Corruption kills.

James Farrar, SAP VP for CSR kindly invited me up to Berlin, with James Governor, Dennis Howlett, Michael Schwandt and Stephanie Raabe. We had a good, open session on web 2.0 and what it could mean for Transparency International. Dennis and James have both blogged about the meeting, so I won’t repeat what they said here.

A couple of things hit home from the meeting. In our little enterprisey blogging echo chamber, it is unlikely that anything we post or read could lead someone’s life being threatened. Egos may be dented here and there, tempers may flair at worst.

But when your organisation is

Transparency International, the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption, brings people together in a powerful worldwide coalition to end the devastating impact of corruption on men, women and children around the world. TI’s mission is to create change towards a world free of corruption.

The folks at Transparency International and the people they advise sometimes risk life and limb.

On reading the annual reports it made me realise that the Constant Gardener was more fact than fiction. I read of whistle blowers disappearing, and the extent and depth of corruption is numbing.

“Corruption is bleeding Africa to death and the cost is borne by the poor. Some estimates put money corruptly leaving the continent at greater than that arriving as aid. Much of the money is banked in
Britain or our overseas territories and dependencies and sometimes British citizens or companies are involved in corrupt deals. We want our government to get tough on corruption.”

– Hugh Bayley MP, Chair; House of Commons Africa All Party Parliamentary Group,29 March 2006

I’m glad that TI are exploring how web 2.0 can raise awareness, drive funding and build a stronger link to the community. And I believe it can help make TI even more relevant than it is today. At the same time, they are right to proceed cautiously. There is a lot more at stake than I realised before I visited them.

As I slip my latte and blog about ERP, it is humbling to think that

Over one billion people lack clean drinking water; close to three billion lack adequate sanitation. In 2006, Transparency International co-founded the Water Integrity Network to bring transparency and integrity to the water sector.

We can all do our bit to fight corruption. It is sand in the gears of capitalism at best, and at worst it is counterfeit heart valves,and substandard concrete that collapses at the slightest shudder. Markets are not free if they are corrupt. Even the most libertarian of thinkers, Milton Friedman, asserted that businesses have no social responsibility other than to increase profits and refrain from engaging in deception and fraud. It is unfortunate that the second half of this quote is often ignored. I’ll leave the broader discussion CSR and GRC for another post, save to say there is more to this than SOX 404.

If you cant see the videos head over to TIs’s youtube channel, a good 2.0esque step…)

Bribery and corruption require both supply and demand.

If you want to donate to TI, or just find out more about what they do, head over to the website. Give them some linklove while you are at it.

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Big it up for Sun…and measuring Green

I continue to be impressed by Sun Microsystems.  Until I met James Governor and then started reading Jonathan’s blog, Sun wasn’t really on my radar.  Now I follow Sun quite closely.  It strikes me as a very innovative organisation.  I saw this announcement today about Measuring Green.  I’ve just been over to the openeco.org site.  Goodness indeed.

According research on cited on Nick Carr’s blog, Roughtype, a considerable portion of the earth’s energy consumption is from computer usage.

a global basis, Sarokin estimates that the computing grid consumes 868 billion kWh a year, or 5.3% of total consumption

There are other estimates that put this higher.

It not at a Moore’s law level of growth, but as we continue to consume more and more services, buy more and more software, the word will require more and more hardware, and unless things change, use more power.

About a year ago Carr wrote about Frugal Computing. He picked up this quote.

 The computers we love so dearly,” wrote Timothy Prickett Morgan in 2004, “are among the most inefficient devices ever invented”; most of the electricity that goes into them is released “as heat, noise, and light”:

The heat of computers comes from chips and mechanical components, the noise comes from fans and disks, and light comes in the form of blinking lights and monitors. Once any kind of computer makes its heat … the energy cycle doesn’t end there. That heat has to be removed so the computers and the people near them can continue functioning properly. This, ironically, takes more fans and air conditioners, and therefore more electricity … And while the electricity bills for running and cooling computers are generally not part of an IT budget, a company with lots of computers has to pay for all that juice

I think it high time to add the role of the software vendor into this discussion.  I believe the software industry ought to do three things.

1. Start designing software that has a lower energy consumption footprint. After all people buy hardware to run software.  The equation is a simple one.  I like the concept of the Green API. (tip James)

2. Build software that helps others reduce and measure energy consumption. I’m thinking here of supply chain monitoring,  for instance, enabling customers to make buying decisions based on green criteria.  When I buy my next car, I’d be prepared to wait longer for delivery if my order was optimised for lower energy consumption in the production process.  I’m probably not the only one.

3. Ditch the fallacy that software is a clean industry without externalities.

So when I read about Sun’s involvement with a community to help cut greenhouse emissions,  I say brill and fab.  There is a goodly dose of 2.0 community is this too.  Making it open source also helps drive it out as a broader initiative-

Our goal is to lower the barriers for companies to measure and report their environmental footprint,” says Sun’s vice president of eco-responsibility, Dave Douglas. “For a company like Sun, figuring out how much energy you’re burning is pretty complex. So we’re trying to use open-source software development ideas to take the tools we’ve developed internally and make them publicly available.”

Forbes nails the significance of this when it noted.

Innovators in the green information-technology movement reap good publicity from their ever-higher standards of energy efficiency. The real goody two-shoes, however, inflict those standards on their competitors

Measuring environmental impact of a business becomes and important factor in evaluating the risk profile of investments, so investment bankers and the like are demanding more transparency on environmental risk.  This is already starting.  Look at Ceres :

The SEC exists to make sure that investors have the information that they need to make smart decisions,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a group that promotes environmental standards among private companies. Ceres and the Calvert Group, an asset management firm, said in a January report that more than half of the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index “are doing a poor job of disclosing climate change risk.”

SAP is getting its act together, but I think we should learn lots from what Sun is up to.  Part of this is about beefing up the GRC strategy to include a stronger environmental element, especially in the areas of risk management and disclosure, but a bigger part of it involves looking closely at the broader social implications of software.

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Understanding CSR..

I’m becoming deeply interested in corporate social responsibility, partly from a SAP product point of view, but more because I’m fascinated by the relationship between business and broader society. 

Much of what I’ve learnt about CSR over the last year or so has been through talking with James Farrar and James Governor.

Global warming is apparently the world’s most boring topic, yet despite this, James weaves carbon offsetting, the pope, Ian Paisley and Leonardo DiCaprio together into a most insightful, witty  post titled spiritual offset.

Not that the Holy See is being complacent about climate change, while it is clearing the path for us to the eternal, it is also still managing it’s own carbon footprint back here on this mortal coil. Last month the Vatican announced a massive carbon offset programme

I’m convinced that sustainability issues will become increasingly vital, both in terms of customer and shareholder relationships. It isn’t just about green issues, but the recent protests at Heathrow and the growing activism across the world point to a rapidly changing social fabric.

In the meantime, it is critical for all major organisations whether business, government or even the church to have antenna up, information on hand and be at the ready to engage intelligently with increasingly enabled and informed stakeholders

Welcome to the blogosphere James. Subscribed.

 

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