Month: July 2010

Shark week on Discovery Channel Begins on 2nd August

Apparently when the Discovery Channel broadcasts ‘Shark Week’ which this year starts on August the 2nd visits to Florida beaches decline dramatically. Presumably, the Discovery’s programming makes the waters no less safe (I hope). However, after watching a week of kicking legs seen from a shark’s eye perspective from below, the idea of shark attack is refreshed in our minds and we choose not to offer ourselves as bait. This phenomenon is known in decision-making as the availability heuristic or bias  – a heuristic is a rule-of-thumb we apply in situations of uncertainty. What is happening is we assume that events that are easily recalled due to recency (i.e. happened last week) or that are particularly dramatic (i.e. being eaten) are more likely to occur than they otherwise do in practice. Although there is always a chance I suppose as Florida is the shark attack capital of the world and overall the USA has more shark attacks than any other country in the world due to the large amount of sharks per se, as well as being the home of the worlds three most dangerous species of shark: the Bull, Tiger and Great White as well as the culture of surfing  and water sports around its shores which puts lots of opportunity their way! Although you will be glad to hear that although shark attacks are more common in the US there are fewer fatalities than in Australia – presumably the yanks can take their foot in their hand and get the hell out of the water more quickly!

The sunnier side of the availability heuristic is the lottery and the question should you invest $2 a day in the bank (pre credit crunch) or use it to buy a lottery ticket hopefully win and move down to Florida and go shark hunting? Math makes the decision obvious I am afraid.

Suppose you invest two dollars every day (roughly $62 a month) at a reasonable rate of 10% per annum then you will take almost exactly 50 years to accumulate close to $1m (actually about $920,000 but close enough)  – so start saving now!  To earn this same $1m in a big lottery like the National Lottery in the UK, you would have to match five numbers and a bonus ball; at odds of 2,330,635-to-1 in any one game I am told. So if you spend two dollars a day for 50 years you could enter 36,500 tickets and would have 1-in-63 chance of making those million dollars. This probability of 1:63 means the expected value from the investment over the 50 years is around $16,000 – against the expected vale of $1M dollars from the investment choice – no brainer isn’t it.

However the concept of availability and the recency effect image of immediate winners enjoying extreme wealth subvert this rationality. What the crafty lottery companies do is parade in front of us some Joe who has just won a fortune and the next time we call in for gas or food at the Quickie Mart we have the faint glow in our memory that someone has just won the lottery so assume it occurs much more frequently than it does and it is our turn next. Well someone has to win surely and why not me? So we buy that ticket again and again only to tear it up with the forelorn hope of winning next time.

Here is a pic for how not to go shark fishing – I think this was off South Africa during a military training exercise.

Towards Greener Environment by Anand Wadadekar & Monika Bhardwaj

Carbon Credit – For Environmental Management

Environmental Management:

Environmental management is not merely managing the environment but it’s the management of human interaction with; and impact upon the environment in order to conserve the environment for mankind’s sake. Managing environment is the biggest issue these days which is being faced by everyone everywhere across the globe. Initially, the Environmental Law was perceived as one of the most important tools of environmental management. However, Protection of environment from degradation has now not just remained a legal issue but a management issue as well.

It is observed that mere compliance of environmental law on paper does not result in effective control of pollution. An alternate paradigm for pollution abatement for more effective methods of environmental control beyond traditional “command-and-control (CAC)” style regulation is to use economic instruments (EIs) or market-based instruments (MBIs). Introduction of market based instruments will help to reduce emission of pollutants, pollution and will surely increase social responsibility of industries. Eco-taxes, tradable emission limits and negotiated agreements are some of the types of instruments which can be used effectively and efficiently.

In India, environmental management is largely carried out at the state level. This is true for natural resources such as forests and land as well as for air, water quality and solid waste pollution.

Green and Grey Products:

Almost every product has multiple environmental impacts. The products and their manufacturing processes, consume energy, use renewable and non-renewable material and generate emissions. A product is ‘green’ when its environmental and societal performance, in production, use and disposal, is significantly improved and improving in comparison to conventional or competitive product offerings, i.e. they are sustainable from the environmental point of view. A Green Product is environmentally preferable and leaves minimum environment footprints.

When a product is unsustainable from the environmental point of view, it is termed as ‘grey’.

Market Based Instruments (MBI) for Environmental Benefits:  “Market Based Instruments refer to the environmental policies which encourage change in technology, behaviour or products through financial incentives like subsidies, taxes, price differentiation or market creation.”

Carbon Credit – As one of the most effective MBI:

A Carbon CreditA permit that allows the holder to emit one ton of carbon dioxide; Credits are awarded to countries or groups that have reduced their green house gases (GHG) below their emission quota. Its goal is to stop the increase of carbon dioxide emissions. The Kyoto Protocol presents nations with the challenge of reducing greenhouse gases and storing more carbon. A nation that finds it hard to meet its target of reducing GHG could pay another nation to reduce emissions by an appropriate quantity. The carbon credit system was ratified in conjunction with the Kyoto Protocol.

For example, if an environmentalist group plants enough trees to reduce emissions by one ton, the group will be awarded a credit. If a steel producer has an emissions quota of 10 tons, but is expecting to produce 11 tons, it could purchase this carbon credit from the environmental group. The carbon credit system looks to reduce emissions by having countries honor their emission quotas and offer incentives for being below them.

Indian Initiatives for environmental management:

Comparing the globally placed carbon trade, India seems nowhere near. However, Policy Statement for Abatement of Pollution, 1992 by the Government favours the use of MBIs for pollution control, wherever feasible. In the recent years, compulsion to comply with Euro II emission norms is a very confident step towards controlling air pollution. It has now become essential for companies to make environmental considerations as a part of their business decision making.

The enactment of the Information Technology Act, 2000 has enabled the industry to kick-start the use of electronic mode as a valid legal medium for carrying out its business operations which were until now done compulsorily on paper. This includes initiatives like MCA e-filing, Income Tax e-filing, SEBI Reporting and other electronic communications via, emails and video conferencing.

What we professionals can do?

India is still not a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, which in a way, is a road-block for effectively carrying out environmental management by the industries. Currently companies like Jindal Stainless, Essar Steel, Hyderabad Chemicals, Paschim Hydro Energy P. Ltd, The Andhra Pradesh Paper Mills Ltd, have been making use of market based instruments like Carbon Credits in their businesses. It is a need of the hour for Company Secretaries, Chartered Accountants, Lawyers, Cost Accountants and other Management professionals to put up their say in the management of their respective organisations (financial, manufacturing or services) and be a part of the decision making more proactively & aggressively.

At the organisation level:

  1.  The various industry Chambers like FICCI, ASSOCHAM, CII should take-up the issue of introducing market based instruments like Carbon Credits through a legal framework with the Government. These trade organizations can also come up with some award program to the Companies which religiously follow the norms. Such award program will work as a motivating factor in the industry to adopt the norms suo-moto.
  2. Introduction of corporate-run carbon funds
  3. Introduction of Government-run carbon programmes
  4. We, professionals, should stress upon and make the company management aware of the benefits of such market based instruments
  5. Awards like ‘Best Green Idea’ for employees coming up with suggestions; ideas, ways, etc. should be introduced.
  6. Ask the management of our respective organisations to take help of the MBIs wherever feasible.
  7. Computer-based entrance tests for educational courses.
  8. Organizations can also come up with policies for reducing wastes like for encouragement of use of metal water bottle in the organization in place of plastic water bottles which is sanitary, easy to clean and is capable of being used over and over.
  9. Organizations can also encourage use of reusable lunch bags / cups etc. in their cafeteria / lunch rooms which helps in avoiding use of plastic / paper, use of hand towels in toilets and lunch rooms instead of paper towels and electric dryers.

On individual level, we professionals can contribute in the following way:

  1. We, professionals, can help our respective organizations in implementing effective waste management systems. We can also assist in registering our manufacturing units under Indian Green Building Council and products under Bureau of Energy Efficiency voluntarily; though for some the registration is mandatory.
  2. Internal policies may also help in encouraging paperless communications, use of common transport etc. as far as possible. Such policies may atleast ensure minimum use of paper (double side printing), avoidance of wastage and re-cycling of waste paper and therefore, saving trees – a natural resource.
  3. We can also assist in encouraging our fellows in full utilization of software applications, for example execution of daily work in soft copies rather than printing (Eg. Excel Macros for data processing, analysis, etc.). This way, we will solve two problems i.e. space for storage of physical records and availability/ accessibility of all records at a centralized server hence, reducing dependence on human factor. We all are aware that most of the official communications can be done through email/video conferences. We professionals can advise our managements / fellow employees to adopt such practices.
  4. We, professionals, need to refer to many laws for which we purchase bulky books every year. Here, we can purchase CDs instead of those books, which will reduce substantial use of paper and storage and will be easy to use.
  5. We can also adopt and advise good practices of reducing carbon footprint for example using CNG gas in our cars, maximum use of public transport system.
  6. We can advise our managements to come up with policies to reduce wastages, be it paper, electricity or any other. Policies on travels can also be modified to discourage air travel at all levels of management. A small change can add a big thing to the concept of “Go Green”.


It’s the need of the hour to think very seriously on reducing environment loss by religiously following & implementing and innovating techniques & ways to contain the same. This is a high time to call a revolution for reducing carbon footprint in order to preserve what’s left of the ozone layer, which is a protective layer between sun’s harsh ultra violet rays and the living beings. Otherwise, the day is not far when the world will be full of hunger; sun burnt, blind people, scary sounds and many more incurable diseases.

About the Author

Monika Bhardwaj, B.Com, ACS, Gurgaon Anand Wadadekar, M.Com, M.A (Eco), MBA, AMFI, Pune

What is sustainable development?

Brundtland Commission report published ‘Our Common Future, was published by Oxford ‘University Press in 1987defined the differences between sustainability and sustainable development:

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Accordingly SD a pattern of resource use that preserves the environment but meets human needs now and in the future. It about striking a balance between economic and social aspirations and the environmental limits to growth. It suggests modes of operation that can be maintained indefinably. It encompasses notions of diversity and replenishment and at its simplest can be regarded as a form of human that can be maintained within a self replenishing contxt.

The terms ‘sustainability’ and ‘sustainable development’ are increasingly becoming part of our everyday language, but even those well informed on the subject sometimes have difficulty articulating what they mean. It’s really not that difficult. Sustainability is the destination, an end-state, and sustainable development is a means of getting there. It’s all about striking the right balance when making decisions, ensuring that our economic and social aspirations are achieved within environmental limits.
Put simply, it’s about leaving the world in a better condition than we found it in.

The Anti-Blackberry Movement

A blackberry or iphone is one of those possessions, a fashion accessory, that say’s more about the social aspirations of the owner than in the supposed work ethic they are trying to project. Like a platinum American Express card that offers little extra benefit compared to the ‘ordinary’ green version other than the ownership and the symbolic of display of the card that announces: ‘I am a big shot’. In this case usually placed on the counter with a suitable flourish for the maximum of effect with an audience present just before the clerk behind the desk deflates the whole moment with a ‘we don’t accept those here sir’.

In the mythical Blackberry world the symbolic display of the device announces: ‘I am indispensable’, ‘I’m a big shot’, ‘I am so important that I receive emails 24/7 so I can make world changing decisions’ (no you are not). It becomes almost a ritual on the train, sit down, roll the thumbwheel – and then the Blackberryite attempts to peer at a small screen to thumb-type in some inane response to a colleague. Probably also sitting on some other train on their way to their office peering into a similarly small screen enacting a drama and playacting at work. I have received these messages stripped of context with useless content – usually a simple acknowledgement of some minor nature but in reality announcing to me (as if I cared) that they ‘working’ and able to respond immediately.

There is also a darker side to the use of mobile technology which is an extension in this post modern world of the disciplinary office and the rise of surveillance at work. We are all aware of Foucault’s use of the Bentham’s Panoptican:

The idea behind the panoptican prison was to enforce behavior and sense of control. ‘The arrangement of his room, opposite the central tower, imposes on him an axial visibility; but the divisions of the ring, those separated cells, imply a lateral invisibility. And this invisibility (that) is a guarantee of order. If the inmates are convicts, there is no danger of a plot, an attempt at collective escape, the planning of new crimes for the future, bad reciprocal influences … if they are schoolchildren, there is no copying, no noise, no chatter, no waste of time; if they are workers, there are no disorders, no theft, no coalitions, none of the distractions that slow down the rate of work. (Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison.)

The important point was that it was not necessary to have a visible guard walking the corridors – it was enough to know the possibility of supervision and this led to self discipline and control (of the prisoners, schoolchildren and workers) that reinforced and re-stated the use of power that caused compliance.

I see in the use of Blackberries, and other similar gadgets, an extension of the disciplinary office – controlling people in time and space – ensuring their availability to work at whatever time it is and wherever they are physically. Even on the train, in their homes or during their ‘free’ time they are available for work. Not self-motivated to work but self-supervised and self- disciplined into performing at the beck and call of and subject to the invisible supervisory power of the modern office.

What Blackberryites are doing is giving up their agency and freedom, becoming a slave to a control mechanism that is not materially different to the electronic tag sometimes used to monitor and control the movements of ASBO bound kids.

Royston – a spokesperson of the popular front for the liberation from Blackberries

What is leadership in a crisis

The Problem with BP is a failure of leadership after the disaster

These days, you get dozens of results by searching for ‘leadership’ and ‘economic crisis’ on Google. The same happens when searching for ‘leadership’ and ‘downsizing’. The general consensus is clear: during challenging times, individuals look to their leaders for inspiration, guidance and reassurance. But leaders are also the first to be blamed when things go wrong and people start losing their jobs.

The Telegraph suggests that the ‘Financial crisis calls for confident leadership’. Similarly, the Washing Post informs that a ‘Financial Crisis Offers a Study in Leadership Styles’ – and we have just seen an example of how we expect leaders to act (or not act) when we look at the recent oil disaster in the gulf.

It seems that Leadership is, yet again, at the centre of anything that is good and bad when it comes to the heart of the business. Lack of courage, reckless decision making, greed and dishonesty are some of the sins that leaders of today are said to be guilty of. It seems that in the good times they take the money and bask in the glory until a problem occurs that seems to overwhelm them.

So what should leaders do in these critical times? The economic downturn was the ultimate test for those in charge and only those individuals that were most equipped with skills could maximise their chance of keeping their seats until the end of the last rollercoaster ride. On the positive side, however, it is known that Leaders need not be responsible for their own demise. Through coaching and the development of self-awareness, leaders can learn how to avoid over-extending themselves and be able to make a conscious decision to not ‘cross the line’ when compromised – the line that takes them to the unpopular side of business. I wonder who on earth is coaching Tony Hayward is beyond me – its not that he could do anything about stopping the oil leak (bar donning a diving suit and taking along a set of spanners) but the management of the image of the company is woefully inadequate – which after all is something he could do something about.

Leaders of today may not be the leaders of tomorrow for sure. Much of the territory we are exploring today is of an unchartered nature. And perhaps, through a Darwinian lens, we may hypothesise that only the fittest, the strongest and the wisest may able to survive and perhaps flexibility and adaptability as essential skills for effective and successful leadership. And ultimately, of course, the building of self-awareness through coaching and development.

So, what kind of Leader will you be?