Tag Archives: Brexit

Figuring Out Which Companies are Naughty or Nice

Quebec City    Even as the Brexit landslide seemed to be building in the formerly United Kingdom, the European Union leadership was piecing together an ambitious plan to achieve climate goals by 2050.  Their plan was to reach net-zero in carbon emissions at that point in a sweeping economic transition.  Some countries like Poland that still depends on coal for 80% of its electricity production were balking at embracing the process, but leaders of the EU seem willing to put billions of euros where their mouths are and help financially grease the changeover.

The new head of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, is also arguing for policy initiatives that would use monetary and banking policies under their supervision to push forward on climate change as well.  She’s not alone.  The Bank of England also is saying something similar.  In the United States, the arguments are still raging with the latest shot being President Trump twitter bashing the child campaigner, Greta Thunberg, and telling her to “chill,” of all things, in a spit fight over climate warming.

All of them want to figure out which companies are cleaner or dirtier than others, but that’s not easy.  The so-called ESG scores for companies, which stands for environmental, social, and governmental factors, are still a long way from an exact science.  A good example is the fact that ESG investment funds reportedly have the fifth largest set of investments in Saudi Arabian firms, who are pretty much the opposite of climate change crusaders.  One of the commissioners on the US Security Exchange Commission was quoted calling the current state of ESG ratings little more than “Labelling based on incomplete information, public shaming, and shunning wrapped in moral rhetoric,” which hardly counts as an enthusiastic endorsement.

Don’t get me wrong.  I would love to see a unified score that allowed all of us to follow benchmarks for corporate performance on all of these issues involving responsible behavior.  The full page, glossy ads in national magazines, the endowed chairs at big universities, and droning claims of good deeds on public radio from oil, chemical, drug, and other companies trying to convince us that they are so-called “good” corporate citizens could be thrown in the garbage can, if we had a good, independent set of measurements where there was common agreement on which companies had been naughty or nice.

Sadly, we seem to have none of that.  We have different rating companies competing for what is estimated to be a $3 trillion dollar set of investments tracking ESG and from what I read here and there, all of them are using different standards and categories.  Since many of the companies aren’t exactly enthusiastic about being tracked closely, they aren’t helping provide accurate and timely data either, so we end up with a crapshoot pretending to be science.

Most of us aren’t investors of course, but a real rating system would eventually trickle down to us as consumers where those of us at the bottom could join in putting the squeeze on the bad companies and just maybe, miracles never cease, get some help from the big investors joining us at the top.


The Lust for Personal Power without Popular Support Is Not a Winning Strategy Forever

Amersfoort, Netherlands     In these days, perhaps in all days, when autocracy, as a strategy and set of tactics, seems so attractive to so many politicians and wannabe royals in their lust for power under any terms, there’s some small comfort in seeing such techniques come to wreck and ruin, even if the damage in the meantime is inestimable.

Poor Carrie Lam, the mayor of Hong Kong, is a fair example.  After almost thirteen weeks of escalating protests by pro-democracy adherents both in the streets and behind doors against her Beijing-concocted policy to extradite people to mainland China and its questionable judicial system, she was once again forced to withdraw the extradition proposal.  Of course, having refused to negotiate for weeks while protests went unabated, she has no credibility now, since even conceding seems unilateral, rather than part of a corrective process.  Protests are likely to continue.  Here is the irony.  Reportedly, Lam has been trying to resign in the face of her own impotence before the protests, but has said to associates that Beijing will not allow it.  They have not reported that Beijing told her, you make your bed, you sleep in it, but it’s possible.

Then there’s the tragic case of Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar or Burma, as some still know it, who has gone from the Noble prize-winning ranks to Mandela, King and others to become the stone faced and silent apologist for genocide among the Rohingya people of her country who practice Islam, rather than Buddhism.  Once jailed and quarantined by the country’s military rulers, she has now become their face, rather than their critic, in the midst of unspeakable horrors and the displacement of almost a half-million people.  Is this the price of power?

Globally, British television is more known for its dark crime procedurals than the humor of its comedic farces, which seem tailored more to a local taste, but now we all can witness in real time that the British origin of “House of Cards” is also more likely farcical, than fictional, as we watch the ruthlessness of Boris Johnson’s handling of Brexit, once seen as clown, now made the fool.  First, in pure Kevin Spacey fashion, he undermines Theresa May, not that any would really care, but he does so, as she did, heedless to the peril of Great Britain.  Then once he has the Prime Minister’s position, he suspends Parliament creating a constitutional crisis so he can try to ram through Brexit, the withdrawal from the European Union, without debate by running out the clock.  The opposition and some renegades from his own party, vote him down easily, since in his antics he seems to have forgotten that he had only had a one-seat majority.  He then ruthlessly throws twenty-eight nay voters out of his party to try and force an election.  But, like Mayor Lam, having no credibility, there’s no agreement to a snap election without forcing a vote to extend the Brexit deadline.

I flipped channels before collapsing in the Netherlands and got to watch one commentator after another excoriate Johnson in English, French, German, Spanish, and Dutch.  The message was unmistakable in all languages.

How is bypassing the people in your lust for power working out for any politicians today?  Maybe possible in the short run, but perhaps not for long, giving all of us hope still.