Tag Archives: contracts

Is TTIP a licence for unfettered corporate greed?

This blog was originally published on the 2degrees network – read it here.

Have you heard about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)? Many people haven’t and it’s worrying.

It is a treaty being negotiated behind closed doors between the US and the EU, not to remove trade tariffs, but to remove regulatory ‘barriers’ which restrict the amount of profits that can be made by international corporations. These barriers include many social and environmental standards such as the use of toxic chemicals, labour rights, food and drug safety laws etc. It also forces public services to open up to private competition and worst of all, it allows corporations to sue governments for loss of profit brought about through policy decisions.

This effectively hands over a huge amount of power to corporations and puts governments on the back foot. A similar investment treaty that Australia signed with Hong Kong 1993 has led to cigarette company Philip Morris suing the federal government when they enforced legislation on plain cigarette packaging.

The tighter EU environmental regulations are also threatened, specifically the EU’s REACH regulation on chemicals, introduced in 2007 in order to protect human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals. The EU currently works on a precautionary basis whereby there is a need to prove that a chemical is safe before it can be used. Contrastingly, in the US it has to be proved that the chemical is unsafe with obvious potential conflicts. It works in the same way in terms of food safety.

We need to wake up to this threat and quickly. It is going largely undiscussed in the media but it has huge implications for us all, especially those that hold social and environmental values at our core.

The clock is ticking. The European Day of Action is on 11th October.

Spread the word!

38 Degrees have put together a resource pack including posters and a petition that can be signed to persuade Vince Cable that we do not want TTIP to go ahead – 200,000 signatures are the target and this has nearly been reached.

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On being a political animal

Running a social enterprise... like being a political animal?

We are well into political party conference season, a time when a light shines on all parties and their policies.

Prompted by a discussion with a colleague, the political dimension of leading a social enterprise got me thinking. I mean political rather than Political. The triple bottom line of running a social enterprise is often talked about – profit, people planet – but the forth ‘p’ of politics is not often mentioned and I think features much more highly in running a social enterprise than many other types of business.

Running a social enterprise is a political balancing act – because it involves so many people and their own agendas (good and bad). It requires an insight into what drives behaviour and to react in ways that might seem alien to your own personality and culture. Many social entrepreneurs are activists – they have a cause, but in running a business you have to make compromises that mean the best for your business but not a compromise ‘too far’, leading to mission drift.

Social enterprises also want to be inclusive and pride themselves on this. However, running a business requires focus and dedication to making it work. Many ideas presented by partners and colleagues might be great as might many projects, but if they don’t stack up business-wise there has to be a resource that is going to offset that money drain (like a grant or contract). Having previously run the South West social enterprise network, RISE, it was clear at the end of the contract with the South West RDA, that this was the case – there was a demand for the services but no-one who was willing to pay for them. It requires hard decisions to be made.

There is a fair amount of Political interference too. At the local level social enterprises can become pawns in a much bigger game that local authorities are playing… for example, nominally supposedly supporting social objectives and then giving contracts based on price alone. Of course at the national level, Politicians are constantly remoulding social enterprise into whatever they want it to be, fitting it to their own political ideologies. That is why we need to be clear about our own identity and business model – keeping focused and using political judgement along the way.