Weekend reading

Saturday morning, and I’m writing this in a luscious green garden with the sound of birds and a windchime. Perfect start of the weekend. Today’s selection of articles is not a very extensive one. Either I’ve not being paying attention this week or we are really heading into summer.

Solar power in Japan
Speaking of summer – and sun – I caught up on this article from last month on the development of the solar energy industry in Japan, and its potential economic drawbacks by increasing the electricity bill for consumers in a country where electricity already is expensive. Although the article starts off by saying that this could hinder the economic policies set in place by current PM Abe, it doesn’t really elaborate further on the effects on Abenomics.

Stories from Chinese factory managers
One topic that seems to be part of this series almost weekly is the environment in China. While there is a lot of discussion on government policy, response from civilians and, of course, the pollution itself, I haven’t seen many stories highlighting the perspective of one of the sources of this pollution: the factories. Steven Zhang is a Fullbright scholar in China, and his (seemingly new) website Made in China shares his discussions with factory managers on environmental pollution, waste water treatment etc. Looks like an interesting website to continue following.

Bike-sharing in China
China holds many growth records, but did you know that China is also the fastest growing bike-sharing location? Via UrbaChina I just found this post sharing how China & Taiwan are exploring new ways to make using a bicycle more attractive again, including starting up bike-sharing schemes.

Chinese art in Groningen
And closing off with another slightly older post, I just looked up a previous edition of the SinArts Newsletter to read Alex’s review of the current exhibition Fuck Off 2 in the Groninger Museum. Will be going there tomorrow, looking forward to it.


This weekend, I will mostly be outside enjoying the summer and reading Just Enough: lessons in living green from traditional japan. But if you are looking for some additional reading, here are some suggestions from this week.

Urban farming in Tokyo
Continuing with Japan, I want to share this crowdfunding project on Kickstarter: Growing City by Nick Sugihara. Sugihara is planning to produce a documentary about urban farming in Tokyo, which sounds really interesting, but he still needs some more funding to be able to do this.

Wayne Visser on Japan
I also came across a post on CSR in Japan by Wayne Visser (of CSR 2.0 fame). It’s interesting to read his ideas on the development of CSR in Japan, which seem to be based mostly on earlier visits. He also sketches a much more positive picture of CSR & sustainability in Japan than I have seen when I visited recently, which is interesting to find. The vision and front-runner examples he talks about are something that I have not recognized as clearly in Tokyo.

China’s middle class
McKinsey is continuing their coverage of market developments in China with a post on the developing middle class. An interesting post, as it highlights which regions and which categories of the population are expected to grow most quickly – and would therefore become more interesting target groups for business.

A Swedish look at human rights and business
And closing off with a video, from the Swedish consultancy EnAct, who’ve put together a prezi to give an overview of recent developments in the field of human rights and business and made this into a Youtube-clip. The video mostly highlights Swedish examples of issues and companies, but it’s easy to substitute these with Dutch examples (and probably examples from your own country if you’re reading this from elsewhere). The issues are the same everywhere.

Another weekend, another round-up of this week’s news that caught my eye.

From Paris
I spent some of this week in Paris, at the Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct. These two days, organized by the OECD, were all about how to promote responsible business conduct – or, corporate social responsibility – and linked this to the practical application of the OECD Guidelines. There were various thematic workshops on Bangladesh and the textile industry, on the extractive industry, on transparency & reporting. I attended for the second day of the Forum which discussed responsible business conduct in the financial sector.

One of the moderators of the first day, Bhaskar Chakravorti, wrote a post talking about his expectations for the Forum and developments that he sees happening that can offer a way of taking the addition of ‘responsible’ away from responsible business conduct. Because shouldn’t CSR considerations be part of business as usual? In Chakravorti’s words:

You cannot scold, regulate, punish and nag your way to responsible conduct. It has to become part and parcel of regular business practices.

The twitter feed of the Forum provides a nice overview of the discussions and speakers.

Human rights in Myanmar’s telecom industry
One of the sessions at the Forum talked about responsible business conduct in the IT sector. At the same time, news broke about a large telecom investment in one of the most prominent developing economies right now, Myanmar. Two companies have been given licenses to develop the nearly non-existent telecom market in the country. The Institute for Human Rights and Business provides a good overview of the human rights’ challenges that lie ahead for the two winning companies, Telenor and Ooredoo, and calls on them to take care of implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Business in their human rights due diligence process.

Swimming in China’s rivers
China’s environmental problems are never far from the news, and‘s executive editor Sam Geall writes about popular movements to increase awareness of the environmental disasters happening in China and pressure (local) government to do something about it.

Creating stories
And lastly, a different topic – but one that relates to all of the above. Because all of the above articles talk about important topics and issues, and it’s important to find a way to get them out to a wider audience. One way of getting a wider audience is presenting at TED. And that requires being able to tell a great story.

There’s no way you can give a good talk unless you have something worth talking about.

The Harvard Business Review published an article this month by TED’s Chris Anderson in which he shares how to craft a ‘killer presentation’. I agree with pretty much all of his points, and this is what we practice at Toastmastersas well. Recommended read.


What better way to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon than by catching up on this week’s blogs and news. These are some articles that caught my attention this week (admittedly, some are a little older and only found now as I was away travelling – more up to date things next week!)

I’ll start off with a slightly older article, but only spotted Friday, from the Financial Times in March (via China Design Hub) on the developing design market in China, where Chinese designers are struggling to find their place in the domestic market and at the same time gaining attention abroad.

Global Witness has published an interesting post with recommendations on how to get more Chinese companies involved in EITI, the Extractive Industries Transparancy Initiative. I think most of these recommendations are also valuable for other CSR initiatives, especially the point of localisation and clearly showing the (investment) benefits of joining an initiative such as EITI.

Moving on to Japan, I want to share this post by a fellow Japanologist Aike Rots – researching the connection between Shinto and nature – who recently visited the Tohoku region. A year after I visited myself, it is interesting to read his observations on the region, now more than two years after the tsunami hit in 2011. As I found also, despite the destruction around you, there is a strong sense of hope and expectation for things to become better again which is great to see.

And more positive news from Japan, with CSRWire’s publication on MUJI‘s decision to join the Business Call to Action initiative by announcing plans to source and produce in Cambodia, Kenya and Kyrgyzstan. In these countries, MUJI will be working with local producers on MUJI designs and materials through the BCtA, which also aims at supporting the local economy in these countries.

From handicrafts to the digital world, with this piece on the development of crowdsourcing in Malaysia – an interesting read on how the government is experimenting with crowdsourcing initiatives as one way of alleviating poverty and give more people access to (micro)finance.

I will leave you with some visuals, enjoy these stunning time-lapse videos from major cities across Asia.


A selection of articles & blogs I came across this week, not only on Asia or sustainability – but this week also on storytelling and ‘Europe’. Happy reading!

Shanghai vs Beijing: China Design Hub compares these two cities as a first entry for the headquarters of your retail brand. Conclusion: Shanghai shouldn’t be an automatic choice. There is no one China, and the article emphasizes researching the various large cities to decide which city is the best fit for your retail strategy.

On East Asia Forum, Aurelia George Mulgan summarizes clearly the changes to Japan’s Constitution as proposed by current PM Abe. Changing Article 9 comes up often, but what surprised me when I first heard about this in Japan is the proposed change to Article 96 which would then make it easier to make other changes to the Constitution, some of the changes on the table include seeming limitations on freedom of association, speech, etc. Considering that Japan isn’t exactly at risk of fundamental or revolutionary groups, I don’t really understand where the heightened focus on public order is coming from… and why it would be necessary.

Moving from business and politics to art: for anyone interested in contemporary Chinese art, I recommend subscribing to the SinArts Newsletter started not too long ago by Alex Lebbink. Every week, this newsletter contains an impressive amount of news, references to articles, reviews etc.

Many of us are often trying to explain something, get a message across or share information. And what better way to do that than by using stories. Doug Stevenson explains how to build a good story which fits your message and audience.

When you’re done reading, listen to this speech by the Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs, Frans Timmermans, in which he’s talking about the issues we are facing in Europe, about European cooperation, and offering suggestions on how to move forward. All done by quoting Game of Thrones.

And for some stunning photography, Co.Design shares the work of photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagreze who has been taking stunning shots of Hong Kong’s skyscrapers. Good reminder to look up from street level more often, and discover what else the city, any city, has to offer.