Friday, 26 November 2010

China - the great balancing act

I have just returned from a few (very busy) days in China – in Beijing and Guangzhou. The country never fails to amaze.

For example, I went to the Guangdong Higher Education Megacentre – a ‘town’ just outside of the city of Guangzhou which houses 15 Universities and 300,000 students. Now that’s what I call investing for the future.

This investment is seen elsewhere. The infrastructure continues to develop. I saw new roads, new railways, new bridges, new tunnels.

I also made a couple of internal flights with China Southern – a very good airline with fantastic customer service.

Of course I also experienced some of the less welcome aspects of China’s development – I couldn’t (at first) blog or tweet – Blogger, Twitter and Facebook are all banned. I did eventually manage to ‘beat the system’ … I won’t tell you how or that route will be blocked too.

China is trying to develop – very fast – in a controlled way. It tries to balance growth and freedom. My overall assessment after several visits – is that they have largely got the balance right. And I am not so arrogant t as to claim that the West has all the right answers … we all know the ills of our own development processes … and freedoms.

So China continues to be an enigma. I continue to love the place. I will most certainly return.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Get them to read

We all look at technology and technical improvements to give us more productivity. But sometimes, the answers lie elsewhere.

According to the research on literacy, four in 10 Canadian workers lack the necessary level of literacy to understand a safety manual, a set of instructions on a new piece of equipment, or a new piece of computer software necessary for them to accomplish their work.

One recent report on the subject shows that improving literacy scores by one per cent would increase labour productivity by 2.5 per cent.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Cold progress

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market recently opened the first grocery store in Southern California to use naturally occurring carbon dioxide (CO2) refrigeration. The store, located in Rosemead, is Fresh & Easy’s first to be GreenChill certified and is among four stores that the company opened today, including the 100th in California.

Fresh & Easy’s sub critical cascade CO2 refrigeration system, which is one of only four in the United States, reduces the impact of the store’s refrigeration on the ozone layer by about 70%, as compared to industry standards. By utilizing a natural refrigerant, the system has an approximately 50% lower Global Warming Potential than traditional refrigerants.

The store also earned a silver certification award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) GreenChill Partnership by meeting tough benchmarks for cutting emissions that harm the earth’s protective ozone layer and contribute to global warming. Fewer than 40 of the nation’s 35,000 grocery stores have received GreenChill Store Certification awards.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Walk a mile in their shoes

TOMS shoes is a small(ish) US company selling cloth & canvas shoes through retailers and through its website. But its USP is that for every pair of shoes bought by a customer, the company donates a pair of shoes to a child in need somewhere.

They say they are a "for profit company with giving at its core". Their customers have a strange sort of "buy one, get one free" arrangement, knowing that they are doing good.

They are not the only organisatiion adopting this approach with what - though very small - seems to be becoming accepted as an alternative business model.

Of course TOMS has to be productive enough to be able to make a profit under this arrangement - and it is!