Four Reasons why Corporate Value Statements don’t work

« Excellence », « integrity » and « communication » These seem to be the most popular buzzwords in corporate value statements.

I roll my eyes as soon as I see these values anywhere. Why? I will give you four reasons why they make me nervous:

1. One size does not fit all

First of all, values like excellence, integrity, and communication are way too generic. They could be adopted by any organization. Who would be against excellence, integrity, and communication? But are they really specific for the company and its culture or business model? Probably not! Excellence can mean many things to different people. It certainly makes a difference what we mean by excellence whether you are working in a bank or a hospital.
Integrity? It means that you always stick to your moral principles no matter what the benefit might be if you break the rules. This value, too, needs a lot of definition and soul searching before a group of people like a company can agree what it really means to them: When is a gift a bribe? How do we deal with confidential information?  Can I be friends with a supplier? Etc.

Pic Blog Corporate Values prt1 Yes, way too often value statement are empty word bubbles! Please avoid that. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash 

 

2. The true colors are always shining through

Second, often companies succumb to the temptation to choose values that sound appealing but are too far away from their corporate reality and somehow hoping that the simple act of proclaiming that value it will become a reality in the organization. For example, when companies put “communication” in their value chart they wish to express with this value, which is not even a value but an activity, that they want everyone in the organization to cooperate effectively and openly with as little political power play as possible. Wishful thinking in many cases!  Of course, the people in the company know this and react with cynicism.

You cannot declare that your company cherishes collaboration, open communication, and teamwork when in reality your corporate culture is driven by fierce internal competition, politics and monetary incentives only. What we need is an inside-out approach. You have to do your internal cultural homework before you go into the world and brag about what a wonderful company you think you are.

Values statement will never work, if they are only the icing on the cake, they have to be the very foundation of a corporate culture. Within the icing-on-the-cake approach, the top management comes together and agrees on some fancy sounding words that are then communicated to the lower ranks. This does not work. It is like putting on makeup without washing your face. Or like learning some moves and gestures to appear more self-assured without doing the hard internal work of personal development.

France Telecom had to learn this the hard way in 2008, when they got hit by a series of over 30 employee suicides: victims stabbed themselves in the middle of company meetings, jumped out of the window at work and left goodbye letters that clearly stated that they killed themselves because of the pressures and fears at work. At that time France Telecom was in a difficult transition from a state-owned company to a player in the highly competitive and dynamic international telcom market and could not fire employees with a public servant status. Therefore, CEO Didier Lombard had introduced a merciless shake-out project that aimed at demoralizing employees in order to make them leave the company “voluntarily”.  As a reaction to the suicide series, Lombard said that this “fashion” of suicide should stop and that the media coverage created an effect of contagion. The waves of public outrage went high, Lombard had to leave and is still today on trial for harassment. Of course, at the same time, France Telecom had a value statement that said that the well-being of their employees was very important to them.

It is clear that after a disaster like that it will be very, very hard to ever make coworkers believe in the beautiful words of a value statement again. This is one point that is often ignored when companies initiate a value management project: If you screw it up, credibility is lost for a very long time, if not forever. At the same time, it is true that values can and should be aspirational. You can use values as part of a change program. But if you do that you have to make clear that you know that you are not quite there yet and prove that you have measures like training, organizational redesign or new performance standards in place to get there.

3. No Emotional appeal

Third, if values are too generic and unrealistic they do not create any genuine emotional response or connection for the men and women in a company who know the true colors of their organization all too well.  Of course, client orientation is important, but this is not a value that would deeply resonate with the hearts of employees. This is nothing that makes people get out of bed in the morning and go to work with joy and anticipation.

How can you make corporate values emotionally appealing? Not easy, but it helps to always start with a motivating overall purpose of the company that goes beyond the profit motive. Humans always yearn for meaning in their life. As philosopher and Holocaust survivor Viktor Fraenkel famously put it: “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”

This human desire for meaning is nicely illustrated by Harish Manwani’s (COO of Unilever) TED talk in which he tells the story of his first day at the company where his boss asked him why he was there. Manwani answered: “To sell lots of soap!” and his boss said: “No, to change peoples lives!”, because the original purpose of Unilever was to improve hygiene in order to help prevent contagious diseases. Clearly changing peoples lives is more emotionally appealing than selling lots of soap, right?

4. No link to everyday behavior

Forth, very often values statements are not linked to behavior. They get developed, glossy brochures rolled out, employees (maybe) read them, laugh bitterly because they are so unrealistic and cheesy and then they forget them because nothing happens that would link these values with the behavior of managers and employees. The mere proclamation of value buzz words will never, never, never influence people’s behavior. How people in an organization actually behave is the ultimate proof to the value pudding. Without this link to behavior, a value statement loses all credibility and disappoints all expectations that unavoidably come up when a company opens the value Pandora’s box.

And by the way, these three values, excellence, integrity, and communication were the corporate values of Enron. And we all know how this ended: In jail, bankruptcy, and shattered hopes. Somehow Enron had managed to win prizes for their value statement, but it definitely did not keep their top management from cooking the books and inciting their employees to cut-throat business behavior with the help of an inhumane incentive system.

In a nutshell, ever so often value statements do not go beyond orgies of humanistic prose in shiny brochures that nobody can take seriously. In extreme cases, they are a more or less random collection of buzzwords sound like this hilarious song by Weird Al: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyV_UG60dD4

On the other side, of course, values are important for companies in our highly volatile, complex and ambiguous times. Old-school management that works with order and command is too rigid for this new fast-moving world. The younger generation of corporate coworkers is looking for more freedom, more fun, more autonomy and more purpose in their jobs. Here a corporate culture that is driven by values and a purpose that goes beyond simple profit maximization creates a positive appeal for future coworkers, higher levels of motivation with current coworkers and a more inspiring and more flexible way of decision making. Ideally, instead of applying rigid rulebooks, controls and processes, coworkers decide on the basis of common values.

So how can you come up with a value statement that will actually have these positive effects instead of creating cynicism and ridicule?

Stay tuned for my next blog post and on the five steps to make the value statements work.

Prof.-Bettina-PalazzoAuthor: Dr. Bettina Palazzo, BSL Professor

Life Journeys – Matteo Stifanelli: the “Impact Sabbatical”

Matteo Stifanelli graduated with an MBA at Business School Lausanne in July 2017 while working at Airbnb. He has been the Country Manager of the Italian business for the past 5 years and worked at the company since its very early stages.

Almost a year after his graduation, his bags are packed and he is ready to embark on an intercontinental learning journey he calls the “Impact Sabbatical”. He’ll be in Lausanne, San Francisco, Seoul, Berlin and Cape Town for a purpose-driven trip, with the goal of finding his own mission and purpose in life.

Rules of the game? No expectations and one main question to answer: “How do I apply what I learned at Airbnb and BSL to a problem I care about and make a positive impact on the world?”

We had the pleasure to have him here at BSL, where he told us all about his journey.

D: Ciao Matteo, it is a pleasure to have you! Exciting times ahead of you. How do you feel?

M: Definitely excited. I finished with Airbnb just few days ago. I’ve emptied my apartment in Milan, and sold, gifted and donated everything I have, except a suitcase and a backpack. Everything is moving so quickly, I don’t even realize my trip has started already!

D: Let’s start from the beginning: who is Matteo Stifanelli?

M: I’m a 32 years old lucky Italian guy who loves entrepreneurship, technology and making an impact on the world around me. If I rewind the film of my life, I can clearly spot my initial interests in human interaction and storytelling. This led me into literature, as I wanted to know how people think and communicate. I then went to film school to understand how I could use media to tell my stories and influence the world around me. I later realized entrepreneurship and technology were a better way to achieve that, so I learned to code and launched my own internet startup. And that’s how I eventually discovered Airbnb back in 2009, when it was just a very small startup that nerds knew about.

D: Lausanne, San Francisco, Seoul, Berlin, Cape Town. What is the elevator pitch?

M: After Airbnb being at the center of my life for almost 10 years, I’ve embarked on a journey to find my own mission and purpose. For one year I’ll travel the earth, meeting with passionate people, experts and entrepreneurs who are committed to making a difference. The goal is to understand which issues are most important to me and how I can best apply what I’ve learned at Airbnb and BSL to make an impact. I’ll start my journey in San Francisco, the cradle of technology, then move on to Seoul to discover Asia. Berlin, the capital of Europe, will be my next stop and I’ll finish my travels in Cape Town to find out more about the African continent.

D: That sounds quite exciting. Let’s break it down. Walk us through your destination choices. Lausanne is your first stop. Why?

M: Carrying out my MBA at BSL has been an important trigger in my life. I chose BSL (and Switzerland) because of its very international environment and its tailor-made approach to the needs of each student. For example, it was quite easy to move classes around when my work agenda went rogue. I was always able to accommodate both work and study commitments efficiently. Also, given its small size, the school enables the creation of strong relationships among staff and students, which to me is the most important thing.

BSL did a great job at giving me a solid business education and helped me put in place the foundation for what I was learning in practice at my Airbnb role. In addition, it developed my sensibility for sustainability and made it flourish. At the end of the MBA program, the only business decisions that make sense to me are the ones that are good for the balance sheet as well as the world around me. These two things can’t be separated or be in conflict, and it simply makes sense.

I now want to meet with passionate people, experts and entrepreneurs who share similar views and are already dedicating their lives and companies to making a positive impact on global issues. I want to explore different places and cultures to get different perspectives. I’ll be in a different city and continent every few months, starting in San Francisco and then moving on to Seoul, Berlin and Cape Town.

D: So after Lausanne, you’ll be in San Francisco for four months. Tell us more about that.

M: I am excited to spend some time in SF. It is a unique and very controversial place. When we think about the city, there are a few words coming to mind: ‘“tech’, “start-ups”, “venture capital”, “Silicon Valley”. On the other end, having been there many times through my past job, I’ve been exposed to the many widespread issues that are less popular but nonetheless important, such as homelessness, gentrification, and widespread drugs addiction. While being there, I want to better understand American society and get in touch with innovative companies that are focusing on global issues, and leveraging tech and venture capital to make a positive impact.

D: You will then be in south Korea… why?

M: Seoul, South Korea and Asia in general represent a brand new world for me and I believe there’s a future in which world leadership could potentially come from that region. I want to dedicate time to study the culture and values of the region, to try and understand what that future could look like. I also have a personal connection with Asia since my girlfriend is Korean. So I look forward to learning her language and culture.

D: After Asia, you are coming back to “your” continent…

M: Yes, I’ll be back to Europe and specifically in Berlin. I worked there for Airbnb at the beginning of my career and had a great time in the city. There’s so much history and culture given its troublesome past, and Berliners are my kind of people: open-minded, multicultural, efficient but with a twist of art and romance. It’s a place where I’d like to live. I also believe that after Brexit, Berlin has a chance to become the cultural, political and economical capital of Europe. The start-up scene there is also booming, which makes it a great EU base for entrepreneurs.

D: Last, but not least, you will visit Africa, being based in Cape Town.

Africa is the place I know the least, and definitely would like to learn the most about. If we talk about innovation and sustainability, I believe Africa is the region in need of the most attention and with the biggest potential. I have not figured out yet the final leg of my trip but I will be based in Cape Town, with the objective of exploring the continent and better understanding its issues.

D: What are you going to do in these cities? Which kind of people are you trying to meet with?

M: I will be looking for experts, entrepreneurs, investors and passionate people in general who are already studying world issues and trying to make a difference. In San Francisco for instance, there is a community of people dedicated to “impact investing” and “social impact entrepreneurship”. My goal is to meet with these people, interview them and collect their thoughts, while forming my own point of view.

D: Any fears?

M: For sure. I’m leaving everything behind: a safe job and all its comforts, an amazing company, my country as well as my routines. I’ll be travelling around the world and visiting many new places. There will be many opportunities to lose drive and motivation and it’s easy to go back to what I’m comfortable with when things get tough. But I want to stick to the plan, and allow myself some time to truly think about what I want to do with my life.

D: We certainly wish you success with that. Do you have anything to say to our students who will be reading this interview?

M: Stand by your values and passions, strive to make a positive impact in the world and never settle for anything less. If like me you speak English, have access to the internet and are getting an education, then you need to realize that we are privileged. The question is, what are we going to do with such privilege? The Impact Sabbatical is my personal attempt to answer that question. I invite you to think about it too.

I would also recommend a book: “Never eat alone”, by Kate Keith Ferrazzi. An eye opener about how important relationships are in our lives and career. It’s a principle that has greatly influenced me and helped me through my journey.

D: Thanks Matteo, it’s been a pleasure having you with us today and good luck with your journey on behalf of BSL. How can people follow you on social media during your trip?

M: Thanks Daniele, my pleasure as well. I’ll document my journey online and create a dialogue. Here are the channels I will use to do that:

Medium: I publish here all my reflections and stories from the “Impact Sabbatical”

YouTube: I will publish here my interviews, vlogs and other creative material

Instagram: Follow me here to know where I am in the world and what I’m doing

Facebook: I use facebook to interact with my audience and create an online community

LinkedIn: I share here my industry views and career development reflections

 

Author: Daniele TicliCreating opportunities for Companies, Students and Alumni by addressing the needs of Education and Corporate world.

Innovation at BSL: Going solar with shacks – Improving living conditions in developing countries

Edited by Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers

Blog Post by GFW Group 4 BSL students: Abdullah Albawardi, Christopher Palermo, Eduard Mazhinov, Emma Chang, Eric Illick, Guan-Quan Tan, Stefany Solorzano, Tomy Ndakana, Victor Semenov

Living conditions all around the world have been consistently improving since the 20th century. However, many people in developing countries have not yet attained anything like the relatively luxurious standard of living of citizens in more developed countries. For this reason, our group dedicated its efforts towards a solution aimed at correcting and changing some aspects of the quality of life of people in developing countries, while tackling no less than FOUR Sustainable Development Goals (see illustration). Click HERE for our fun video showing our fantastic team moving through the prototyping steps during the Gap Frame innovation week. And if you are in the mood to discover more, read on:

Poor people in developing countries, whether in urban or rural settings often live in squalid conditions, in what are commonly termed “shacks”. A shack is a roughly built hut or cabin that is usually extremely flimsy, increasing the vulnerability of people, especially under severe climatic conditions, or earthquakes. Playfully adapting this term to our concept idea, we came up with the idea of the “Solar Shack”. We chose to focus our efforts specifically on prototyping cheap and sustainable housing for underprivileged, poverty-stricken people in areas where shacks are the most common form of housing.

To achieve this, we felt that whatever we designed needed to be self-sustaining (or self-maintaining, if you will). Thus, we focused on the provision of solar powered houses, with water filtering capabilities. Additionally, because of the limitations of available cash resources in the target countries concerned, the price and feasibility of the houses were a priority focus in our prototyping. We considered that having an individual house price of <$1,500 would be optimum, assuming that every unit can hold and sustain five people. Furthermore, such a low price could make the house proposition far more attractive to, for example, sponsoring or donor organizations.

We then expanded our idea to a concept of complexes of approximately six shacks, to form a solar compound within which a community could live. Each unit in the compound would have a chargeable battery of its own that would require minimum maintenance. Each house would also have a water collection and filtration system with a water tank. Furthermore, every compound would have a central battery and tank that will function as a backup charging and filtering system that all houses would draw from and contribute to when not in use.

We then brought the concept to yet another level with the idea of connecting compounds. We envisaged a solution whereby compounds are connected to a central battery and tank that all can draw from but also contribute to when not in need. The goal is to have layers of redundancies so that even if an entire compound ran out of water and/or electricity, the outer central tank would be able to support the “needy” compound in emergencies. Then, both the inner compounds and the larger grid would also have windmills generating electricity that would further contribute to actively charging the central batteries.

For our prototype context, we decided to choose a location that was a less obvious choice than most and where we could have significant impact. We thus narrowed our focus location to Madagascar, often a less “popular” choice for developers, and where poverty is extreme. Specifically, we focused on the smaller northern Malagasy town of Antsohihy rather than the capital. One of our own group members was from Madagascar and so we had some level of expertise and knowledge in the team who could report on the country’s complicated affairs.

The climate of Madagascar is quite humid and it rains very frequently. Since it is an island away from the mainland coast, it is frequently exposed to typhoons. As such, we have to design houses that can withstand torrential rain and very high wind speeds that can whip up debris that can possibly damage the houses. With these considerations in mind, we decided against using wood in the construction of the shacks because wood tends to become soggy and weak when continually exposed to strong winds and torrential rain. While possible to reduce the problem with more expensive and higher quality wood, our budgetary restrictions led us to reconsider our choices.

Assembling our materials in Antsohihy would be a logistical challenge but still doable. As Madagascar is an island, acquiring the materials and moving them to where we need them would be a potential challenge because of the geographic isolation of the location. As we decided to source the majority of our equipment from affordable sources from China, it would be extremely costly to have our materials flown in. Mahajanga is the closest port to Antsohihy (6.5 hours by road). As such, it would be the most appropriate location for us to offload our goods. From there, we could use trucks to transport the cargo over land. From there, our local contractors can supervise the transport and subsequent construction of the shacks.

When the group discussed the overall structure of the solar shack, we had a dilemma. We wanted to choose the appropriate material to hold our shack together and possibilities we discussed were to either have the walls made of bricks, or recycled plastic bottles along with concrete to support the structure. We have yet to really resolve this issue.

We went a long way to defining and even designing our prototype (click HERE for a first cut of the cool design). The week involved looking at multiple aspects of our prototype, not all of which can be detailed here. We just wanted to share our exciting idea with you in this blog. The questions are: How feasible is the concept? Can we really develop this into a viable start-up during the next Gap Frame Week from 14-18 May 2018? What transformations will we have to make to the product and business model in order to assure success? Let’s see how we do as we bring the project to the next level!

It’s International Women’s Day! And BSL has its finger on the pulse

Aileen Ionescu-Somers, André de la Fontaine and Jacques Billy

It is March 8 and it is also… International Women’s Day. And what a year it has been! With the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements coming in quick succession to each other since International Women’s Day 2017, it seems that women’s rights and equality issues for women are riding a wave of global interest but also, hopefully, transformation and change.

Did you know that in the early 20th century, the trade union movement started marking this day, first using it in 1907 as a springboard to highlight the poor conditions of women workers in the clothing industry sweatshops of the time in the United States? In a case of “early globalization”, the day had been adopted far outside of the U.S by 1911. Today, March 8 day symbolizes the opportunity for women to share their equity struggles and celebrate breakthroughs on women’s rights worldwide. As we write, women’s marches are actively taking place across the globe, from Spain – where the mantra of the march is “If we stop, the world stops!” – to multiple other #PressforProgress March 8 initiatives – are an indication of an increasingly strong global push for gender parity.

Given BSL’s aspirational vision and purpose, BSL is keeping a finger on the pulse on developments that relate to the role of women in the workplace. In late 2017, Professors Aileen Ionescu-Somers and André de la Fontaine started work on a teaching case study related to the challenges of ensuring equal salary for women in companies. Did you know, for example, that women earn up to 18% on average less than men in Switzerland? Sensing this was a “hot topic”, Aileen and André asked themselves the question: How hard can it be to apply a fair wage policy between men and women? Surely that is both good for the company, but also for the well-being of the men and women that work there? It turns out that it’s not so black and white and there are plenty of obstacles, amongst which are lack of transparency and accountability, as well as fixed mindsets and attitudes.

So Aileen and André decided to carry out research and interviews with a view to providing a highly interactive solution-oriented case learning experience for our BSL students. The case study is currently being finalized and will soon be available for use in our classrooms. We need our students to know about and understand the ways and means of overcoming obstacles to equity between men and women, and certainly in cases where both are doing the same job. And since, “knowing what you didn’t know” is a first step to changing mindsets and achieving change, we look forward to deepening our students’ understanding of this topic. Watch this space for more news about our exciting case study!

But the real elephant in the room is the invisible “glass ceiling” preventing access to senior decision-making management and Board posts. Women are just not breaking through fast enough. Changes to the statistics are incremental at best. Our BSL Finance Professor Jacques Billy is Treasurer on the Board of Novertur International SA. NI launched a site www.business-monitor.ch in 2016 that published an insightful report this week on gender inequality in Switzerland. The report, published with the support of PwC, highlights sobering statistics on the status of women in Swiss based companies. Less than 24% of corporate decision—making posts are held by women. Less than 17% of Board posts are held by women. How can women break through this glass ceiling? Now that’s a good question for our students to get their heads around! Judging from global developments in these last months, women seem determined to get answers and close the gaps.

 

Saving Capitalism, For the Many, Not the Few

This title attracted my attention when I read it, and I purchased the book written by Robert B. Reich, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former member of the Clinton administration.

Reich starts by reminding us of the time in  his childhood when middle –class people from the US, like his own parents, had a very decent standard of living and were able to provide their children with a good education. He continues by evoking the everlasting debate in America between the supporters of the “free market”, supposed to solve all the problems in society, and the advocates of more governmental intrusions in the market. This debate according to him is not relevant, because the “free market” is a myth, a “screen of smoke” used by the people who take advantage of the current situation. The rules of the game are strongly determined by governmental regulations, and the real issue is about  knowing who has the power to establish, modify or suppress these regulations, and in whose interest this will be done.

He defines the five buildings blocks of capitalism as follows:

  • Property: what can be owned
  • Monopoly: what degree of market power is permissible
  • Contract: what can be bought and sold and on what terms
  • Bankruptcy: what happens when purchasers can’t pay .
  • Enforcement: how to make sure that no one cheats on any of the rules.

The book then gives a detailed account of how the big corporations and their CEOs, and Wall Street with the big banks and the hedge funds’ managers,  now have the lion’s share in the decision-making process of regulation. It also shows  how they influence legislative activity to increase their benefits through lobbying, the financing of political campaigns and “revolving doors” for retiring US officials.

To give just a few examples of the evolution which has taken place in the last decades, it is useful to mention:

  • The extension of copyrights for corporations like Disney to 95 years (duration of copyright was 14 years when it first appeared in US)
  • The extension of patents and the so-called-pay-for delay to postpone the introduction of generics in the pharmaceutical industry, which is perfectly legal in the US
  • The bail out of banks “too big to fail” sponsored by the tax-payers and
  • Stratospheric stock options packages for CEOs not taxed as income but as gain in capital.

A factor contributing to this evolution is the decline of countervailing powers, like trade unions.

This recent evolution results in an increasing number of working poor (47 million in the US) and of the non-working rich (the Walmart heirs possess the same fortune as the bottom 40 % of American citizens) and the huge disparities in income (the CEOs of big corporations earning in average 300 times the median salary in their company compared to 20 times a few decades ago). Another consequence of this trend is the lower confidence felt by citizens with regards to banks, corporations and government.

This situation, characterized by a huge level of inequality, is not sustainable and has a very negative impact on society.

That Spirit Level, Why Equality is Better for Everyone

An insightful book “The Spirit Level, Why Equality is Better for Everyone”, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett is based on statistical analysis: if one considers such issues as life expectancy, violence, rates of imprisonment, drug use, teenage births, etc., America fares worse than more egalitarian countries such as Japan or the Scandinavian countries.

So, it is high time, according to Reich, to restore countervailing power to shift to a more equitable situation in the US. As he says: “The bottom 90 % of Americans – regardless of whether they are owners of small businesses or working poor, entrepreneurs or student debtors, small investors or homeowners, white or black or Latino, men or women – have far more in common economically with each other, than they have with the top executives of large corporations, the Wall Street crowd, or America’s wealthy. The bottom 90 %are losing ground mostly because of upward pre-distributions embedded inside the “free market”, rules over which those at the top have great influence. If the smaller players understood this dynamic, presumably they would seek to gain greater influence by becoming allies. This alliance, or set of alliances, would form the new countervailing power.” (OC, page 185)

I can only encourage you to read these two great books as  they are both eye-openers.

Philippe Du Pasquier, President of the Board

 

Business and Human rights – an NGO perspective

A visit from Danièle Gosteli Hauser, head of the Business and Human Rights group Amnesty International, Switzerland, gave an opportunity to Professor Marina Curran’s Masters class (and a few interested alumni and MBA students) to hear about the latest news in the field of corporate accountability.

A presentation of the debate taking place at UN and national level allowed our students to understand more clearly the importance of the discussion underway globally right now.  Amnesty International has led the way in the discussion on Business and Human Rights from the end of the 90s, the students discovered.

UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

The work of John Ruggie, Special Rapporteur on Business and Human Rights, appointed by former UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, and the unanimous agreement of the UN Human Rights Council on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011 was very central to the presentation.  Students were given a narrative of the discussion on these issues from someone who participated in this step by step.

Who is responsible for Human Rights violations?

A short trailer of the movie “Blood in the Mobile” helped us understand the complexity of business for companies, the responsibility of everyone was highlighted.  Students in small groups gave their feedback following this horrifying film.  The importance of awareness building, the complexity of supply chain management and the difficulty of fighting against the status quo (people want to have the latest in technology) were all discussed. Gosteli Hauser pointed out that that all resources are being fought over today- a sad truth.  She further explained that Amnesty international, for this reason, concentrates a lot of time and research on the extractive industry.

In response to the question of who has responsibility for human rights violations, our students and participants clearly saw that everyone is responsible for what is happening in the world today- consumers, governments, companies and their suppliers, as well as investors, shareholders, intergovernmental organizations, international finance and academic institutions.  Gosteli Hauser gave an example of how companies could take responsibility with regards to their supply chains; they could begin by putting human rights clauses into their contracts with their suppliers – what better way to control your supply chain?

Voluntary Initiatives v Binding Legislation

A discussion on the many voluntary initiatives in place and their limited efficiency was followed by an explanation of the move toward more binding regulation by governments with regards to their corporations, wherever they might operate.

Here in Switzerland the Responsible Business Initiative,  and its intention of making Swiss and Swiss based companies legally obliged to incorporate the protection of human rights and the environment in all their business activities globally, was explained.  The aim of this initiative is to reinforce preventative measures to avoid abuses, through a mandatory due diligence.

The fact that Swiss companies are also liable for damage caused abroad by companies under their control (unless they can demonstrate that they carried out appropriate due diligence) is a new discussion.

New approaches in terms of international law, national law and the regulation of business have become a hot topic in corporate circles and also for governments and NGOs.

For more information on this topic please read more on the BSL blog on Business and Human Rights.

Author: Mary Mayenfisch-Tobin, BCL, LL.M, Solicitor
marymayenfish

The International Young Leaders Club came to BSL

In February 2015, BSL welcomed the charismatic team of Elena Kaplun and Simon Parker from the International Young Leaders Club (Geneva) who were kind enough to conduct a practical, exciting, and thought provoking workshop which aimed at the development of 3 skills; self-awareness, skillset, and leadership. With tactful people skills, warm personalities, and a wealth of expertise, Elena and Simon brought a highly enjoyable and thoroughly beneficial learning experience to all students and faculty that participated.

On a day-to-day basis, be it with friends, family, or professional colleagues, it’s no secret that communication can often seem like a nightmare of a challenge. How can one person say something with the best of intensions, however, what the recipient hears may be seen as arrogant, distant, cold, and sometimes, even an outright attack on another’s identity?
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The Fragrances of the World

The Fragrances and Flavors of the World : Guest Speaker Pascal Becker, Global Sustainability Manager at Givaudan, takes BSL students on a trip around the world of sustainable sourcing

Givaudan

Givaudan is the market leader in fragrances and aromas. Since it is a “business to business” company, the name Givaudan is not very well known by the average consumer. Nevertheless, chances are high that you are in contact with Givaudan’s substances several times a day. This is because their fragrances and flavors are ingredients in many, many consumer goods like shampoo, drinks, food and, yes, of course, perfume and cosmetics.
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Occupying the Collective Space

by Dr. Katrin Muff

Different ways of occupying…

As we will consider in this month’s blog, there are different ways of occupying that middle ground between the personal space each of us feel responsible for, and societal best interests. The collective space called “we” can be used to uplift individuals to act together for a better common future, or it can be hijacked by individuals or special interest groups to occupy or “blockupy” the collective space pressing their issues – for better, or worse, as we shall see below, and not necessarily in the interest of the greater common good.

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The Dodd Frank Act in a Nutshell

In response to the financial crisis, the Dodd Frank Act was signed by the US Administration in 2010. By affecting all the federal financial regulatory agencies and almost every part of the financial services industry, it reshaped the entire financial regulation in the US.

Its main objective is to fight systemic risk by identifying, evaluating and managing threats to the stability of the American financial system.

It has therefore created two new agencies, which are the Financial Stability Oversight Council and the Office of Financial Research. The authority of the Federal Reserve Board of Directors has been reinforced. Continue reading