Questions & Answers

A little comment on public sector responsiveness perhaps. Below is my question posed and the answer eventually given on behalf of Irish Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan (3 1/2 months later). I don’t think he answered the question though. Did he? You can be the judge. The good news about the reply is that I am guaranteed that it does not contain a virus but the Irish Department of Finance cannot guarantee that the reply does not contain malicious content. See the attention section at the bottom of the reply letter (bold and italics are my emphasis). A nod at least to the ideals of transparency from the Department of Finance.


April 4, 2009

Dear Minister
After a €7,7 billion investment of tax payers money and effective nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank, can you explain why Anglo Irish operates and advertises off shore services from the Isle of Man as follows:

Our international location enables us to provide clients with products that offer a unique combination of tax efficiency, attractive interest rates, confidentiality and security.

It seems not only will depositors enjoy the benefits of confidentiality and ‘tax efficiency’ now they also enjoy enhanced benefits of securitization of their deposits by the Irish tax payer.

Deposits are further protected by the Irish State guarantee provided for under Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme 2008.

Or am I missing something here and reaching the wrong conclusions about this?
I look forward to hearing from you.
Best Regards
James Farrar


An Roinn Airgeadais                        Oifig an Aire
Department of Finance                    Office of the Minister


Sráid Mhuirfean Uacht,                    Telephone: 353-1-676 7571
Baile Átha Cliath 2,                           Facsimile:  353-1-676 1951
Éire.                                                   LoCall:        1890 66 10 10
                                                           VPN:           8109
Upper Merrion Street,             
Dublin 2,
Our Ref: 09/0041/MF
22 July 2009
Mr James Farrar
Dear Mr Farrar
The Minister for Finance, Mr. Brian Lenihan, T.D., has asked me to thank you for your email of 4th April last. You will appreciate that the financial crisis has had significant resource implications for the Department and I apologise for the delay in responding.
As with all covered institutions, all deposits with Anglo are covered by guarantee Scheme, including those in overseas / subsidiary operations. This step was taken to preserve stability and confidence of the Irish financial system. Anglo Irish Bank is a major financial institution whose viability is of systemic importance to Ireland. In its dealings with Anglo Irish Bank, the overriding concern of the Government has been to protect the economy from the wider losses that would occur in the event of the failure of the bank; to protect the €64 billion of customer and interbank deposits in the bank and to prevent the bank becoming a systemic threat to the financial system.
I hope this information has been of assistance.
Yours sincerely
Dermot Moylan
Private Secretary to the Minister for Finance
This e-mail is privileged and confidential. If you are not the intended recipient please delete the message and notify the sender. Any views or opinions presented are solely those of the author.
This email was scanned by Sophos and has been certified virus free with the pattern file currently in use. This however cannot guarantee that it does not contain malicious content.

Tabhair aire:
Tá an r-phost seo faoi phribhléid agus faoi rún. Mura tusa an duine a bhí beartaithe leis an teachtaireacht seo a fháil, scrios é le do thoil agus cuir an seoltóir ar an eolas. Is leis an údar amháin aon dearcaí nó tuairimí a léirítear.
Scanadh an r-phost seo le Sophos agus deimhníodh go raibh sé saor ó víoras leis an bpatrúnchomhad atá in úsáid faoi láthair. Ní féidir a ráthú leis seo áfach nach bhfuil ábhar mailíseach ann.


Subtelty Doesn’t Sell

In some countries advertisments for personal health products are subtle and besides the point. Think shiny people walking on the beach or in fields of flowers. In Germany though, the approach is more direct. For example, here is the current shop window display from my local pharmacy:










BTW please stop my regular ZDNet haunt – this week I blogged about IBM’s new sustainability survey results, the outcome of the World Business Summit on Climate Change and I gave a retort to Jack & Suzy Welch’s missive on CSR in Business Week. Also do check out the Greenpeace Cool IT post — it attracted a huge amount of comments in the ‘talk back’ section which are worth reading in their own right.  

Crisis Counseling: Is Climate Change the New Y2K?

Credit: Konjin in Pantervel Its a funny old world. 

Vinnie Mirchandani thinks the IT industry is hyping up climate change.  He thinks they stampede their customers into panic buying of strategic IT solutions for what might not be a problem at all. All the while, the industry coaxes hapless regulators into passing laws on climate change that require IT investment. He compares this to the Y2K response:

Unfortunately, I see the same hysteria building around sustainability and green stuff. Doomsday scenarios. Vendor selling toolboxes when a hammer may suffice. Vendors with hammers that would break no matter how small the nail. Vendors lobbying regulators to require investments. Guilt based value propositions.

Nice gig eh?

Except, contrast that with what Greenpeace said this week:

The first results of the Greenpeace Cool IT Challenge expose the IT industry’s inadequate leadership in tackling climate change despite its claim to have the immense potential to enable 15 percent cuts or more in all global greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.  …… To really deliver on this potential the IT industry needs to look beyond just cutting its own emissions and deliver climate solutions for the rest of the economy.

During the Y2K era Vinnie was at Gartner providing advice to clients on how to deal with the threat. His concsience bothers him still:

I have been asked a few times since 1999 – did Gartner hype up the Y2k problem for its own benefit? And my response is – well, it did shake and wake people up and eventually make Y2K a relative non-event. But, in retrospect, I do wish we had helped clients protect more against the “greenwashing” that went on back then.

It strikes me as a rather odd way to view a successful response. Dare to imagine we might successfully do the same to arrest climate change?

There is an obvious cynicism trap we need to avoid here. 

Fortunately, Vinnie has the right instincts for the transparency needed to protect the integrity of the public & private sector climate change response:

This time the stakes are even higher. But we have a bigger set of watchdogs now. Us bloggers. I hope we don’t just report the problem. Or worse, just  hype it.

Hopefully we can learn from the Y2K experience without deriving cynicism from the virtues of preparedness & mitigation. Glad you’re part of the conversation Vinnie.

PS    Do please stop by my ZDNet stand: this week I blogged on Greenpeace Cool IT, Sun & Symantec as an example of a new breed of corporate  sustainability leadership.

Jason says: ‘Sustainability Bigots — Lies, Damn Lies and Green Statistics.’ Err, What?

Jason Busch from Spend Matters has written another barmy blog post on sustainability. Last year it was about the perceived futility of African sourcing. Today’s post is about – well I’m not sure what its about exactly. I had to read it a few times. I tried to leave  a comment but Jason’s comment security feature defeated me (and on two computers no less). So hoping this will link back.

Let me deal w a few select quotes:

we personally think the notion of measuring — and comparing — carbon footprints across companies and regions is absolutely absurd given that we’re currently only looking at a partial picture of actual carbon emission.’

But industry has a methodology  for complete life cycle analysis known as the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. This lays out a process for emissions accounting throughout the value chain from supply chain to  production to use to disposal.

Perhaps a factory powered by a nasty coal belching Mao-era plant in China might lead to a greener total product — provided its employees are kept from making a decent income — than a completely green plant powered by wind in the west (or China, for that matter) whose employees make a better living.’

But really, is that the choice for developing economies, produce in poverty or become prosperous in pollution? First – many are working hard to invest in smart technologies to conserve the energy we already have and to find new renewable sources of energy. Yes, developing markets are energy hungry and yes sustainability is also about social and economic development. That is why it is generally recognised that the developed world needs to reduce more CO2 and faster and that the developing world should have a little more slack to develop their economies.

Jason thinks that surveys and benchmarks on the environmental comparability of electronic goods such as his Apple computer are not helpful and signify little. Personally I don’t think we have half enough studies on the carbon composition in our everyday consumption. Also – you should know that recently the ‘loonies’ at Greenpeace have been quite encouraging of Apple’s efforts.

Come on Jason, supply chain sustainability is a really important matter whether human rights screening or environmental performance. It would be great to see you turn your considerable expertise to attend seriously to these problems. This can save procurement departments money and reduce risk overall in the business network.

As an aside, please do visit my main perch these days on ZDNet. This week I blogged IBM, Oracle, Google, SAP and general tech industry supply chain human rights issues.

West London 2009



I passed this sign a few times and today I just had to get the BB out and take a picture. You can find it at the corner of Mattock lane and Northfield Ave in Ealing, London.  

How to take it? It’s funny, sad and just a bit uncomfortable. A slice of life in West London in 2009. Seems like even the Met Police have given up the effort except to make and place signs like this. Maybe Boris has too?

Ian McEwan on Sustainability

I’ve read a lot on the subject of sustainability over the years – some of it brilliant, some of it utter rubbish and a lot of noise in between. But as is often times the case, the best insights come from the periphery rather than the centre and hit you quite unexpectedly.

The following was just such for me and it comes from Ian McEwan’s 1998 novel, Amsterdam. I find myself drawn back to re read the piece every now and then. It’s a bleaker view than I normally take but there is always a joy in a new understanding.

In this scene, Clive takes a train from London to the Lake District and reflects on the state of things from the backstage view of life which one can often see from a train carriage. Hope you enjoy it too.

In his corner of West London and in his self-preoccupied daily round, it was easy for Clive to think of civilisation as the sum of all the arts, along with design, cuisine, good wine and the like. But now it appeared that this was what it really was – square miles of meagre modern houses whose principal purpose was the support of TV aerials and dishes; factories producing worthless junk to be advertised on the televisions and, in dismal lots, lorries queuing up to distribute it; and everywhere else, roads and the tyranny of traffic. It looked like a raucous dinner party the morning after. No one would have wished it this way, but on one had been asked. Nobody planned it, nobody wanted it but most people had to live in it. To watch it mile after mile, who would have guessed that kindness or the imagination, that Purcell or Britten, Shakespeare or Milton, had ever existed? Occasionally, as the train gathered speed and they swung further away from London, countryside appeared and with it the beginnings of beauty or the memory of it, until seconds later it dissolved into a river straightened to a concrete sluice or a sudden agricultural wilderness without hedges or trees, and roads, new roads probing endlessly, shamelessly as though all that mattered was to be elsewhere. As far as the welfare of every other living form on earth was concerned, the human project was not just a failure, it was a mistake from the very beginning. 

Does Suicide Sell?

Hot on the heels of the Motrin Mommy fiasco, a new row has broken out on Twitter over a series of advertising visuals developed by BBDO for Pepsi. You can read all about it at my blog on ZDNET.

In the end the conundrum is this –  should commercial speech be allowed free speech protection and artistic sanctity? My view is that free speech ought to be protected fully but when the chips are down a commercial enterprise and their PR mavens are going to find it nigh on impossible to defend. There have been exceptions, Benetton comes to mind but is that what a Benetton is for?

In the Pepsi case – we have a company that is committed to sustainability & transparency. They publish their standards and performance and they admit a mistake and say sorry.  The alternative could be to stick by their guns and defend it. I would respect that too and I would enjoy seeing that play out. BBDO, sadly has done neither — they appear willing neither to say sorry  and recant or stand behind the work and their client.

There will be many more moments like this in the future. It won’t be viable in future to always either roll over or hide.