When is an ice cream not an ice cream?

It sounds like the start of a riddle but there’s an important underlying message. Namely, organisations should be monitoring the environment they are operating in to see if any changes could be impacting on their business.

A classic model for analysing the impact the external environment can have on an organisation is the PESTEL model. Those of you that are thinking of studying for your professional exams will possibly be thinking that it stands for Parties, Eating, Sleeping, Talking, Entertaining and Laughing but if you’ve passed your exams then you are probably more comfortable with the fact that it stands for Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal.

Whilst all the components of this model can be important, one area which is particularly topical is the “social” component.

Within the social component one change which a lot of countries are currently seeing is people’s increased health awareness and the increase in demand for vegetarian (no meat) and vegan (no meat or dairy) food.

Ben & Jerry’s is one of the world’s leading ice cream companies and they no doubt have a very sophisticated approach to monitoring the environment. One of the more impressive things they’ve done over the last couple of years is to launch some new products which will appeal to the vegan market.

If you are a vegan, then you don’t eat meat or dairy products and whilst you are unlikely to find an ice cream made out of chicken you are extremely likely to find an ice cream made out of milk.

Ben & Jerry’s though have nicely got around this problem by launching a number of flavours of vegan ice cream.

“How can they be vegan if they are ice cream?” I hear you say.

Well, the vegan ice creams are made with almond milk as opposed to dairy milk. Now technically that means they are frozen desserts and not ice cream but I can’t see any vegan being particularly upset about that.

The non dairy range has recently expanded in the UK and Ben & Jerry’s have just launched their first coconut flavoured vegan ice cream.

It’s called “Coconutterly Caramel’d” and blends coconut-flavoured ice cream with ribbons of caramel, Fair Trade chocolate, and cookies.

“Coconut ice cream, caramel, chocolate and cookies” – I don’t know about you but just reading that description makes me feel peckish.

(Un) Happy Christmas Mr Orangutan

Advertising can have a dramatic impact on what people buy and in countries which celebrate Christmas, one of the busiest buying seasons is upon us.

It’s traditional in the run up to Christmas in the UK for the big retailers to release a major TV advert. The retailer John Lewis for example has released it’s Christmas advert staring Elton John (who reportedly received a fee of £5 million for his input).

For me though the clear winner in the Christmas adverts is the “Rang tang” advert by the supermarket chain Iceland.

The advert was originally produced by the global charity Greenpeace and highlights the destruction of the rainforest caused by the production of palm oil (palm oil is found in many everyday products ranging from food staples such as bread to cosmetics).

The companies that produce palm oil are cutting down vast amounts of trees and as a result the Orangutan apes are really suffering. In simple terms, their homes are being destroyed and they are dying as they have nowhere to live.

Iceland spent £500,000 on putting the advertising campaign together and have pledged to remove palm oil from all their own brand products.

The advert, which was voiced over by actress Emma Thompson, has run into some problems with Clearcast, the body which approves or rejects television adverts in the UK. They have ruled that it is too political and as a result it has been banned from being shown on television.

The good news for this advert though is that Clearcast don’t regulate social media and the advert has been a hit on Facebook and YouTube.

At the time of writing, the advert had been viewed over 5 million times on YouTube.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I’d urge you to watch it below as it’s a great advert which raises awareness of an important global issue.

Legal issues for the Big 4

If you ask a person in the street the question “What do the Big 4 do?”, the chances are that you’ll either get a funny look back or if the person has heard of the Big 4, they will probably say something like “accounting”.

The Big 4 are made up of Deloitte, EY, KPMG and pwc and whilst historically they had a strong accounting focus, nowadays they have a much wider remit and include many more business functions than pure “accounting”.

The legal side of business is playing a bigger part now for the Big 4 and earlier this year EY in the UK purchased Riverview Law, one of the “new breed” of legal firms.

Prior to 2012, law firms in the UK in effect had to be owned by lawyers (ie most law firms were partnerships owned by partners who were lawyers). Since 2012 though the regulators have been licensing non-traditional law firms.

Riverview Law is one of these non-traditional law firms and has built a reputation of being a disrupter in the industry due to its clever use of technology to minimise its overheads and offer clients fixed fees instead of hourly rates.

Cornelius Grossman, EY’s global head of law, was quoted as saying “This acquisition underlines the position of EY as a leading disrupter of legal services. It will provide a springboard for current EY legal managed services offerings and will bolster the capabilities that we can help deliver for EY clients”.

Whilst this expansion into legal services is good news for the Big 4, it’s not so good news for the traditional legal companies. The mid-tier legal firms especially are likely to be under threat from the expansion of the Big 4’s legal offerings.

Step on it…

You probably haven’t heard of Klaus Maertens but I reckon that most of you will have seen what he started.

Klaus was a German soldier who back in 1945 had a broken foot and wanted a boot without the traditional hard sole. Together with his friend Herbert Funk, who was a mechanical engineer, he designed an air cushioned sole which led to the global footwear brand Dr Martens.

Since those early days, the product has had an up and down history. In the 1970s they were very fashionable and sales grew. By the time the early 2000s came around they were having production problems and competition from other similar brands of footwear had increased.

They nearly went out of business but a swing in fashion brought them back on track and in 2013 they were purchased by Permira, the private equity group, for £300 million.

Since then their fortunes have prospered and they recently released their latest set of financials.

Revenue has shot up by 20% to £349 million and earnings were up 14% to £50 million.

Their “Direct To Consumer” (DTC) channels are doing very well and now represent 40% of their total revenue. DTC is where the products are sold directly to the consumers and not via an intermediary such as an independent shoe shop.

Dr Marten’s store count has increased by 25 to 94 and the new stores show the global reach of the brand (9 in the UK, 7 in mainland Europe, 3 in New York and 3 in Japan).

Kenny Wilson, CEO of Dr. Martens said: “Dr. Martens has delivered another outstanding year. We are an iconic brand that does things in our own unique, disruptive way and that is unifying our consumers across the globe. The business’ investment in our DTC channels, both in terms of retail stores and E-commerce, is bearing fruit, and these will remain priority channels for us.”

All in all, Dr Martens seem to be putting their best foot forward.

A nice snappy idea…

The Carlsberg Group is one of the oldest brewing groups in the world. They were established way back in 1847 and their portfolio of products include Tuborg, Baltika and of course, Carlsberg.

They sell a lot of beer and their products are sold in more than 150 markets.

The “6 pack” is synonymous with beer and no, I’m not talking about the 6 pack on the beer drinkers abs. Rather, I’m talking about the 6 pack of beer that people can buy from shops.

One unfortunate problem with the 6 pack is that the cans are held together with a plastic wrapping. With so many 6 packs being sold around the world that means a lot of plastic is used.

People are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental damage that plastic is doing and Carlsberg have come up with a pretty innovative solution to reducing plastic on their 6 packs.

They have introduced what they call a “snap pack”.

In the snap pack the cans of beer are held together by glue rather than plastic wrapping. The cans of beer can be “snapped off”.

This saves a significant amount of plastic – according to Carlsberg this equates to reducing plastic waste by more than 1,200 tonnes a year. That’s a huge amount and is the equivalent of 60 million plastic bags.

Bo Oksnebjerg, Secretary General in WWF Denmark, was quoted as saying “Our wildlife is drowning in plastic – and the problem is unfortunately growing considerably. We therefore need to act now. We need less plastic to end up in nature. That is why we consider it huge progress that Carlsberg is now launching solutions that significantly reduce the amount of plastic in its packaging. With these new solutions, Carlsberg has taken the first big steps on the journey towards a more clean and green future.”

Nice work Carlsberg and I’ll drink to that. Or should I say, I’ll snap one off and drink to that…

Is this worth smiling for?

Are you happy when you spend money? I guess the answer depends on what you’re spending the money on but over in China, KFC have just introduced technology which enables a person to pay for their KFC meal with a smile.

Yes, a smile.

Nothing else is needed – no bank card, no phone app. Just a smile.

That’s a pretty advanced system and involves facial recognition technology.

Customers who want to get their dose of fast food at the KFC branch in Hangzhou can leave their cash and cards behind and instead smile at a scanner, press confirm and then hey presto you’ve paid for your meal without moving your hands and you will soon be tucking into your Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Payment is taken from a cash account which has been linked to the person’s face.

China has some of the most advanced facial scanning technology in the world. Collecting images of the public doesn’t need any consent in China and the technology is likely to spread.

For example, it’s been reported that students in several universities in China are now registering by scanning their faces and lecturers will soon be able to track the facial expressions of students to see how well they are following the lectures.

It may be advisable for these students to master the act of hiding those yawns during a boring lecture and instead start to practice for the KFC they’re planning to get after the lecture…

This is how not to do first aid in the office.

Having people trained in the office to undertake first aid is an important health and safety feature.

Organisations can send people to health and safety training or like the organisation in the video below, can get health and safety professionals to provide on site demonstrations.

Now, whilst most demos will be educational and very professional, as the video below shows, this particular demonstration was more like a slapstick comedy film.

A volunteer was asked to pretend that he was injured but unfortunately when the health and safety “professional” came into the demonstration he accidentally knocked over a shelf which then fell onto the “pretend victim” who suddenly became the “real victim”.

Luckily for all concerned nobody was seriously injured and if you want to see a fine slapstick comedy moment demonstration of health and safety then enjoy the video below.

An awkward mistake.

Have you ever sent an email to the wrong person by mistake? What about posting something on social media which, with hindsight you’d wished you hadn’t?

We all make mistakes and it’s not the end of the world but I’ve got a feeling that Magnús Örn Hákonarson will be remembering his recent mistake for a while to come.

Magnús is in charge of his employer’s social media activities and recently what was supposed to be a private message was posted on his employer’s Facebook page.

Magnus works for The Landsbjargar’s Accident Investigation Company in Iceland and he accidentally posted an invite to a party to all the followers of the company. To add to the excitement, this wasn’t a normal party but was an invite to all the followers to take part in a bondage party with a fetish dress code.

The invitation highlighted the dress code as fetish or alternative and included information about safe words, leather masks and whips. Members of the BDSM society Magnus was a member of were able to buy the tickets for 1,000 ISK (£7) whilst non-members had to pay 3,000 ISK (£21).

As soon as he realised his mistake he removed the party invitation from the company’s Facebook page.

Whether or not his colleagues knew about his hobby is by the by. They certainly do now and the nice thing about it is that his employers realised it was a genuine mistake and have been very supportive.

Given his interest in BDSM he might have been slightly disappointed that he wasn’t punished but instead his employers issued a statement saying “There are many people with different backgrounds and interests within the volunteer group. People are engaged in all kinds of sports and hobbies and the rescue team’s board of directors will not distinguish these interests, as long as they are legal.”

All in all, nothing to beat yourself up about.

OMG – will these hit the shelves?

Procter & Gamble, or P&G as it’s commonly known, is one of the world’s largest companies and has an incredible portfolio of products including Gillette, Head & Shoulders shampoo and Pampers nappies.

The business was set up in 1837 by two gentlemen called, yes you guessed it, Mr Procter and Mr Gamble.

Since then it has grown to become a huge organisation and is now quoted on the New York stock exchange. It has annual sales in excess of $15bn.

A recent trademark application in the US though could indicate that there may well be some new brand names joining their portfolio.

They have made applications for trademarks on household and personal care products for certain “text speak”. Or to be more precise they have filed an application for terms including “LOL” (Laugh Out Loud) and “NBD” (No Big Deal).

The move seems to be an attempt to target the tech savvy millennial generation who have grown up with this tech speak.

It’s not certain yet whether we will see cleaning products called LOL and NBD as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has sought clarifications from P&G and they have until January to respond.

One other interesting term which has been included in the application is “WTF”.

Could we soon be seeing “WTF Cleaner” on supermarket shelves?

Explaining what “WTF” stands for is a bit rude to print here so if you don’t know what it means then one of the quickest ways to find out is to say “WTF” when your boss next asks you to do something.

Grant Thornton fined £4million.

Grant Thornton, the mid-tier accounting firm has been fined £4m and reprimanded by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC).

So, what did they do wrong?

It was all to do with a lack of independence during audits of Nichols plc (the company that makes the soft drink Vimto) and the University of Salford.

The background to the issue involves Eric Healey. Mr Healey was a former senior partner of Grant Thornton who was engaged by them to provide services under a consultancy agreement. This in itself wasn’t a problem but what was a problem was that he joined the audit committees of both Nichols plc and the University of Salford at the same time.

The FRC highlighted that this created serious familiarity and self-interest threats which resulted in the loss of independence during eight audits over a period of four years.

Putting it another way, Grant Thornton were paying a consultant who at the same time was in a senior position within the audit committee of two clients. There were clear independence issues.

The FRC said that “The standards were breached on a number of occasions over a long period and in a significant way; given the nature of the risks posed, the breaches required the resignation of Grant Thornton as auditors of both Nichols and the University but as set out in the particulars, they did not in fact so resign but signed off on all of the audits with unqualified opinions.

The firm obtained audit fees in respect of the audits totalling approximately £560,000 in circumstances where it has admitted it should not have undertaken the relevant audit engagements and that doing so constituted misconduct.”

Grant Thornton’s fine of £4m was discounted for settlement to £3m and Mr Healey was given a 5-year ban together with a fine of £200,000 which was discounted for settlement to £150,000 (discounted for settlement in effect means that they agreed with matters and paid the fine within a set time period of time).

Grant Thornton issued a statement which said “Grant Thornton has reached a settlement agreement with our regulators on this matter, which relates to audits dating up to eight years ago. Whilst the focus of the investigation was not on our technical competence in carrying out either of these audit assignments, the matter of ethical conduct and independence is equally of critical importance in ensuring the quality of our work and it is regrettable that we fell short of the standards expected of us on this occasion.

As we have since made significant investments in our people and processes and remain committed to continuous improvement in this regard, we are confident that such a situation should not arise in the future.”

Full details of the case can be found here.