Category Archives: Business

The U.S. and Europe Announced New Climate Goals: Will They Be Enough?

We keep hearing about wonderful new goals for fighting climate change, but will they be enough to save us from the worst effects of global warming? The numbers, by themselves, mean little. What matters is what is behind them: Investment in “green” innovative projects and a government’s environmental regulatory framework. I explored the issue in the following article for Impakter, here is the opening:

Can the New US and EU Climate Goals Save the World?

by Claude Forthomme – Senior Editor

Last week in April was marked by the announcement of new, more ambitious climate goals from two of the world’s largest polluters, the United States and Europe. Could they be a turning point in the fight against climate change? The question really is: Are the new climate goals going to be game-changers? Or are they just so much powder in the eyes of the beholders?

On 21 April, the European Parliament and Council reached an informal agreement to raise the EU’s 2030 emissions reduction target to at least 55% below 1990 levels, compared with the previous 40% goal. And on 22-23 April, the U.S. announced its own ambitious goal of cutting its 2030 emissions by half. This announcement, given at the Leaders Summit on Climate convened by President Biden, was viewed by everyone as a major attempt by the U.S. to reclaim climate leadership.

Read the article on Impakter, click here: https://impakter.com/new-us-eu-climate-goals-save-world/

Let me know what you think.

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Filed under Business, climate change, Environment, European Union, politics

They are ALL lying to you: The world’s top brands are NOT going green

 This is one major article, published on Impakter, that I don’t want you, my dear readers, to miss:

For the World’s Top 100 Brands, Sustainability Is Elusive Despite Claims

by Claude Forthomme – Senior Editor

For the 2020 Top 100 Global Brands, a list derived from Forbes World’s Most Valuable Brands, the goal of sustainability continues to be out of reach, despite their many claims to the contrary. This is what the findings of a three-month analysis carried out by the Impakter Index team has just revealed (results published on 18 December 2020). 

The conclusion is clear: Most companies have a long way to go before they achieve full sustainability in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and targets pertaining to their area of activity – if ever. 

A high level of “greenwashing” is still prevalent among major household names. Some of them haven’t even started on the road to sustainability, others can never make it because of the very nature of their activities (based on/using fossil fuels or dangerous chemicals). Most are doing an average job though they claim otherwise, and none is one-hundred-percent sustainable. Not one. 

I know that many of my readers who’ve read my article when the Index was launched this summer (31 July), or saw Common Place editor, Quincy Childs’ endorsement, will want to go directly to the Impakter Index and check out their favorite brand (go to the Impakter home page or click here to see). You may well be surprised (or perhaps not) to find that in most cases, there is a stunning gap between what companies claim and what they actually deliver in terms of sustainability and social responsibility. 

Look at the findings, the table provides a summary view of the ratings obtained by the top 100 brands:

To find out how they are rated by the Impakter Index, go to my article, click here.

I promise you, you’ll be surprised (I know I was)!

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Filed under Business, climate change, Economics, Environment, politics, Sociology

What Sustainable Finance Means and What it Can Do

Just published my latest article on Impakter magazine, here’s the opening:

SUSTAINABLE FINANCE: HOW TO ADDRESS NATURE RISKS AND CLIMATE CHANGE

As our environment is undergoing ever faster collapse, with the rainforest burning in the Amazon, the ice melting in the Arctic and now California ravaged by fires, the goal of achieving sustainable finance appears ever more elusive. It is obvious that nature risks directly translate into financial risks. And with climate change accelerating, it is equally obvious that growing natural risks is the cause of equally growing financial instability.

While the relation between nature, climate and sustainable finance is obvious, the exact impact is not so clear. Natural disasters, from floods to air pollution events to wildlife species extinction, can impact businesses and whole economic sectors in variable ways, some more than others. And a small further rise in global warming, as small as a half degree centigrade, can make a stunningly huge difference:

To illustrate with the famous case of a highly valuable wildlife species threatened by extinction, i.e. bees whose pollination activities are fundamental for agricultural production. A prosperous European pharmaceutical company suddenly faced catastrophic financial losses after it had acquired in 2018 an agrochemical company accused of causing adverse impacts on bee populations that led to a series of health-related trials. Suddenly, it lost almost 40% of its market capitalization in less than one year, causing shareholders billions in losses.

To put a name on these firms: the pharmaceutical company is Bayer, the agrochemical is Monsanto and the cause of the bee-killing is, of course, a pesticide, the infamous “Roundup”. In short, Bayer is worth less today than the $63 billion it paid for Monsanto about a year ago.

As a first step to ascertain what the effects of nature risks are on the finance industry, a number of academics at the University of Hamburg have formed a Research Group on Sustainable Finance and analysed for the first time the existing academic literature which highlighted the relationship between nature risks and financial risks. The study has been financed by WWF Switzerland and will be uploaded to their website this month.

They identified 154 peer-reviewed articles published between 1966 and 2019. These articles covered four areas: banking, insurance, real estate, and stock markets; and nine nature risks: disease, drought, erosion, flooding, invasive species, oil spills, pollution/environmental contamination – of air, groundwater, soil/land and surface water -, solid waste, and bushfires.

“Destruction of ecosystems results in financial risks”

Overall, the articles confirmed that the destruction of ecosystems results in financial risks. They also found that nature risks are not adequately reflected in current risk models of financial institutions and therefore not priced correctly.

Incorrect pricing is a major concern. It means that financial institutions urgently need to identify how the activities they finance impact the natural world. Developing a framework for investors to analyse nature risks and integrating these systematically in their valuation models is crucial. It would be the first indispensable step to achieve sustainable finance.

What is interesting is how the literature reviewed by the Research Group on Sustainable Finance identified variable impacts depending on the sector and the kind of nature risk. The sector that tends to suffer the most from nature risks is real estate. The greatest threats to valuation in the real estate sector include flooding followed by air pollution (and environmental contamination in general) and bushfires.

That of course, is a massive financial problem – but it is a problem for individual property owners too. The house you just bought, or that you inherited from your parents, could be worth next to nothing in just a few short years.

To find out how other sectors in the economy will be impacted and what should be done, read the rest on Impakter, click here: https://impakter.com/sustainable-finance-address-nature-risks-climate-change/ 

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Filed under Business, climate change, Economics, Environment, politics

Fighting the Next Pandemic and Watching Trump

I must apologize for the long silence: I have been so busy writing for Impakter that I never got around to updating you, my friends, on my blog. My latest in-depth article (out on 17 May) is about something that really worries me: The threat of pandemics and our general lack of readiness.

WHO’s quick reaction to the Ebola outbreak in D.R.Congo should not delude us into thinking we’re safe. We’re not. We really need to do something about this. Here is the start of the article:

 

GLOBAL HEALTH SYSTEMS: READY FOR THE NEXT PANDEMIC?

In a world traumatized by Trump’s America First agenda, many worry that nuclear conflict is around the corner. As a result, global health tends to be down at the bottom of the list of things to worry about. Yet, as we learned when Ebola struck in 2014, our lead institution, the World Health Organization (WHO), was shockingly slow on the uptake. Our global health governance was just not up to the task.

Now, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has just sent a letter to WHO Director-General – a letter also signed by the heads of Norway and Ghana – asking his organization to help draft a “Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All” to be discussed at the 10th World Health Summit in Berlin in October 2018.

….

The rest on Impakter, click here.


Then, of course, I continued the series of TRUMP WATCH articles. For those of you who are curious to check them out, here’s a listing since the last one I told you about here – in chronological order:

  • North Korea Talks?  Trump seems ready to treat his upcoming North Korea talks as another game of ping pong, telling reporters on Wednesday…
  • Thank You Mary Matalin! On 22 April, out of a clear blue sky, Trump suddenly fawned over Mary Matalin: “I can die happy now…
  • The United States and France Forever!  Trump’s numerous tweets welcoming France’s President Macron on the first state visit of his administration, have been pompously presidential, replete…
  • A Total Witch Hunt  The Russia investigation is a “total” witch hunt, the just released House Intelligence Committee Report has confirmed it! Trump instantly…
  • Russian Collusion is Fake News! Listen to the Donald: This business about the “Witch Hunt” and Russian “Collusion” needs to stop, it’s all “fake news”,..
  • The Iran Deal and North Korea Show is On Nobody noticed but Trump once more exhibited his fine-tuned Reality TV showmanship when he conflated the news about pulling out…
  • Saving Chinese Jobs On Sunday, Trump tweeted his concern for Chinese jobs, vowing that he was working with the Chinese leader to “save…
  • Beautiful, Clean Coal! Coal, historically, is the dirtiest source of energy ever used. Yet, once again, this week-end, Trump tweeted that it was…

Wow, that’s eight Trump Watch articles in one month, and they all zero in on one of the many character traits of the man – it wouldn’t be so bad if he weren’t the most powerful man on earth. But the closer you get to him (as I do, reading his tweets and his pronouncements every day), the scarier it gets…

Incidentally, when I look back, I see that over the last month I also added another article to my series on Bitcoin, reporting on a new development which is (in my view) deeply puzzling:

Sorry for not posting all those updates here, but you can see that I have been overwhelmed with work this month, with 10 articles published on Impakter. Not to mention the work I usually do as Senior Editor…

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Filed under Business, climate change, Health, politics, social media, writers rights

Can Cryptocurrencies Ever Become Reliable Means of Exchange?

This is the third article in the Impakter magazine series about Bitcoin. Written by my sociologist friend Hannah Fischer-Lauder, it explores the question of what is needed to make cryptocurrencies usable as means of exchange. Here’s the beginning:

On 23 January, Stripe, the major firm that supports Bitcoin payments – it does so for more than 100,000 businesses online –  announced that it would start winding down its support immediately and stop all transactions by 23 April.

A thunderbolt in a clear blue sky that caught many Bitcoin investors unprepared, did it mark a watershed in the history of digital currencies?

The above describes Stripe services (September 2015) SOURCE: Kineticgrowth.com

If Bitcoin cannot be used as a means of exchange in a potential market of 100,000 businesses, then, surely, it is the end of its role as a currency – after all, enabling transactions is one of the two fundamental roles of currencies. The other is acting as a store of value. And we all know how that went, with Bitcoin’s infamous volatility.

Let’s put the Stripe decision in perspective.

Read the rest on Impakter, click here.

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Filed under Business, Economics

Bitcoin: The First Digital Ponzi Scheme

If you had invested $100 in Bitcoin in 2011, two years after it was invented, and if you had held onto it through the 2014 crash, when Mt. Gox, the biggest Bitcoin exchange, collapsed, today you’d have (almost) $4 million in your pocket.

That’s what the Winklevoss twins of Facebook fame and founders of the Gemini exchange did: They are, historically, the first believers and biggest investors in Bitcoin and today, now that they’ve turned bitcoin billionaires in 2017 (the only ones so far), they continue to believe in it, saying they won’t give it up, that “long-term, directionally, it’s a multi-trillion dollar asset”.

2017 was a special year. By December, the valuation of Bitcoin and the 700+ digital currencies that it has spawned had grown explosively, from less than $1,000 per bitcoin to over $15,000. 2018 is not looking so good, market cap is falling, but still high:

As shown above: By end 2017, total market capitalization (value) of all digital currencies exceeded $750 billion, though it is now falling fast and stands well below that value (520 billion on January 17, 2018): this is still and extraordinary multiple (16 times) of where it was a year ago SOURCEGLOBAL MARKET CAPITALIZATION CHART 28 April 2013 TO 17 January 2018 

On 17 January, Bloomberg spoke of a 26% slump noting that “traders brave the volatility” though some (rightly) worry about the growing threat from government regulations.

SO WHERE ARE WE GOING WITH BITCOIN?

To find out, read the rest on Impakter, click here.

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Filed under Business, Economics, politics, Sociology, Tech

I Support Net Neutrality!

Come and join me in this fight! Your freedom depends on it. Seriously. Read this excellent article written by my friend Hannah Fischer-Lauder – I am so happy to share it with you here, it’s just published on Impakter:

NET NEUTRALITY WAR: TRUMP WHITE HOUSE VS. SILICON VALLEY

by HANNAH FISCHER-LAUDER

On November 21, the new head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Mr Ajit Pai, detonated a bomb on the Internet, announcing his plan to do away with net neutrality.

Why a bomb?

It’s very simple: eliminating net neutrality is a direct threat to consumers, start-ups and small businesses. A threat to all of us. It is the end of an open Internet. Anyone who cannot pay for access will be penalized.

IN THE PHOTO:  Internet user with a laptop. PHOTO CREDIT:  GLENN CARSTENS-PETERS on UNSPLASH

DOES MR PAI CARE?

No, despite the avalanche of pro-net neutrality comments that flooded the FCC website when it called for comments (as it must, by law), he disregarded what real people had to say to him. I write “real people” because the FCC website got so messed up – hackers even attacked it in May –  that, in the end, there were 22 million plus comments, most of them from bots.

Bots, fake comments on a government website? Yes, it’s not a joke. NY Attorney General Schneiderman on 21 November, in an open letter to the FCC Chairman, told him that in his estimation, hundreds of thousands of Americans’ identities were stolen and used in spam campaigns to support repealing net neutrality.

But there’s more.

Read the rest on Impakter, click here.

Be sure to go to the end of the article, it gives you tips (and links) on what you can do to help in the fight against the FCC planned repeal of net neutrality regulations. And there’s a lot you can do, sign petitions, write letters, share online. 

Mr. Pai has scheduled the FCC vote on repeal for December 14. There is no time to lose!

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Filed under Business, politics, Tech

Don’t Be Evil: The Other Side of the Tech Industry

Another one of my articles published on Impakter:

HOW TO ADDRESS THE TECH WORLD’S MORAL BLINDNESS

Who leads the tech world and what is their impact on the economy? Put together two remarkable statistics:

  • Of the ten richest men in America, only three are not tech billionaires: Warren Buffett and the Koch brothers;
  • Tech firms represent 21% of the 500 largest American firms, yet they employ only 3% of the workforce (Guardian, 2017);

and you get an exact description of the New Golden Age.

We’ve moved from the Robber Barons of the 1900s to the tech billionaires of the 2000s. Same concentration of wealth, same political and economic power, same income inequality, same moral blindness – with one big difference that hurts the working class: compared to the Robber Barons and the manufacturing giants of the 1950s, they create very few jobs.

Worse: The ‘frightful fives’ – Apple, Google (Alphabet), Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook, as noted by the New York Times’ columnist Farhad Manjoo –  are gobbling up start-ups, buying out the most successful rather than allowing healthy competition to develop. This puts the very process of innovation at risk. Instagram, WhatsApp, DeepMind are some of the better-known examples.

The rise of tech is affecting not just the economy, but our politics and culture too, twisting and straining the moral fibre of our society. In his 2016 speech at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Obama somberly noted that “technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us”. And he reminded us that “the scientific revolution that led to the splitting of the atom requires a moral revolution as well.”

The moral revolution certainly has not arrived in Trump’s America, focused for now on its America First agenda, denying climate change and trying to rebuild the coal-based manufacturing of the 1950s instead of addressing the real challenges of the future. Challenges that stem from tech industry AI products, robots and supercomputers, displacing jobs and ruining the middle and lower classes.

Tax havens are a big part of the story.

After the Panama Papers, we now have the scandal of another offshore firm, the Appleby files. Among Appleby’s long list of ultra-rich clients, including 31,000 Americans, we find a range of businessmen, pop stars and royals, including George Soros, the financier and philanthropist, Carl Icahn, the equity investor, Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate, Madonna, Bono and even (for the first time) Queen Elizabeth II.

Inevitably, we find tech titans like Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen.

IN THE PHOTO: FROM LEFT TO RIGHT, PAUL G. ALLEN, GEORGE SOROS, BONO AND QUEEN ELIZABETH. SOURCE: COLLAGE FROM PHOTOS IN WIKIMEDIA COMMONS 

 

While bashing the tech industry on moral grounds has become fashionable, how useful it is in curbing it is debatable. After all, the tech industry has changed our lives, sometimes for the worse, to be sure, but also for the better. And the industry has many friends and supporters, not to mention ample lobbying power both in Washington and Brussels. And so long as the industry is making money, criticism, however right and morally grounded, will fall on deaf ears.

There are other ways to curb the tech industry and ensure it becomes a responsible citizen.

To read the rest on Impakter, click here.

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Filed under Business, Tech