Have ecolabels had their day?
The truth behind sustainability labels from the people who integrate them
By Ralf Seifert and Joana Comas, IMD business school in Lausanne
(republished with permission)
More than three decades after the first ecolabeling program was introduced, what is the verdict on their effectiveness? To find out we asked managers and sustainability practitioners – over a thousand from 70 countries and more than 20 industries – to share their views with us.
In a nutshell, ecolabels have been useful in increasing sustainability awareness and performance, but there are also credibility concerns given the proliferation and fragmentation of such labels. And indeed, by now the Ecolabel Index lists 431 ecolabels in 246 countries and across 25 industries. 
In our survey concerning the adoption of ecolabels, we asked practitioners about the perceived level of pressure on environmental issues from different stakeholder groups. They noted that the main trigger is regulation, followed by pressure from employees and internal management. Perhaps surprisingly, consumer and non-governmental organization (NGO) pressure were lower down the list (Figure 1). One possible reason for the latter is that although NGO campaigns may be highly visible, their resources allow them to target only a limited number of companies.
Figure 1: Managers’ perception of the level of pressure from different stakeholder groups on environmental issues.
Overall, 87% of our survey respondents declared that their company’s level of adoption of more sustainable practices had increased over the last five years. Against this backdrop of increasing adoption of sustainability practices, companies must decide whether ecolabeling can help relieve stakeholder pressure and, if so, which labels to pursue. Given the wide range of labels on offer and considering their limited geographic recognition, this is not always easy. Nonetheless, even for companies that do not adopt them, ecolabels have become more relevant as environmental attributes and are increasingly integrated directly into business-to-business (B2B) procurement and public sector spending. And these attributes often do follow the underlying standards of ecolabels even if the companies need not apply for corresponding ecolabels as such. In the European Union, for instance, directives on Green Public Procurement (GPP) were defined in 2004.
The growth in the number of ecolabels and green procurement guidelines can be interpreted as a sign of success. However, many practitioners believe that the ecolabeling landscape has become overwhelming and confusing for companies and consumers alike. We look at the pros and cons of ecolabels, as well as at strategies and future challenges.
by Ago Cluytens
After 25 years of being heavily into personal development and growth, I have made this my cardinal rule. Ready? Here goes.
Spend the first 90 minutes of your day religiously taking care of what matters most.
That’s it. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Spending the first 90 minutes of your day doing what matters most. But let’s dig a little deeper. In fact, let’s analyze what a typical day for most of us looks like once we get into the office.
Right after getting our must have morning coffee, we usually do one of two things: we open our e-mail app and start firing away or we go into a meeting.
Which really translates into one thing–we start looking and acting busy. Now, if I were to run into you in the hallway and ask you “what is the most important thing that you do to make sure you are successful in your job?” I am willing to bet the answer is not going to be either of those.
Looking good at the office
More likely, it will be things like reflecting on major business issues, talking to clients, developing proposals, writing or other things. What do most of those have in common? Right, you need some peace and quiet to do them–and they don’t look like work.
For years, I went into the office and did meaningless stuff first because I thought it made me look good. I thought that if I went into the office and rushed straight into a meeting, it would give me the image of a go-getting, high-flying super talent. Guess what? Nobody cared.
What my boss, and pretty much anyone else, cared most about was getting results. Results they could see, measure, touch and feel. Results that mattered. Results that–dare I say–made them look good.
It seems like things haven’t changed much: a recent study by the University of St Gallen and London Business School confirms that “only about 10 percent of managers take purposeful action”. The remainder are busy, just not very effective: 40 percent were energetic but unfocused; 30 percent had low energy, little focus and tended to procrastinate; and 10 percent were focused, but not very energetic”.
Once I realized this, I started spending the first 90 minutes of my day doing what matters most. Now, I have coached and worked with entrepreneurs, startup CEOS, future executives and other movers and shakers.
Invariably, when I told them to do what matters most first, two things started happening. Those who tried it say they can’t live without it anymore. Those who didn’t said “I can’t do that, what will people think/what will my team makes of this/what will my boss think”.
Those who tried it told me countless stories of the massive impact it had on their performance and their life. Those who didn’t? Well, there wasn’t much to talk about
90 minutes is all it takes
Spending the first 90 minutes of your day working on what matters most is like the gift that keeps on giving, but a few things jump out from what people have told me they experienced:
- a massive increase in productivity as they take less time to “do the really difficult stuff” when they are at their freshest and most productive
- a flow of new and innovative ideas that often results in dramatic improvements or radical new solutions to tackle problems
- a feeling of achievement and purpose when they look back on their day, week or month and realize all that they’ve accomplished
- a feeling of being in control of their own career and orchestrating events rather than being swept around by them; interestingly enough, this one came from a very senior executive.
Finally, nearly all the people who tried it told me that focusing on what matters most in the first 90 minutes of the day has earned them the reputation of someone who gets things done, someone you can turn to when you need a problem solved and, ultimately, someone whose performance makes him or her stand out by a mile.
So there you go. My Top-5 Performance Hacks. Five principles that I live by on day-to-day basis. Five things that have dramatically and positively impacted my performance and that of many others. And five things that could do the same for you – if you give them a chance and put them into practice.
Ed. note: This is the first in a series published at brandingthroughpeople.com. Republished with permission (note: with slight modifications). Marketing consultant Ago Cluytens has previously contributed guest posts to GenevaLunch.
Reproduced with permission from Ironman’s blog, Political Calculations, which has interactive options for calculating the number of pages required for the tax code in a given year and the tax code level of complexity for a given year.
It’s often been remarked that the growth in the complexity of the
US tax code can be measured by how many pages it takes to document
all the things that specify how much federal taxes any single
individual, household or business in the United States may have to
pay. Kay Bell recently featured the chart we’ve presented here from the
CCH Standard Federal Tax Reporter, which
illustrates just how many pages of the CCH Standard Federal Tax
Reporter would be required to contain all of the U.S. federal tax
But that wasn’t good enough for us, so we created our own graphical version of the chart’s data, so we can better see how the US federal tax code has changed since the US implemented the income tax in 1913, when the entire federal tax code could have been contained in a single 400 page textbook.
What we find is that the tax code really didn’t explode in complexity until World War II, which we observe in the large jump from being just 504 pages in length in 1939 to 8,200 pages in 1945, the final year of the war. Since then, we find that the number of pages in the US federal tax code have grown at a near-steady exponential rate of 3.28% per year, which as of 2010, means that the US tax code has ballooned to be 71,684 pages in length!
But wait, there’s more! Because the tax code has grown consistently at this steady rate since 1945, we can project how much the complexity of the federal tax code can be expected to grow in the future.
Using this information we can create a tool that can either estimate the number of pages in the U.S. federal tax code between 1945
and 2010 or project how many pages can reasonably contain the federal tax code in the future, provided that US politicians and bureaucrats continue to add to its complexity at the same rate they averaged from 1945 up to 2010.
Using the default data in the tool above, where we’ve projected forward to the year 2012 when the next U.S. presidential election is
scheduled to occur, we find that the U.S. tax code will have grown to be approximately 74,994 pages in length, an increase of 7,388 pages, or 11%, from the 67,506 page long U.S. federal tax code of 2008.
That assumes though that today’s politicians and bureaucrats aren’t compelled to do something radical that might cause the complexity of the US federal tax code to really explode, much like what happened back in the 1940s because of the requirements of funding World War II.
Just what radical change that might be we’ll leave as an exercise
to our readers….
By Andy Sundberg
Thanks to the kindness of statisticians at the Social Security Administration, I have been able to collect data on the number of recipients of U.S. Social Security benefits living outside of the United States.
I have assembled this data into four tables in the report that is attached. It provides a very interesting picture of an important part of our worldwide overseas American community.
Table 1 shows the total number of recipients of U.S. Social Security benefits by State and other region in December 2008. There were 50.9 million such beneficiaries, or approximately one out of every six domestic residents in the USA.
Table 2 shows the types of benefits, and the number of beneficiaries both by region of the world and by individual country. Countries with less than 500 beneficiaries are not shown.
In December 2008, the total number of recipients of U.S. Social Security benefits was 509,563, of which 306,906, or 60%, were receiving retirement benefits.
The total amount of benefits paid to those living abroad was $297 million, of which $192 million, or 65% was for retirees. On an annualized basis this means that approximately $3.57 billion is being paid to Social Security recipients abroad, or which $2.3 billion is for retirees.
It is important to note that not all of these individuals were necessarily U.S. citizens. Some are probably former residents of the United States, who never obtained U.S. citizenship, and who have now returned to live in their home countries.
Table 3 shows the same data, but this time the countries are listed by size. The percentages of the total by region and individual country are also shown.
Beneficiaries living in Europe accounted for 42% of the total, followed by North America with 30.1% and Asia with 16.1%. These three regions together accounted for more than 88% of the total number of beneficiaries.
Canada was the most important country of residence of Social Security benefit recipients in December 2008, accounting for more than 20% of the total. Mexico was in second place with 9.5%, and Japan, Germany and Italy were next. Together these five countries accounted for more than 50% of the total.
Recipients living in the top 13 countries accounted for more than 75% of the total number.
Table 4 shows the total number of Social Security beneficiaries living overseas by year since 2002.
During these seven years, the total number of recipients has grown from 415,179 to 509,563. December monthly benefits grew from $203 million to $297 million. On an annualized basis, total benefits paid abroad grew from $2.44 billion to $3.57 billion.
The average monthly benefit overseas grew from $490 to $584 during this period. The average monthly payment to retirees grew from $525 to $626.
I’d welcome your comments and suggestions (write to firstname.lastname@example.org, who will forward them)
by Ago Cluytens
Reposted with permission from Brandingthroughpeople
In a recent video interview with Tamara Erickson, BNet talked about Generation X and how they are changing the workplace, with shifting attitudes towards performance, authority, diversity and the importance of work/life balance. It got me to thinking – as Generation X increases their economic buying power and slowly but surely rise to the top of the food chain, how should we approach them ? In spite of all the talk about Generation Y now being the end-all-and-be-all for consumer brands, unless you are in the sneaker business, Generation X still packs more consumer power – and will continue to do so for some time to come.
The key lies in understanding five key statements that typify – to a certain degree – how GenX’ers think, and how they approach life.
“I want to be self-reliant”
More than anything else, GenX has an innate desire to be masters of their own destiny. As consumers, they are likely to exhibit a severe mistrust of large institutions, and prefer smaller, more nimble and – dare I say – more ethical alternatives. When given the choice, they will invariably support the underdog. They are looking for brands that speak to them in their language, and are likely to be more sensitive to corporate reputation and brand image than other generations. Communicate directly and openly, as they will see through anything else.
“I do not want to follow your rules”
Generation X is allergic to rules – that is to say, you’d better have very good arguments to back up your story, or they won’t play ball. Brands that can cater to that, for example by “being a little naughty” or challenging authority are likely to connect with them. Demonstrating flexibility, giving them options or playing to their strengths are all likely to win them over.
“I like to have options”
Naturally at ease with ambiguity, GenX favours having options over anything else. They are very comfortable with diverse perspectives, and instinctively understand there is “no single right answer”. Presenting them with a (wide) array of options and assisting them in their choice is likely to go down much better than “you can have any color, as long as its black”. They do not expect you to be right – just to be helpful.
“I work to live, don’t live to work”
More than any other generation, GenX is sometimes seen as unwilling to sacrifice themselves by putting in long hours – but why should they ? A disproportionate number of them grew up in single-family homes, experienced economic recessions and mass corporate layoffs. They are loyal to their families, not to their employers – they value being a dedicated parent, partner and friend over being a dedicated employee anytime. They see work as a means to an end – help them get more done in less time, build their skills or offer a variety of times for events. Keep in mind that unlike preceding generations, this one has a life.
“I am not looking for security”
At least not in the traditional sense – GenX are more comfortable with viewing their career as a portfolio of jobs (including entrepreneurial ventures or freelancing). They strive for autonomy more than status, and are willing to sacrifice monetary rewards for the ability to be masters of their own destiny. Sure, they’ll invest in status – but don’t expect them to make repeat purchases if their budget does not allow for it. Anything you can do to educate them, allow them to hedge their (career) bets or enable them to acquire more independence is likely to do down well.
Overall, GenX is an attractive and influential group of consumers. They are fiercely independent, loyal to their families, dedicated to learning and growth, naturally comfortable with ambiguity and able to call a bluff when they see it. They are also likely to exhibit increasing levels of influence on society as parents, consumers, managers, leaders, politicians and entrepreneurs. Sound appealing ?
by Peter Gaechter
The watch world’s love fest in Basel ends 25 March, and according to most of the exhibitors the week went well. High-end and luxury products were particularly in demand, and it seems as though the recession was hardly felt. Then again, perhaps expectations were so low before the show began that the interest that was shown was really appreciated.
It is an amazing show. Just two of the stands, more like luxury apartments really, capture the essence of Basel World. The Watch and Jewellery Show would not be the same if Hermès and Patek Philippe were not there.
Both houses are showing models of watches with the fine, detailed enamel work of Anita Porchet, a Swiss cultural treasure if ever there was one. Porchet is one of only a few enamellists who are expert in the various enamel techniques used in very fine watches, blurring the lines between watches and jewellery. Her work is in demand the world over. The pieces on display at Hermès and Patek Philippe are one of a kind time pieces, made on commission.
This post appeared on brandingthroughpeople. Author Ago Cluytens has previously shared posts from his marketing blog with GenevaLunch.com
Recently, I went to buy a mobile phone, and came out of the store with a computer, printer and MP-3 player. Now, those of you that know me can confirm I’m usually a level-headed guy who doesn’t throw money out the window. So what happened ?
I recently became interested by the new Apple iPhone 3GS, because it contains a number of functions that I can see myself use on a daily basis; I was especially interested by the recently included video camera, which means I can now use it for a new project I’m working on. After lurking in the shadows for a while, I decided to go to the Apple Store to check it out. And there, it happened. Not only did I buy an iPhone, but I also sprung for a brand new Macbook Pro and a printer !
I decided to analyse what happened, and here’s what came out: Apple provides you with a brand experience that is more guaranteed to make you buy than the average carpet salesman in a Moroccan soukh …
By John Weeks
John Weeks is professor of organizational behavior at IMD, Lausanne business school. He teaches in the orchestrating winning performance and advanced strategic management programs. He will take part in an event with Usain Bolt 6 July 2009 at IMD in which the Olympic gold medalist will share his insights on motivation with a business audience.
Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt is the fastest man in human history after setting three world records at the Beijing Olympics last year. Reaching the heights that Bolt attained required motivation, critical thinking and focus. Even more important, it required turning early setbacks into advantages, turning weaknesses into strengths and developing the motivation required of a world champion. These three attributes are lessons that can apply to those working in business.
Play to one’s strengths
If a sports coach hadn’t recognized that Bolt’s special gift was speed when he was young, he might have stopped at being reasonably good at cricket, a sport he had been practicing in his youth. When coaches advised Bolt to concentrate on a 400-meter race, Bolt had enough self-confidence to realize that his strength lay in the 100-meter dash. The Olympics proved him right. Bolt was cognizant enough in his own abilities that he knew when to accept or ignore feedback.
By Arturo Bris
Arturo Bris is the programme director for strategic finance at IMD in Lausanne. He also teaches in three IMD programmes: advanced strategic management, building on talent and orchestrating winning performance.
Global leaders at the G20 Summit in London earlier this year made one of the most ardent defenses of globalization we have recently seen. But by declaring that “the era of banking secrecy is over”, they paradoxically engaged in a battle that can ultimately undermine democracy and competition, two of the key drivers of globalization.
Since the G20 Summit, banking secrecy has continued to be a hot topic in the media. Obviously, banking secrecy may be considered unethical, unfair, and anti-competitive – but it is legal. It is as legal as feeding meat-producing animals with steroids, or refusing the nationality to a child born within a country’s borders. Countries differ in their regulations, and these differences are good for the world, because they spur competition.
by Andy Sundberg
Andy Sundberg is a long-term US resident overseas and founder and director of several overseas American organizations
Given the preeminent role that the United States plays, and wants to keep playing, in world trade, what we do and how we try to do it can have enormous consequences for all of us.
But in a world in which raw materials and manufactured components are moving across borders at a record pace, and worldwide sourcing is becoming increasingly ubiquitous, what does the concept of “Buy American” really mean anymore? Paradoxically, it might just make “Selling American” much more difficult.
Imagine also, for a moment, that the U.S. Government actually started to see the wisdom of regularly talking to private sector overseas Americans too, to try to get a better feel for what is actually happening on the ground all over the world. This is not the realm of diplomats but of the practical day to day life of tough and creative decision-makers in myriad markets scattered all across our planet.
Sounds utopian today, doesn’t it, but who knows, maybe we as a nation might finally grow up and open our eyes and ears to learn some useful lessons from this freely available source of priceless knowledge and hard earned experience.
Such is the common wisdom and practice of a growing number of other countries who have already integrated their diasporas into their strategic planning and national promotion.
The following stories in the Financial Times address some of these themes. They have enormous implications not only for folks back home but also for U.S. citizens living and working abroad.