Paceville: protecting the underdogs

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As the short time allotted for public consultation on the proposed first draft of the Paceville Masterplan approaches its conclusion, it is time for some commonsense to prevail at the Planning Authority.

On TV, last Thursday, we heard the Authority’s Executive Chairman Johann Buttigieg plotting the first steps of a U-turn on a number of contentious issues contained in the draft. This U-turn is welcome, as it is clearly being planned on the basis of the reactions of the public and the environmental NGOs to the proposed Paceville Masterplan.

The most serious point at issue is the extent to which the nine projects around which the Masterplan is woven will engulf properties belonging to residents and small scale business people. It will hopefully now be clear, once and for all, that no one will be coerced through threats of compulsory purchase (veiled or otherwise) to make way for any one of the nine projects.

Mr Buttigieg declared that “no-one would be forced to sell”. While this declaration is welcome, it is certainly not sufficient. Everyone is aware that there are many ways through which pressure may be brought to bear on residents and business people. It is certainly time for all stakeholders to be vigilant and present a common front.  Being constantly on the look-out may help  identify those triggering incidents such as that of the car which was recently set ablaze in St George’s Park at Paceville at the same time as residents were meeting elsewhere to discuss their reactions to the proposed Paceville Masterplan.

The Planning Authority should be proactive. It should be at the forefront when it comes to taking initiatives that make sense. A case in point is the need to implement the public domain legislation recently enacted by Parliament  in order to better protect both the coastline and the foreshore to a minimum distance of fifteen metres from the shoreline.

It is well known that there is just one stretch of coastline within the draft Paceville Masterplan boundaries that is not intensively developed: the Cresta Quay site, also referred to as the Villa Rosa site 3. This site is crying out for protection and it can be protected, yet the draft masterplan – ignoring public domain legislation  – earmarks this site for a number of high rise blocks.

This proposal, in addition to reducing the recently approved public domain legislation to hot air, runs counter to the draft masterplan philosophy of siting high-rise developments away from the coast. It seems that someone may have been pressured into having second thoughts when the Masterplan was being drafted. There is no other reasonable explanation for this contradiction.

The public consultation has revealed that the drafting of the Paceville Masterplan was flawed, as it ignored issues of fundamental importance.  However, there is till time for the Planning Authority to align the Masterplan to the expectations of stakeholders. The belated declaration by Johann Buttigieg that (after all) he too has reservations on some aspects of the Masterplan is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, this will be reflected in an overhaul of the draft and in the production of a new one which respects the stakeholders who have invested in Paceville over the years.

The investors promoting the nine projects which the Planning Authority identified may contribute to the regeneration of Paceville only if they tread carefully in full respect of residents and small-scale business people who have shaped the present-day Paceville, warts and all.

So far, this has not happened, as some of the developers think that they have some God-given right to ride roughshod over one and all. Unfortunately, the Planning Authority has generally obliged, as it has rarely been on the side of the those bearing the brunt of the bulldozer culture that has to date reigned supreme in land-use planning issues.

We await the second draft of the Paceville Masterplan, in the hope that the Planning Authority will turn a new page and assume its rightful place in protecting the underdogs.     

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 20 November 2016

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Profits with principles

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The business of business is not just business. It is much more.  It is much wider.

Business is responsible towards its shareholders but it is accountable towards its stakeholders: employees, customers, consumers, trade unions, environmental groups and also future generations. Business must develop a dialogue with this wider stakeholder group. Such a dialogue must be based on trust and, consequently, it must be both transparent and leading to genuine accountability.

 It is not just governments that need to be accountable! CSR reporting is a tool that can be of considerable assistance in achieving this purpose.

AD’s Electoral Manifesto proposes putting Corporate Social Responsibility on a sound footing in Malta.

“It is necessary that all companies listed on the Stock Exchange as well as parastatal organisations such as Enemalta and the Water Services Corporation together with all companies employing more than 1000 employees publish such information. It is important to underline that environmental reporting is as important as financial reporting and hence it should also be audited.”

Disclosure and stakeholder engagement are basic elements of CSR.  CSR reporting will define the duty of disclosure of the major business and industrial operators. Through this proposal AD in Parliament  will ensure that transparency is the order of the day not just in government but also in the private sector.

 As profits and priciples can co-exist.

published in di-ve.com on February 1, 2013

Holding Business to Account

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published on April 11, 2009

by Carmel Cacopardo

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On September 13, 1970, in the New York Times magazine, economist Milton Friedman said that the sole purpose of business was to generate profits for shareholders. The business of business, he argued, is business.

Forty years on some still think on the same lines: that shouldering environmental and social impacts generated by business is not the business of business. They insist that, if pressed to address its impacts, business would consider relocating, seeking countries where legislation relative to environmental and social protection is minimal or inexistent.

By publishing its Corporate Social Responsibility report for 2006-08, Vodafone Malta is making a very powerful statement: modern business thinks otherwise. It considers that the business of business is much wider than business. In its second CSR report, Vodafone outlines its initiatives in managing its corporate risks and responsibilities in greater detail than it did two years ago.

CSR signifies a commitment that business is carried out in a responsible manner. Tree-planting and sponsorship of worthy causes, though laudable, are marginal to CSR!

Vodafone’s statements on the management of hazardous waste relating to mobile phones are welcome as are its declarations on its reduced carbon footprint.

The listing of ethical purchasing criteria make excellent reading although the manner in which these have been applied could have been substantially more informative. In particular, it would have been appropriate if stakeholders were informed whether there were any suppliers who fell foul of the said criteria during the reporting period. The adopted criteria use the available guidelines, standards and tools that have been drawn up globally to facilitate sustainability benchmarking and reporting. They are largely modelled on the social accountability standard SA8000, full compliance to which should lead to the ethical sourcing of goods and services. This standard has also been used by others, among which Avon Products Inc., The Body Shop, Reebok International, Toys ‘R’ Us and The Ethical Trading Initiative.

On a different note, reporting on the radiation emission levels of its base stations and the identification of the standards to which it conforms makes Vodafone’s second CSR report an adequate reporting tool. This is an issue, however, which requires more analysis and discussion.

In line with global CSR reporting standards, Vodafone discloses of being in breach of consumer legislation on one occasion during the reporting period relative to comparative advertising. Such disclosure, though not yet an everyday occurrence in these islands, is an essential element of CSR reporting.

Vodafone’s third CSR report should move a further step forward: Its statements should be subject to an audit and be independently verified as being correct. CSR reporting is as important as financial reporting and should be subject to the same level of assurance.

Vodafone has made an important contribution to CSR reporting in Malta.

Together with BOV, it has made the first strides locally in this previously unexplored domain. It is hoped that the competition in the communications industry in Malta would make equally valid contributions. While Go plc could substantially improve on its 61-word paragraph devoted to CSR in its 2007 annual report (the latest available), stakeholders await Melita’s first utterances on the matter.

Although some tend to equate CSR with corporate philanthropy, this is just one tiny element of CSR. To make sense, corporate philanthropy must be founded on and be the result of a sound CSR. A company can sponsor environmental initiatives but, if its own environmental policy is blurred, the sponsorships dished out could only be considered as an exercise in green-washing. When deciding on sponsorships, business should be consistent with the manner it carries out its day-to-day operations. Corporate philanthropy would thus be much more than another cheap marketing ploy.

Vodafone Malta, through its CSR report is laying its cards on the table. As a result, its corporate philanthropy can be viewed in context. It would be quite a feat if, for example, the banking sector in Malta could follow suit by determining and applying environmental criteria in the advancing of finance to the building industry and, subsequently, informing stakeholders of its achievements through CSR reporting! With just one stroke of a pen, the banking sector in Malta can prevent substantial damage to both the natural and the historical environmental.

The adoption of CSR by business signifies the acceptance of the fact that its shadow is much wider than its shareholders.

Business is responsible towards its shareholders but it is accountable towards its stakeholders: employees, customers, consumers, trade unions, environmental groups and also future generations. It is with this wider stakeholder group that business must develop a dialogue. Such a dialogue must be based on trust and, consequently, it must be both transparent and leading to genuine accountability. It is not just governments that need to be accountable! CSR reporting is a tool that can be of considerable assistance in achieving this purpose.