Sustainable development mantras are all over the world, but change is slow to come. While the international negotiations in the context of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have not shown much progress, international standards suggest a less visible, more influential and pragmatic way to impulse change. In recent years a set of tools has been developed to address the interrelated challenges of climate change, energy, water and nutrition. In an increasingly global economy, could they make a difference?
There are now more standards in China than in any other country: almost 150000, seven times more than in the European Union. Why such a strong interest for standardization? The great number of issues involved allows observers to identify several trends, all of them driving tactical moves towards standardization. But does China have a Grand Strategy?
Has international trade come to a standstill with the crisis that started in 2008? Things are not that simple, says the Director-General of the WTO. While protectionist pressures may appear here and there, the real question revolves around the growing complexity of trade and the structural limits inherent to the technique of negotiation rounds undertaken by member states.
Big consulting firms play a crucial role in the strategic management of companies. But how did they themselves design strategies of their own? During a seminar in the Ecole de Paris, Christopher McKenna (Oxford University) looked back on the history of an industry characterized by a somewhat ambiguous relationship to innovation.
Bitcoin is a new payment application available on the internet since January 2009. In a way, by virtue of its open source publication, it is similar to the World Wide Web, the hugely successful internet application of the internet that now enables so many others. Much like the WWW has redefined the way mankind produces and shares knowledge, bitcoin transforms the social code underlying money supply to bring about a new degree of economic freedom. Can it be seen as a new monetary reform vehicle?
The Fukushima has brought nuclear safety front-stage again. This catastrophe has already enabled us to pin-point several specific weak points, e.g., system complexity and non-collaboration (independence) of the Japanese institutions concerned. But elsewhere in the world, questions are still being raised and the prospect of setting up an international authority in this field is remote.
Traffic regulations have become more constraining as technology grows ever more sophisticated. In finance the opposite is true and progress has been measured by the suppression of previous regulatory safeguards and the complete absence of a new framework with which to replace them. To extend the analogy of the automobile it is as if whoever has the desire, can drive any vehicle while creating their own rules and according to any route. Is this the path we want to be taking?
The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig has dealt a heavy blow to BP. Finding its very integrity and sustainability threatened, the company witnessed its stock market value plummet. Today, its shares are worth about half of what they were before the disaster. However, the heavy penalty that BP will have to face could paradoxically have a positive impact. By highlighting the financial risks of inadequate management of environmental hazards, it could make investors more aware of the environmental factor. And, it could push governments to adopt measures reminding investors of their obligations, if required.
Standards are usually seen as constraints rather than dynamic tools to disseminate innovation and best practices and facilitate market access. There is a lot of confusion between regulation and standards. With the globalization of trade and of many other issues, the need for and the production of international standards has significantly increased. They should form an integral part of the overall management and strategies of companies and organizations. If you ignore it, you could well be out of the game...