Snapshots Archives

60 Seconds with Alex Brigham, Executive Director, Ethisphere Institute

60 Seconds with Alex Brigham, Executive Director, Ethisphere Institute

BF: What factors or qualities are considered paramount for the Ethisphere Institute to designate a company as ethical? AB: More than 70 criteria make up a company’s Ethics Quotient score. Critical factors include: 1. How robust is the corporate compliance and ethics program? Examples include the quality of its code of ethics and related     ethics training and communication; effectiveness reporting and whistleblower systems; and tone from the top. 2. Environmental impact, where criteria may vary by industry; sustainability initiatives, reporting and transparency. 3. Industry leadership in ethics, citizenship and responsibility; we are looking for standard setters and early adopters versus     followers. 4. Clean legal history, or in case of past violations, evidence of adequate response and significant efforts made to avoid future     infractions. BF: Do any specific industries have large numbers of ethical companies? AB: Consumer products and food industries traditionally have been topping the charts for corporate ethics and citizenship, perhaps due to consumer and peer- pressure factors. Some companies were on the forefront of responsible business long before it became an accepted practice. For example, Kellogg’s pioneered recycled packaging in 1906. The technology sector, including computer and electronics manufacturers, software developers, Internet and telecom companies, also is noteworthy for a large number of ethical companies. Many of them are relatively young companies, whose cultures have been shaped or influenced by their founders, many of whom are known supporters of responsible business practices. BF: How can a company with a tight budget improve its ethical standing? AB: Companies should treat spending on ethics as investments into brand equity versus cost to be cut. Many pragmatic steps can be taken without breaking the bank. The cost of creating a best practice code of ethics and related training and communication program is miniscule compared to what some companies spend on brand advertising. While publishing glossy citizenship reports can be expensive, some of them really disappoint by the lack of hard facts. Greater transparency and disclosure don’t really require extra budgets; they require an executive will. Likewise, strong tone from the top needs engaged, visible and committed executives. Finally, walk the talk. World’s Most Ethical Companies The Ethisphere Institute, a think tank dedicated to the best practices in business ethics, recently announced a list of the World’s Most Ethical Companies. Entries came from more than 100 countries and 35 industries, and 99 companies made the final cut. A sample of honorees from the United States include: Honeywell International, The Aerospace Corporation, Nike, Patagonia, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Xerox, Oracle Corporation, Symantec, Mattel, General Electric, […]


60 Seconds with Dr. Horst Domdey, Managing Director, BioM-Munich Biotech Cluster

60 Seconds with Dr. Horst Domdey, Managing Director, BioM-Munich Biotech Cluster

BF: How does Munich rank in Germany, and also within Europe, as a competitive location for biotech companies? HD: In the past 10 to 15 years, the Munich Biotech Cluster has been able to reach the undeniable number one position, at least within Germany. In Munich, the first commercial biotech activities started in the early nineties, and due to the strong support of the Bavarian Government––directly or indirectly, e.g., through the local universities––Munich-based start-up companies had excellent conditions in their founding processes. Everybody might think now that this came from huge amounts of money that were poured into the newly established start-ups. But that is not true; it was the favorable conditions that helped most, such as the excellent science that is present here, or an incubator which offered lab and office space in 1995, and which was increased from its original size of 8,000 square feet to now more than 180,000 square feet, or also the conditions providing an academic scientist the ease and incentives to spin off and even manage (part-time) a new company. Therefore, it is probably not astonishing that Munich, with more than 100 biotech companies, is considered one of the top four biotech locations in Europe. BF: How successfully do Munich’s biotech companies partner with local research institutes? HD: The vast majority of the Munich-based biotech companies are spin offs from the two local universities, the local Max Planck Institutes and the Munich Helmholtz Center. Therefore, there has been a high number of very tight connections, in the form of scientific cooperations, between the different research groups and their spun-off companies. In addition we have generated a new process in the past few months, since the already existing network of cooperations is being widely extended, which will thus go far beyond its original connections. In this way, a new dimension of crisscross cooperations will be created which will certainly help elevate Munich’s biotech activities. BF: Has the global economic downturn affected Munich’s biotech cluster? HD: We cannot, of course, predict the future and definitive consequences of the current financial and economic crisis. However, to date the crisis has had only very small effects on the local biotech industry. Most of the companies still look very optimistic into the future and even plan to hire new staff. People might postpone the purchase of a new car or a new TV screen but they will not abstain from their medical treatments. Therefore I keep my unbreakable optimism about biotechnology in Munich. Munich’s Biotech Cluster: The Numbers • […]


60 Seconds with Rick Sievertsen, VP of Client Solutions, Advantage IQ

60 Seconds with Rick Sievertsen, VP of Client Solutions, Advantage IQ

BF: When analyzing a company’s expenditures, in which utility charges can Advantage IQ find the most significant savings opportunities? RS: Focus on the areas where you have the greatest expense and hence the greatest opportunity for cost savings. If you spend the most on electricity, look closely at your electricity costs and consumption. If you have a high natural gas requirement, you may want to look more closely at your natural gas bills. Your type of business will determine where your greatest energy efficiency opportunities reside. An office building has the greatest opportunities in the areas of lighting and heating, ventilating and air conditioning. A restaurant has greater opportunity in the cooking area. A convenience store should look at the energy consumed by their freezer/refrigeration equipment. BF: What are common causes for overcharges by utility providers, and how can a company recover overpayments? RS: Meter malfunctions, being placed on a utility rate that is less than optimal, being billed for service for a facility that was closed or sold or receiving duplicate bills for the same facility or period are common errors found by Advantage IQ for our clients. Recovering utility billing errors requires that you identify the problem quickly and contact the utility provider to identify the problem as soon as possible. Comparing your monthly utility costs and consumption to prior periods is the best way to monitor your bills and identify errors. Identifying the problem prior to payment of the bill improves your chances of paying the correct amount. If you find an error after you have paid the bill, contacting the utility and documenting the error quickly will improve your chance of refund. Many utilities have limits on the amount of time for which a refund can be claimed. BF: What solutions can a company employ to reduce energy expenditures and become more sustainable? RS: Communicate with your employees about the impact energy has on the bottom line and enlist their support in cutting energy waste. Turn off lights when conference rooms, offices and restrooms are not in use and turn off office equipment when employees go home for the day. Utilizing building automation systems where available and not over-riding equipment designed to maximize energy efficiency are further ways to save. U.S. Energy Outlook In February, the U.S. Energy Information Administration announced some short-term energy outlook projections. • U.S. real gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to decline by at least 2.7% in 2009, triggering decreases in domestic energy consumption for all major fuels. Economic recovery is […]


60 Seconds with Steve McKenna, Allied Van Lines, Vice President of Pricing and Contracts

60 Seconds with Steve McKenna, Allied Van Lines, Vice President of Pricing and Contracts

BF: What economic advantages does Texas offer that have kept the state atop Allied’s relocation destination list for the last four years? SM: Texas is often at the top our list due to a number of factors. First, it’s a large state with a large population; therefore, it’s likely to have a greater percentage of activity. The large metropolitan areas in Texas have diversified their economies over the last 20 years so that they are not as dependent on oil, making Texas more attractive to corporate headquarters and manufacturing operations. Homeland security also has generated more economic opportunities in Texas and other border states. For the consumer, Texas offers no income tax, lower property costs, and a lower cost of living than northern and western regions of the United States. BF: What are some factors causing states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania to experience the highest outbound relocation losses? SM: Michigan and Pennsylvania, like other areas dependent on heavy manufacturing and the auto industry, have been in decline for a number of years. With a push by retirees to head south and corporations looking south for lower costs, the Northeast and Midwest feel the negative effects of the migration patterns. BF: Based on Allied’s survey, the top three US magnets (Texas, North Carolina and Virginia) are Southern states. If not coincidental, to what can you attribute this regional relocation trend? SM: The Southern economy offers a lower cost of living, a more temperate climate, and diversified metropolitan areas that have become more sophisticated.  Retirees are targeting the Carolinas as well as other non-traditional destinations such as Tennessee, Arkansas, and Alabama. The trend is real and is brought even more to light in the wake of the current economic condition. Texas on Top More people chose to relocate to Texas than any other state in 2008, according to Allied Van Lines’ 41st Annual Magnet States Report released in January. The report tracks US migration patterns, and Texas snagged the top spot for the fourth consecutive year. Texas achieved the highest net relocation gain (inbound moves minus outbound moves performed by Allied) of 1,903 in 2008. Also for the fourth year in a row, North Carolina placed second on the list with a net relocation gain of 800, followed by Virginia in third place with a gain of 398. Colorado and Oregon placed fourth and fifth respectively for states with the largest net relocation gains. “Texas truly offers such a wide range of activities for its residents,” says David King, general manager […]


60 Seconds with Phil Alvarez, President, RCN Metro Optical Networks

60 Seconds with Phil Alvarez, President, RCN Metro Optical Networks

Felipe “Phil” Alvarez is president of RCN Metro Optical Networks, where he is responsible for all aspects of the business unit. Alvarez has more than 20 years in the telecommunications field with companies such as NYNEX and Bell Atlantic. Prior to RCN, Alvarez was Chief Operating Officer of Con Edison Communications. BF: What information infrastructure components are necessary for a large company to succeed in a new location? PA: Companies need access to high-bandwidth, fiber-based communications networks in order to compete. The reliance on computing over a wide area makes it critical to have a reliable, resilient network. According to one study, the average financial institution experiences 1180 hours of downtime per year, costing them 16 percent of their annual revenue, or $222 million (according to SETLabs Briefings). Finally, when looking at infrastructure, companies should consider choice and customer support. Having multiple providers from which to choose allows the customer to select the carrier that is best suited to support their needs. BF: Which U.S. industries require a first-rate information infrastructure to operate at their optimal peak, and why? PA: Any industry that relies on wide area networks to compete should demand a first-rate information infrastructure. We’ve observed that those industries that are most in need of high capacity transport are financial services, healthcare, education and governmental agencies, although all businesses need access to widespread information, especially given the emergence of “cloud computing.” Latency is becoming a greater concern for these companies where, for example, a millisecond can mean the difference between making or losing millions of dollars on a trade, or a delay in accessing critical services in a “cloud computing” environment. BF: How can an advanced information infrastructure help businesses work more efficiently with government agencies and/or educational institutions? PA: High capacity fiber-based networks provide the bandwidth required to support information sharing among communities of interest, such as between educational institutions or between suppliers and governmental agencies. Solving the bandwidth bottleneck unlocks the potential to add media-rich applications that allow companies and people to get access to the information they need in order to be productive. Also, having this capacity available allows them to store data at off-site locations, thus ensuring that the information is protected from loss. Facebook’s Facelift In November, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced Facebook Ads, an ad system allowing businesses to connect with users and target advertising to the exact audiences they want. “Facebook Ads represent a completely new way of advertising online,” Zuckerberg told an audience of more than 250 marketing […]


60 Seconds with Guy Tozzoli, President of the World Trade Centers Association

60 Seconds with Guy Tozzoli, President of the World Trade Centers Association

Guy Tozzoli began his career in 1946 as an engineer for the Port Authority for NY and NJ. In 1970, he helped create the WTCA and, in 1997 and 1999, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. BF: What unique services can a World Trade Center offer to businesses? GT: World Trade Centers (WTCs) support companies that want to grow internationally, whether they’re just beginning to look beyond their own region or are exploring ways to grow in foreign markets or find new suppliers. WTCs provide education, trade data, market research, company lists, business matchmaking services, trade shows trade missions, market entry programs—anything in support of trade. What makes WTCs unique is that they work together. The network of WTCs is very strong and they work cooperatively. If a business in Pennsylvania needs information about Taiwan, the Philadelphia WTC can call the Taipei WTC and get answers. If a company in Istanbul is looking for a supplier, the WTC there can call their counterparts in Shanghai or Charleston or Bogota or Lagos to try and see if they can find what is needed. BF: What emerging cities have the potential to become global trade hubs? GT: There are many growing cities around the world. China has almost 100 cities with populations of a million or more. Even though things in the financial world are in turmoil right now, there is still tremendous growth in many regions.  In November, our WTCA General Assembly will take place in Dubai, an incredibly exciting city experiencing phenomenal growth. In fact, it is literally growing; they’re creating islands and adding more land to the city. BF: How can international trade influence worldwide peace and stability? GT: It is proven that international commercial relationships tie nations together through mutual economic interest and cultural exchange. Research also shows that the growing link between trade and the environment hugely impacts the economy. Nations that are open to a global economy are more open politically. Trade is a direct benefit of peace. The WTCA has a positive effect on the trade environment. WTC executives spoke on activities that have had substantial impact in building and maintaining economic prosperity in key areas such as Kabul, Nigeria, Hong Kong, Korea, Mumbai and Stockholm. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, ongoing conflicts have dropped sharply since the early 1990s. We believe this is a direct result of global trade and the interdependence and interconnection that is the result of international business. The WTCA In the UAE The World Trade […]


60 Seconds with Kathleen Ellis, Senior VP, Chubb & Son

60 Seconds with Kathleen Ellis, Senior VP, Chubb & Son

Kathleen Ellis, senior Vice President of Chubb & Son, also is the firm’s Multinational Risk Group manager of Global Accounts. BF: Why is it riskier for small businesses, compared to large companies, to invest or relocate overseas? KE: You need resources to manage risk. Larger companies often have the people and capital they need to navigate the global patchwork of different laws and languages, currencies and styles of conducting business and create corporate risk management standards throughout the world. Small and midsize companies that do business overseas don’t have those luxuries. But if they’re lucky, they’ll have good business partners to help them create standards that will help reduce foreign property and liability losses and injuries to employees. Additionally, smaller companies have less capital, and what they do have often is tied up in the expansion plans. There is seldom a surplus of extra capital to pay for a mistake or unforeseen costs associated with inefficient practices or poor decisions. A small or midsize company will have fewer staff members and less time to anticipate all of the cultural nuances and business practices that go unspoken in foreign locales. Having a good partner—either a joint venture, attorney, accountant, or consultant—can make the difference between winning and losing. Losing money is just part of the risk; losses can damage long-term relationships in a country. Finally, expanding into foreign markets, while strategic, will lengthen the supply chain of the company. Buying raw materials or components from multiple sources in multiple countries and then coordinating them to create a final product is a challenge. Focusing on logistics and a good management process is required. BF: How has the troubled US economy shifted concerns of corporate executives? KE: According to Chubb’s 2008 Multinational Risk Survey, senior-level executives and risk managers agreed that the top three threats to their business operations or business conducted outside the United States and Canada are: currency risk (23%); supply-chain failure (16%); and credit risk (13%). In our 2007 Multinational Risk Survey, the top three threats were terrorism, natural catastrophes and political instability. Some of these are business risks, and others are insurable through property/casualty insurance. Compliance with local laws and practices is a keen concern for companies doing business abroad. They want to be viewed as good corporate citizens in order to maintain strong relationships with a country’s regulators. For expanding firms, there is a heightened awareness of risks due to liabilities pertaining to employment practices, pensions, and directors/officers. According to Chubb, in 2009… • 75% of companies will […]


60 Seconds with P.S. Reilly, President and CEO of the Athena Institute

60 Seconds with P.S. Reilly, President and CEO of the Athena Institute

P.S. Reilly is the president and CEO of the Athena Institute, a Washington-based consulting firm for organizations seeking clean and sustainable solutions. BF: What initial factors should a community consider before embarking on a waterfront revitalization? PR: Waterfront was an overlooked asset for decades-no more. But community waterfront revitalization can imply a significant commitment of time and resources, often in the form of large visions with multi-staged projects. Starting with a critical mass of community decision makers on board with the need and vision to revitalize the waterfront is key. Some begin with a large public engagement process to define the vision; others build a plan and then bring the citizens on board. Early efforts involve identifying initial funding strategies, often utilizing public/private partnerships and government assistance. Initial scoping should also outline the unique development challenges arising either from the previous use or planned use of the waterfront. The potential for project cost/time overruns loom larger where significant environmental issues or complex permitting processes exist. BF: What specific communities are undergoing innovative, noteworthy waterfront enhancements? PR: The Southeast False Creek (SEFC) and Olympic Village in Vancouver, BC is dealing with huge growth, and the presence of the Olympics in 2010 provides the incentive to build a world-class sustainable development. Historically, the SEFC site was used for industrial and commercial purposes. While maintaining ties to the past, SEFC will be a model sustainable, mixed use development with goods and services within walking distance and housing that is linked by transit and in proximity to local jobs. Shoreline works will include a new island and inter-tidal fish habitat, a bridge, a boardwalk, and a seaside greenway and bikeway. During the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, the area will be temporarily transformed into the Olympic Village, housing approximately 2,800 athletes and officials. Eventually the development will be home to 16,000 people. Another community is Bremerton, WA’s Harborside District where more than $500 million in new construction has been completed since 2000. The sheer size of the redevelopment is impressive: parks, hotels, restaurants, condos, a ferry and bus service, a marina, a boardwalk, and office facilities are just a few newly built structures. To fund these projects, federal, state and local government, public/private partnerships, and private financing were all tapped-no new taxes to citizens were involved. BF: What are current trends pertaining to sustainable waterfront redevelopment? PR: For development in the water, such as marinas and piers, new techniques have created light-permeable, grated floats that allow vegetation to survive. At the shore, communities […]


60 Seconds with Annette Antoniak, President and CEO, BC Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Secretariat

60 Seconds with Annette Antoniak, President and CEO, BC Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Secretariat

Annette Antoniak heads the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Secretariat, an organization that manages British Columbia’s finances for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Previously, Antoniak worked for the Pacific National Exhibition as the company’s youngest ever CEO. BF: What role does environmental sustainability play when constructing new Olympic venues? AA: Sustainability has been an important component for all 2010 Winter Games venues from the initial planning stages. Some examples include the Whistler Olympic Park, which has an on-site wastewater treatment plant that can be adjusted to accommodate both pre- and post-Games user numbers, while the spectacular wooden roof of the Richmond Oval consists of more than one million board feet of pine beetle-killed timber from British Columbia forests. These are just two examples of how sustainable building practices play a vital role in preparing for the 2010 Winter Games. Once the 2010 Games are over, these venues and others will fulfill a number of important community needs, as well as providing a significant long-term sports legacy. BF: How do the Olympics affect a host city’s workforce? What kinds of jobs are created, and are they filled by local workers or out-of-area workers? AA: British Columbia’s construction sector is booming at the moment, and venue construction has been a key contributor to that trend. As various jobs are created, both local and foreign workers are enlisted to fill the positions. By 2010, the Vancouver Organizing Committee alone anticipates having a total workforce of more than 55,000, including 1,400 paid staff, 25,000 volunteers, 3,500 temporary staff, 10,000 contractors, and 15,000 ceremony participants. BF: What specific industries within a host city are affected by the Olympics? AA: Tourism is expected to be a major boon for the 2010 Winter Games. With more than 1.6 million tickets available for the Olympic Games and 250,000 tickets for the Paralympic Games, British Columbia expects the world at its doorstep. Local businesses will benefit from the sheer number of people walking the streets, while large firms will benefit from tremendous international exposure. Profit and Loss Statistics from Past Summer Olympic Games (1976 to 2004) 1976: Montreal, $1 billion loss 1980: Moscow, $5 million loss 1984: Los Angeles, $225 million profit 1988: Seoul, $341.4 million profit 1992: Barcelona, $5 million profit 1996: Atlanta, $10 million profit 2000: Sydney, $1.7 billion profit 2004: Athens, $8.5 to $10 billion loss Source: The International Olympic Committee and National Olympic Committees   Beijing Olympics: Not Business As Usual By Peter Torlucci Businesses in the Beijing metro area will either suspend operations or make […]


60 Seconds with Tracy Mullin, President and CEO of the National Retail Federation

60 Seconds with Tracy Mullin, President and CEO of the National Retail Federation

Tracy Mullin was elected unanimously as the president of the National Retail Foundation in 1993. Mullin also has served as executive VP of the National Retail Merchants Association’s Washington Division. BF: In May, the retail industry received a boost as consumers received, and spent, their economic stimulus checks. Do you view this as a temporary gain, or does the industry outlook seem positive for the rest of 2008? TM: This is a great question. May’s retail sales increase may be a temporary fix as the economic stimulus checks sent people to the stores and relieved some of the pressure that many shoppers were feeling. However, since only half of the checks were distributed in May, we expect both June and July sales to be strong. Retailers will need to power through on their own for the second half of this year. On the positive side, many consumers chose to use their economic stimulus checks to pay off debt and save, so they will be in a better financial position when the holiday season rolls around. BF: Are there any specific locations or hot spots that are emerging as leaders in the retail industry? TM: There are two big hot spots in the retail industry right now. The first is urban areas. According to an NRF survey, retailers plan to open more new stores in downtown locations this year as traditional Main Streets become revitalized. In addition, the global frontier is a real opportunity for many U.S. retailers. With the weak dollar, smart companies are recognizing that this is the time to invest overseas and are opening new stores and creating online shopping opportunities to non-U.S. shoppers. That strategy is paying off, as Wal-Mart, Tiffany, and Timberland are all experiencing more growth from international audiences than U.S. consumers. BF: What advice can you offer a retailer looking to open a shop in a new location? TM: In addition to evaluating the average age, occupation, and income of potential shoppers, retailers should also look at competition in that market, the distance consumers travel to shop, and opportunities for growth. Smart retailers know that consumers in St. Louis vary greatly from those in San Diego, so products should be customized to fit each market. Retail Reality Check According to a recent survey by the National Retail Foundation, increasing prices of gas and groceries have consumers planning to spend more of their tax rebate checks on necessities like gas and food rather than on discretionary items like electronics and apparel. In fact, the largest […]