low cost

McDonald’s Promise Sustainable Beef

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McDonald’s, the biggest purchaser of beef in the US has promised that it will begin buying beef from a verified and sustainable source by 2016.

There is a but… They don’t know what verified sustainable beef actually is!

There is no definition of beef, for anybody that is, so this claim by McDonald’s is ambitious in more ways than one I guess. On the plus side McDonald’s are working with suppliers such as Wal-Mart to come with a definition they can work within, but this sounds a bit like asking a fox to guard the chickens. It’ll be a definition that suits McDonald’s but which may not actually resemble anything you or I might understand as beef. So on the negative side the players are setting the rules!

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When I go to my local butcher and ask for a cut of beef I fairly well know what I’m looking at is beef. This might not be so clear with a McDonald’s definition I venture. Beef could end-up being something that’s mechanically reclaimed beef which is roughly equivalent in terms of protein content.

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Bob Langert, McDonald’s vice president has explained that they are not ready to give a figure for how much beef will be from a verifiable sustainable source in 2016, its an “aspirational goal” he says, you better believe it if they don’t actually know what beef is I reckon. But it has been speculated that the process to get from zero to 100% beef from verifiable sustainable sources could take 10-years.

But think about this for a moment; the route the beef takes – cattle farm – suppliers – slaughter houses – patty makers… burger on a bun.  All parts of the supply chain act independently with each taking a profit and still we have the £1.99 Happy Meal!

How do they do it for the money?

Nonetheless verifiable sustainable beef or not a McDonald’s burger will still be 550 calories, and half the recommended level of fat for a day.

Food Alert!

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If nothing changes by the end of 2014 the TAFTA (Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement) will be in force; a catastrophe for those who believe that food and drink are serious issues not to be messed about with so much.

If the agreement comes into force as planned then you will soon be saying hello to genetically modified milk, beef hormones, and chlorinated chicken, not to mention shale gas and oil… And then you will have to say farewell to managed environments, free-range, freedom foods, and a pleasant and green landscape pleasing to the eye as well as our collective conciseness. The influx of products will adversely affect our European food security for what I ask? A populist agenda and cheap shopping!

This project opens the doors to American domination so that they can make by 2029 $0.03 per person with nothing in it for Europeans I venture. The deal will remove trade barriers and tariffs designed to keep safe our own food supply, our own farms and associated businesses. American companies will enjoy commercial equality with our European companies. European jobs will be lost, a new recession is peering at us over the horizon at the end of the decade.

NON

European social structures will be damaged, possibly beyond repair by this agreement. Social standards will be diminished, economic standards will be diminished, industrial, cultural, and personal freedoms will be diminished because this agreement will attack our basic democratic freedoms through an unprecedented level of influence that will be exercised by the American mega-companies vying to control our food supply chains.

What gain for Europe? Well its suggested that Europe will gain 0.5% of total European GDP but its also said that this figure should be treated with scepticism, it might not happen!

There is also the further very thorny issue of energy supply. The agreement allows for free trade across Europe of energy supply but there is no universality of agreement between European states on the status of energy supply. In some countries certain types of energy (shale gas) is illegal. This is without question a massive area of concern not currently addressed by the agreement or the EU. Democratic rights will certainly be trampled under the American free trade boot when it comes to energy supply.

The European project seems to be under threat from our American cousins attempts to sell Europe food and energy that it does not need or want in most cases. Do we honestly need more Americanisms? Our food is currently too fast, more not less McDonald’s cannot surly be a good thing.

Forgivness

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Temple of Forgiveness
Temple of Forgiveness (Photo credit: arno gourdol)

Forgiveness does not justify another’s actions (against you).

The true benefactor of forgiveness is ourselves, do not make the mistake of assuming it is for the benefit of the offender, of the person we forgive.

By giving forgiveness you free yourself from the effects they have on you and your well being.

Power Games

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Enron logo, designed by Paul Rand
Enron logo, designed by Paul Rand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In business you will come across and probably be the victim of those who are ruthlessly power hungry, I know I have and it ain’t pleasant I can assure you. To be honest the pursuit of power and only power in business (or more generally life as well) is not a an assured route to success; but those who practice the corporate power politics don’t know that and they will be relentless in their pursuit I promise you.

But you know the problem, you’ve got part way up the corporate greased pole only to find the further up you go the more power hungry your colleagues are. The conundrum of course is do you consolidate what you have achieved so far or do you carry on with the ever increasing risk being that you lose the lot. What ever you choose you will nonetheless have to deal with these power obsessed co-workers, so how to deal with them?

Do you ignore them, hope that they go away, that they will eventually recognize your contribution and and they’ll leave you alone? No, not a chance of that. Never be so naive as to think this will ever be the case. But should you instead go on the counter offensive? Do you turn brutal in your pursuit? Also No, you’ll need friends or at least allies along the way for the continuing journey. Instead you must remain calm under pressure, self assured of your abilities; after-all you haven’t been promoted to your position by being stupid have you? But you will have to be and remain at your best, there’s no time for an off-day believe me. And remember those who take aim at you, those who seek your power will eventually make a mistake, they will overreach themselves and you want to be prepared for the moment.

Nevertheless you may (will) be drawn into conflict at some point and I recommend:

  1. Competence in role is your defense: those most vulnerable when under attack are those who are either complacent or who don’t deliver top notch results. Say what you are going to do, do it in the time-frame agreed and in budget. Sounds simple but it isn’t.
  2. Confidence: only those who are confident in their own abilities to deliver can truly exercise power. That’s not to say that everyone who does deliver results will exercise power, just that you have got to deliver and be confident that you will before you can take power.
  3. No short-cuts (ever): Lance Armstrong, great athlete absolutely no doubt but the cheated, he took the drugs short-cut to win and then lost. He lost not a small bit though, he lost BIG on the world stage. In these cases its not the wins no matter how many that will be remembered, it’ll be the betrayal of trust. In business think of Jeff Skilling in charge of ENRON – an example of cheating on a monumental scale.
  4. The war zone becomes too dangerous: if your company has become a hunting ground for the power hungry, a power-at-any-cost environment then perhaps you should consider a new venue for your talents. When companies deteriorate to this level its often a sign that either the company is in crisis or about to fall into one!
  5. Could you be the next entrepreneur?: you’re talented, you know you are. So why continue with the red dot of a power obsessed co-worker permanently fixed on your back? You’d be making a mistake if you thought the power struggle will go away by being a start-up but you will have the rewards, all (or at least most) of them. Leaving the organisational power struggles behind might just turn out to be a better use of your time and energy.

Power, personal power, power in the work-place; this is complicated for sure. You’ll never achieve with out it but it can equally be your ruin if not used with finesse. So if you find yourself in a place that encourages the ruthless to show disrespect, the insecure to take credit, or the savagely ambitious to take the joy and meaning out of work, seize the only power that really matters: control over your attitudes, your values and the quality of the work that you do.

US Debt Crisis Oct. 2013

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English: Barack Obama signing the Patient Prot...
English: Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House Español: Barack Obama firmando la Ley de Protección al Paciente y Cuidado de Salud Asequible en la Casa Blanca (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After a shade more than 2 weeks (16 days to be precise) the US debt crisis appears to be coming to a close, well for now at least. America came within a whisper of default on its national debt because the Republicans and the Democrats couldnt see eye-to-eye on a solution.

On Wednesday 15 Oct. 2013 the Democratic leader Harry Reid said that Senate leaders had found an agreement, with non-essential government services to be reopened; but only until a new deadline of January 15, 2014. America’s borrowing authority will be increased until February 07, 2014. Reid said: “The compromise we reached will provide our economy with the stability it desperately needs.”

Yet to outside observers, the past three weeks have been totally baffling; a perplexing cocktail of Tea Party, Ted Cruz, Obamacare and debt.

So how and why did the Washington Administration came so close to pushing the world back into financial chaos.

  1. From the beginning, what was the Default? The US government nearly defaulted on its debt because the two main parties (yes there are only two choices and neither of them are particularly attractive from my European perspective), the Republicans and the Democrats struggled to reach a deal to increase the country’s debt limit (of course this simply means they are allowing themselves to borrow even more, as if the debt isn’t already at eye-watering levels!).
  2. What does that mean? The debt limit set is the total allowable $ value of government borrowing. The limit, set by Congress is usually issued in the form of treasury bonds and securities. If the debt limit isn’t increased, then America can’t honor its debts to foreign countries. We all get to pay for America’s spending!
  3. And why is that so bad? The US $ is the world’s reserve currency (travel almost anywhere and you can get by with US $). If the US can’t pay its debts, the stock markets would react swiftly and badly, plunging the US and the rest of the world back into recession (as if we ever really got out of recession in the first place).
  4. So why didn’t they just raise it without all the argument? This deal was so difficult to reach because the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, was facing massive pressure from within his own party not to compromise with the Democrats. Amounting to, it would seem a ‘screw the economy’ attitude to get what they wanted or to those of us with a little more maturity, plain childishness!
  5. Right then, got that bit; but what did it all have to do with Obamacare? The Affordable Care Act, was passed into law in 2010 (that’s by both Democrats and Republicans), but is despised by the Republican Party, who see it as a violation of free market principles and an expansion of the state, a bit too socialist for them. It’s also President Obama’s signature achievement, making it a high value target for his opponents.
  6. And the Government Shut-down? The shutdown came about because Congress couldn’t (wouldn’t) agree on a debt budget for the country. The Republicans tried to tie the dismantling of Obamacare to the passing of a national debt budget deal. When the Democrats refused to cave-in on the healthcare law, the government closed. The Republicans then tried the same hostage taking tactic over the debt ceiling. Same result.
  7. Go on then explain why they threatened the debt ceiling? Breaching the debt ceiling would be a catastrophe; the US came to the brink of default because a small group of Tea Party-backed politicians (the lunatic-right) who just didn’t care if the government defaulted on its debts. They despise the Democratic government and they despise Obama even more. Had the US have defaulted, it would have happened on Obama’s watch, which would have been a victory of sorts for the Republicans after their failure to dismantle Obamacare. But screw the world!
  8. Right so we know why, now who? Led by Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, this extreme right-wing (wrong-wing) of the Republican Party amounts to only 18% of the elected GOP, however it is hugely powerful thanks to the support of the Tea Party, who have threatened to challenge any Republican who voted in favor of a compromise with the Democrats.
  9. Okay, this takes money, where from? The Tea Party was able to threaten established GOP politicians because they have a lot of financial backing from wealthy businessmen such as the Koch Brothers. So any Republican politician that compromised would face a well-funded opposition campaign the next time voters went to the polls. Its all really about self interest.
  10. Got that, what do they stand for though? Even the Koch brothers didn’t want the US to default on its debt, that’s just bad for business. Meaning something else was driving the Tea Party; IDEOLOGY. The Tea Party came to prominence in 2008 after the global financial meltdown and the subsequent bailouts. They wanted less government regulation, less national debt and more fiscal responsibility! Not particularly bad when you say it like that but hang on just a second…
  11. Just tell me about the reality please? …2008 also saw the election of Barack Obama, the country’s first Black President (some people call him The Kenyan and some believe him to be Muslim, not that either is a bad thing as such but in some peoples eyes either one or both statements if true would be seen as a PR disaster). The Tea Party didn’t like this as they saw it representing a shift away from their view of “traditional America” (traditional America = Christian Right-Wing; the KKK is probably a good example of a Christian Right-Wing organisation in America). As such, they set about challenging everything Obama did, even if that meant bringing the US and the world to the brink of financial disaster. Great idea.

 

So, the Americans have pulled-back but honestly is anybody fooled? This situation is set for a repeat January/February next year. In short; situation normal, round two set for after Christmas!

 

Ye-Haaa welcome to the wild west!

Cerebral None Event

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Flaubert's Parrot
Flaubert’s Parrot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The condition of being stupid is more common than you would at first realize. Take for example a recent incident I had to deal with:

  1. Employee A sells a BlackBerry phone to Employee B but refuses to hand over the phone after he gets the cash
  2. Employee B waits and asks for the phone for a couple of weeks
  3. Employee A keeps him waiting and eventually offers to return the cash when he gets paid
  4. Employee B is paid weekly so assumes that Employee A will pay on Thursday (the same day he gets paid)
  5. Employee A lets Employee B think this even tough he’s paid monthly
  6. Employee B finds out and realises he’s gonna have to wait another week
  7. Employee A books a week long holiday for the week he gets paid
  8. Employee B finds out and gets angry then even
  9. Employee B assaults Employee A, then takes Employee A’s bag with his phone, shoes and keys by way of a ‘no-phone tax’
  10. Employee A goes to the Police
  11. Employee A and the Police man come to work to sort out the mess
  12. Employee B hands back the bag less the phone which he agrees to hand back when he either has a working Blackberry phone or his money back

 

Employee A is stupid because he honestly thought he’d get away with the con even though he works at the same place as his victim; Employee B

Employee B is stupid because he trusted Employee A who he does not know socially.

Each suffered from a Cerebral None Event!

Stupidity:  bonehead, brainless, dense, dim-witted, doltish, dopey, dork, dull, dumb, foolish, gormless, mindless, oafish, obtuse, senseless, simple, slow, thick, vacant & weak-minded

Quotes about Stupidity:

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”
― Albert Einstein

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
― Albert Einstein

“I’ll take crazy over stupid any day.”
― Joss Whedon

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”
― George Carlin

“In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.”
― Napoleon Bonaparte

“Stupidity isn’t punishable by death. If it was, there would be a hell of a population drop.”
― Laurell K. HamiltonThe Laughing Corpse

“Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.”
― Oscar WildeThe Picture of Dorian Gray

“The two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity.”
― Harlan Ellison

“There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.”
― Frank Zappa

“Far be it from me to ever let my common sense get in the way of my stupidity. I say we press on.”
― Sherrilyn KenyonInfinity

“To be stupid, and selfish, and to have good health are the three requirements for happiness – though if stupidity is lacking, the others are useless.”
― Julian BarnesFlaubert’s Parrot

What is it you most dislike? Stupidity, especially in its nastiest forms of racism and superstition.”
― Christopher HitchensHitch-22: A Memoir

“Irony is wasted on the stupid”
― Oscar Wilde

“Sometimes a man wants to be stupid if it lets him do a thing his cleverness forbids.”
― John SteinbeckEast of Eden

“[In the Universe it may be that] Primitive life is very common and intelligent life is fairly rare. Some would say it has yet to occur on Earth.”
― Stephen Hawking

“Never ascribe to malice that which can adequately be explained by incompetence.”
― Napoleon Bonaparte

“I have defined the hundred per cent American as ninety-nine per cent an idiot.”
― George Bernard Shaw

“How stupid lovers can be! But if they were not, there would be no story.”
― Jean PlaidyThe Courts of Love

“If stupidity got us in this mess, how come it can’t get us out.”
― Will Rogers

“There’s a thin line between genius and bottom-barrel stupidness. I hover delicately on a tightrope between the two, wondering where I’ll land if I’ll ever fall.”
― Suzanne CrowleyThe Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous

Transparency in Business

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Green tinged avatars appeared on Twitter, Face...
Green tinged avatars appeared on Twitter, Facebook and FriendFeed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Growing up was a shocking experience on the whole when compared to the modern era; over-cooked veg, no 24-hour TV and the curtains remained shut to keep the prying eyes of the neighbors out! As my mother would say “you only need to open the curtains of the room you’re happy letting the neighbors see in”. The rest of the house as it happens was a mess she wasn’t prepared to let anybody see.

So when you (or much more likely that new-hire who remains glued to their computer screen bemoaning the internet connection and that they cant access their Facebook account) decide that you want some business transparency as a policy you better watch out. Once you let it out of the bag that actually your business isn’t that squeaky clean on the corporate responsibility front or that you have a supply-chain that your customer could save a packet by going direct, well then you have a problem as well!

The thing is that most businesses should have stapled to the inside of the eye-lids of any would-be transparency champion a note that says “some (a lot) of what we do is commercially sensitive”. Once the cats out you can tick the transparency box and then go directly to a PR company so that you can heal the damage done. The basic commercial functions of your business are just that and not really the stuff of public knowledge because when they are you no longer have a business.

What you really have to remember is just how your company actually makes money. It charges people more than it cost you to either make the thing or provide the service. Profit is a dirty word often confused with Rip-Off in a lot of peoples minds.

Social Media, is not the preserve of the young, tho it may seem so sometimes. Its just that the speed of post often is soooooo much quicker than the speed of the brain thinking through the practical effects of the post made. When you see the very excited face of the (young) person you’ve told to go ahead and implement your new transparency policy through the use of social media you should at that point be warned!

The very first point of call for the would-be transparency champion will be Twitter. Now this might be my age (although I do have a Twitter account that I do use daily) but to be honest it really doesn’t do it for me. Its a way of sending our a message that I’ve posted a new blog post, just like this one. The main reason for Twitter so far as I can see is telling anybody remotely interested about celebrity naughtiness and getting a bunch of Arabs into the local town square. Never mind that its a completely free way of telling the world just what you’re up to, a way of broadcasting to the world in that spirit of transparency that which you don’t actually want the public to know. And its fast, very fast!

Reducing what you have to say to no more than 140 characters would just about give you enough words to explain that you suck the blood of your customers to make money! You could follow a couple of feeds first to see how its done perhaps, but the question you’ll have to ask yourself is “if the feed you’re reading is that good does the company responsible really have that much integrity?”

My advice then is keep a very close eye on what gets posted about your business on social media, its important to be current but not foolish, being foolish is never going to be a trend worth following I think. Keep your corporate responsibility in-line with your business activities and then stamp with ‘Do Not Disturb’ allowing no further access to those interested in transparency.

Transparency therefore is okay when you’re happy with whats on show, the rest however really should stay behind closed curtains.