Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sustainability, Ian Dunlop and BHP

There is currently (and obviously) enormous interest in the idea of the market as the basis of a response to climate change. The language of the market provides a model of change that is seductive. It suggests that the future lies in our hands. Accompanying this vision has been a proliferation of industry-based sustainability criteria rating schemes. Annual reports seem to inevitably make reference to sustainability initiatives, ethical and responsible investment companies are proliferating, and sustainability conferences are attended by banks and mining companies. This emphasis on the market runs parallel to discussions about the role of government in creating a market for greenhouse gases, but is not necessarily determined by or dependent upon government.

The emphasis on sustainability makes good business sense on a number of levels. In the first instance, it overlaps to an uncanny degree with the notion of sustainable profits, it offers an opportunity to reduce costs through reducing power consumption and increasing efficiency, and it is a good marketing strategy that appeals to investors.

Against this response to climate change is the recent IPCC report, which argues that, to have a two-thirds chance of keeping global warming below 2ºC, CO2 emissions from all anthropogenic sources will need to stay between 0 and about 1,000 [trillion tonnes], that the world has already blown through just over half that amount (531 trillion tonnes) by 2011, and that, at current rates of greenhouse-gas emission, the rest of the budget will have been spent before 2040. Ian Dunlop, who is currently standing for the board of BHP, describes Climate Change as a
“transformative issue which has life-and-death consequences”. Dunlop argues that impact of carbon on climate requires a “complete reappraisal of our lifestyle”, a change in values and a radical shift in investment away from oil and coal.
Dunlop’s argument raises some important and challenging questions about the need to define what constitutes meaningful corporate action on climate change. There is a need to separate the rhetoric form the reality, the distinction between marketing and materiality, between “‘vision’ and ‘execution’”.

The transcript of Dunlop's interview on ABC Radio National is below.
Thursday 17 October 2013
Ian Dunlop: BHP are doing a lot of good things in terms of addressing climate change. They have accepted that it is a serious issue, that action needs to be accelerated. They are looking at reducing their internal emissions quite extensively. That’s all good stuff. But I think the thing that is missing is the understanding that climate change is going to be one of these things that fundamentally alters the way that a company like BHP operates and I don’t believe that that is really understood strategically on the Board of BHP at the moment…
Climate change is not a single issue. It is going to permeate the entire operation of the company right across the board and fundamentally change the way a company like BHP operates. There is a need to take a broader strategic view which integrates the implications of climate change with the way that the company is operating, not just in terms of its day to day operations but very much in a strategic direction: which businesses do they invest in, which ones do they get out of.
Itsnot just a question of selling out of things [like coal] you have to find ways of sterilising those reservesbecause if you just sell out you solve nothing.
This is a major problem that we have never ever had before and it is at a much higher level than the way strategy is being formulated in corporate Australia at the moment and, I believe, in BHP. It does require ultimately a global solution, but it requires leadership from big corporations because politics is not going to lead. I think what is patently obvious over the last twenty years, but particularly in the last five years and the recent election, is that we will never see leadership within western democracies on an issue as complicated as climate change. It is going to have to come from the people who really have the major self interest in addressing it and who are going to have to design and implement the solutions, and that comes back to the BHPs of this world.
Trevor Thomas from Ethinvest: You have to see how clearly BHP matches its portfolio investment decisions with its public statements around these issues. They still have very substantial investments in thermal coal and other fossil fuels that will be subject to significant market change over the next fifteen to twenty five years.

Dunlop: I would like to think that it opens up the possibility of having a different conversation that might lead to me getting appointed to the board and I would hope that as investors start to understand the implications of this that they will start to broaden their thinking and that they will start to see this as the realmega-issue for their investments.

2014-2015 Fellowship Applications

I picked this up from The Exchange.
"The Tulip Folly," 1882. Artist Jean-Léon Gérôme
The Institute for Historical Studies (IHS) at the University of Texas at Austin expects to appoint four resident fellows for 2014-2015 whose work engages with the year's theme, "Capital and Commodities." Fellowships are available for all ranks. They are not restricted to historians, but projects must have significant historical content. According to the call for applicants:
 The co-development of financial and ecological crises, the global proliferation of mass consumerism, and ongoing social and military conflicts over access to natural resources suggest the critical importance of historicizing the study of capital and commodities. Indeed, over the last several decades, historians have compiled an impressive body of work on the history of commodities and their production, circulation, uses, and cultural significance. Research into commodity chains has forced historians to consider questions of social identity formation and has invigorated analysis of systems of communication and representation. Historical studies have also revealed the impact of commodity production and consumption on natural landscapes and sociopolitical formations. Recent globalized economic crises have further helped focus scholarly attention on how commodity exchange and capital creation involve the conjunctural dimensions of history: credit booms and debt crises, cycles of inflation and deflation, economic growth (and its intellectual constructions) and limits to growth. In this vein, the Institute encourages analytical approaches that underscore the sociocultural, political, environmental, and intellectual underpinnings of the history of capital and commodities. Proposals that encompass broad timespans (including the medieval and early modern periods) and that reach across geographic areas and disciplinary boundaries are particularly encouraged.
The application deadline is January 15, 2014. For more information about the Institute's fellowship and application process, please visit: http://www.utexas.edu/cola/insts/historicalstudies/fellowships/resident-fellows.php;
Queries should be directed to historyinstitute@austin.utexas.edu.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Company Research

The State Libraray of Victoria has a page called "Companies in Australia".
There are a variety of suggestions here. The best ones include:
Morningstar DatAnalysis
Aspect Financial Pty Ltd
Date range: 1989 to current
What: online database
Where: Available from all workstations at SLV Swanston Street
Output: Read on screen, print from workstation, download text, csv, and pdf files
Extensive information on ASX listed and delisted companies. Content incudes each company's annual reports, quarterly and half-yearly reports, all company announcements, financial statements, director statements, business summary, company, operational and dividend history, listing details, descriptions of capital table, capital history, top and substantial shareholders, distribution of shareholders, directors interests, controlled entities, segment performance, and 10-year financial statements. Excellent source of prospectuses in pdf format. Now includes history for share prices, market capitalisation and shares on issue. Daily data is available from 1 January 2000. Month end data is available from January 1988.

ASX Company Announcements Collection, 1980-1996

bibliography - Check List of Australian Business Histories and Biographies of Businessmen published in Business Archives and History in Volume III, No 1, February 1963, pp 119-137

A key resource seems to be the "Guide to Australian Business Records"
Date range: 19th and 20th centuries
What: Website listing records of archival holdings and published histories of Australian businesses, people and industry bodies. Includes links to other sources of business archives.
This had its antecedants in"
The bibliography - Check List of Australian Business Histories and Biographies of Businessmen published in Business Archives and History in Volume III, No 1, February 1963, pp 119-137.
Julie Marshall and Richard Trahair, A checklist of biographies of Australian businessmen, published by La Trobe University Library, 1980.
The National Archives of Australia, the University of Melbourne Archives and the Noel Butlin Archives Centre, have all supported.
D. Terwiel, S. P. Ville and G. A. Fleming,Australian Business Records: An Archival Guide Canberra : Australian National University, Faculty of Economics and Commerce, Dept. of Economic History, 1998.

University of Melbourne Archives collections
Finding Aids
You can also browse the catalogue bu person or business.
The librarty has a good section on engineering.

 Noel Butlin Archives
Map Catalogue

The Economic History Soceity of Australia and New Zealand
Publishes the Australian Economic History Review.

There is an Australian Mining History Association

 National Library
Guide to selected Collections:
 Petherick Collection
About 15,000 books and pamphlets. The great strength of the collection is in Pacific voyages and early Australiana with many very rare items. Also manuscripts including papers of Joseph Banks, maps and pictures.
Tooley Collection
1277 charts and maps dating from the 16th to the late 19th centuries. They include maps of the Pacific and New Zealand as well as Australia.
The "Browse by State" button is quite useful.
The NLA has an "Index to the Historical Records of Australia: 1788-1848".

There is a page on Government Gazettes
The State Library of Victoria has online images of every page of the New South Wales Government Gazette 1836 - 1851 (provided from the collection of the State Library of New South Wales).

The Pacific Manuscripts Bureau is an intersting resource.
There are some interesting references in its Printed Publications records.
There is also a Pacific Research Collections (PRC), with some finding aids.

For "Recent Government Publications" see the huge lists published by Libraries Australia.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Web Exhibits

I am a fan of The Exchange, by the Business History Conference.
A recent post on Web Exhibits included: