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Do we live in a bullyconomy?



Marketing guru Seth Godin sent out two posts last week about bullying (firstsecond). “He’s a bully, but he’s our bully” was the gist of the first blog. His argument was that the old economic model depended on the strong intimidating the weak in a zero sum game of winning at any cost. Which got me thinking.

From Seth’s blog, “At some level, it makes sense to have a bully on your side. If you’re going to war, the thinking goes, who better to represent you than someone intent on belittling and demeaning the other side?

A bully is a person who uses strength or influence to harm or intimidate those who are weaker. Synonyms include persecutor, oppressor, tyrant, tormentor, browbeater, intimidator, coercer and subjugator. None of these are desirable labels.

A bullyconomy would therefore be a political, social and economic system that allows the strongest to harm or intimidate the weakest. The neologism works two ways. As a ‘bully economy’ in a literal sense, and a ‘bull economy’, which sees inexorable growth and profit as the only signals of progress, regardless of the cost to society and the environment.

There is bullying in many walks of life, but at the decision-making global level:

– We have bullying politicians running bullying countries creating bullying laws and implementing bullying policies

– We have bullying executives in bullying corporations, bullying customers, staff and suppliers

– We have bullying journalists in a bullying media, bullying anyone they can get away with, from the bullying of Princess Diana to Madeliene McCann’s parents to the victims of the September 11 and July 7 terrorist attacks

Through these actions a bully, no matter how seemingly powerful, says, “I am weak and insecure. Therefore, to make me feel more powerful I must make you feel weaker and less secure than me.” The powerful few have always feared ‘the mob’.

Capitalism is never more dangerous than when it feels threatened. Never is it more distorted as an economic system than at times like these.

From extraordinarily wealthy politicians who blame the poorest for simply being poor. From inadequate and incompetent corporate executives who punish their silent, underpaid underlings. From monopolistic corporations who treat their customers like cattle. Bullying is rife.

People argue that the public sector is more inefficient, but its failings are for all to see. The public sector is rightly and properly publicly scrutinised.

However, the private sector can easily hide its failings right up until the point it catastrophically fails and the public taxpayer has to pick up the pieces and bail them out of their self-inflicted wreckage.

Many of the companies that have taken over our services have been uncovered as fiddling the books, lying and being fraudulent. Any other company or individual would be prosecuted for such crimes and sent down, but our government rewards them with more contracts.

Train company monopolies bully their cattle train passengers with unsafe rail networks, inexplicably high fares, punitive fines for obscure instructions and dangerous overcrowding. The public sector then has to step in to clear up the mess, from Railtrack to Network Rail, from GNER/National Express to East Coast Main Line.

Utilities from energy to water simply bully their captive cash cow customers to pay more.

Supermarkets fiddle promotions turning actual prices increases into fictional promotions.

High street banks are the most heinous sinners, privatising and wrecking once great mutuals, mis-selling, laundering, fixing rates and lobbying for even less oversight.

Whistleblowers are regularly bullied and threatened to remain silent in every private company.

Profiteering and reckless CEOs are knighted while ministers and civil servants spiral through the revolving doors from government to private enterprises run by those CEOs.

In 20 years working in large, blue-chip corporations, I have watched senior directors regularly bully their staff, suppliers and customers. Risking nothing, they have pocketed vast salaries and bonuses unrelated to long-term business performance, and often sabotaged their own corporation’s future for personal gain. They risk nothing but profit hugely.

This is the antithesis of capitalism. This is the bully as a ‘hero’.

Seth says, “In your organisation, there are no doubt bullies who can win their point, increase their power and defeat their enemies. But are they creating real value for the organisation as a whole? In an economy based on trust and connection, how does the inevitable fraying that the bully causes lead to a positive outcome for the long haul?

A bully or bullying organisation in any sector or walk of life is a saboteur of effective capitalism and unfit for the connected economy, society and environment we live in.

Which brings us round to bullying investment

We will invest in anything as long as it is legal” is a consistent cry in investment circles. What this mantra fails to recognise is that many things become socially unacceptable and environmentally and economically unsustainable long before they are banned.

Slavery was legal, right up until the point it wasn’t. Abolitionists were relentlessly bullied by status quo profiteers. Would a modern day investor or investment house invest in slavery if it was legalised? Some would, and we should be appalled and reject them.

Lying about the cancer tobacco caused was deemed acceptable until it wasn’t. The tobacco companies were found out in the end, despite all the bullying, lying and lobbying.

Ignoring the carbon bubble of unburnable fossil fuel reserves factored into oil and gas companies’ share values is currently acceptable but spells a disaster for millions of pensions which are locked into it and depend on that value being realised at some future point. Oil and gas companies bully governments day in, day out to preserve the unsustainable status quo.

Investing in internet companies that do nothing to prevent online bullying, online violence and online child pornography, when they so easily could, is bullying.

Investing in child labour companies that make profits from selling harmful products to those who don’t know better is bullying (or, let’s be honest, child abuse).

Investing in a way that harms the planet is ecological bullying, as animals and plants have no voice.

Investing in a way that only benefits the rich and powerful is intragenerational bullying which fragments communities and threatens the foundations of civil society.

Investing in a way that harms future generations is intergenerational bullying, as the young and those not even born yet are the weakest of all people.

But now there is a clear alternative.

Investing in a way that protects the human race and our only planet, as well as delivering a profit, is the alternative. Gradually, too gradually, the smartest investors recognise the threat to their own prosperity from the status quo. As Ben Goldsmith paraphrased it for Blue & Green Tomorrow in one of our first interviews, “There is no business to be done on a dead planet.”

In a digital economy, bullies are exposed more easily. In a digital economy, you are not an indentured servant but a talented individual who can leave and spread the word of why you would never invest in, work at, or buy from, that business again. Most people haven’t grasped this shift in power to the investor, employee and consumer. There are concerted attempts to curtail its growth.

Seth concludes, “I don’t think we can make the bullying impulse disappear. But it’s pretty clear we can create organisations that don’t tolerate it, creating an environment where the bully is never the hero. We probably ought to try.”

We can do the same for investors and investment. There always will be profiteering bullies, but they are few and we are many. But we can chose to not tolerate it. We probably ought to try.

Further reading:

We salute capitalism’s disruptive insurgents

Not over the long-term? Unsustainable investment’s ‘black swan’ moment

Ethical investment: better a diamond with a flaw, than a pebble without

There is such a thing as an unethical investment

The Guide to Sustainable Investment 2013

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.


How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable




sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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