January 18th, 2012
01:00 AM GMT
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Hong Kong (CNN) - Hong Kong is one of the world's richest cities. Almost one in 10 households boasts a millionaire. The government sits on a cash pile of about $80 billion. Yet Hong Kongers are choking, sometimes to death, on their own success.

A bold claim, but the statistics are compelling. The Hong Kong University School of Public Health has just unveiled a new real-time cost of pollution index. According to new research from the university and local think tank Civic Exchange, there are 3,200 avoidable deaths a year in Hong Kong due to air pollution - more than three times higher than previous estimates.

As I write this (at 7:15 p.m. HKT Tuesday) the index reports there has been seven preventable deaths and more than 14,000 preventable doctor's visits in Hong Kong in the 19 hours beginning midnight on Monday. Preventable, because the bad air quality that researchers say was responsible, can be easily improved.

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September 20th, 2011
04:27 AM GMT
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Hong Kong (CNN) – The lights are out at Jinko Solar. After three days of sometimes violent protests, China closed one of the company’s solar panel manufacturing plants.

The place: the town of Haining, about a two-hour drive southwest of Shanghai.

The reason: residents allege Jinko’s plant caused a mass die-off of fish and a cluster of cancer cases, including leukemia, in the local populace. 

The admission: Jinko Solar now says pollutants, with fluoride levels exceeding normal limits, may have washed from its factory into a nearby river because of improper storage.

Anger first erupted on Thursday when more than 500 people gathered outside Jinko’s factory gates demanding answers. Some protesters broke into the company compound, overturning several cars and damaging buildings.

By Monday, local police said they had detained more than 20 people - some protesters for stealing and a handful of Jinko employees for destroying the camera of two local journalists - and local officials had forced the factory to go dark.
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May 25th, 2011
04:51 AM GMT
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(CNN) – We all know that superheroes save the world, but maybe we need to reassess what they look like. Imagine a superhero wearing a suit - a business suit that is, rather than the caped variety.

At St James's Palace in London this week, Prince Charles gave an interesting and provocative speech as he received an honorary degree from London Business School. He is a champion of sustainable business, and practices what he preaches with his own line of food products. He is not the superhero in this story but he thinks business leaders could be our saviors.

His Royal Highness warns, rather gloomily, that the threat of environmental collapse risks causing an economic crash "which is far more dramatic and far harder to recover from than anything we have experienced over the past few years." He says we need to rethink the very economic model that Brits, and the West, take for granted.

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March 17th, 2011
03:41 PM GMT
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(CNN) - Within hours of the Japanese earthquake, natural gas price futures for summer delivery started to rise. Within three trading days, Barclays reports that UK natural gas prices have shot up more than 13%. It's only a matter of time before the suppliers pass that rise onto customers.

Why should this happen?

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January 6th, 2011
06:32 AM GMT
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Hong Kong, China (CNN) – A delicious delicacy, or a dangerously overfished species? The battle over bluefin tuna is nothing new but now a record purchase has put Hong Kong in the midst of the debate.

A local sushi chain paid 32.49 million yen (about $390,000) for a 342 kilogram Pacific bluefin tuna at the year's first auction at Tokyo's famous Tsukiji market. The chain, known as Taste of Japan, has won the bidding for the past three years as well.

Taste of Japan says it plans to sell the fish at a loss at its Itamae Sushi and Itacho Sushi restaurants. According to a spokeswoman for the restaurants, a piece of Supreme Fatty Tuna will retail for roughly $12, having cost the company more like $110.

WWF Hong Kong is condemning the "promotional gimmick." The conservation group, which believes bluefin tuna is on the road to extinction, says in a statement that Taste of Japan's actions encourage "irresponsible consumption."

Environmental objections don't seem to be warding off business though. The chain plans to start selling the tuna tomorrow night and believes it will sell out quickly.



September 29th, 2010
07:50 PM GMT
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It's been customary of late for Mercedes Benz to kick off the Paris Motor Show (sorry Renault) the night before the doors open to the press.

Mercedes throws a little party at its Champs-Elysees showroom and on Wednesday night it was filled with guests and media.

The highlight for those of us still working is a quick interview - much quicker this time - with Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche who is in a buoyant mood and smiling broadly under his signature white handlebar mustache.

And why not? Mercedes sales and revenue have rebounded this year.

Zetsche admits luxury sales have been better than he could have hoped this year and says that Mercedes is increasing its market share within the segment.

At last year's show the luxury and super luxury makers were all cautiously optimistic.

After all, the high end of the auto market is not usually hurt by recession, given the rich don't suffer as much.

But like the airline industry, car makers have seen welcome sales increases, in part due to government support no doubt.

Zetsche notes that Mercedes, like Ford, cut costs enormously during the economic crisis, making it that much easier to post profits when sales increased.

This show is also about the electric car.

We will see mass produced models that are ready to hit the showroom rather than the concept electric cars that have been a staple at these shows for years.

The question is, will you the consumer buy one?

Zetsche told me it would be "optimistic" to say that Mercedes could see even five percent of it sales coming from its electric offerings by 2015, even though it plans to offer an electric version of most models.

Electric cars and electric batteries will be the talk here in Paris. It's not clear if enough buyers will want them though.



September 23rd, 2010
10:26 AM GMT
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London, England (CNN) – By the end of Thursday, Britain will have the ability to get four percent of its electricity consumption from wind, thanks in part to the addition of 100 turbines 11 kilometers off the coast of Kent.

The new site is Vattenfall’s "300 MW Thanet Offshore Wind Farm," a major renewable energy initiative spearheaded by the previous British government. It could supply more than 200,000 homes.

The four-year-old project has been delayed by two years, and at one point was owned by a hedge fund. But now, under Vattenfall, it’s ready.

It seems to me that Britain is getting less praise than Denmark and Germany, or less notice. And today changes that. Britain is so windy it’s estimated an offshore turbine in the UK generates 50 percent more power than a turbine in Germany.

Of the 16 offshore wind farms now under construction around Europe, half are in Britain according to the European OffShore Wind Industry.

That translates to much more wind farm capacity being constructed in the UK (2.4 gigawatts) during the first half of 2010 than the rest of Europe combined (1.5 gigawatts).

In total, wind is close to supplying energy to nearly three million British homes, according to UK energy association RenewableUK.

The challenge is to find places where locals won't complain, which is why offshore wind farms are so desirable. The wind there is also stronger.

Of course, the farther offshore you go, the more it costs to construct and carry power back to shore.

Thanet will not keep its crown as the world largest operational offshore wind farm for long though.

In late 2012 or 2013, the London Array wind farm - a project being funded by energy companies E.ON, DONG Energy and Masdar - is scheduled to start generating electricity just north of the Thanet site.

The owners say the 300 proposed wind turbines could become the world's first one gigawatt offshore wind farm.

When up and running, the London Array will go a long way to helping Britain reach the UK government’s target of providing 15 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015.

How does that compare to where you live?



July 11th, 2010
06:01 PM GMT
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(CNN) – If you can spare few seconds during the World Cup final (unlikely, I know), take a look at the rotating ads behind the pitch. There is one ad combination that is particularly striking: McDonald's and Yingli Solar.

This is McDonald's fifth World Cup and the global fast food giant has it down to an art. They run a World Cup advertising campaign and in-store promotions around the world. There are even World Cup Happy Meal toys.

On the other hand, who has heard of Yingli Solar? It is a brand owned by Yingli Green Energy Holding Company, a 12-year-old Chinese company that makes photovoltaic modules, a technology that's increasingly used to convert solar energy into electricity. It has only been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 2007.

But Yingli's executives are hoping after this World Cup, you will know their name.

Bryan Li, the company's CFO, says Yingli decided to become a World Cup sponsor because of the increasingly competitive market for solar companies. Yingli felt it could "not just compete with our global competition by cost. We also need to compete with them by the brand."

Li cannot disclose the financial details of the sponsorship because of a confidentiality agreement with FIFA, but says Yingli paid less than others because FIFA was eager to include a sponsor from China and associated with renewable energy. Branding experts estimate that other companies at the same sponsorship level paid between 35 and 50 million dollars.

Nigel Currie, from the UK consulting firm brandRapport, sees Yingli's sponsorship as part of a broader shift from big multinationals to emerging market companies. Four of this year's World Cup sponsors are relatively young brands on the global stage, something Currie says was hard to imagine even five years ago. Newbies include Yingli Solar, South Africa's Telecom giant MTN, Brazilian food company Seara and Indian IT provider Mahindra Satyam. With its hundreds of millions of worldwide viewers and its pitch-side advertising, Currie believes the World Cup provides brand exposure like no other event.

Coming into the finals, Li agrees. He says the impact of the sponsorship has exceeded his expectations. In the first six months of this year, Yingli has had almost two and half times as many orders as they can meet with next year's expected capacity. "A year ago, we approached the client," he says. "Now the client approaches us."

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June 24th, 2010
01:16 AM GMT
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(CNN) – Kevin Rudd’s sudden loss of his own party’s backing as Prime Minister of Australia seems to fly in the face of conventional wisdom that has ruled politics since Bill Clinton successfully stumped for U.S. president in 1992 on the back of this slogan: It’s the economy, stupid.

In the midst of the storm clouds that have surrounded the global economy during the “Great Recession,” the Australian economy has been a ray of light.

Australia never fell into recession. Rudd was widely credited for successfully steering the nation through the credit crisis, thanks in no small part to its commodities-rich trade with China and other emerging economies.

As recently as six months ago, CNN’s Stan Grant reports, Rudd enjoyed record approval ratings for a sitting prime minister.

What happened?

Two major culprits, both of which have a deep impact on business in Australia: The failure of his emissions trading proposal – which would have introduced tougher cap and trade policies for industrial polluters – and a 40 percent “supertax” planned on mining companies.

A once passionate advocate of reducing global emissions, his softening on the issue upset his environmental base. His support of mining taxes, naturally, upset the nation’s powerful mining interests (at the close of trading in New York, shares of both Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton were up more than 2 percent on the news of a possible leadership shakeup).

Rudd’s inability to steer these two measures created doubt within his own Labor Party that he could successfully lead them to victory in upcoming elections.

Moreover, it appears Rudd alienated the supporters closest too him, who saw him as controlling and mercurial in his leadership style.

Which goes to show that its not always “the economy, stupid,” when it comes to politics. Instead it appears Rudd forgot that other maxim of politics, coined by former U.S. Speaker of the House Thomas “Tip” O’Neill: All politics is local.

It’s a lesson for executives, too: If you don’t have the support of those around you, you don’t have any support at all.



May 11th, 2010
01:20 PM GMT
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London, England - No matter who you think should be blamed for the spill in the Gulf, there is no point commentators making the point that the "B" comes from the word "British."

“The British Petroleum Company” was the official name of the oil giant from 1954 (born years before from the purchase by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company of the subsidiary called "British Petroleum" of a German oil company) until 1998.

But its focus after it was founded in 1909 was Persia (Iran) and Libya, before it lost both operations during the 1970s (nationalization.)

"BP" was just one brand in the portfolio for decades.

While the UK government owned a stake, and it has been listed on the London Stock Exchange, selling fuel to British consumers was only a part of its business.

It then became a big exploration player off the coast of Scotland and in Alaska.

BP transformed into a big American company with the purchase of SOHIO in 1987 (Standard Oil of Ohio,) its 1998 merger with AMOCO (once John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of Indiana) and then its purchase of ARCO (once Atlantic Petroleum Company and then Atlantic Richfield Company.)

The company was known as BP AMOCO until 2000, when it was finally shortened to just plain old BP.

To me, it’s just like Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing is just 3M and International Business Machines is just IBM and parts of the old American Telephone and Telegraph is just AT&T. The old British Aerospace (BAE Systems) is so big in the USA defense industry now that using the "British" would be nonsense.

Sure, BP will have to think long and hard about its recent branding campaign to say BP means "Beyond Petroleum" (it also once said it stood for "better people, better products and big picture.")  Some blogs are now suggesting of course “Big Polluter.”

It is an oil and gas giant and certainly, has not moved beyond petroleum, so it should not shy away from calling itself an energy firm.

But it has also moved well beyond its tenuous British roots.

Or it could call itself “British Anglo-Persia Standard Castrol Atlantic Petroleum,” or BAPSCAP.

Any other suggestions?

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