Tuesday, April 25, 2006

What is Corporate Social Responsibility – Doesn’t it start with you?

Also known as CSR it comprises of 10 areas:
- Reputation and Trust
- Values
- The environment (climate change, pollution and resource use)
- Health and well being (decease, malnutrition and quality of life)
- Population and Demographics (affluence, education and consumer trends)
- Human rights and diversity (labour standards, working conditions)
- Transparency and accountability (reporting and engagement)
- Governance (leadership, function of board)
- Shareholder activism and pressure groups
- Regulation

This list of 10 unfortunately misses out on the need to address global issues such as hunger and disease. Once may argue that these standards could be applied to global organisations but the reality is that those multi-nationals that are strong are quite prominent in the West.

In the past I have spoken about the need to view spare capacity, establish secondments and also provide greater opportunities to give to charity. Again, none of these feature in the list.

Take for example, the last world soccer cup. It was revealed that a certain goods manufacturer was exploiting child labour to produce sporting merchandise!

In the past the anti-sweatshop movement succeeded the campaign to divest from Apartheid South Africa. The latter, also premised on Western corporate social responsibility, preoccupied the concerns of many grassroots protest activists of the developed world from the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties. The movement was global but was targeted at only one country – South Africa. In contrast, the new movement, dating back to the early nineties, is truly globalised. The concern is no longer just on one country but many—those that export labour-intensive goods to the developed world. This includes, in particular, several countries that are located in Asia, the fastest developing region in the world over the past decade.

The anti-sweatshop movement has introduced a new player into the traditional paradigm of industrial relations as a tripartite structure constituting the state, employers and labour. Grassroots non-government organizations (NGOs) such as student groups, religious groups, environmental groups, labour organisations, consumer groups and community groups have become players that can no longer be dismissed as fringe. The movement has taken the moral high ground, and today a large number of transnational corporations (TNCs) have openly accepted that they hold a responsibility to upgrade labour standards in the factories that produce merchandise bearing their names. Many TNCs have now hired a corps of staff to handle labour rights/human rights issues. In the mid-1990s a flurry of internal and external social monitoring, auditing and verification activities to ensure improvement of labour standards gave birth to a flourishing new monitoring and auditing business, but only limited improvements in labour conditions have ensued.

In summary, there is much to do - As individuals we need to be more aware / alert and ensure that as soon as we find out about people being exploited, we avoid their products.

Four years on and the world soccer cup looming, I wonder if there have been any improvements – Maybe the players need to be more involved with their sponsors in 'striking out' human exploitation!

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The rotting man

Easter weekend has in recent years now begun to also be associated with one of the business Do it yourself (DIY) times of the year. DIY centres can be seen buzzing with offers and punters galore.

I have to admit that I too was out and about. On the Sunday with a gardener to hack through the garden evergreens with my new chainsaw! On the Monday with screwdriver in hand trying to put up some lighting that had to be replaced.

However, I have to share with you some thoughts. Life has a purpose and often there are things that happen to you that remind you of how difficult it can be for some.
Rather morbidly I heard that someone had been found dead in her apartment after almost 2 years. Apparently, some inspectors called round to a house due to non-payment of Bills. As they entered the house they must have seen the decomposing corpse. Sadly, they also saw some Christmas presents that had not been opened.

As I ran around the town centre on Sunday trying to find some household cleaners I walked past the church. On a bench sat a man crouched over. His feet appeared curled and each foot nail was decomposing. I walked approx five feet in front of him. Unfortunately he reeked of the most awful smell. Maybe he had not bathed for a while.

These two examples show us that life can rot away unless we strive to ask ourselves the following questions.

In a world of so much health care why do people on our doorsteps go unnoticed?
Could it be that in some situations the issue of someone sleeping on a park bench maybe more than a homelessness issue. Maybe there are other factors such as mental stability or personal problems.

In a world of so much communication why do we not bother to with the concept of collaborative communities – i.e: looking out for each other or even contacting the council to ensure that their obligations to help are assured.

In a world of so much goodness why is it that an apathetic attitude prevails.
In some cases many may simply walk away considering that it is somebody else's problem. The truth is that our attitude should be one of responsibility. Maybe we are too programmed to simply turn our heads away and ignore the issue.

In a world of charity why is it that some are missed?
We need to tell / guide our councillors on the priorities in our local areas.

In a world where we strive to improve our cosmetics / houses the world besides us rots?
I suggest that next time we put some energy into a spring clean or any personal improvement initiative, should we not also consider allocating some of our household budget to helping those around us.

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Friday, April 14, 2006

On the Beeb - The vid

The following video features a discussion about all the different festivals taking place at this time of year: Passover, Buddist New Year, Easter and the Sikhs celebrate Vaisakhi

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

On the Beeb

Wow what a weekend. Mid week the editor of the Sikh Times, Gurjeet called me up and asked me if I was available to talk and possibly be on BBC1’s Heaven and Earth show.
I duly rang Manchester to discover that this week or should I say the programme transmitted on Sunday 9th April would feature a piece on Vaisakhi.

I wanted to ensure that the facts I had were correct so I researched some great websites like www.Sikhiwiki.org, called up some of my friends – Thanks Jaspreet from the V&A and also spoke to lots of people about this great event. The notes below are summaries of what I discovered – The wonder of being a Sikh.

Event: Vaisakhi on the Square : Date: Sunday 30th April 2006 Time: 11.30am – 5pm :
The Mayor of London is backing the fourth annual Vaisakhi festival celebrations in Trafalgar Square. The event begins at 11.30am with prayers and messages for peace, followed by an afternoon programme of traditional and modern Asian music.

The message of Vaisakhi has particular relevance to London, as the capital is the most ethnically diverse city in Europe, with 300 languages spoken and over 14 major faiths practised. Vaisakhi promotes friendship and mutual respect.

The Story of Vaisakhi
On Baisakhi Day, March 30, 1699, hundreds of thousands of people gathered around his divine temporal seat at Anandpur Sahib. The Guru addressed the congregants with a most stirring oration on his divine mission of restoring their faith and preserving the Sikh religion. After his inspirational discourse, he flashed his unsheathed sword and said that every great deed was preceded by equally great sacrifice: He demanded one head for oblation. After some trepidation one person offered himself. The Guru took him inside a tent. A little later he reappeared with his sword dripping with blood, and asked for another head. One by one four more earnest devotees offered their heads. Every time the Guru took a person inside the tent, he came out with a bloodied sword in his hand. Then the Guru emerged with all five men dressed piously in white. He baptized the five in a new and unique ceremony called pahul, what Sikhs today know as the baptism ceremony called Amrit. Then the Guru asked those five baptized Sikhs to baptize him as well. He then proclaimed that the Panj Pyare -- the Five Beloved Ones -- would be the embodiment of the Guru himself: "Where there are Panj Pyare, there am I. When the Five meet, they are the holiest of the holy."

PANJ PIARE are literally the five beloved ones – the name given to the five Sikhs, Bhai Daya Singh, Bhai Dharam Singh, Bhai Himmat Singh, Bhai Mukham Singh and Bhai Sahib Singh, who were so designated by Guru Gobind Singh at the historic divan at Anandpur Sahib they were the first batch to receive at his hands khanda di Pahul, i.e. rites of the two-edged sword.
At the same time the Guru gave his new Khalsa a unique, indisputable, and distinct identity. The Guru gave the gift of bana, the distinctive Sikh clothing and headwear. He also offered five emblems of purity and courage. These symbols, worn by all baptized Sikhs of both sexes, are popularly known today as Five Ks: Kesh, unshorn hair; Kangha, the wooden comb; Karra, the iron (or steel) bracelet; Kirpan, the sword; and Kachera, the underwear. By being identifiable, no Sikh could never hide behind cowardice again.
The birth of the Khalsa is celebrated by Sikhs every Vaisakhi Day on April 14.

The 5Ks
The 5 basic instincts drive that ‘drive’ humans are pride, lust,anger,greed and attachment
Kara – Is worn by Sikhs showing the enternity of God and a formal commitment to him.
Kanga – Relates to control of wordly greed – just as it passes through the hair untangling it but taking nothing, we pass through life influencing it but taking nothing
Kachera/Kacha: Undershorts. - One of the five Sikh articles of faith, remind his sikhs that they should control lust.
Kirpan: Sword - Guru Gobind Singh told his sikh to wear a sword in order to protect the weak from tyranny – and direct it to defend the defenceless
Kesh - Hair is a gift from God.

What happens in the Gurdwara ?
Thus Nishan Sahib in the Sikh tradition means the holy flag or exalted ensign – the Khanda
The Insignia of the Khalsa is In the centre of the insignia is the two-edged sword which symbolises the Creative Power of God which controls the destiny of the whole universe. It is the Sovereign Power over life and death. One edge of the Sword symbolises divine justice, which chastises and punishes the wicked oppressors; the other edge symbolises Freedom, and Authority governed by moral and spiritual values.

In addition, a Nagar (meaning town) Kirtan takes place so that all faiths and parts of the community can celebrate together as the Guru Granth Sahib lead respectably by the PANJ PIARE proceed through the streets.

Nanakshahi Calendar
Sikhs across the world now have their own universal calendar. The name of this new calendar is: Nanakshahi Calendar, and it takes its name from Guru Nanak, founder of Sikhism.
Other religions, like Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism, have long had their own calendars. But for most of its history Sikhism has used the traditional Vikrami (or Bikrami) calendar, shared by Sikhs and Hindus in North India, to set the date of its festivals.
Sikhs see the adoption of the new calendar as a big step forward for Sikh identity, and one that will help dispel any suggestions that Sikhism is just a variety of Hinduism.

The new calendar will make life much easier for Sikhs as their holy days will no longer move about the calendar from year to year. Gurpurbs (celebrations devoted to particular Gurus) will now always happen on the same date, and occur once (and once only) in every year.
The calendar doesn't fix the date of all Sikh festivals. Those Sikh festivals, which are celebrated at the same time as similar Hindu religious events, such as Diwali and Hola Mohalla, will still have their dates set by the Vikrami calendar.
Calendar creator

The Nanakshahi Calendar was developed by a Canadian Sikh, Pal Singh Purewal, a retired computer engineer. He started work on the new calendar in the 1960s.
Purewal believes that having a unique calendar is vital for the integrity of the Sikh religion.

"All communities and faiths have their own calendar as a mark of their distinct cultural identity. Just as the Islamic world has the Hijri calendar and Hindus have Vikrami calendar, the Sikhs will have a Nanakshahi calendar along with the common era (CE) calendar which is in use throughout the world". Pal Singh Purewal

If you wish to see it again, simply click on the link below:

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Does disillusionment leads to destruction ?

Over the last few weeks I’ve suddenly woken-up to noticing more 4x4’s or CaRVans RV’s as their called in the USA. I wondered why the overnight emergence of such petrol guzzlers? Is it the power of their ego trip or is the need to own a giant car an essential must have . Or is owning an RV today’s necessary requirement for acquiring an extension to your house? In other words, what is, pardon the pun, ‘fuelling’ or ‘driving’ the need for such exuberance, in the context of uncaring about the future?

Many have suggested that the ‘live for now’ or ‘there is nothing we can do’ attitude is prevailing. Others suggest that non-conformance attitude by powers such as the USA and China to the Kyoto agreement influences peoples attitudes. In addition, the USA have recently been accused of distorting / misrepresenting or more likely misinterpreting key data regarding the green-house effect.

I wonder if the attitude of disillusionment has something to do with a post September 11th attitude – The ‘enjoy today as tomorrow may never come’ attitude. This short-termism will not only have an obvious impact on future generations but also on today’s financial climate. If we are to believe the metrological experts then any impact on the environment will create a ripple effect. Take for example last years unfortunate disaster in New Orleans and the damage caused to oil platforms in the Mexican gulf. Fuel prices soared and associated availability was also ‘hit’.

Is there a solution? Here are a few suggestions. Firstly, there is a need for greater education and corporate responsibility. Greater education from a young generation perspective and corporate responsibility from today’s oil companies. With regard to the latter, the amount of profit being achieved by the oil giants need to be reviewed from a possible monopolistic undercurrent. Car companies need to develop dual fuel engines (for example the Lexus – but without the public paying for a premium for this functionality). In addition, governments should encourage schemes for new types of fuel, offering the public incentives for alternative fuels (e.g: you can convert a conventional petrol engine to run on vegetable oil for approx $1000 in the US).

The 4x4 / RV is an important part of the entire energy drain situation. For example, in the USA Household expenditures for petroleum products – gasoline and heating fuels (natural gas or heating oil) have increased by 20 percent in the past two years. Over the past four years, household expenditures on petroleum products have increased by about $1,000 per year. For all but the wealthiest 20 percent of American families, rising petroleum prices have eaten up the entire Bush Administration tax cut.

I guess no one can see the damage that they are causing as their dash boards (showing life’s statistics) are beyond the priorities of today’s generation!

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