An Open Letter to the John Lewis Partners

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I am writing this letter as a concerned customer, citizen, and in my professional capacity as someone teaching in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility. The reason why I have chosen to do this is the response that the Partnership sent to a campaign requesting that John Lewis and Waitrose stop placing ads in British newspapers that promote hate speech in this country, especially in an environment of increasing violence against many in our society. They have responded on Twitter to communications by @StopFundingHate by arguing that the Partnership does not make editorial judgments on any particular newspaper.

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I wish to demonstrate with the following that this stance violates the Partnership’s CSR commitments and to ask YOU, individual partners, to act in order to guide the Partnership to honour its commitments.

The John Lewis Partnership is guided by a series of principles and rules. Principle 7 states the followingThe Partnership aims to obey the spirit as well as the letter of the law and to contribute to the wellbeing of the communities where it operates.

My contention is that placing ads in newspapers promoting hate, undermining the peaceful co-existence of the inhabitants of this island is detrimental to the wellbeing of the communities in which the Partnership operates.

The Partnership proudly declares in its CSR documentation that In 2015 it carried out a detailed review of their approach to respecting human rights, drawing on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Indeed the Partnership has a long history of positive involvement in human rights issues and in responsible business. This was the result of John Spedan Lewis’s visionary ideas, behaviours and beliefs as your CSR statements correctly highlight.

Placing advertising in newspapers spouting lies, spreading hate and disseminating misinformation that aims to divide the nation and turn sections of the population against each other, betrays the values of the Partnership’s founder.

The Partnership proclaims to be engaged in responsible marketing. This means that its marketing is considerate of customer needs and wishes and protects vulnerable groups.

Do you not consider that the people who fled their countries to escape persecution are vulnerable groups? Don’t you consider that foreign workers, trying to make a life for their families in this country, under difficult conditions, are vulnerable groups? Do you not consider that ethnic and religious minorities persecuted by an abominable press and far-right fanatics are vulnerable groups?

Adhering to the Advertising Standards Authority Code of Practice and other relevant industry codes is not enough if it is done as a tick-box exercise. Do you not proclaim to obey the spirit as well as the letter of rules?

In my research in the field of CSR I argued that voluntarism can be something beyond pretty dressing for corporate branding exercises. I tell my students in Human Rights that CSR has substantive value and that the aim is for businesses to do the appropriate thing because they believe it, not because it scores some marketing points or makes for good tweets.

Other businesses are indeed doing the right thing.

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Have I been wrong about John Lewis?

Crucially, YOU as partners, have YOU being wrong? Do you not aspire for the Partnership to be better?

If you do, then I urge you to heed the calls of the Stop Funding Hate campaign and guide the Partnership to honouring its CSR commitments.

With Regards

Dr. Ioannis Glinavos

@iGlinavos

An evil plan would have been better than this

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When we (by this I mean fellow Remainers) tried to reflect on Brexit post the fateful referendum on 23 June, we assumed that Brexit was part of an evil plan.

Such evil plan consisted of a Thatcherite take-over under the guise of a far-right coup. We did not think for a second that Boris really wanted out of the EU, or that May was really that keen to rain fire on the economy just to appease UKIPers. We thought this is all a rouse, a clever way to gain power and finish the Thatcherite revolution that Blair ameliorated, and Cameron distorted through the self-imposed pain of austerity, while keeping the state living (albeit at a barely capable level).

Boris, May and the rest of the gang (we though) is out for a final push in the deregulatory, privatising revolution that will establish Britain as the new Reaganite America, the Land of Opportunity for the rich, corporates, foreign dudes with deep pockets.

We were wrong.

The reality it seems is far worse than a Thatcherite revolution. It could even be worse than a far-right takeover by the likes of that scumbag Farage.

The reality is this: Incompetence, lack of vision, lack of plan, lack of intelligence, coupled with utter bollocklessness.

This is it ladies and gentlemen. The famous Brexit government of Mrs May lacks all of the above and is unlikely to grow the necessary bits within a relevant timeframe.

What has the victorious Brexit government actually done after it took over from yellow dog Cameron? It has celebrated the Olympic successes (well deserved). It has gotten into arguments about secondary schools (less well deserved) and has given speeches. Lots of speeches. Brexit means, eh Brexit, in case you missed that one. It has not actually done anything pointing towards what Brexit will be like, when it will happen and how the economy, society and foreign policy will reallign as a result.

For a government that demonstrates this distinct lack of bollocks, a lot of it has appeared in public pronouncements. Sadly, Fox and Davis seem to understand little, and know less of what is involved and what they are doing. May in the meantime is being disgraced in international fora as the obvious realities (to everyone but 52% the electorate) hit home.

No discussions with Europe prior to Article 50 activation

No trade deals with Europeans before discussions are completed

No trade deals with anyone else before a trade deal with Europe

No buffers or interim arrangements while this goes down

The only thing in plentiful evidence is damage control. The Bank of England is trying to keep the economy breathing. The government is promising everyone money (without explaining how it will find it) to plug gaps that will emerge after the end of European supports. Projects are announced and promises made. This smells a little like Tsipras of Greece. Listen to May explaining how everything will turn out ok, and then listen to Tsipras’ speech yesterday in Thessaloniki. No cigar for spotting the commonalities.

Meanwhile, back in the City of London Financials are packing their bags. Why you ask? Because they are not stupid. Banks and financial institutions are not going to stick around to see whether this band of jokers will manage to maintain their EU passports (financial ones) in two years time. They will do two things (trust me on this): 1) They will relocate the bulk of their business to European capitals to be sure that there is no disruption in their business. 2) They will keep a presence in London from which to run international business in a ZERO-TAX environment, which the government will need to institute as a sweetener to keep everyone from fleeing as the excrement hits the fan post Article 50 activation (which cannot be delayed post 2017). It is a win-win for the industry. It is a sorry deal for Britain.

Also, the Europeans are not stupid either. Brexit presents them with a golden opportunity to snatch resources, business and human capital. You will see not only preferential conditions offered to the financial industry to relocate, but also incentives for businesses and staff to set up in Europe. For example look at universities. We have been losing market share (international students) to European institutions teaching in English for a while now. Brexit gives a unique opportunity to institutions to expand their English business-focused programmes and there is a strong incentive for well respected staff from the UK to relocate to Europe. And they will, in droves.

Brexit was a crap idea even before everyone realised the entire thesis for it was lies, mistakes and racism. The total utter lack of ability to make Brexit happen is even worse than the stupid idea to begin with. Even if you were positively inclined towards leaving the EU, for whatever reason, before this summer, you ought to have realised now what it really means. If you are still a staunch Brexiteer, I am sorry to pass judgment on you, but you are an idiot. Further, you are an idiot that deserves what will happen to you.

An evil plan would have been better than  this.

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@iGlinavos

@iGlinavos makes #Brexit news

If there is one thing you can say about Brexit is that it has kept us busy.

Here is a summary of my “media engagement” as the University likes to call it, since Britain voted for “glorious independence”.

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I wrote a piece for The Conversation on the consequences of Brexit on the TTIP negotiations that you can access here.

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I appeared on ΣΚΑΙ radio, invited by Nikos Andritsos to speak about the consequences of the Brexit vote. You can listen to the audio (in Greek) here.

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An interview I gave on the future of EU trade negotiations appeared on German Focus magazine. Read here (in German).

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Finally, Raconteur magazine ran a piece on Brexit based in large part to an interview I had with them. See here for the full article.

@iGlinavos

 

Got a state job with a fake degree? No problem

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Imagine the following situation (any relation to real persons is entirely coincidental).

Yorgos was not great at school. He managed to scrape through and finished with a pass mark his secondary school (the obligatory part of education in Greece) in the provincial town in Arta in western Greece. Yorgos attended, but did not finish the optional, post-16 lycée with the local equivalent of a baccalaureate. His chances of getting a state job (the golden prize of the Greek job market) were quite slim, as ASEP (the national state recruitment management system) would credit him too low to enter into a position. Considering the vast majority of young Greeks crave the stability of a state job, ASEP scoring becomes all important, grading people on the basis of qualifications and personal factors (whether they are members of a protected class, children of large families etc).

What could Yorgos do? How to game the system and improve his chances? How about a fake qualification from a bogus private college (technical lycée, or TEE in Greek)? Why not? Indeed a reported 2000 Yorgoses had the same idea in this one town!

After Yorgos fixed his scores, with some help from an uncle who knew the right people within the party in power at the time, he obtained a job in the local tax office, where he spends his days drinking frappe behind a glass window in front of endless queues of citizens waiting to have a piece of paper stamped, before moving on to the next glass window where the same thing happens and so on and so forth.

Unfortunately, Yorgos’ quiet existence has been upset by the discovery of his fake qualification (and those of a few thousand of his colleagues). Such rotten luck. Yorgos is worried about consequences. If he were outside Greece things would go seriously south. Lying about your degree can have serious consequences in Europe. You could face up to 10 years imprisonment in the UK, as well as having your degree revoked. It will also severely damage your reputation.  Embellishing your qualifications, tampering with your degree certificate, or obtaining a fake degree certificate is a criminal offence under the Fraud Act 2006. You would, at minimum, lose your job. It is due to checks on qualifications that I have to take my degrees down from the wall, out of their frame (my mother had them framed, I know what you are thinking), and haul them to HR on my first day of every new job.

Alas, Yorgos is lucky, he lives in Greece. Greece is the place where sovietisation is continuing apace despite its demise pretty much everywhere else in the world. Mr I-will-never-wear-a-tie-Tsipras who represents state employees through his first-time-left-with-some-far-right-loones government would not let an estimated 2500 state employees lose their jobs over something minor, like bogus qualifications. The government newspaper (yes, there is a government newspaper, and Syriza journalists – Pravda was a good model it seems), announced a solution! The ministry of education (headed by someone without a degree, of course), will hold special exams pronto, for all those unsure about the veracity of their qualifications. This way they can prove their competence, without worrying about losing their jobs! What a great, transparent solution. Everyone wins.

Also, this can be used for an assault on private education providers in Greece, a historical enemy of the left, which came of age in the byzantine, inefficient, corrupt and filthy state Universities. These being the best in the world, I was told. While visiting on Erasmus, I had the privilege to attend classes while kids were selling tissues, stray dogs were sleeping under desks, and Communist Youths were plastering the blackboard with posters during the lectures at Athens Law School. Brilliant.

I scold you in advance if you entertain any thoughts of the Greeks as a band of tax-sucking, cheating, corrupt scumbags. Nothing could be further from the truth. We can provide our validated fake qualifications on request.

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@iGlinavos

 

Public Interests, Private Disputes: Investment Arbitration and the Public Good

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NEW PAPER at the Manchester Journal of International Economic Law, published April 2016

This paper seeks to investigate the bases for resistance to arbitration in general -and investor arbitration in particular- focusing on the way in which arbitral tribunals deal with notions of public interest and the public good. The paper hypothesises that while courts have within their terms of reference the capacity to consider notions of public interest, arbitral tribunals do not. It is this core difference in the scope of decision making between the two bodies that could render privately organised dispute resolution unsuitable for disputes that have public aspects, like investor-state disputes. The paper discusses the meaning of public interest and the public good as found in the literature. It then proceeds to consider how tribunals in the investment field have dealt with these concepts. This leads to a conclusion urging not abandonment of arbitration as a component of dispute resolution, but caution. It is argued that unchecked growth in private dispute resolution can threaten perceptions of legitimacy and democratic accountability. The paper adopts a socio-legal methodology in considering the effect of legal mechanisms on social and political phenomena. It is also informed by a law and economics methodology in addressing impacts of dispute resolution mechanisms on economic efficiency. The contribution of the paper rests on theorising motivations for resistance to private dispute resolution, a topical issue in light of the TTIP debate.

See also the recently published Lessons from the Great Recession by Emerald, containing my Chapter on Spain’s recent ISDS cases.

@iGlinavos

Academic Podcasting

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We spend a lot of time lecturing about exciting subjects to a captive audience, that may or may not be interested, but one that certainly pays a lot to be there.

Lately there is emphasis on free, open-source content, both in terms of articles and in terms of freely available lectures or podcasts.

I am doing my bit for universal enlightenment by making my older papers available on SSRN and Academia.edu

Also, I have prepared a few podcasts, the latest of which on the Rule of Law, Development and the role of Dispute Resolution, which you can access here. It is a talking prezi, that I hope is easy to navigate.

See also previous podcasts on the financial crisis and Investor State Dispute Settlement.

@iGlinavos