Social Entrepreneurship, a way of doing business

Apple’s CSR integration

Apple is characterized by its constant innovation, design and outstanding marketing campaigns. But, is the company as good inside as it looks from outside? Due to recent reputation crisis, the company has focused some of its interests on improving CSR practices, but it still has a long path to travel and various aspects to improve.

It is important to highlight that Apple does not have a consolidated CSR report. Their webpage provides financial reports and information about some isolated sustainable activities such as environmental initiatives, but stakeholders are not able to see the whole strategy and results. This is a negative point for Apple because it demonstrates lack of transparency and shows how sustainability is a secondary topic. The information that the company is disclosing illustrates clearly that financial results and launching new products are Apple’s main priorities.

When the poor working conditions of Apple’s Chinese suppliers were revealed, a reputation scandal exploded and the company had to take corrective and preventive actions. Positively, the company acknowledged the problem, involved the Fair Labor Association, started public labor inspections and compelled to improve the working conditions. They created the Supplier Responsibility Code and opened a special online channel to establish dialogue about their labor conditions. On its supplier code, Apple requires that their suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes. Additionally, the company has zero tolerance towards child labor, promotes education and knowledge of workers’ rights and does a series of programed and surprise audits to guarantee fulfillment. If suppliers do not respect the code Apple terminates their relation with them. The code contemplates all the topics that according to the studies were weak and thus it is the basis for achieving a sustainable supply chain. But changes and sustainability are not reached immediately and the company has to keep considering working conditions as one of their priorities.

When reading Apple’s reports their improvements seem to be acceptable, but their practices can be highly questioned when the company’s representatives affirm the following: “You can either manufacture in comfortable, worker-friendly factories, or you can reinvent the product every year, and make it better and faster and cheaper, which requires factories that seem harsh by American standards”. (New York Times, 4) This statement implies that if Apple wants to implement real sustainable practices it may have reinvent the business and incorporate CSR to their strategy. Otherwise success will not be achieved and labor abuses will continue to happen.

Apple also created and adopted an internal business code of conduct. They promote are honesty, respect, confidentiality and compliance.  In the code, the company seems to give more importance to intellectual and physical assets than to human resources. Most of their rules are established to prevent reputation scandals and it the Business Conduct is very focused on restricting and guiding employees’ behavior instead of empowering them with parameters for ethical decision-making. The company does not share how the Business Code is communicated and how workers are going to be trained to guarantee understanding and compliance.

Regarding to environmental issues, Apple measures its carbon footprint in all its stages. It focuses efforts in designing products that require less and environmentally conscious materials and that are more energy efficient. Their efforts are also centered on packaging and they offer incentives for their customers to recycle their electronic devices. Even though these actions have positive impact, they are also the result of reputation scandals that Chinese NGOs divulged. These environmental actions are important, but it is clear how design also represents an advantage to sell more. Recently another scandal exploded when Greenpeace announced that Apple is relying on coal for their production, which may lead to new environmental measures.

As it can be seen, Apple has mainly reacted to reputation crisis rather than leaded the CSR trend in the IT sector. Their stakeholder engagement is more directed towards customers and recently towards suppliers, but there is no evidence of communication with their other stakeholders. Communication channels are limited and they are not visible enough. The question that should be raised is if their reactive actions are valid if they are not doing them by heart. In my opinion, Apple lacks engagement, reporting and external auditing, but their efforts on the supply chain are the basis to improve. In order to keep on leading Apple should balance profitability, environment and social actions. The company leaders should start re-focusing their business by incorporating CSR in their strategy and innovating in a more sustainable and transparent way.


1. Apple’s Business Code of Conduct

2. Apple’s Corporate webpage. Mor einformation:

3. Apple’s Suppliers Code. More information:

4. Greenfield, Rebecca. There are no Quick Fixes for Apple’s Foxconn Problem. February 14, 2012. More information:

5. Mariano, Jonathan. Apple Supplier Responsibility Report: Transparency Good, Findings Bad. Triple Pundit. February 17, 2011. More information:





Sustainability and SMEs

CDM Analysis – Cable Cars Metro Medellín, Colombia

Constructing and operating 6 cable car lines was proposed as a small-scale CDM project for Medellín, Colombia in 2003. The Metrocable is an aerial public transportation tramway that aimed at solving transportation needs of low-income people living in hillside areas. In 2004 this system started to operate and it has expanded through the years. Before the cable car was constructed, people had to use conventional buses with high accidental levels, elevated costs and considerable time loss to get to their workplace.

The operational lifetime of the project is 30 years and it is operated by ETMVA. The project established to cover 16 km and to have more than 200 cabins, each provisioned with solar energy panels. The projected number of passengers for the system is approximately 113.000 per day. Although the cable car is not zero-carbon because it uses energy from the grid, during the 7-certification years (2010 – 2016) the expected emission reduction is 121,029 tons of CO2eq.

The total investment for construction and operation of the cable car system was estimated to be UD$5 – 10 million per kilometer.  The cost for the first 3 lanes was US$29 million.

Baseline of the project
4 legally feasible transport options were analyzed before selecting the cable car system: metro extensions, tram or light duty rail, bus rapid transit systems, and continuation of the current public transport system. It is important to note that:
– The construction of the cable car system was the most expensive alternative, but it was the only that met expected passengers demand
– Topography would make a metro, tram and bus rapid transit systems very difficult to implement
– The cable car system was the most environmentally sound option

The project states that the project without the CDM could not have been implemented. The CDM allows financial flexibility and lowers the risk for ETMVA. It also promotes this new environmentally friendly and innovative technology for transportation purposes around the world.

One of the main issues that should be analyzed is if the project contributes to the sustainable development of the area. Certainly it has huge positive social and environmental impacts for Medellín. There are also considerable economic improvements that should be highlighted.

It is very important to note that since the Metrocable was constructed the criminality rates have decreased significantly.

The additionality of the project was demonstrated by 3 factors:

  1. First of its kind: by 2003, no similar mass transportation system operated in Latin America. There were only 2 similar comparable systems in in USA. The project promotes environmentally friendly and innovative technology for mass transportation.
  2. Investment barriers: the implementation of the metro system in Medellín had overrun costs and a 7-year overlay, which caused a deficit ETMVA and a restriction to get loans and to invest in high-risk projects.
  3. Technological barriers: since the project is unique technical knowledge has to be constructed. Staff needs to be trained and know-how needs to be assimilated.

Even though these are important arguments, the additionality of the project is questionable. By being the main transportation system for poor areas in Medellín it was an immediate problem to be addressed. In fact, the project was part of the governmental plan, which means that CDM was not necessary. Furthermore, since the construction of only one line was not economically feasible, the developer of the project waited until the second and third lines were near to be implemented to invest in the whole project. The funds for constructing a critical transport system for the city cannot rely on a third party.

By being a first of its kind, the project requires initial technological and know-how transfer and development. All the processes and equipment demand innovation, research, national and international cooperation. The construction phase and new environmentally sound technologies were acquired form other countries and have an annual technology improvement factor. Additionally, the operation and maintenance requires intensive training and thus capacity building. Developing high-standard security and monitoring measures will also promote technological progress. This system sets a standard for Colombia and for other cities that can use similar systems as transport solutions.

Due to the high levels of research and development and to the involvement of expert firms, the project presents low vulnerability to future climate change. Previous environmental studies and climatological projections were done in order to guarantee that the project was going to provide safe service in the log term. Additionally, the high operational standards and investment for operation and maintenance ensure that the climate will not threaten the functioning of the system.

The real results of the project are outstanding; more than 450.000 people benefit directly or indirectly by the Metrocable. By 2011, 3 lines of the system had transported more than 47 million people, which represent a total saving for the people of approximately 22.5 million euros. Its operation avoids consuming 1.730.376 gallons of diesel fuel, a reduction in the emission of particulate material, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide.

Although the additionality of the project is not transparent enough, the Metrocable is an example of sustainable mobility and of a complete development strategy: it not only operates with clean technology but it has significant social and economical impact. For me, one of the key aspects of the project is the sense of belonging that it has created and social integration, equity and security. I do believe it has improved significantly the quality of life and development to the city. The project has still a long way to go, its main challenge is to look for constant innovation and to keep generating growth to the people.

To know more about the Metrocable watch the following video!

Imagen de previsualización de YouTube

Chaves, Erica. El ‘Metrocable’ de Medellín, el teleférico de los pobres. More information:

Clean Development Mechanisms Project Design Document Form (CDM SSC PDD) Version 03 in effect as of: 22 December 2006. UNFCCC.  More information:

Metro Magazine. Medellín´s Metro. More information:


Rural Development – Access to Water in Rural Areas

According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development IFAD, one third of the population experiences physical or economic water scarcity. This problem is especially harsh in the sub-Saharan Africa and in South Asia. In the continuous competition among different sectors (households, agriculture, industries, energetic) for water, the most affected are the rural populations.

Providing water for agricultural productivity and domestic uses is critical for achieving food security and improved rural livelihoods. Access to water is also deeply linked to poverty, health, nutrition and land distribution. In general, water is basic for achieving progress in rural regions.

There are several difficulties related to water access that should become governmental priorities.  Structural problems such as poor infrastructure, fair tariff water systems and water quality part of the problem. Among the problems that can be addressed by local authorities and communities are: inefficient irrigation systems, lack of water storage, water wastage and pollution and lack of education on proper water management.

How to provide access to water in a sustainable way?

One of the strategies that can help solve this problem is infrastructure improvement. Among infrastructure projects that can be carried out by the government or private companies are building reservoirs and rainwater harvesting tanks. Irrigation systems are basic for improving efficiency. For example converting them into multiuse water service systems can help improve water use. Investment on infrastructure provides employment and therefore a better quality of life. It is directly linked to research and development of new agriculture and water management technologies.

Providing a fair tariff system can be another possible solutions to guarantee equity in water distribution. Regional studies should be carried out to determine how water is distributed among economic levels and new prices should be established so that everyone has access. Governments should even study the possibility of providing subsidies to the lowest income communities.

Access to information and community participation are also crucial aspects. Involvement of communities ensures having a real picture of how water is used and guarantees that people participate in new programs. Populations should be aware of all the activities, improvements and policies. Empowering communities with microcredits with appropriate monitoring measures can be a good alternative to promote change. Since 2/3 of the communities that suffer water scarcity are women, they are a key part of the solution. Women are main actors for agriculture, domestic hygiene and industry. If governments establish legislation that allows women to own land a sense of ownership and a better water management can be created. Participation of women in decision-making processes might be helpful because they can help to identify current problems and possible solutions.

Improving water efficiency is one of the most important challenges, which implies water productivity in agriculture and creating a water saving culture. Prioritizing the use of water by reallocating water from lower-value, to higher-value uses can constitute an option. This must be done with education and in a way that nobody looses. If taxes for water waste are imposed to companies, awareness and efficiency can significantly increase.

Finally, training and education are basic to achieve water access. Courses regarding to water management, crop switching, water wastage and recycling, organic fertilizers and preventing water contamination should be implemented. Community coordination, incentives and constant monitoring are success measures that should be considered.

In order to enhance agricultural productiveness and if we want to achieve the goal of producing 2 times more food by 2030, water access must improve. No strategy would be successful without a regulatory framework for sustainable and equitable water distribution and management. A safe water system requires competitive institutions that provide, administer, educate and monitor the appropriate use of water in rural areas, and, without education and community involvement no significant changes can be expected.

Successful water access programs
Wetlands and Poverty Reduction Project – IWMI, Wetlands International. Awareness & Capacity Building. Villagers improved food security during dry months and nutrition as a result greater variety of crops.

Commune agro-ecosystems analysis Cambodia – Participatory approach designed to help communities improve decision-making. Significantly improved fisheries productiveness.

Farmer associations to address the needs urban producers Sri Lanka – Farmer field schools – Internal Loans – Social security schemes – documentation for water management.

Water storage India – WMI researchers and partners have been experimenting different combinations of ponds and tanks so that farmers can store and manage water to maximize benefits. Incomes have increased by 20%.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Nepal – project to improve nutrition among women through increased access to irrigation water.



Gender and Water. Securing water for improved rural livelihoods: The multiple-uses system approach. December 2007. IFAD. More information:

Rural Water Supply & Sanitation Initiative. African Developing bank Group. More information:

South Africa: Lack of Water Access Undermining Rural Development. AllAfrica,  June 8, 2011. More information:

Water for a Food-Secure World. International Water Management Institute. Annual Report 2010. More information:


Emprendimiento – No le tema al cambio

Si con el primer obstáculo se piensa en cerrar el negocio es porque no se es un emprendedor de verdad; emprender significa asumir retos y buscar soluciones innovadoras para enfrentar problemáticas y encontrar soluciones óptimas.  Cualquiera es capaz de crecer durante un boom económico, pero solo los más fuertes sobreviven ante las dificultades. Puede parecer un cliché que muchas de las oportunidades se encuentran en época de crisis, pero en muchas ocasiones esto resulta cierto.

Si los pedidos están bajando las preguntas que deberían surgir son por ejemplo: ¿Por qué están bajando mis ventas? ¿Qué están buscando mis clientes? ¿Cómo me puede diferenciar de mi competencia? ¿Estoy haciendo algo mal? ¿En dónde debería invertir? ¿Cuáles son mis productos rentables y cuáles solo le están generando costos a la empresa? ¿Le estoy llegando al target apropiado? ¿Mis canales de distribución están funcionando?

Analizar estos aspectos implica acercarse a los clientes, pero es que si no se está en contacto permanente con los clientes no se puede pretender ser exitoso. Y es importante destacar que no se trata de bajar precios; siempre es bueno trabajar para reducir costes, pero la crisis es un excelente momento para analizar a la empresa e identificar posibilidades de mejora y sobretodo nuevas oportunidades. Lo más importante es que en estos casos las empresas sean flexibles al cambio, pues en algunas ocasiones incluso estén dispuestas a reinventar el negocio.

La experiencia laboral en una empresa madura es supremamente enriquecedora antes de lanzarse al ruedo y volverse empresario, pero ser volver a ser empleado es un retroceso enorme. Ante la pregunta que se plantea el empresario de empezar a trabajar como directivo a otra empresa, pienso que es una alternativa equivocada donde el único que saldría ganando sería la empresa que lo contrataría. Los emprendedores son muy atractivos para las empresas, pues son personal con visión, con poca aversión al riesgo,  abiertas, creativas y en con habilidades para hacer relaciones públicas y para coordinar equipos.

Quisiera invitar al empresario a imaginarse situaciones del día a día de una empresa para que reconsiderara esta opción: control estricto de los horarios, depender del estado de ánimo diario del jefe, pedir permiso para poder hacer una diligencia personal o ver el crecimiento personal limitado por estar sujeto a un cargo particular en la empresa. Después de ser un empresario libre, parecería complicado pensar en tener que depender de otras personas para poder tomar decisiones.

Todo el conocimiento que el empresario tiene lo debe usar para buscar oportunidades para su propio crecimiento y no para enriquecer a los demás. Se debe capitalizar el liderazgo y buscar oportunidades personales y para la sociedad y no para terceros. Siempre hay que recordar que muchos de los grandes negocios han empezado de cero, pero eso sí con grandes aspiraciones.

Mi consejo para el empresario que recupere su moral demostrándole a él mismo, a los empleados, a la empresa y a la industria que los buenos empresarios son los que sobreviven en época de crisis y que estando abierto al cambio lo puede lograr. Y ya que el artículo le recomienda no ser gallina, recordarle al empresario que el que no arriesga un huevo, no gana un pollo.

“En los momentos de crisis, sólo la imaginación es más importante que el conocimiento”. Einstein


Santurbán Project – Gold extraction in Colombia

In 2011 the Canadian mining multinational Greystar Resources proposed to develop an open-pit gold and silver mine in a place called the Santurbán Paramo in the province of Santander, Colombia. The objective was to extract 11.5 million ounces of gold and 61 million ounces of silver over 15 years. 12% of the profits were for the Colombian government and the rest for Greystar. The Santurbán project caused a lot of controversy because it was supposed to be located in an ecologically sensitive area that is between 3,000 and 5,000 meters above sea level and that provides water to 20 municipalities an to Bucaramanga, the main city in the region (800,000 inhabitants).

In order to develop the project the company proposed to excavate more than 2,700 acres, to construct two piles of tailings and dump at an altitude of 8,500 to 13,450 feet. Some of the related activities activities and resources were:

• Doing a 656 feet hole, removing 1,075 tons of rock (775 million tons will be dumped and 300 million tons will go to two leaching water basins)
• Using 0 .25 kilograms of explosives to per ton of rock removed / hour
• Applying 4,500 – 5,000 cubic meters of sodium cyanide / hour in each water basin
• Using 250,000 liters of water per hour for the mining process for free

Since the paramo is a source of water collection, filtration, control and recharge, the main threat of the project was the water supply. It would produce negative effects for farmers and cattle-raising, insecurity for residents of several communities, reduction of groundwater supply and aquifers depletion. Furthermore, the use of sodium cyanide can represent a serious risk for all living organisms in the area, especially considering that the Santurbán paramo lies in a highly active seismic zone.

But not only the negative environmental impacts were considered to evaluate the project. The company had strong arguments to support the project such as employment generation, opportunities for schoolchildren, welfare for people and economic growth for the region.

Several actors were involved in the analysis of the Santurbán project, including the company (also in charge of assessing the environmental impact of the project), the Colombian Ministries of Environment and of Mines and Energy, the local authorities, the Humboldt Institute (environmental organization), the ADAN NGO and representatives from the communities. More than 2,000 people participated in the project discussion.

Protests of more than 20.000 people against the project took place in the country and the media took an important role in communicating all the news related to Santurbán project. Even though the company proposed the alternative of underground exploitation, the Colombian government declared the Santurbán project non-viable and decided not to grant the license to Greystar.

I consider this refusal a very important achievement for the Colombian government, which now seems to understand that this kind of projects can only be implemented with a strict regulatory framework and under international sustainable practices.



Gobierno descarta “por completo” proyecto de Greystar en Santurbán.
Semana Magazine. March, 2011. More information:

Laun, John. Report in Santurbán Mining Project of Greystar Resources. March 2011. More information:

Proyecto en santurbán es inviable. El Espectador Newspaper. 2011.


Climate Change – Climate Vulnerability and Global Adaptation Index in China

According to the Global Adaptation Index, which measures the vulnerability of a country to climate change based on water, food, infrastructure and health, China is the 70th least vulnerable and the 17th least ready country, which means that it faces few immediate challenges. The overall score of China in 2010 was 0.262, and it has decreased significantly in the last 14 years.  The most vulnerable variables for China are water (38%), health (32%) and food (18%).

In 2010, the extreme weather events caused floods and low temperatures that resulted in 4,800 deaths and direct economic losses of US$75 billion. Currently more than 14 provincial economies could be at risk from water stress. As seawater is entering into river the mouths fresh water quality and supply can be affected.

Data shows that due to climate change the major crops will decrease, which will affect in food security. China´s average annual grain losses are about 10% and adverse impacts of climate change would increase the costs of future agricultural production. On the other hand, extreme summer has caused coal prices to increase and hydropower to decrease, which have resulted in energetic cuts and blackouts.


This Climate Vulnerability Monitor diagram shows that China´s vulnerability is high and that it will continue increasing. Habitat loss and weather disasters will become more vulnerable from 2010 to 2030. Some of the effects related to these are that China may become deprived of conifer forest, 30% of coral reefs can be lost in the next 10 years and coastal erosion and glacier area loss will be aggravated.

Due to China´s increasing rates of urbanization, industrialization and energy consumption, it will continue facing severe challenges related to climate change. The country should focus on the following 4 areas to increase its adaptation to climate change:

  1. Strengthening agriculture infrastructure
  2. Enforcing laws to protect ecosystems and wildlife
  3. Protecting coastal regions
  4. Enhancing water resource management


Chan, Wi-Shin. China´s rising climate risk. November 9, 2011.

China´s march towards green revolution. BBC. Octobre 2009.

Climate Change: Impacts, Vulnerabilities, and Adaptation in Developing countries. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Climate Change Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation in China. Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development for Agriculture, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.  September 2007.

Climate Vulnerability Monitor 2010. DARA.

China´s National Climate Change Program. June 4, 2007.

Innovación – En busca de ventajas competitivas

Un estudio realizado por 3M, afirmó que las ideas de productos creadas por los usuarios innovadores tenían unas ventas 8 veces superiores a las de los productos generados internamente en la empresa. Esto tiene mucho sentido, pues los consumidores saben lo que quieren. Esta es la idea de la innovación dirigida por los usuarios, un método de bajo coste, alta participación y con enormes posibilidades de crecer. Es una herramienta que le permite a la empresa conocer y acercarse a sus clientes y en algunos casos hasta puede garantizar que los productos se vayan a vender. (2)

Son varias las empresas que utilizan la innovación dirigida; tiendas de moda, zapatos, joyas e incluso coches buscan que el cliente se sienta identificado. Por ejemplo, la empresa Frito-Lay en Colombia en 2010 lanzó un concurso invitando a los usuarios a comunicar qué sabor sería el ideal para las patatas fritas. Los resultados fueron sorprendentes y la empresa ha logrado  altísimos índices de participación y ventas. (1)

Otro ejemplo es de la empresa Hasbro, que abrió una consulta web en la que las personas podía escoger los 22 lugares favoritos Colombia y los rincones más votados aparecieron en el tablero de Monopoly Colombia. Con más de 160.000 votos y ventas por más de 275 millones de unidades, esta actividad ya se ha replicado en 111 países. Con esto Hasbro logró crear un vínculo sentimental con sus clientes. (1)

Cabe destacar que las actividades de innovación dirigida por los usuarios no son solo para producto. Este es el caso de Coca Cola, que abrió un espacio en su página web para que los consumidores propongan diseños para la etiqueta de una edición especial de Sprite. (1)

Por otro lado,  la compañía M&M permite a los usuarios diseñar chocolates con imágenes y mensajes propios a través de su página web. Así, permite interactuar con los productos, despierta su creatividad e incluso logra que las personas paguen un precio más alto por los dulces. ¡Yo por ejemplo creé mis M&Ms propios!

La innovación dirigida por los usuarios muestra cómo las ideas y la innovación pueden surgir en cualquier parte de la cadena de suministros. Lo que debe buscar la empresa son métodos y plataformas para incentivar a las personas a participar, pero sobretodo, generar una cultura de innovación en la organización. Lograr una innovación dirigida a los usuarios requiere de trabajo en equipo y entrenamiento constante para entender al consumidor y así lograr ventajas competitivas. Este no debe ser un trabajo aislado y requiere de un esfuerzo de marketing y comunicación importante para garantizar que las personas realmente se involucren con ideas diferentes que se traduzcan en ventas. De esta forma, las redes sociales y las páginas web cobran una alta importancia. Al fin y al cabo son esfuerzos que las empresas deberían hacer para humanizar sus marcas.

Algunos sitios para diseñar tus propios productos – en el límite de la innovación dirigida, la customización y la cocreación 

Coches personalizados en BMW:

– Joyas a la medida en Zales:

– Zapatos en Vans:

– Maletas personalizadas en Rickshaw:

– Ordenadores cómo tu elijas en


Como la innovación dirigida puede no funcionar para todo tipo de empresas, la innovación abierta puede ser una alternativa. Esta consiste en involucrar individuos y empresas externos para que aporten soluciones a diferentes retos. En el siguiente video se explica a fondo cómo funciona la innovación abierta y expone el ejemplo de cómo Ekin la ha implementado exitosamente para resolver problemáticas actuales:

Las compañías que se catalogan como fuerte-mente innovadoras tienen una ventaja competitiva clara que se da en crecimiento y en retorno a sus inversionistas.s de articiparan y se apropiara de la marca“. (Eminem, 3)


Fuentes de información

1. El consumidor decide qué productos venden las marcas. Diario La República. 26 de noviembre de 2011.

2. Innovación dirigida por el usuario. Creatividad e Innovación. 15 de noviembre de 2010.

3. La Creatividad no es un asunto exclusivo para los productos Innovar beneficia Directamente. Periódico Portafolio. 11 de junio de 2011.

4. 5 Build-your-own Product Solutions for Merchants. Website Magazine.



Environment & Natural Resource Management – Slogan group 6

When trying to reach the best solution…certify, and forget about pollution!

By: Ildikó, Javier, Laura

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