Changed Priorities Ahead sign
via Flickr/R/DV/RS

I’ll be honest here: one of the things I have most difficulties with in working independently is time management: what can I best spend my time on?

This is the case on little things: write a blog post or work on my administration. Will it help me more to finalize my terms and conditions first than to set up meetings with different organizations and people to explore possible cooperations. Of course, in the end I believe I need to do all of those things – but some might be more effective in kick-starting other connections and things that will help me in setting up my business as best I can. So the need to decide on what should come first and how much time I should spend on that is never far away.

And this week I’m agonizing about another issue. It’s both a dilemma as far as time is concerned, but also in part a financial dilemma.

After my successful week in Tokyo in May I have slowly started to look at when would be a good time to do a similar trip to China. It’s been over a year since I was there last and it’s time to visit again to further build on my professional network and increase my understanding of local developments on CSR & sustainability. I’m really looking forward to going: I expect it will be a very useful, interesting and exciting trip. Of course, there’s also the choice of which places in China to visit – but that’s not what’s on my mind most.

Because around the time when I’m planning to be in China, CSR Asia is hosting its annual CSR Asia Summit in Bangkok. I would love to go. The programme contains some very interesting sessions, and it would be a great way to connect with people that I wouldn’t meet with otherwise. That is, assuming that the conference will have plenty of time to network and talk to people – as last week’s Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct didn’t leave much time for that.

However, including this conference in my trip (while I’m in China, I may as well pop over to Thailand on the way back) would cut into the amount of time I am able to spend in China itself. That means, even if I’ll be back there later on, I would not have the opportunity to learn as much there as I might want to. Of course, the conference itself may be a very worthwhile substitute for a few days in China. Especially as it may also give me the opportunity to meet with a few people working on CSR & sustainability in Thailand, which is still unknown territory to me.

Which would benefit me more in the long term, the conference in Bangkok or an additional few days in China? I don’t know – and it’s probably impossible to really predict. But still. Any thoughts to help me make up my mind are very welcome!

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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 Chinadialogue.net‘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.

PINA – Tanzt, tanzt, sonst sind wir verloren – Deutscher Trailer from neueroadmovies on Vimeo.

Gisteravond, terug in mijn hotel in Parijs na een avond bijpraten met goede vrienden, val ik op tv in de documentary Pina, over het werk van choreografe Pina Bausch. Een bijzondere film die ik een tijd terug eens in 3D in de bioscoop heb gezien, absolute aanrader dus!

Nu ik de film weer zie, na in de tussentijd ook regelmatig naar moderne dansvoorstellingen te zijn geweest, heb ik het gevoel steeds meer te herkennen; bewegingen, muziek, thema’s.

Ik blijf geboeid kijken naar haar stuk ‘Vollmond’ wat uitgezonden wordt na de documentaire. Volle maan – en het stuk bestaat vooral uit individuele dansers die ‘gek’ doen op het podium. Soms bedeesd, soms uitbundig, soms klein, soms groot. Dans boeit. In welke vorm ik het ook zie, telkens blijf ik kijken. Dus ook nu weer.

De uitspraak in de titel komt van haar – en komt vanavond ook even aan. Omdat het doet denken aan de twee onverwachte begrafenissen die ik de afgelopen maand had. En vooral omdat ik toen telkens dacht: het is zo belangrijk om datgene te doen wat je echt wil doen, waar je blij van wordt, gelukkig van wordt, energie van krijgt.

Dat zie ik misschien ook wel terug in een goed dansstuk: dansers die vol overgave iets bijzonders neer zetten.

Dance, dance! Otherwise we are lost.

In a post a few weeks ago, I mentioned the OECD Guidelines: international guidelines on responsible business conduct – or corporate social responsibility – supported by 44 (soon: 45) countries world wide.

Since late last year I have been working for the Dutch National Contactpoint for the OECD Guidelines, which is an organisation set up in each of those 44 countries who have committed themselves to the Guidelines, with the main purpose of working towards the practical application of the Guidelines by internationally operating companies.

And now, I don’t even have to share long articles or texts with you to explain the basics of what the Guidelines, and the work of the NCP’s – is about. All you have to do is watch this 10-minute film, which was one of my projects over the last few months.

OECD Guidelines & Netherlands NCP: the story from OESO richtlijnen on Vimeo.

newspapers

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.

Old Delhi

It doesn’t happen often that events are organized which specifically focus on sustainability & business in an Asian country. Some will focus on a specific area, such as business opportunities in wind energy or similar but tackling the wider topic is (admittedly) difficult.

So I was happy to come across a seminar yesterday, which was organized by the Netherlands-India Chamber of Commerce and Trade, on sustainability in India. I attended an evening on a similar topic focusing on China a few weeks ago and was looking forward to a more business-oriented approach to the topic that this India-event seemed to promise.

As in many other Asian countries, India is faced with a range of sustainability challenges which are connected to population growth, urbanization, the need for increasing access to clean water and electricity, to name a few. I had hoped that the event yesterday would be able to give a comprehensive overview of these issues – and what opportunities this can offer for Dutch entrepreneurs. It tried to do this, but mostly remained focused on the renewable energy challenge in India with speakers from PwC India and TERI Europe. An important topic, and one that has a lot of potential – especially when you consider the social multiplier effect of enabling more people to connect to the electricity grid in India: indirectly, this opens up more opportunities for healthcare, education etc all because people have access to better appliances, light etc. Renewables such as wind energy and solar power can play a very important part to enable this access. Growth numbers also indicate this opportunity, with 17% annual growth for renewable energy in India.

This potential was highlighted by the other two speakers from TERI Europe and from Start Green Venture Capital, who also mentioned shortly the need for water technology (advisory) services. However, the presentations remained quite exclusively focused on wind energy, and a little on other sources of renewables. No doubt that this is an important topic, though I had hoped for a little more perspective on the wider topic of sustainability and sustainable business.

Nevertheless, a good way to get a little more insight into opportunities in a country which I only know a little (and of that, my knowledge mostly extends to the maritime and creative industries). The afternoon gathered together an interesting mix of people, coming from various backgrounds. That – and the great food! – combined to make for a good afternoon.

Just when I’m finally getting this blog up and running, I’m leaving it for a bit. But only for a short holiday.

Coming back from Japan a little over a week ago, my mind was (and still is) full of ideas for blogposts (and other articles to post elsewhere), and I had planned to schedule a few so it would keep updating while I am away exploring Central Europe. Unfortunately, real life got in the way. Real life meaning: hectic and long working days at my current assignment, and an unexpected opportunity to present about Corporate Social Responsibility and what it can mean to internationally active businesses to an audience of Dutch entrepreneurs heading to Russia soon. An opportunity too good to refuse, but which also took more time than expected.

It was good taking this opportunity though – I’m used to talking about CSR with people who also support the ideas behind it, and why it seems to be a necessary development for business. But the group I spoke to on Friday was unknown to me, so I wasn’t sure where to start talking. Especially when it then turned out that my powerpoint presentation didn’t want to start up.

Maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing in the end, as I ended up having more or less a conversation with the people around the table where I was highlighting the things that I think matter when a company is trying to decide on its CSR policy. And that mostly comes down to trying to work out what are the issues that matter most to your company and starting from there. Issues differ per industry and region, but also business activity so that makes it impossible to have a one-size-fits-all approach when talking about how companies can integrate CSR in their business management.

So, no scheduled posts for the moment – but all these ideas are still in my head to start working on soon.