Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Vital statistics: 44% increase in international assignments by multinational companies

According to a new survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, a global HR and financial advisor, 44% of 200 multinational firms questioned report an increase in the number of international assignments to and from locations other than the headquarters over the past two years. Much of the increase in the number of international assignments is due to the widespread use of short-term placements which have become more prevalent over the past few years. According to survey findings, while the vast majority of multinational companies (84%) place employees on short-term assignments, only about half (56%) have a formal policy for this type of assignment.

"Short-term assignments are generally more cost-effective than long-term assignments and they allow companies to transfer skill sets quickly and easily. However, for short-term assignments to be successful, companies need to develop well-defined policies to manage costs and limit risks," said Yvonne Sonsino, a principal with Mercer in London. Incentives and cultural support Only 22% of companies say they do not provide mobility premiums as an incentive for international assignments.

However, far more companies provide these premiums systematically for long-term assignments (73%) than for short-term assignments (31%). Gareth Williams, a worldwide partner in Mercer’s Chicago office, said: "One of the main reasons that assignments fail is because expatriates and their families cannot successfully adjust to their new environment. Companies are recognizing the importance of providing support in advance of employee moves. Investment in language and cultural training, for example, can dramatically improve the chance that the international assignment will be successful."Other Mercer survey findings related to trends in international assignment programs include:

· The proportion of female expatriates has increased significantly, from 8% five years ago to 13%. North America and Asia/Pacific lead this trend. Females now account for 14% of the expatriate assignments of companies based in Asia/Pacific, compared with 9% five years ago.
· 72% of the survey participants provide language tuition and 60% of companies provide cross-cultural training, but the critical process of integration once in the host country is typically left to employees.
· Globally, 42% of companies provide expatriates with free housing, but for North American companies, the figure is just 22%.
· Some 50% of companies include spouse support in their international assignments policy; 11% do not have a policy but are developing one, and 12% handle spouse issues on a case-by-case basis.
· While the majority of companies surveyed believe they have a general understanding of the cost of their international assignments, only a few are in a position to measure the specific expense, resulting value, and, ultimately, return on investment from such postings.

More information about Mercer’s 2005/2006 International Assignments Survey can be found here.

source: the source Melcrum

Blogged on 11:15 AM by Upay



Top Tips: Engineering green product design

By Richard Miller, Cyrstal Faraday

It can be hard to push the challenges of sustainability up the strategic agenda. Here, Richard Miller gives five top tips on moving forward with green product design at your organization.
While everyone wants to be part of a business with a future, the discussion on sustainability often seems to consist mostly of negatives; things that threaten your business.

Issues such as this must be dealt with, but they don't look like they will bring any competitive advantage and it's hard to get senior executives excited about sustainability.

However, a growing number of companies have created genuine competitive advantage by developing new products and services that reduce environmental impact whilst maintaining or improving economic, technical and social performance - what has come to be called Green Product Design.

Innovating with design

Crystal Faraday is the UK innovation centre for green chemical technology. We're here to unite industry, academics and government around a common purpose - to make industry more profitable and society more environmentally sustainable through chemistry and engineering. Over the last 12 months we've been developing a structured approach to green product design suitable for industries making and using chemical products. We've found that one of the key challenges is to develop the right mindset.

Successful green product design uses similar tools to any other innovation process. The main difference is in the questions that are asked and the point of view from which concepts are developed and evaluated. We have found the following ideas a powerful way of challenging conventional thinking and opening up the opportunities.

Environmental issues are not just overhead, they represent real commercial opportunities. IBM estimates that from 1996-2002 it saved $2 in avoided costs for every $1 invested in pollution prevention and green product design.

Don't just fix the problem, re-think the system. The Swiss textile company Rohner Textil had problems with waste and emissions from their factory. Rather than install treatment systems, they re-designed the product range to use only natural fibres and low toxicity chemicals and processing. The Climatex Lifestyle range meets all user requirements whilst producing almost no effluent and leaving only biodegradable waste.

There is no waste, only raw materials. Squalane is a high value cosmetic ingredient traditionally obtained from shark liver oil, an unsustainable source. Uniqema were able to produce squalane from a by-product of the olive oil industry. During the process, the rest of the by-product was upgraded to a saleable material. All of the 'waste' was converted into something with commercial value.

You can have both lower impact and higher customer value. The Dow Sentricon termite colony eliminator puts the toxic bait exactly where it is needed and protects it from weather and exposure to people and domestic animals. The amount of pesticide needed is reduced by a factor of 1000 giving a safer, cheaper and more effective product.

Think about the whole lifecycle. What happens both upstream and downstream of your operations? You may be able to innovate to solve problems for your customers and create new market opportunities. A new label adhesive was developed for high speed bottling lines that was not only safer in use, it also made recycling of used PET drinks bottles faster and less costly, increasing the value of the PET scrap.

Visit Crystal Faraday

Blogged on 10:11 AM by Upay



Vital Statistics: Labor issues in the computer industry
By Bart Slob, SOMO

A recent Mail on Sunday report into alleged labor issues at iPod factories has added fuel to the growing debate of factory workers' rights in countries such as China.
Earlier this year the Center for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) published a report on labor issues in the wider information and communications technology (ICT) sector that covers consumer electronics products such as desktop and notebook computers.

Going with the territory

The ICT sector is characterized by high levels of outsourcing to countries including China and Taiwan, with major brand name companies including Acer and Fujitsu-Siemens outsourcing major parts of their production process to contract manufacturers who then sub-contract. Here, SOMO's Bart Slob identifies seven key statistics of the research.

Nine Taiwanese and Chinese contract manufacturer factories for Acer and Fujitsu-Siemens were researched for the SOMO report. At these factories, ICT products were also being manufactured for nine other companies – also called original equipment manufacturers or OEMs – including: Dell, Apple, HP, Sony, Philips, Lenovo, Nokia, Microsoft and IBM. These companies often use the so-called "barebone" strategy, meaning to reduce lead times they purchase almost readymade computers from contract manufacturers (CMs) and add modules such as hard drives, RAM and other optional accessories closer to consumer markets.

Brands use different CMs to ensure constant supply but a relatively small number of CMs supply to nearly all the leading OEMs. In fact, in 2004, Quanta and Compal, two of the world's largest original design manufacturers (ODMs - meaning they own the intellectual rights to the designs of the products but they also use contract manufacturers), manufactured some 54.4 percent of all notebook computers available on the world market.

Many of the OEM brands sell near identical computers with identical specifications. For example, the same barebone notebook computers are used for some models in the Acer Aspire, Hitachi Flora, Dell Smartstep and the Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo ranges.

Factory issues

Across the original nine factories it researched, SOMO uncovered the following issues:
Excessive hours: During peak production season, workers have 12-hour days, six days a week.
However, at one contract manufacturer in China, workers complained of not having a single day off for several months.

Wages of most workers at the factories researched by SOMO are insufficient to cover expenses related to food, let alone rent, clothing and education. In four factories researched in China, basic wages are below the local minimum wage.

Health and safety: Workers in the sector often have to work with hazardous materials and substances without proper protection or health and safety measures. In the factories researched, there were 10 different complaints related to working conditions: excessive hours, work-related stress, noise, poor ergonomics, chemical exposure, skin allergies, respiration problems, noise hazards, dizziness and nausea.

After the thorough shake-up caused by Catholic Agency for Overseas development’s (CAFOD) “clean up your computer” campaign in 2004, some companies began acknowledging the labor issues in their supply chains. In late 2004, several leading companies developed the Electronic Industry Code of Conduct (EICC). The code is currently endorsed by HP, IBM, Dell, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, Sony, some key contract manufacturers and Apple, who's supplier code of conduct (PDF) is modelled on the EICC standard.

The EICC organizers share a vision of creating enhanced social, economic and environmental conditions for all workers in the technology industry’s supply chain and making it more efficient for common suppliers to comply with a single set of agreed-upon high standards.
In the code, clear reference is made to responsible supply chain management: “At a minimum, participants shall require its next-tier suppliers to acknowledge and implement the code.”
Failing to comply

In spite of the relevance of this initiative, some major companies like Acer and Fujitsu-Siemens Computers, refrain from endorsing the code.

The development of the EICC certainly is a step in the right direction, although it’s not clear how compliance with the code is to be monitored. Most of the companies that have endorsed the code are still in the early stages of implementation.

Notwithstanding the ambition and the good intentions of its developers, there is an eminent credibility gap. At least one of the CMs that endorse the EICC is known to have its employees in China work 12 hours a day for months without a single day off.

Excerpted from the article, Labor issues continue to blight computer industry in the Feburary/March 2006 issue of Corporate Responsibility Management. For access to the online archive, visit Melcrum.

Blogged on 10:08 AM by Upay