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Archive for January 2nd, 2008

Adding to New Year’s Eve conversation about Switzerland’s contributions to the world (chocolate, cheese, army knives, politeness, neutrality, precision watches, banks, cuckoo clocks, radar-cheating bicycles, ball bearings, possibly the world’s largest naval force for a landlocked nation and the ubiquitous Ricola cough drops… but strangely no beer of any kind) here now is Geneva-based Covalence’s Ethical Ranking for 2007:

If you aren’t familiar with Covalence’s ER report, it is extremely Swiss in both concept and execution. From their own press release:
Twenty multinational companies are analyzed in ten major sectors; the top ten performing companies are ranked in each category: Best EthicalQuote Score (positive minus negative news, cumulated from 2002 to 2007), Best Ethical Progress (positive minus negative news, cumulated from January to December 2007) and Best Reported Performance (positive news only, cumulated from January to December 2007).

Best EthicalQuote Score and Best EthicalQuote Progress are given by confronting positive and negative news. Best Reported Performance is calculated by quantifying positive news only – it shows how companies report on their ethical performance without considering criticisms and demands. Some companies being highly targeted by activists have a low EthicalQuote Score while at the same time ranking high in terms of Reported Performance. We can assume that “ethical demands” (negative news i.e. stakeholder issues, campaigns, expectations) stimulate “ethical offers” (positive news i.e. initiatives, reporting, communication by companies).

Environmental Impact of Production, Eco Innovative Product, Waste Management and Anticorruption Policy were all hot topics this year, while Social Impact, Social Sponsorship, Labour Standards and Human Rights Policy – hot topics in the past – started their slow march into relative oblivion.

The report is pretty thorough. here are some of the highlights:

Starbucks, Toyota, Intel, DELL, Hewlett-Packard were among the top 10 across all industries in the Best Ethical Score category.

Best Ethical Quote Progress across all categories counted Toyota, IBM, DELL, Walmart. Hewlett Packard, Intel, Honda and Dupont among its Top 10.

Best Reported Performance (again across all categories) counted WalMart, Coca Cola, Toyota, IBM, DELL, Ford and BP among its Top 10.
Toyota was the clear winner in the automotive category, followed by Ford and Honda.

HSBC was the global winner in the banking category, followed by Citigroup, Bank of America, and ABN AMRO.

In the Chemicals category, BASF and Dupont shared top honors, followed closely by Dow Chemicals, Bayer, and Air Products.

I was surprised to see that the Entertainment category did not include Sheryl O’Sullivan (from my 8th grade art class), but whatever. We’re dealing with swiss precision here, so who am I to question the results. Top honors in that category went to Philips Electronics, Sony Corp, and none other than McDonald’s. (No, I am not kidding.) LG, Nintendo, Sharp, and Pioneer were on the list, but Micky Dee’s beat them out. It can’t be the McToys that come with my Happy Meals, so I must have once again underestimated Ronald McDonald’s entertainment superpowers.

Either that or the Hamburglar snuck into Covalence’s HQ and altered the results.

God bless the Swiss.

Food and Beverage crowned Unilever, Coca Cola and Starbucks as the overlords of culinary brands. Other winners: Nestle, Danone, Kellogg, SAB Miller, Kraft Foods, Heinz and Cadbury. (Nope, no Sony or XBox. Go figure.) McDonald’s would have probably won that one if it hadn’t already been one of the winners in the entertainment category.

Mining and Metals: Alcoa and Rio Tinto kicked more ass than Xstrada, Nippon Steel and Gold Fields, which is pretty cool. I would love to be able to say “In 2007, we kicked more ass than Gold Fields!” If I worled for Alcoa, I would say that to at least one random person every day.

Oil & Gas saw BP, Suncor Energy, Chevron and Petrobras beat out everyone else.

Pharmaceuticals and biotech: GlaxoSmithKline ruled supreme across all three scores, followed by J&J, Abbott, and Bristol Myers Squibb. (Sorry Pfizer. At least you made the list.)

Retailers: (Drumroll…) Marks & Spencer shared the top spot with WalMart. Home Depot was 3rd, followed by Gap, Tesco and Carrefour. Best Buy and Target made the list. (Whew.)

Technology Hardware: HP, IBM, Intel and DELL beat out Nokia, Siemens, Ericsson, Apple, Sun Microsystems, Motorola and Xerox.
Again, to understand the way this study is compiled:

Covalence’ s ethical quotation system is a reputation index based on quantifying qualitative data, which are classified according to 45 criteria such as Labour standards, Waste management, Product social utility or Human rights policy. It is a barometer of how multinationals are perceived in the ethical field.

The system integrates thousands of documents found among media, enterprise, NGO and other sources, for producing the EthicalQuote curves. These curves measure the historical evolution of the reputation of companies regarding ethical issues. They are created through the cumulative addition of positive news (documents coded as “ethical offers”, which are weighed as +1, curve ascends) and negative news (“ethical demands” weighed as -1, curve descends). The Reported Performance measure is given by cumulating positive news only.

Have a great New year, everyone. 🙂

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Happy New Year everyone!
I am back in the office after a day of garage cleaning and remodeling – which is a pretty lame way to spend the first day of the year… but whatever. The family is still out of town, it was way too windy and cold for a bike ride, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. To get 2008 started on the right foot (no offense to left-footers), I thought I would share this pretty exciting new psychosocial disorder with you.
Ever heard of Ringxiety? If not, you’re going to love this (from Josh Clark’s article on Howstuffworks.com):

Ringxiety, first coined by psychologist David Laramie, is exactly what it sounds like: confusing the sound of a cell phone ringing with a sound similar to it. Since there’s no harm done, aside from a bit of annoyance — especially if a person struggles to locate his phone — most people seem to regard ringxiety as a curiosity or a fact of wireless life. The exact origin of this hallucination has yet to be exactly pinned down, however.
Some researchers think that ringxiety stems from a constant state of readiness that could develop in cell phone users. Before the advent of wireless phones, no one expected a call while driving in the
car, shopping at the grocery store or dancing at a nightclub. With cell phones, though, there’s a potential for a call to come through at any moment. Because of this, it’s possible that our brains are conditioned to expect a call constantly, and when a person hears a tone that reminds him of his cell phone ringing, he will believe that’s the case.
Others believe that ringxiety — or in this case, phantom ringing — simply stems from confusion due to the frequency of most stock cell phone ringtones and the location of our ears. Most standard cell ringtones play at a frequency of around 1,000 hertz. Humans are particularly attuned to pick up on sounds at this range, especially if they’re single-toned, like many ring tones. But because people have ears on either side of their heads, it’s difficult for them to pinpoint the source of a sound, particularly at this frequency — for example, from a phone or from a bird outside. To some, this explains the phenomenon of phantom ringing. This doesn’t hold true for multi-tonal rings, however, such as an
MP3 of a popular song.

… Which doesn’t explain why I can’t get that stupid Umberella song out of my head! But wait, the madness doesn’t stop here.
Those who opt to set the phone to “vibrate” rather than “ring” aren’t off the hook either. Even stranger than phantom ringing is the phantom vibration phenomenon. This is also a part of the ringxiety that David Laramie studied, although fewer ideas about its origins have been suggested. It’s similar to phantom ringing, but phantom vibration is a physical rather than an auditory hallucination.
Are you kidding me? Phantom vibrations?

“Hey, um… are like, your trousers vibrating right now?”
“No… I think it’s my phantom phone making an imaginary call to my pants.”

But wait, there’s more:

(Phantom rings/vibrations are) also similar to another, well-documented phenomenon called phantom limb syndrome. In this medically recognized condition*, amputees — people who’ve had limbs removed — report feeling pain in limbs that are no longer attached to their bodies. Is it possible that people have become as attached to their cell phones as they are to their own arms and legs?

* (as opposed to conditions like, say… Ringxiety.) To answer Josh’s question, perhaps not most cellphones, but yes, if I could somehow adopt my crackberry as an organ, I would. (I would settle for making it a limb, but that wouldn’t be as fun.)

According to a study published in September of 2007, 66% of cell phone users hear phantom rings. Sixty-six friggin percent!!!

Two thirds of us are therefore certifiably insane.

Worse yet, in just one generation, we have managed to go from good old trusty schyzophrenia (remember the good old days when we still heard voices – even if they came from our car radios or the TV static) to the sorry state of social isolation we’re in today: Instead of human voices, we are now hearing cell phone ringtones. That’s how detached from other human beings we’ve become.

(Me, I just hear phantom dog barks and parrot croaks, but that’s a whole different story.)

In his study on ringxiety, David Laramie found a link between increased cell phone use and phantom ring/vibration experiences. He found that two-thirds of the people he surveyed for the study said they’d experienced ringxiety. Those who experienced the phenomenon the most — 67 percent of the survey population — also used the phone the most. They used up more minutes, had larger phone bills, tended to be younger and also sent more text messages [source: Newswise].
The fact that the people who spent more time using their phone experienced ringxiety more often comes as little surprise. But there is another aspect of Laramie’s study that may be more revealing. He found that people who preferred to text others rather than call tended to be more lonely and socially anxious.
Does that mean the way a person uses his phone can predict his personality type? Possibly. Another study shows that phones may directly affect a person’s personality. Specifically, wireless devices can make us less happy.
In 2005, psychologist Noelle Chesley conducted a study of 1,367 men and women who work, have families and use cell phones. She found an increase in stress and a decrease in family satisfaction among both men and women who use cell phones. Chesley believes this is due to what she and other researchers call a blurring of the traditional lines between work and family life.
This blurring occurs when role boundary permeability takes place. Under this condition, a person’s role in one part of their life merges with another role. For example, a woman might get a call at work by one of her kids looking for the TV remote at home. In this case, the woman’s role of mother has infiltrated her separate role as employee.
Chesley’s findings show that while people with cell phones suffer from increased stress and lowered family satisfaction, e-mail — a more “passive” form of communication — does not produce the same results. This suggests that cell phones are more intrusive than other forms of communication, and our happiness suffers as a result of this intrusion.

In related news, lawyers jump all over this (as expected).
Related reading: The New York Times

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