“Look Before You Leap For As You Sow, Ye Are Like To Reap”

Would you volunteer to jump into a body of water swarming with piranhas? 

I thought so too. 

The same goes for any kind of action regarding decision-making in your life. Think before you act, so that you don´t act before you think. The importance of an analytical thinking process before making a decision of course depends upon the complexity of the decision, the risks included, and the possible final outcome. Over-analyzing simple matters can be as harmful, since it may just lead to procrastination and an inability of decision-making in the first place. But the more complex and responsible the decision, an amount of reflection is beneficial before taking action. When not certain about something, consult someone with more knowledge, and someone you can trust. 
In the world of investing, plenty of choices are at hand. There are many forms of investing too, such as investing in intellectual capital and in increasing personal knowledge, investing in human resources, investing in your children´s futures, investing in real estate or buying a home, investing in your personal health, and so on. Here, I refer to investing in different kinds of securities, such as funds and stocks. There are a number of key ratios that investors commonly get familiar with before investing in a specific security, be it a fund or a stock. These include terms such as P/E, TER, ROCE, ROE, QR, Current Ratio, EBITDA, volatility index, asset class, benchmark, small-cap, large-cap, blue chip, maturity, trustee, and the list goes on. For any investor, it is a good idea to have some kind of understanding about the principles of securities investing. If not, better make sure to choose a service provider who is either willing to explain these to you in a comprehensive way – or, choose a service provider who you are willing to trust enough even without understanding. Either way, as a customer you will need to sign agreements where you approve that you have understood what you are investing in. 

Before investing/signing agreements, there are a couple of other factors to take into consideration: 

– Understanding what the security consists of. I.e. if it is a fund, what is the fund policy? 

– With direct stock investing, having access to the company´s annual report, most preferably including an HR report (with information about staff policies, staff turnover rates etc.), and a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) report.  The CSR report could also be named CSR and Sustainability Report, depending upon the company. 
The CSR Report can include a number of themes, such as the company´s philosophy in and towards sustainable business processes, what kind of actions are being taken at different stages in production with regard upon e.g. environmental and human rights issues, governance and transparency structures, codes of conduct, code of ethics. Progressive companies, and “trend setters”, are aligning their reporting practices with e.g. a Global Reporting Initiatives (GRI) and UN Principles for Responsible Investing (PRI). 

“For those who are skeptical about socially responsible investing and business practices: There are three steps in the revelation of any truth; in the 1st, it is ridiculed; in the 2nd, resisted; in the 3rd, it is considered self-evident”.

(A. Schopenhauer)

This blog post has been written only for informational purposes, and is not an offer to buy or sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy or sell any security, product, service or investment. The opinions expressed in this post do not constitute investment advice. The information provided herein or in any communication possibly linked to this blog post is not intended for distribution to, or use by, any person or entity in any jurisdiction or country where such distribution or use would be contrary to law or regulation. Neither the information, nor any opinion contained in this post constitutes a solicitation or offer by the author to buy or sell any securities, futures, options, shares, funds, or other financial instruments or provide any investment advice or service.

Global Finland – How Can a Global Climate Catastrophe Be Avoided?

Global Finland, communication unit for development of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, arranged a summer school day in Pori on July 16th, 2014. 

Pori Theatre

 

Agenda of the day: 

10-10:15 a.m. Opening

Minister for International Development Pekka Haavisto and rap artist Signmark

10:15-11:15 a.m. Can Climate Catastrophe Be Avoided?

Rachel Kyte, The World Bank

Jukka Uosukainen, UNEP

Kaisa Kosunen, Greenpeace

11:20-12:00 Workshops

1) Why is democracy needed? Demo

2) Human rights and taxes in developing countries – The ABC of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). SASK and FinnWatch. 

3) The World Post 2015. UNA of Finland and UN Youth of Finland. 

12:00-13:00 Lunch

13:00-13:25 A World of Conflicts – Is Peace a Utopian Dream?

Minister for International Development Pekka Haavisto

13:30-14:45 Workshops

1) Somalia/Finn Church Aid actalliance

2) Syria and exile/Red Cross Finland

3) Middle East/CMI (Crisis Management Initiative/Martti Ahtisaari Centre)

15:00-16:30 New Challenges of Finland´s Foreign Policy

Minister for Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja,

Minister for International Development Pekka Haavisto, 

Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade Leena Toivakka, and 

Researcher Hiski Haukkala. The discussion was lead by Press Counsellor Leena Brandt. 

Can Climate Catastrophe Be Avoided?

Notes taken based upon the discussion: 

– In terms of Climate Technology, a positive signal is that technologies are available, although we are running out of time.

– The public sectors and governments must take the initiative, but of course also the private sector and corporations need to take action.

– A New Green Economy (renewable energy sources) is emerging, and the time of negotiations is hectic at the UNEP which is also serving developing countries, and (thanks to which) whole new bodies have been found in order to accelerate development.

– Implementation must be taken care of quickly, all over the world, since we are running out of time. 

– Climate change has to be fought against in order to assure prosperity for everyone.

– In the past 20 years, remarkable improvements have been made in terms of pollution control (see e.g. OzonAction Programme). 

– Incentives must be taken in the economy, both on macro and micro levels. Currently not even the G20 discuss the topic enough. The IMF and finance ministers of the world do discuss to some extent, although not enough. 

– NGO ́s need to create change and pressure. 

– The coal boom of China is coming to an end faster than thought since people understand their need of clean air.

– The trends of alternative energy sources are amazing, and costs are coming down fast. The amount of wind energy worldwide has tripled in a short period of time, and solar energy is now used tenfold. 

– Paris 2015 deal? => End of fossil fuel era? The breakthrough of renewables is now unstoppable. 

– Consumers can create pressure by expressing their opinions, and providing politicians with constructive feedback. Networks can be helpful when communicating needs. There are many ways of influencing.

– There are many new faces in the climate scene throughout societies. 

– Change can be made visible through education. Long-term decisions need to be made NOW. Children can also teach their parents e.g. in terms of recycling. Students change their own schools and universities through demanding renewables.

– Correct choices must be made in politics, although e.g. in Finland there are not so many environmentalists in the parliament. However, more and more climate groups exist on a national level and people are more busy acting than debating. 

– EU 2030: More radical actions needed. 

– Business coalitions (e.g. Richard Branson ́s coalition of companies). 

Pori, Finland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Child Labor, Corruption, and (Ethical) Consumption – How Can You Make a Difference?

Since repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, and so the architect of accomplishment like Zig Ziglar once wisely quoted, let me repeat some of the cruel facts about the state of ethics and moral on planet Earth: 

CHILD LABOR

-The total global number of child labor has decreased in the past decade, but still, an estimation of 168 million children worldwide are forced to work, more than half of whom are involved in hazardous work. 

– The geographical regions where child labor is at its highest: 

  • APAC (Asia and the Pacific) with almost 78 million 
  • Sub-Saharan Africa with 59 million
  • Latin America and the Caribbean with 13 million
  • Middle East and North Africa with around 9 million

The major part of these children work within agriculture (almost 100 million), followed by services (54 million) and industry (12 million). (ILO-IPEC. Making progress against child labor. Global estimates and trends 2000-2012. 2013. Quoted 30.6.2014). 

Read the detailed definitions of child labor in ILO Conventions: 

http://bit.ly/1iS3bq9

Children participating in work not affecting their health, personal development, or interfering with their education is different, but being trapped in other kinds of activities, including the cruelest forms such as slavery in armed conflicts, forced labor, or commercial sexual exploitation, drug trafficking, and organized begging, are ruthless violations of children´s freedom and human rights. (UN. Child Labor. Quoted 30.6.2014).

CORRUPTION

Corruption, literally “utterly broken”, was already used by Aristotle and Cicero, adding the terms bribe and abandonment of good habits. In political terminology, corruption is the illegitimate use of public power to benefit a private interest. Corruption is also an action to secretly provide goods or services to someone in order to influence certain actions benefiting the corrupt, a third-party, or both. The moral dimension of corruption can either refer to a mentality problem, or to external circumstances such as poverty, inadequate remuneration, inappropriate work conditions, weak or very complex procedures demoralizing people thus letting them look for alternative solutions. (Wikipedia. Quoted 30.6.2014). 

Worldwide, there are a number of organizations and national institutions dealing with, and providing information about, corruption, including OECD with its slogan “Better Policies for Better Lives” (OECD. Bribery in International Business. Quoted 30.6.2014), and UNCAC (The United Nations Convention against Corruption), a multilateral convention negotiated by members of the UN. (UNODC. United Nations Convention against Corruption. Quoted 30.6.2014).

Read the complete report of the UN Convention against Corruption:

http://bit.ly/1sQpWyX

Transparency International, a global movement working to end corruption worldwide, publishes a Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) each year, ranking countries and territories based on their level of corruption in the public sector. To see the current results, and to test your knowledge, please visit Transparency International: http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2013/. (Transparency International. Quoted 30.6.2014). 

These are only two major global problems, among many others.

The question is, how can YOU, and your organization, make a difference?

As a private household consumer, it is not always easy to know all the work included in a certain product, unless you have produced it yourself of course. This is why it is so important that organizations operate with a high level of transparency and inform their customers about their level of standards in all of the organization´s business practices. Most progressive organizations, these days, are concerned with how they produce, or at least organizations and corporations should be socially responsible, and so make it easier for consumers to know what they are buying. 

As a consumer it is possible to invest some time in finding out more about the product, its origins, and the kind of work included in the process. If you, as a consumer, are unsure about whether a company is bringing “ethically clean” products to the market, you can always choose to ask the company, and demand supplementary information about a specific product. If it is not available, or given to you, another possibility is to change your consumer behavior and choose products that you know are ethically produced. 

Ethical consumption, first popularized by the UK magazine the Ethical Consumer, favors ethical products, empowering consumers to make ethically informed consumption choices and providing reliable information on corporate behavior. These criteria-based ethical and environmental ratings have become commonplace both in providing consumer information and in B2B, CSR and sustainability ratings. (Wikipedia. Quoted 30.6.2014). 

It may all sound somewhat complex to start with, but don´t we all want to spend our money wisely and ethically?

The next time you go shopping, start by asking yourself, why a certain product is so cheap? The price is not always an indicator of unethical production, but it could be.

 

UN Millennium Development Goal 7: Ensuring Environmental Sustainability

“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.”

(Ancient Indian Proverb)

The UN target of ensuring environmental sustainability includes:  

– Integration of the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes, as well as reversement of the loss of environmental resources: 

=> Forests continue disappearing at an alarming rate

=> CO2 emissions have increased worldwide by more than 46 % since 1990

=> There has been a reduction of over 98 % in the consumption of ozone-depleting substances in the past three decades

– Reduction of biodiversity loss

=> An increase of 58 % in earth´s protected areas since 1990

=> In 2010, 12,7 % of the world´s land areas were protected, but only 1,6 % of ocean areas

– Halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation 

=> Target has been met five years ahead of schedule

=> More than 40 % of people without improved drinking water live in sub-Saharan Africa

=> Still, 2.5 billion people in developing countries have no access to improved sanitation facilities

– Achieving a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers

=> The target has been met, although the number of slum dwellers has grown

(UN MDG´s. Quoted 16.5.2014). 

Despite of continuous improvements in environmental sustainability, we are facing huge challenges that we are all responsible for, and that we need to respond to NOW: 

– According to forecasts, 2/3 of world population will live with water scarcity in 2025, 11 years from now. In 2025 world population will have grown to more than eight billion, meaning that more than five billion people will live with water scarcity. 

– Today, developed countries (20 % of all countries) use 80 % or more of all natural resources.

In Finland alone: if the total world population would consume as much as people in Finland, we would need three Earth´s instead of the ONE AND ONLY that we live in today. Despite of the excess usage of natural resources in Finland, there are other industrialized countries that are even worse in over-consumption. You can check the current situation in your country´s statistics for consumption, or visit WWF´s website for more information upon the topic.

YOU DON´T HAVE TO DECLARE YOURSELF GREEN TO ACT GREEN! PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT, FLORA AND FAUNA, IS SOMETHING WE ALL ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR. 

NOT KNOWING OR NOT UNDERSTANDING ARE BAD EXCUSES. IF ONE DOES NOT HAVE ENOUGH KNOWLEDGE OR UNDERSTANDING, IT IS IN ONE´S RESPONSIBILITY TO EDUCATE ONESELF IN THESE MATTERS, AND TAKING ACTION!

UN Millennium Development Goal 4: Reduction of Child Mortality

UN Millennium Declaration:

“By the year 2015, we will have reduced under-five child mortality by two-thirds”.

Facts:

– Child mortality is decreasing

– Still, more than 20.000 children under the age of five die every day 

– Common causes for death: pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria

– Child mortality is high in 67 countries, of which only 10 can, with the current pace of change, achieve the goal set for 2015. 

– Child mortality is at its highest in sub-Saharan Africa. 

What affects child mortality: 

– Sufficient and healthy nutrition

– Access to clean water

– Hygiene

– Vaccinations and access to healthcare

– Lack of education for girls and women

(UNA of Finland. Printed material. 2014). 

In Finland, child mortality today is one of the lowest in the world, thanks to national vaccination (campaigns). In the beginning of the 20th century, every second child born in Helsinki died before the age of five. In the late 1930´s almost every 10th born child in Finland died under the age of one. 40 % of these children died of birth-related injuries, development misplacements or innate weakness. Today, in Finland, only a few per mille children under the age of one die, most commonly due to inborn deformities. (UNA of Finland. 2014; Statistics Finland. Quoted 8.5.2014).

UNICEF, United Nations Children´s Fund, is the world´s most influential organization supporting children (under the age of 18) in need. Founded in 1946, after the 2nd world war, UNICEF focuses on helping children. A year after its foundation, the organization launched its first vaccination campaign. At that time, Finland was among the countries receiving aid from the UNICEF. In the year of the Helsinki Olympics, 1952, UNICEF began its battle against malaria, and in 1965 UNICEF was awarded the Nobel Peace Price. In 1988, UNICEF is working on launching a worldwide society working on abolishing polio. Once again, in 1998, UNICEF rises up to continue the battle against malaria. In 2006, UNICEF is one of the most important emergency aid givers, despite of the fact that still 80 % of the fund´s budget can be used to long-term development work.

(UNICEF Finland. Quoted 8.5.2014).

To fully understand the universal rights of children (everyone under the age of 18), please visit:

UNITED NATIONS Human Rights => Convention on the Rights of the Child

Since we cannot assume that children under the age of 18 are (fully) aware of their rights as children, especially if living in conditions where they may not even have access to education, it is necessary for adults to protect the rights of children.

The world has long ago made a promise to do everything to protect and to promote the rights of children, their survival, learning and growth, and listening to children. Despite of much progress made, there are still problems all over the world concerning the rights of children, and in some regions the situation may even have gotten worse. 2014 has been declared as a year of innovation at UNICEF, whereby the fund activates change-makers everywhere to rethink and drive improved results. (UNICEF. Quoted 8.5.2014).

In addition to the many local offices of UNICEF around the world, there are other independent organizations working to improve the life of children worldwide. These include Plan, World Vision, Save the Children and many others.

 

UN Millennium Development Goals 2000: I. Eradication of extreme hunger and poverty

Previously I wrote general facts about the UN as the world ́s most important co-operational organization. Now, and in my upcoming posts, I will focus on the current main strategic goals of the UN.

The first UN Millennium Development Goal is the eradication of extreme hunger and poverty. The UN, in cooperation with nations worldwide, has already managed to reach this goal.

However, the work against hunger and poverty still continues:

– In the past decades, remarkable progress has been made in decreasing poverty, especially in East Asia.

– Still, about 1,4 billion people worldwide live in extreme poverty => with under 1 € (1,25 USD) per day. Some 1 billion people suffer from hunger. Every day.

– Most of the people living in hunger and poverty are children and youth.

– 70 % of people in extreme poverty live in rural areas.

– Global food prices doubled in 2006-2008. Although prices have gone down afterwards, they are still on a higher level than before the food crisis. High food prices exacerbates the situation of the poor.

– Decreasing/removing poverty obliges wealthy and growing/emerging economies to act more selflessly, e.g. through equalizing the rules of world trade. Developing countries, on the other hand, have to commit to good governance, the eradication of corruption, and respecting human rights.

(Source: UNA of Finland booklet. 2011).

Furthermore, the differences between different countries, regions, rural and urban areas vary largely. Still, every fifth person worldwide suffers from extreme poverty, and each 3,5 seconds one person dies from hunger. Imagine that. Sad numbers, despite the progress that has been made: worldwide, 700 million people less live in extreme poverty, in comparison with the situation in 1990. In numbers, the amount of people living in extreme poverty went down from 2 billion to 1,4 billion between 1990-2008. And the percentage of the poor decreased from 47 % to 24 % during the same period of time.

Still, every 8th person on our planet goes to bed hungry. The number of undernourished worldwide is about 842 million people. Every 6th child worldwide is undernourished, of whom every 4th suffer from severe health and mental developmental disorders. (UNA of Finland. Printed Material. 2014).

How can individuals and states be helpful in removing worldwide hunger and poverty? Very often us who do not face these problems directly in our daily lives forget about, or at least neglect, these severe problems that more than a billion people worldwide have to face in their daily lives. Many of whom are children. Do we have tunnel vision? Are we blind to face reality?

I remember a hot Summer evening, walking back to my accommodation in the town of Siem Reap in Cambodia. A small local boy ran after me, begging for money, claiming that he needed one dollar so that he could buy milk for his little sister. He continued following me, reaching out his hand so that I would give him the money he asked for.

Actually, most part of the journey was the same. Everywhere I went, people were begging for money. I didn’t count, but afterwards I thought I should have calculated how many beggars went by during my stay in Cambodia. Some I gave money, but had I given every beggar what they asked for, I would have run out of money in no time. Realizing that, and seeing the behavior of other tourists, I sometimes felt heartless. I was not able to help them all, at least not in the way they wanted me to.

Yet, in some way I helped. I traveled all the way to their country, supporting the growing tourism industry of Cambodia. And now I am sharing some of my experiences through writing, which I hope will influence at least some people.

The beggars and the poor in different countries and regions are not begging for fun. They need help, and support. If they had other means, and knew better ways of improving their lives, they would act differently. But like in Abraham Maslow’s theory of motivation, and hierarchy of needs, we all need to be able to fulfill our very basic needs first: to get enough water and food to survive. As long as this need is neglected, an individual will use whatever possibilities he or she knows to satisfy the very basic needs of life, clean water and enough nourishing food, in order to survive.

Us who have never experienced the lack of clean water or food can not really understand those who suffer every day. If we claimed to really understand what it feels like to be hungry every day, and not having enough to eat, we’d be lying.

So, how can each one of us help in eradicating poverty?

According to macroeconomics, the best way to eradicate poverty is to create employment. Poverty alleviation through sustainable strategic business models, with an emphasis on the word sustainable, is certainly one way of helping the poor. Giving people the opportunity to work themselves out of poverty, with a fair pay. I ́m not going to get into depth with this issue in this post, but we all know that sustainable and ethical business takes care of labor rights, and does not employ children.

There are many other ways of helping the poor: supporting reliable organizations that employ professional staff involved in different kinds of projects aimed at removing poverty and improving the lives of the poor(est).

Micro-lending, direct support, and money sent home by family members working in other countries are also ways of helping. Adopting a child from a poor country (can be a long and difficult process).

There are many ways to help, and help is always possible. “Where there’s a will there’s a way”.

Can you come up with others than those already mentioned in this post?

“It’s impossible, said pride.

It’s risky, said experience.

It’s pointless, said reason.

Give it a try, whispered the heart”.

 

 

What is “The Land of The Lucky Children”?

My journey a couple of years ago to Cambodia, the Land of Peace and Prosperity, was a didactic experience and an eye-opener in many ways. Not only did I learn about the history of the homeland of some of South East Asia ́s most amazing archaeological sites, including the re-known Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm + hundreds of other temples, but also about the contemporary way of life in this amazingly beautiful country, neighborhood by Thailand in the West, Laos in the North, and Vietnam in the East.

Yet, not so many decades ago, the Land of Peace and Prosperity was the centre for a bloody civil war, the Cambodian Genocide. In 1975, orchestrated by Pol Pot, the local communist party the Khmer Rouge, invaded the capital Phnom Penh, driving Cambodian citizens out of their homes. Innocent people were forced to prison camps, where they had to work like slaves with little or almost no food allowed. Every non-communist was under life-threat, especially doctors, teachers, non-communist politicians, and other intellectuals. Many were killed. According to estimations, more than 2 million innocent people lost their lives during the Khmer Rouge regime. Women were commonly raped, and many children, including girls, were forced to become child soldiers. One of these children managed to flee to the United States with her brother, and is today a national spokesperson for the Campaign for a Landmine Free World. Loung Ung has also shared her experiences and her story in two of her books: “First They Killed My Father – A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers”, and “Lucky Child – A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites With The Sister She Left Behind”.

What do wars/civil wars teach us?

Personally I learned at least the following facts:

– Democracy protects human rights

– Bad governance (including a high amount of corruption) can be disastrous in protecting equality and for economic development in a state

– Wars are disastrous for the well-being and general development of a country.

– The aftermath of wars, and genocides, together with a high level of corruption, will influence the economic development of a region for years, even decades.

Cambodia is still today, although developing, one of the poorest countries in the world. Cripples are a common view on the streets – legs or arms or both missing, these people are crawling on the streets trying to find a way to make a living – mainly by begging from tourists. War makes people suffer not only physically, but also mentally. Many parents, unable to work, prefer sending their children to the streets, earning money to the family e.g. through selling souvenirs or books to tourists.

Garment workers are transported on the back ́s of open vans like animals to factories, where they work for long hours with a monthly pay of no more than a maximum of 100-150 USD. Due to the amount of medical workers killed during the civil war, good doctors and hospitals are still missing. Local people who can afford it commonly travel to Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam in order to get professional medical treatment.

I must admit that I feel uncomfortable buying clothes with a label stating “made in Cambodia,” especially after personally seeing the local conditions.

As a tourist in Cambodia I was considering whether my journey really was of benefit for the people, and if it actually is morally and ethically right to buy clothes produced in Cambodia. What do you think?