It’s not all about Profit…..

The origin of the word ‘Profit’ is from the Latin word profectus meaning to advance, progress,increase. If it were to mean that and that alone it would probably be not such a contentious term. However, it does not mean just that , it is the main driver that underpins the markets within capitalism. Until now perhaps ?

this cruel pandemic is showing us much about what really matters …..This crisis has helped make clear that the world in which the sole objective of a company’s purpose is to maximise profit is no longer acceptable

This a quote from Bernard Looney, Chief Executive of BP , taken from his linkedin blog and reported in The Times April 6th 2020.

I am not against people making buckets loads of dosh. I am against those making tanks full of dosh. I dont understand why and I dont understand how anyone benefits apart from the individuals concerned . Then I dont understand what they benefit they derive from the vast wealth except knowing they have vast wealth. I think the likes of the Bill Gates Foundation is laudable but how is a point reached where one man is able to setup a charity involving billions of dollars , without having any material effect on on his own lifestyle. What if during his presence at Microsoft , he had slightly reduced profit margins and paid his colleagues more (I know they are reasonably well paid anyway ) , what if he had made his products slightly cheaper so they were more available to a wider audience . I am not picking on Bill Gates, it is justthat he is, probably, the best known amongst the current crop. Warren Buffet, an associate of Bill Gates, in his philanthropy, made a fortune out the fincial crisis alone. How does that stack up? Nor is it confined to todays billionaires, history is littered with fabulously wealthy individuals who funded amazing projects but still pocketed excessive amounts, at the same time as employing very dubious commercial practices. Carnegie, Randolph Hearst, and JP Morgan to name but a few.

Hans-Christoph Hirt of funds giant Federated Hermes wrote to businesses last week, saying: “The world will not be the same again — or, at least, it should not be.”

Hirt talks of a “more sustainable form of capitalism”, while Deloitte’s team refer to “stakeholder capitalism”. Shareholder returns may take a back seat, although Alex Edmans, professor of finance at London Business School, reckons companies that serve wider society can perform better.

Jill Treanor

Sunday April 19 2020, 12.01am, The Sunday Times

I think Bernard Looney is being relatively honest about his approach . Although, some may think he is trying to Big up BP’s environmental and social credentials . It has had its fair share of disasters in recent years. But so have all the fossil fuel companies. If he follows up the words with actions, I am pretty sure it will pay dividends , in all senses of the word.

Good profitable organizations are fundamental to all economies. They feed our pension funds (private and public) they create employment , they enhance their national treasuries (some more than others) and they create general wealth. It is that vastly excessive wealth, that does not actually do anything apart from making a few people , fabulously wealthy and in most cases powerful.

To illustrate that, this time last year, Oxfam told us that eight individuals have as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population. Now it has revised that figure to 61 people for last year, falling to 42 people this year – that’s a pretty big revision.

Anthony Reuben, BBC Reality Check January 2018

Many commentators and journalists , say this approach is down to envy. I would counter that with vanity. Much (I hasten to add not all) philanthropy contains a large lump of vanity. When it comes to envy , I can very clearly state from my own point of view , that this is really not the case. Under no circumstances do I ever want to be in a position that I and my family are surrounded by security. We can not go about freely. We cannot truly trust anyone. We have to be wary of every move we make or things we say and to whom. We have so much property that most of it rarely gets used. We have cars, boats and planes that are only used to be kept in working order. But perhaps most importantly completely distanced from everyday life. An apartment in town, a country pad , somewhere warm to go to in the winter , flying first class ,would all be very nice. But you dont need billions for any of that. Just a few hundred million !

My belief is that if the significant few (individuals), and as a consequence the significant many (organisations) were to rearrange their business models to be slightly less focused on pure profit and added some dollops of social, environmental and corporate awareness they would benefit financially from more investors, of all shapes and sizes, and better performance within their own markets through increased global consumer acceptance of their product and services. And just maybe the world would then be a marginally better place.

Economic Growth = A Cow’s Fart….

I think that when I was a ‘Wee Lad‘ science lessons had involved the measuring the amount of methane that shot out of a cow’s arse , I might have taken a lot more notice. But sadly it did not , so I didn’t .

My interest in cattle ( and science) waned completely, apart from avoiding them when walking in fields or peering through a butchers window .My renewed interest, having no connection to Covid, the Environment or Veganism but the Economy.

In a book ‘Get Ahead…in Physics’, the science editor Tom Whipple of the Times described an experiment involving the measurement of methane. Very simply the scientists measured what went in- so to speak and what came out. This included their poo, their urine, the methane and everything else at the bottom of the enclosure including dandruff (bet you didn’t know that). initially they weighed everything that went into the enclosure, including the calf, and the oxygen , and then weighed absolutely everything after the process. Hey presto …. there was no change in the totals. In this case before=52.5kg, after=52.5kg (including dandruff don’t forget). This is the Law of Conservation of Mass, which applies to everything .

This is not the first time I have drawn upon the efforts of our beloved cattle to bisect our economic climate . Last time I used cow’s farts to analyse pricing . Now I am using farting to discuss growth. Growth, I believe is as relevant to the Law of Conservation of Mass, as is Everything.

In the current climate , I get somewhat that economists bleat on about predicting negative growth levels in every economy . You don’t have to be a financial wizard to realise that if a good chunk of any economy is put on ice for at least six weeks, it will account for at least a minimum decline of 6% (working on a very generous assumption it is only 50% of the total economy, and six weeks = 11% of a year). No matter what happens in the following weeks a 6% gap is not going to be made up. So, PC(Post Covid) growth is going to be critical to ensure that all economies at least get back to base and beyond, in order to repair the financial damage. However BC(before Covid) I did not and still do not see how growth can continue ad infinitum.

We are a planet of finite resources . Ever since, well at least, the bronze age mankind began its consumption of the worlds resources. Overtime, technological developments have used additional resources generally with huge benefits for most us . The Malthusian Theory that population growth would outpace that the means of subsistence, has been proved wrong , or at least for the moment. There has to be a limit somewhere. Does, Zero growth world wide = The limit to which we can support the population at that time ?

Technology will continue to have major impacts upon growth. Historically, some of the simplest forms of technology have had the biggest impact on world growth. In the 1950’s the humble container is said to have been one biggest influences on the huge growth that occurred in the three decades post the war. The technology was not especially advanced it was more a simple solution pushing back on traditional labour practices which in many cases held strangle holds on the worlds docks. It is argued by some economists that the influence was greater or equal to the that of the development of the internet . If that is the case it would also be true that the development of containerisation took less resources than the development of the internet as it stands today.

Environmentalists are constantly telling us we have limited resources . It is not an environmental issue . Or rather, it is but that doesn’t win every argument. What we should agree on , is that the redistribution of wealth should one of the considerations when pursing endless growth when at some point it becomes unachievable. This is not an anti-capitalist viewpoint. From my point of view one of the biggest problems with capitalism is that the markets are constantly seeking growth.

I see it that it is no coincidence that during China’s massive growth over the last twenty years, the rest of the first worlds growth has been less dramatic. There is an historical context . Up until the 1500’s the wealth and power was in Asia, then it tipped over to Europe ,now it is going back. There are few periods when there has been anything close to a balanced scenario.

It is not something we should pursuing in the short term, nor the medium term but in the long term we must consider alternatives ways of operating successful economic systems without the relentless pursuit of growth . Simplistic perhaps, realistic I think so .

If our eyes and ears (and noses) are telling us there is too much cow farting going on, we should, perhaps , desist on trying to see who can blow the biggest raspberries.

Composting, Compounding,Composing or just plain Confusing?

I get it. I really do. I get Climate Change . I get that there are very serious environmental consequences relating to excessive consumerism, polluting detritus, rapid increase in urbanisation, (or rapid increase in land given over to agriculture) or (and even, as well as ) natural climate change .

What I don’t quite get, is the understanding of what really needs to be done. Let me qualify that . There is a mass of data and general information but there appears little acceptance of the consequences of not approaching that data with a more rational and holistic approach. If we are consistently bombarded with worst case scenarios and hair shirt resolutions, I firmly believe the general public will eventually switch off and say it won’t happen to me…..

I won’t drone on about electric cars, and the impact upon the environment on producing millions and millions of batteries. I won’t drone on about the lack of infrastructure. Nor will I speculate on how that change in infrastructure will impact upon the environment. Further more I won’t comment at length about a recent report suggesting that are times when when recharging your electric car cost as much as filling it with petrol. But I will talk about ‘bin bags’. Simple example. Most bin bags available in supermarkets and dramatically thinner, some compostable (come back to this). Avoiding cynicism (thinner bags) assuming they are like this to reduce plastic waste. My experience is that , we actually use twice the amount as if you put anything remotely heavy , slightly sharp or has an edge means they split and you end up using twice as much.

Plastic ,now that’s a material about which there is a massive misunderstanding. Based on a general assumption that everything a bit squidgy or stretchy is plastic. But that’s for another day . Many conversations with retailers at a recent trade exhibition illustrated some of the confused issues we are all faced with.

Nope my customers tell me they won’t buy plastic toys….they want wooden toys…

Admirable thought but how realistic is that intention. The end game for that train of thought has to be the global elimination of the manufacture of plastic toys. No big deal , plastic toys are hardly one of the corner stones of life as we know it. So you replace them with wooden toys. Well, for starters I am unconvinced that you can replace them in total with wood from sustainable forests. Moreover, it puts further pressure (created by all the future demands on wood) on sustainable forestry resources. It has social implications. Plastic is cheaper , compared to wood. Privileged kids have their toys, less privilged don’t. the question cannot arise of Can I afford to be environmentally aware ? Composting, do most know what it really means ? Do they compost ? Or do they stick it in recycling thinking it’s the same thing? No most don’t know. Not only don’t they completely misunderstand the concept ‘To Compost’. As many items that are compostable are not recyclable .

Mixed messages….lots of objections to HS2. Quite justified on financial grounds but when some of this objections are environmental it is much less clear. Do we want big reductions in air and road usage or not? It would make a lot more sense to extend it from London to Glasgow. Would it not?


You’d think the more ‘info’ we get the better it is. But we are literally we are under an information deluge, bit like the current rainfall. There is so much of it we don’t know what to do with it. It only compounds and exacerbates the confusion.


Diesel good …. very rapidly became diesel bad ….

Britain’s Power system has been decarbonising at a faster rate than any where else in the world .

Emissions have fallen buy over two thirds in the last decade. From 160 million tonnes in 2010 to 54 million in 2019

In the electricity sector, a decrease in demand for power proved to be the biggest driver of the decline in emissions, according to the report by academics from Imperial College London for Drax Electric Insights.

Demand fell by 13 per cent, even as the population grew by seven per cent and GDP rose by a quarter, as measures such as more energy efficient lighting, manufacturing and other efficiency measures took hold.

However the rise of electric vehicles and household heat pumps threaten to reverse this trend, the report warned.

Independent Feb 2020

This is a massive problem that needs massive answers. But those (no I haven’t a clue) answers need joined up thinking, and those joins need to cross boundaries. Moreover, the answers we are being given, lead to even more questions. The fear has to be that if the public is only given solutions that they don’t understand, find very confusing, and above all too extreme they will eventually pull the blinds down and say they are not going to play anymore .

No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.

Edmund Burke

I would add that I wrote this before the present Corona crisis. Everything that is above remains the same . What may have changed, in whatever direction that maybe, is societies approach.

Did The French invent Coronavirus ?

Albert Uderzo is not a name that would immediately spring to mind. But the pic above might and he is the Guy that created Asterix. Unfortunately he died last week aged 92. Nothing to do with Covid apparently. It was a heart attack and he did like booze and fags, his own words (not booze and fags of course, more pastis et gauloise , as he was French).

In 2008 he sold the rights to publisher Hachette Livre. and in 2011 he gave up illustrating the books but continued to support the continuation of the stories .

So what’s this got to do with the price of bread. An amazing piece of prescience on behalf of the new creators of the aforesaid Asterix. In 2017, there features a character called …..drum roll….Coronavirus. Who is, of course, a masked villain who will stop at nothing to win.

Courtesy of the Financial Times

So there you are. Now you know and I have nothing more to say on the subject ! The only other thing to be said is that he did not win (Coronavirus that is).

Oh, and except you can see clearly from this that the French did not invent coronavirus. They, positively fought against it. However, the nasty little git must have shoved of to Asia and had a bash there .