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Who is neutral about carbon?

Alcoa has announced it will be carbon neutral by 2017. This will not be through using renewable energy, but because transport products will use more aluminium and so be able to reduce opeational energy costs. I wonder whether the train companies, for example, will also claim a reduced carbon burden. And maybe consumers will also be able to claim a reduced carbon burden – they will be travelling on those lighter trains, after all.

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Is Comet Temple uninhabited?

It must be very difficult to hit something 85m miles away; the skill of NASA scientists and technicians must be very great. But what if someone – or something – lives on the comet? I wonder what they might think of it all.

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Securing ID

The UK government wants to construct a huge database holding information about every citizen. The justtification is that it will ‘increase security’. Yet it is technically possible to secure identification – even biometrically – while holding very little information centrally. However this might not serve the other purposes of the central database…

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Paying Living Wages to the Supply Chain

Taco Bell has agreed to increase by 75% the wages of its tomato pickers in Florida. Insisting that the extra money goes to the pickers it has ended a long running wage dispute. And at perhaps $20m for a 1¢ per pound increase, it shows that even fast food doesn’t have to play loose with ethics.

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Is co-operation what we really need?

That bastion of corporate competition, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, has dared to suggest that co-operation might be more useful than competition in achieving desirable social outcomes in the supply chain. For example, you might have two health and safety standards from two companies each requiring a factory to have a fire extinguisher – but one at 50cm from the floor, another 75cm! This simply raises costs and the number of fire extinguishers. I wonder how far PriceWaterhouseCoopers thinks co-operation should go…

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The Accountability of our Politicians

What are the legitimate demands of accountability on politicians. The received wisdom of the western democracies is that the ballot box suffices. But do people vote for policies or personalities? When celebrities stand for office, you can expect a high turnout. But should you expect people to vote according to what they stand for or who they are?

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Pope's critics speak out

After the grief is the appraisal: how should the pope be judged? How should a religious leader demonstrate their accountability? Is God ‘just’ another stakeholder? Or do values, spiritual and otherwise, have a special place in relation to accountability? After the grief is the appraisal – and the choice of a new pope.

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Is it really a good idea to 'integrate CSR'?

The DTI is keen to ‘integrate’ CSR into ‘the mainstream’ of corporate practice. This sounds like a good idea. But what happens when integration is achieved? Will the mainstream have absorbed CSR leaving no trace? Or will CSR have absorbed the mainstream? The real purpose of CSR is surely to challenge the mainstream from another point of view – so ‘integration’ is a very mixed blessing.

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After Sudan 1….Sudan 4, Manchester Yellow?

The Sudan 1 Affair is instructive. Not because the food companies have reacted sensibly and not because the danger from Sudan 1 is particularly great. But who saw it coming? And what is coming next? There are all those other substances which are banned in food – which we know we should not eat. And then there are all those man-made chemicals whose effects, espcially in combination, we do not know. Yet. The only thing which seems fairly sure, is that there will be continuing ‘surprises’ as the consequences of living in this soup emerge.

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Externalising the Economist's Ethcs

The Economist is against CSR: the business of business is business and the pursuit of ethics is at best a distraction; what is ethical is market-driven behaviour. But markets are riddled with externalities – externalities are things which you don’t pay for, but get anyway. Some are good, some are bad, but there are very few markets free of them. So is it ethical to promote a free market system which is riddled with externalities? Is it ethical to sell something which is broken? The Economist thinks so.