that the policy was suggested to be deleted. Except for a valid objection of another partner which meant that a solution had to be found to integrate the objection resulting in an amended retention policy that everybody present in the room was very happy with. It took us 60 minutes to undo a malaise that had blocked the organization for a few months. Having removed inappropriate elements that presumed that a person who would not be voted to be retained would be laid off, we agreed that if a person does not get support to be retained that what would need to happen is for the right group of people sit with that person and figure out what the next developmental steps for that person would be. In the check-out round, one of the participating members said that his legs were shaking when he had first read this new policy five months ago, right upon return from his vacation. He was sure the policy was aimed at him and that he would be laid off. Five months of worry without having found a way to express this – wow. We were all stunned and realized the long journey still ahead of all of us to verify assumptions before jumping to conclusions and to dare to bring up such worrying concerns right away. The experience of having seen a colleague finding words to address such a delicate issue has given me and I am sure everybody present in the meeting today the hope that we are today an organization that is on its way to welcome warmly and caringly whatever delicate concern anybody may have. And that makes my heart sing.

This new transparency and appetite for courageous conversations has been most visibly a turning point in a five hour long negotiation with a strategic partner this afternoon and has finally brought out the real hidden issue that has held us all back from finding the shared common solution we had all been hoping for. Finally, a member of the other team, slammed his hand on the table and said: “So, ok, if you want it really straight as you guys seem to be doing it with this Holacracy thing, here is what is really bugging me!” And this was the opening to being able to find a joint solution that allowed us to pop a bottle of champagne. So, this courage is spreading also outside of our little team, and is starting to be contagious to our partners we are engaged with. Wow – who would have thought that culture can be that contagious!

It was a long day and I while I am exhausted, I feel very very happy inside. I feel I am part of an organization that is not only finding its soul but is also finding ways to let it vibrate and sing. And I love the very very quiet first new sounds of music that these vibrations are making. Today was a day where I heard and felt that music. Thank you, fellow partners of BSL!

Author: Katrin Muff, PhD

Active in thought leadership, consulting & applied research in sustainability & responsibility, and directing the DAS & DBA programs

 

Giving Sales the position it deserves

Going into Sales used to be the career choice of people who weren’t particularly good at anything else. The view was, that you could always make enough of a living from finding people who could be convinced to buy whatever you had to sell them. Someone even less smart than you…

Over the years, being a salesman gained a bad reputation, becoming associated with images of aggressiveness and dishonesty. A 2011 survey of more than 9,000 people from around the world (What Do You Do At Work? survey, Daniel Pink) showed that the first words which come to people’s minds when being asked about Sales are ”pushy”, annoying”, ”sleazy” and ”yuck”! 

Yet the days are long gone where salesmen rang our doorbells with a suitcase full of products to sell. The level of sophistication required to successfully sell products and services has risen exponentially with the avenue of digital (Internet, mobile, social media, analytics). Today, a sale is so much more than a transaction, it has become an experience for the buyer who looks for emotional triggers well beyond the traditional rational reasons. In our world of abundance, we have so many choices that we seek personal fulfillment in addition to simply satisfying a need. In fact, we often end up buying things we don’t even need. And the things we buy are often based on recommendations from people we’ve never met.

Today’s sales person must be incredibly versatile to navigate this complexity: be a subject matter expert, display focused business acumen and – probably most importantly – demonstrate strong emotional intelligence. They have to be masters at building genuine relationships whilst still delivering on the financial returns required by their employer. In fact, no sales means no revenue means no company. Everything else is context at the end of the day.

As our BBA students in the Sales and Key Account Management course reflected on the future of selling in a recent assignment, there was consensus that the role will only become more complicated in the coming years and decades. The human touch is being lost from the sales process, with many buyers preferring to make decisions and manage processes themselves (just consider how we prefer self-check-in or online purchases).  How to compensate for the absence of contact, knowing that buyers are looking for an experience? Companies as they gain better insights into their customers through tailored analytics will evolve to employ artificial intelligence in the sales process as well as advanced technologies such as virtual reality and drones.

We’re in for an interesting and turbulent ride as business models are turned upside down (consider the fate of everything from travel agents to the music industry to the banking sector). Those responsible for ensuring that products and services are sold and that revenue comes through the door, will need to be highly adaptable and attentive to market shifts. We need business-savvy young people who are well prepared for delivering value to customers and to companies, whichever way is the right one. That preparation starts at Business School Lausanne.

Author: Anja Langer Jacquin, BSL Professor

Team Building Day – Summer 2016

22 August 2017 – It’s called Green Day and it was my first team-building event at Business School Lausanne.  It’s exactly one year since BSL started operating under Holacracy, and in this spirit, I would think of this day as a “Tribe Day” (“tribe” is a commonly used Holacracy term to describe our sacred space for social interactions).

My personal reflection of this day is that there seemed to be a magic mix of Doing, Being and Reflecting plus perfect blue skies.

What happened?
Doing
We started in the morning by entering the Escapeworld in Lausanne. One group got challenged to de-code Area 652 and the other one Délire du mandarin. Really tough teamwork in dark and hot conditions to be done in one hour – it was a team-building with “results” to be expected.

Being
After being totally immersed in the undergrounds of Escapeworld, we switched to another, totally different world: The Chaplin’s World museum in Corsier-sur-Vevey. We got inspired by strolling around in the Manoir where each room in this beautiful home speaks volumes about the family life of the legendary artist.

The day ended at the Lavaux Vinorama where we enjoyed wine of the region with even more “tribe” conversations.

Reflecting
Call it coincidence, but our weekly Tribe Space meeting was scheduled for the next day and we closed the team building experience with a powerful Appreciative Inquiry exercise where we exchanged notes of appreciation by indicating at least one positive trait/behavior that we had observed in each member the day before.

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To me, this day was of higher value than any other team-building day I experienced so far.

Why?

  1. The 1-hour Doing exercise went surprisingly smoothly relying on the collective intelligence to emerge. We reflected that for us it somehow seemed rather normal not to have a group leader any more (perhaps first signals of behavior change one year after we adopted Holacracy?)
  2. Tribe-trust developed in 6 hours of pure Being mode (no flip charts, no facilitator, nothing).
  3. Having an appreciative Reflecting phase the day after (to really sleep over the tribe-day).

So what?

It seems that Holacracy just made DOING, BEING and REFLECTING totally natural to us. A rough plan was developed and pre-scheduled for the day (thank you David!), but was kept totally fluid and self-organized by the Tribe at all times.

What a great green team-building it was, really proud to be part of this tribe!

Author: Jan Maisenbacher

“Don’t Learn to Do, But Learn in Doing”

I was recently asked to speak at the Impact Hub Zurich’s event on the future of education: trends and opportunities. I am no educationalist but I am educator, so I decided to speak on what I was comfortable with, my own experience in teaching that I have worked out through trial and error over the last 10 years. I cut my teeth teaching in Singapore to Executive Masters students who would come in the evening for 3 hours of lecturing after a full day at work. They were understandably tired and so I peppered my lectures with as many case study examples as I could in order to demonstrate the real-life applications of corporate social responsibility and sustainable development, especially in a place and time when CSR and SD were still very much theoretical ideas and not a day to day reality.

And so to my current class of Masters students at BSL, I continue to try and make my lectures as relevant to real life as I can, knowing that business students need all the practical tools they can to be competitive when they head into the workplace.

This term I decided to use the theme of food and agriculture to discuss as many facets as possible of sustainability and business responsibility, and there is no shortage of material in this sector – from farming practices, (labour, pesticide use, GMOs, animal welfare), to processing (use of palm oil, high fructose corn syrup), transport (carbon footprint), marketing (obesity, fast food, veganism), to food distribution and scarcity.

To learn by doing, I asked my students to interview someone who had something, anything to do with the food sector and get their take on sustainability issues. It could be a restaurateur, it could be their uncle who likes cooking, a farmer, a winemaker, an eminent professor or their mate who likes eating…I look forwards to sharing some of these interviews with you which they have written up in blog form (of course, as the blog is another practical tool the students must master).

And how best for students to learn than to meet people who are “doing”, who can speak with confidence about their career paths and what it’s like to be at the coalface of an organisation. So we were privileged to have some time with Mr Diarmuid O’Connor (Global Agrimaterials Sourcing Manager at Nestlé Nutrition) who captivated us because he didn’t give us the blarney but told us what he did and why, and how sustainability made business sense and that he’d been working for over 20 years to support farmers in producing high quality materials for Nestlé.

I’m looking forwards to some more straight-talking guest speakers coming into the classroom over the coming weeks including Mme Isabelle Chevalley, conseillère nationale in the Swiss parliament who will speak to us about GMOs in Switzerland and Mr Sebastien Kulling who is working on a start-up in the food sector.

Prof. Marina CurranAuthor: Marina Martin Curran PhD,
Professor at BSL

Reflection on Leading Change – a BSL professor’s perspective

As I am receiving the post-course assignments of my class “Leading Change”, I am reflecting on my own situation: after more than 30 years of leadership in multinational corporations, from HP to Logitech, rolling out a new ERP system globally, managing a large product development group, I realise how many changes I have been through, whether they were internally triggered (new strategy, new leadership, new business, up- or down-scaling) or finding their root in the change of environment: new Operating systems, new technologies, new competition, new customers and most importantly new consumer behaviors. In some cases, I have been suffering through the changes, in other cases, I could surf the wave of the change or even had the privilege to be an actor of the change. Yes, some were great successes, but in all cases, I remember the struggles I had to deal with the uncertainty, with trial and errors on strategies, with novel organisational designs, with resistance to change, with large layoffs or hiring. I could have really used the material that I shared with the course participants ! On the other side, this material is directly leveraging the experience I gained through a full professional life…

In today’s world, I also realize that the participants will face many more changes than myself or my generation did, with faster pace, more complexity and tougher impact. I strongly believe that the education they got at the BSL will allow them to anticipate changes, actively adjust course of direction and execute with efficiency. Indeed, participants are constantly encouraged to be curious, to take distance and to work in teams, which are three critical assets to lead changes.

Wishing all participants and readers lots of success in this endeavour !

Yves KarcherYves Karcher

Prof. of Leading Change and Managing Turnaround at BSL

The Panama Papers

If in the past two months you haven’t heard about the Panama Papers then you must have actually been living under a rock.

The Panama papers are the largest leak in the history of data journalism. 11.5 million documents, 2.6 terabytes of data, have been leaked to the journalists of Süddeutsche Zeitung, a German daily newspaper. There was so much data that the journalists shared the information with the ICIJ, the International Consortium of International Journalists, who in turn shared it with 400 journalists from 80 different countries. What is surprising is they managed to keep the information under raps for a whole year while they sifted through the data. Only in April did the first articles start being published regarding the Panama Papers. These documents exposed the rich and powerful who use an intricate network of offshore companies to hide their wealth from authorities and the public eye.

Almost everyone who is famous or powerful were implicated. From Lionel Messi to Putin, from European politicians to the Middle Eastern ruling class. Some of the most interesting stories don’t involve despots or dictators but democratically elected politicians from Europe. There is the case of David Cameron who owned shares in his late father’s offshore investment company or Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson the prime minister of Iceland who failed to disclose that his wife’s offshore company owns bonds from three defunct Icelandic Banks that his government is negotiating with, a clear conflict of interest. He was the first casualty of the leaks as he was forced to resign last month. There is now a famous interview of him walking out when a journalist asks him about his wife’s company.

Fans of Real Madrid can rejoice that at least their golden boy, Cristiano Ronaldo, wasn’t mentioned in the Panama Papers unlike his counterpart in Barcelona who has been mired in tax evasion court cases since last year. Messi was already in trouble with the Spanish tax authorities. He is accused of evading tax in the tune of 4.5 million Euros that he owes the Spanish Government. The Panama papers reveal just how he managed to hide his money. It was shown that from 2005 Messi sold his image rights to offshore companies situated in different South American countries. If any company is interested in using Messi in their advertising, then they will have to pay the fees to these offshore companies and the Spanish Government can only look on. Of course, Messi and members of his family own these offshore companies so essentially Messi sold his image rights to himself.

But some of the leaks show a very dark side to offshore companies. Documents showed that from 2011 to 2013 the Syrian government was using offshore companies, provided by Mossack Fonseca, to avoid sanctions and purchase fuel needed by the Syrian air force. Mossack Fonseca’s response “We did not know that Assad and his allies were using and abusing our services”. The Panama Papers also exposed a scheme by Heritage Oil Corp; a US based Oil Company, to avoid paying taxes to the Ugandan Government. In 2010 Heritage Oil sold 50% of its stake in Ugandan Oil fields to a local company for $1.5 billion. Under Ugandan tax law, Heritage Oil owes the Ugandan Government $400 million in Capital Gain tax. So what does Heritage Oil do? Thanks to Mossack Fonseca all it took to avoid paying its Capital Gain tax was the switch of an address from the Bahamas to Mauritius who does not have a capital gains tax. The Ugandan government has been in courts trying to force Heritage Oil to pay what its due ever since.

Will the Panama Papers spell the end of offshore tax heavens? Now don’t get me wrong, establishing an offshore company is a completely legal practice. But the leaks showed that 95% of Mossack Fonseca’s business was to help its clients hide assets from the tax collector.

If the subject interests you, I suggest visiting Sueddeutsche Zeitung and ICIJ’s website regarding the leak. If you enjoy reading spy thrillers, works of fiction or fantasy then the Panama Papers are for you. The Panama Papers expose CIA operation in the 80’s like the Contra affair where the CIA used offshore companies to sell weapons to the Iranian government.

Are you a football fan? Other than Messi the Panama Papers exposes even further misconduct by FIFA. One member of FIFA had established alone over 400 offshore companies.

Are you a World War II buff? The Panama Papers shed light on a painting that has been missing for 52 years since the Nazi occupation of Paris. Now it has surfaced right here in the dry-dock of Port Franc in Geneva Switzerland. The painting is being held there as the grandson of the original owner sues the current owner, Helly Nahmad, the famous American art dealer.

I can continue with the story for another 10 pages but I don’t want to rob you, the reader, from that “Ooooh!” moment. Truly the Panama Papers are stranger than a work of fiction.

Author: Abdullah Kaki, Master in International Business student, 2016

 

Food and beverage industry kicks off the 2016 BSL-SAI Platform Master Class

It’s just a fact of life: we all have to eat and drink. That’s why our food – how it is produced and where it comes from – should also concern us all. Amongst the many challenges of the 21st century, one of the most considerable is ensuring the sustainability of food & beverage value chains. We need to continue to eat and drink healthily and safely, but without destroying the planet and communities from which we draw our very sustenance.

SharingquestionsSAIPlatform

Sustainable sourcing of agricultural raw materials is probably one of the most complex of sustainability challenges. Why? Because supply chains are themselves increasingly elongated and complex. We take this challenge seriously at BSL and want to play our part in unravelling the complexity and breaking it up into manageable parts. So much so, that we are proud to announce our learning partnership with the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform.  The SAI Platform is a consortium of some 80 of the world’s most prominent food and beverage companies. It facilitates sharing at pre-competitive level of knowledge and best practice to support the development and implementation of sustainable agriculture practices involving stakeholders throughout the food value chain. By partnering with SAI Platform, BSL can remain at the cutting edge of latest developments in sustainable sourcing of food & beverages. It can also link case studies and research projects jointly carried out with SAI Platform companies to BSL programs and overall thought leadership.

BSL’s Aileen Ionescu-Somers – herself a food and beverage industry strategy and sustainability expert – says

“I have been engaging with the SAI Platform since it was launched in 2002 by three major food & beverage companies: Unilever, Danone and Nestlé. Now, some 15 years later, SAI Platform has an impressive array of some 80 members. This partnership is a fantastic opportunity for BSL to focus on a highly relevant set of sustainability challenges and work on solutions to close the gaps.”

SAI_PlatformLearningDay1

Last week on 6 and 7 June, at BSL, the first BSL-SAI Platform Master Class on Building Sustainable Value Chains took place with the participation of senior sourcing executives from Nestlé, Mars, Arla Foods, UTZ, Coca-Cola, SGS and others….. In addition, expert contributions included high level executives from NGOs and international organizations such as The Forest Trust, WWF Spain, Fairtrasa, Solidaridad, the International Trade Center and The Rainforest Alliance. Stuart Orr, global head of freshwater stewardship for WWF International delivered a riveting keynote speech and pointed out:

“Agriculture uses a full 70% of available freshwater resources worldwide, dwarfing municipal (7%) and even industry (23%) uses!  But we must dispel the myth that seeking water efficiencies alone will solve the problem. This approach can even have negative consequences. Producers must move beyond local measurement and look at the bigger picture. We need broader evaluation incorporating community and basin impacts.”

Participants left BSL in high spirits. Here are a few of their parting remarks:

“Great Master Class: what a good experience! Many thanks for a very insightful and enjoyable couple of days!”

“Continue working on this participative and interactive class approach. It was really good!”

“Great course. I learned a lot. Lots of insights! The interaction with companies was very valuable. Nice to have a mix of NGOs and private sector. I would recommend to others. Thank you!”

“Very interesting 2 days, with a lot of new ideas to think about and definitely initiatives worth implementing.”

The BSL-SAI Platform Master Class will be run annually at BSL. Watch this space!

Ionescu-AileenPICTURE-150x150Author: Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers

Active in thought leadership, consulting, applied research, teaching and supervising DBA candidates in sustainability & responsibility.