Sustainability: MDGs – Northern Africa

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight development goals that member states have agreed to achieve by the year 2015.

The UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

Northern Africa, which is one of the regions studied in the MDG report, is geopolitically made up of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, South Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara. The Canary Islands and Madeira Islands are also sometimes included in this categorization.

Map of Northern Africa

According to the MDG 2011 report, Northern Africa is one of the poorest regions in the world, with high levels of poverty and unemployment, and many children are undernourished. However, it has managed to make considerable progress towards reaching its MDGs.

Although the level of development in Northern Africa has not been equal to other regions, there have been significant improvements compared to past trends. For example, the report states that the region has experienced an increase, albeit slow, in primary school enrolment. The report mentions that being female, poor and living in a country affected by conflict are three of the most pervasive factors keeping children out of school.

(Click here to visit the UN MDGs website)

In terms of health and sanitation, Northern Africa is the only region that has already surpassed its MDG sanitation target, with increasing coverage from 72 per cent in 1990 to 89 per cent in 2008. Many children are still at risk of being born with HIV, but access to contraceptives for women has also made significant progress, and there has been improvement in skilled attendants at birth, which has reduced child mortality. Hence, the combination of these improvements has led to fewer births at age of reproduction and decreased instances of maternal deaths.

In terms of education and women’s development, Northern Africa is leading the way to improved youth literacy rate and is seeing an increased participation of women in parliament in addition to the number of educated mothers. However, although more girls are attending school, unequal access to education continues to persist in many areas of the region.

With regard to the environment, Northern Africa is the least contributor of CO2 emissions, but it is at risk of suffering from climate change and environmental degradation. For example, the MDG 2011 report states that its water resources are no longer sustainable.

From the information provided by the report, it seems that Northern Africa is on track to fulfilling its MDGs as the bar charts show that it is inching closer towards reaching its development goals for 2015. However, the progress has been quite slow and there are still many problems that need to be addressed. The global economic crisis has also contributed to an increase in debt, which can set back its efforts. Thus, much work is needed at national level, and international cooperation and support in terms of providing knowledge and tools to assist in its progress would be helpful.

In studying the conditions of Northern Africa and comparing its levels of development with other regions of the world, I couldn’t help but be reminded of United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s statement made on the ‘Day of 7 Billion’:

“Our world is one of terrible contradictions. Plenty of food but one billion people go hungry. Lavish lifestyles for a few, but poverty for too many others. Huge advances in medicine while mothers die everyday in childbirth, and children die every day from drinking dirty water. Billions spent on weapons to kill people instead of keeping them safe.”

(click here to read opening remarks of Ban Ki-Moon on Day of 7 Billion)

Nevertheless, according to the MDG report, economic growth has increased in some developing countries and international funding has resulted in expansion of programmes that delivers services and resources to those most in need.

Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations Secretary-General

Hence, I believe that the MDG is crucial in keeping track of countries’ progress as it holds them accountable and pushes leaders to set global and national priorities, as well as measures to follow up on their countries’ goals for development.

Yes, our world is one of terrible contradictions, but with a clear set of goals, perseverance, determination and support from global institutions and other nation-states, we are as what Mr. Ban Ki-Moon says “7 billion strong”. I sincerely hope that the countries of the world, including those in Northern Africa, will continue to progress and achieve their MDGs by 2015, for the betterment of their people and the world.

(Click below to view videos on the MDG Acceleration Framework and the Joint Programme on Leave No Women Behind)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUt-uMvSD1I[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzM4bQXye9U[/youtube]


Energy Planning: Energy Efficiency Measures in Malaysia

Sustainable use of energy has been emphasized in Malaysia’s development plans and supported by Government initiatives. Constant efforts have been carried out throughout the years to reduce the country’s dependency on its finite sources of thermal power. Environmental considerations are also increasingly being taken into account in the formulation of more recent policies.

Malaysia has several measures implemented to deal with energy efficiency, which have been translated through national policies and regulations such as the National Energy Policy, Electricity Supply Act, Efficient Management of Electrical Energy Regulation 2008, and the National Energy Efficiency Master Plan which is supposedly in its final stages of formulation.

I particularly like the Fifth Fuel Policy, which was introduced under the 8th Malaysia Plan (8MP) between 2001-2005 because it established Renewable Energy (RE) as the Fifth Fuel to be included into the national energy mix – which used to be comprised only of oil, gas, coal and hydro.

As a result, the Small Renewable Energy Programme (SREP) was launched to encourage and intensify the utilization of RE in power generation. Under this programme, small renewable energy power generation plants can sell up to 30 MW of electricity that has been generated to the utility through the Distribution Grid System. The renewable energy sources that have been identified under this programme are biomass, biogas, solar, mini-hydro and solid waste.

Then under the latest 10th Malaysia Plan (2011), Malaysia set a target to derive 5% of its energy production from RE by 2015. This has led to Government-provided incentives such as feed-in tariffs (FiT) which have been incorporated into the electricity tariffs to support the development of RE.

In my opinion, the measures adopted by Malaysia to become more energy efficient has evolved with time and has been refined to reflect the Government and people’s changing awareness and attitudes on energy security and the importance of energy-saving.

I feel that more knowledge on this important issue needs to be transmitted to the general public, especially the youth and the rural communities. I think that a country cannot truly advance its goals for energy efficiency without engaging the people to participate in its efforts. The people play a major role in reducing energy consumption and preventing waste of energy where possible, as they are, after all, the consumers. I believe that Malaysians already understand the importance of energy efficiency and living more sustainably, but I hope that as responsible citizens,  we will try to place our knowledge of what we know into daily practices and good habits.

As Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said,

“Our planet can no longer withstand man’s unsustainable consumption and wastage. It’s our moral responsibility to bequeath to our children a more pristine and healthy planet.”(quote sourced from Bernama.com)

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Project Management: Rio Madrid Project

A block away from where I reside here in Madrid lies the Manzanares River, and ever since I moved into my apartment, I have been fascinated with the sights of the parks and facilities available alongside the river. Everyday on my way to EOI, I never fail to see people young and old walking, jogging, cycling, rollerblading, or skateboarding along the cemented “river banks” of the Rio Manzanares.

When I first arrived in this area, I assumed that the structures built along the river had been around for a long time, but I soon came to learn that it is in fact a relatively new project. That would explain its “new” look and feel, which resonates from its clean walls, bridges, and pathways.

Generally referred to as the Rio Madrid project, it is well known for its transformational plan and costly budget. Through landscaping and planning strategies, the City Council aimed to change the social activities in Madrid by improving the urban integration between the centre, south, and east districts of the city.

(Click here to view a pamphlet of “Madrid Rio”)

The idea of the project was to transform one of the most degraded and neglected zones of the city to become one of the most beautiful, cultural areas with “green” qualities. Its completion was also intended to convert the Manzanares River from an urban barrier into a meeting place for citizens and a connection between neighbourhoods and facilities.

Madrid Rio - Before and After (Source: urbanistdispatch.com) Click on image to view larger version! 🙂

In relation to our course on Project Management, I decided to take a brief look at this huge makeover project to learn more on how it was planned and delivered.

The planning management of the project was first sub-divided into two phases due to its technical complexity and the high amount of investment required to complete the project. The two phases focused on different objectives which were:

1. Madrid Calle 30 (Phase 1) – to bury the M-30 highway, and

2. Madrid Río (Phase 2) – to treat the area surrounding the river by building parks, playgrounds, infrastructure, and other facilities.

The cost of the project was €3.9 billion for the Calle 30 Project and €485 million for the Madrid Rio Project. Access to the park and river was officially opened to the public on 15 April 2011. The park extended to a total area of ​​1,210,881 meters square, where 33,623 new trees of 47 species, 38 species of shrubs 470,844, and 210,898 meters square of prairie have been planted.

Like all projects, it went through a feasibility phase, planning phase, executing and controlling phase, and a closure phase.

In a project as big as this one, the objectives were met step-by-step through smaller projects that were carried out to focus on specific areas that would be affected. For example, one project would deal with the areas of Casa de Campo and Manzanares districts, while another would execute the project in areas of Palacio-Puerta del Angel districts. The planning of many focused projects such as these under one big project, displays the work breakdown structure (WBS) of the whole project as well as the divergence and convergence of the work paths that would occur in the process.

With regard to the duration of the project, the reform and burial of the M-30 along the Manzanares River was conducted in the 2003 to 2007 term.

In 2005 the Madrid City Council convened an international ideas competition to recover the space that was freed from traffic. A draft was submitted by the West 8 urban design and landscape architecture and M-Rio Arquitectos, which was formed by Burgos & Garrido, Porras & La Casta, Rubio & Álvarez-Sala.

Artistic Bridge at Manzanares River - This photo was taken with my iPhone in October 2011.

After undergoing a period of consultation, the project involving the park was scheduled to begin in late 2008. Through this part of the project, the space where the old road used to be was transformed into a large park that joined El Pardo with the municipality of Getafe. It is also supposed to connect green zones and historic gardens, and recover use of the river. Here, it can be noted that the project shows a typical finish to start dependency from one task to another because the project involving the park could only begin once the project of burying the M-30 was completed.

Some parts of the project also ran parallel to one another, hence the timelines of each parts of the project overlapped on specific years. The general timeline of the project at large shows that the special planning for the park was scheduled to take place from 2007 to 2008, while the project execution was to run from 2008 until 2010. Since it was opened to the public in 2011, it is assumed that the project was completed on time.

Indeed, the project reminds me of the Cheonggyecheon river restoration, which I had the opportunity to visit on several occasions during the course of my brief internship at Seoul, South Korea in 2008.

The large scale of the Rio Madrid Project was an impressive attempt by the Madrid City Council to transform the landscape of the area surrounding the Manzanares River. From my own experience of reading, hearing, and observing the outcomes of the project, several pros and cons can be identified. From the project management perspective, the project was completed on time but the budget was not well planned, and although it had achieved some of the outcomes that were desired, parts of the community were not pleased with the design of the walkway that combined pedestrians with cyclists. Environmentalists had also pointed out the adverse effects that the project had on the ecosystem connected to the river, while some argued that the river was only being used aesthetically as it still remained inaccessible. Nevertheless, according to a few residents living nearby the area, the outcome of the project has greatly reduced noise pollution, beautified the area, and it is obvious that the facilities made available are being put to good use by many people (myself included) that currently reside in Madrid.

Click below to view a video on Madrid Río Project.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOgo4o_afnU[/youtube]


New Year, New Knowledge!

Hi everyone!

This week is our first week back at EOI after a long Christmas holiday! The New Year brings a new beginning for many of us and especially for students of the IMSD programme, we are being introduced to new modules that will help to open our eyes more to the world of Sustainable Development, and nurture our creative and innovative minds.

Today we began a course on Environmental and Natural Resource Management and one of our tasks is to come up with a slogan within our assigned groups on what we think summarizes or represents the day’s class.

So my fellow team mates and I (Group 1: Syafrina, Diana, Luca, Aitana) came up with our first slogan that we think reflects the lessons learned in our first class on Environmental and Natural Resource Management, which is:

ECOLOGICAL DIVERSITY, SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY

I think that all of us are looking forward to attending our new courses this year, and contributing more of our diverse and dynamic ideas in class to further expand our knowledge on topics of interest. And knowing my fellow classmates of the IMSD programme, we will continue to do so just that… the way we always do!

Best wishes to all! 😉

10 Jan. 2012 - IMSD students with Leda Stott, Director of the IMSD Programme at EOI


DP: Seeds of Life

Hola!

I hope everyone had a wonderful and merry Christmas over the weekend with family and friends. It’s a cold Monday night in Madrid, but warm thoughts of my family and tropical paradise located on the other side of the globe are helping me get through this winter season. 🙂

I was taking time to do some additional research on the group project that I am currently working on. My teammates and I were tasked to research and analyse on the Green Belt Movement (GBM), which was founded by the late Prof. Wangari Muta Maathai – an inspirational leader, role model, women’s rights activist, and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate from Kenya who recently passed away this year after a long battle with cancer.

Wangari Muta Maathai (1940-2011)

The more I read of Prof. Maathai and listen to her speak in videos of past interviews on the importance of protecting the environment, conserving resources, and learning about the causes and symptoms of environmental degradation, the more amazed I am with the vision and pure determination that someone like her possessed.

Who would have thought that the simplest act of planting a small seed could lead to a better standard of living? It lead me to believe, more than ever, that environmental protection and sustainability is indeed essential to us as it is directly linked to our livelihoods as human beings. Simply put, when our environment is in bad condition, our lives will be in bad condition as well. Thomas Berry states, “the natural world is the larger sacred community to which we belong. To be alienated from this community is to become destitute in all that makes us human. To damage this community is to diminish our own existence.”

Prof. Maathai’s wisdom has reminded us that if we were to plant and nurture a fruit tree, it bears fruit that can be fed to children and sold in the market, it provides a cool shade, prevents soil erosion, conserves rainwater, and absorbs CO2. If more trees are planted, the benefits will surely multiply.

Through its efforts to restore ecosystems and increase national forest cover, the GBM claims that it has planted over 45 million trees in Kenya. Planting trees has also helped to increase household income, and has become a source of strength and self-determination to many women who participated in the programme, thus empowering women and promoting gender equality. The significant amount of change and development on the environment and community that GBM has helped to achieve, has gained my profound interest and admiration for the works of the late Prof. Maathai who had sought to provide benefits and opportunities for her people and country.

My readings and online research has taught me so much about the significance of planting a tree. Today, the GBM has grown to become more international, with more programmes that range from crop diversification, to environmental education in schools, to capacity building, and more. It also collaborates with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other organisations on global campaigns such as the “Billion Tree” campaign.

Billion Tree Campaign

In my opinion, a complicated problem doesn’t necessarily need to be solved with complicated solutions. When our environment worsens and pulls us further away from our dreams of a better life, why not start with planting a tree?

It will take time, patience, and perseverance but as Prof. Maathai once said, “The planting of trees is the planting of ideas. By starting with the simple step of digging a hole and planting a tree, we plant hope for ourselves and for future generations.”

"The planting of trees is the planting of ideas" - Wangari Maathai

 


Business Strategy: The Case of Mars Ice-Cream

Questions and answers for the case study on Mars ice cream’s distribution strategy.

1. How would you resume the strategies adopted by Mars to launch its ice cream products?

To come up with the next strategy for Mars in the launching of its ice cream products, we should first analyze the market environment for this type of product, such as its consumers, its competitors and the market penetration of Mars ice cream products. We also need to analyze Mars in terms of its past distribution strategies adopted that have succeeded or failed and the reasons behind the success or failure. We can do this by utilizing the PESTEL analysis to consider all the variables that could affect the sales of Mars ice creams and a SWOT analysis to understand Mars’ internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as the external factors that could lead to opportunities and threats for its ice cream products. We could also use Michael Porter’s 5 Forces to determine the competition and the bargaining powers of the suppliers and buyers. However, since we are only focusing on Mars’ ice cream distribution strategy at the moment, we can attain an overall picture of the barriers, challenges, and competition for Mars ice cream products by utilizing the competitive analysis of Michael Porter’s 5 Forces, as follows:

Michael Porter’s 5 Forces

Barriers to Entry & Exit

• Technological: there is a need for frozen storage and transportation of the ice-cream products are costly.

• Financial: the distribution of Mars ice cream products are costly and items need to be sold in large amounts to balance transportation costs. There are also difficulties of making up economic loads within a compact geographic area.

Potential New Competitors

• Many: there are many ice cream companies out there, but Mars can still be competitive since it uses quality ingredients such as real cream and real chocolate. • Competitors are also offering free freezers to exclusively sell their products, and small retailers have accepted them.

Customers Power of Negotiation

• High: Mars ice cream is generally more expensive than other brands, and its choices are limited. Potential Response Strategy from the Competitors to the activity of our company. • Aggressivity – Mars has failed to negotiate distribution agreements with other companies. The company has been denied access to Unilever and Nestlé freezer cabinets in many European markets.

Suppliers power of negotiation

• Medium: it depends on where the ice cream is distributed because small shop retailers will order less as they can only sell limited numbers, but more can be delivered to supermarkets and hypermarkets as they would be able to store larger amounts of ice cream.

Substitute products or services

• May Exist: the ice cream market is very competitive for Mars but at the moment, the company doesn’t sell dessert ice creams, bulk packs or children’s novelty ice creams, for which there is also demand. There are possibilities for Mars to expand its range of ice creams and combine it with its confectionary products.

Recommendations

• From the analysis conducted above, Mars can resume its next strategy to launch its ice cream products by:

1. Diversifying its ice cream products to fulfill the demands of its consumers. In doing so, it could then offer freezers to the retailers to exclusively sell its products, together with its other range of ice creams.

2. Considering alternative venues for distribution, such as what Oreos did with McDonald’s and what Hershey’s did with Burger King – create an ice cream dessert or a Mars chocolate cheesecake for example, and sell it to fast-food chains’ consumers.

3. Fulfilling the demands of all levels of Mars consumers through creating several ranges of ice cream products that would vary in ingredients, flavor, packaging design and distribution location. For example, an ice-cream range for kids aged 4 to 12 will be packed in colorful, visually attractive packages, have flavors named “icy choc mountain”, “rocky almond”, or “chocolate spaceship”, and will be sold in smaller sizes, at cheaper prices, and distributed at school cafeterias, malls, street vendors, supermarkets, and small shops. On the other hand, the high-end ice-cream range for adults aged 21 and above will be packed in sultry dark colors, with catchy words displayed like “real cream, real chocolate, real Mars”, with flavors named “chocolate seduction”, “Mars meltdown”, or “crème caramel”. It will be like a combination of Magnum and Vienna ice creams.

4. Leveraging on its already popular name brand of confectionary products by focusing the marketing of its ice cream products around the fact that it is Mars, and not just any other typical ice cream on the market. This would serve to remind its consumers of the quality and reputation of its confectionary products, and persuade them to perceive the Mars ice cream as they would perceive the Mars chocolate bar.

2. Do you think that Mars will ever make significant profits from its ice cream operations? Why? How?

Looking at the scenario and information that was provided in the text, it is unlikely that Mars will make significant profit if it continues with “business as usual”. It seems that its range of ice cream targets specific customers & does not reach all consumers such as children. Thus, in the ice cream market that is already dominated by bigger companies, which are competing aggressively, Mars would have to be more dynamic and innovative in launching its ice cream products, and should leverage on the fact that it is already well-known in terms of branding and confectionary distribution. It should also seek ways to cooperate with other non-ice cream companies such as fast food chains or diners, in order to introduce Mars ice cream in their dessert menu. Perhaps then it would have a better chance of attaining a bigger piece of the ice-cream market pie.


Environmental Accounting: Case Study Analysis

Imagine a factory located upstream that pollutes a river. It produces steel for the automotive industry. Downstream, local fishermen find they catch less fishes due to the pollution.

Both are flourishing businesses that produce wealth and prosperity for the community. But there is a problem environmental economists must deal with:

1. Can you suggest any criteria that could be used to decide on who has the right to use the river? The factory, the fishermen, both?

There are several criteria that could be analysed in this particular case, and they include the level of dependence on the river for the fishermen, in comparison to that of the factory. The history of the two parties’ experience with the river should also be taken into account – e.g. who was using the river first and for how long? How important has the river been to each parties’ business? What is the percentage of income generated from using the river? In addition, the magnitude of the pollution in the river caused by the factory can also be studied to understand its environmental effects, such as what element is causing the decrease in number of fishes and whether it will also have an impact on other animals or human beings living in the vicinity of the river. An important criteria that should also be considered are the laws governing the use of the river and other rules or regulations that are enforced, such as natural laws, or environmental laws, in the area where this case takes place.

In many places, a river is generally assumed to be public property and is accessible to the public for multiple uses, such as swimming, fishing, boating, and other activities. In such situations, the river and its running water can be utilized over and over again by the people who use it, as long as the fishes can survive and the quality of the river’s water is maintained.

In this case study, it is obvious that the lives of the local fishermen are dependent on the river as they use it to fish and make profit. The way they practice their fish-catching activities have also been quite safe for the river as the fishes have managed to survive all this while, before the river was polluted by the factory. The cleanliness and well-being of the river is also vital to the rest of the community because a badly polluted river is more likely to cause disease, endanger the lives of fish and other wildlife, produce malodours, and will certainly be an eye-sore to the residents living nearby the river.

On the other hand, the factory is not dependent on the river to make profit. If the river becomes overpolluted or dries up some day, the factory could change the location of their dumping site and this action would have little effect on their business. By dumping their waste into the river, the factory is causing the quality of the river and the area around it to deplete as it gets polluted. Therefore, the factory’s use of the river is causing damage to public property, as the areas around the river, including any residential areas nearby the river are also receiving the negative affects of the pollution. The polluted river becomes detrimental to the community or public as people will not be able to use the river anymore since it is deemed unsafe. The potentially hazardous waste that has been dumped into the river may also leak into the drinking water of the community, and its chemicals may poison animals and other wildlife that utilize the river.

With regard to the economic prosperity that both businesses are contributing to the community, the continuous dumping of waste into the river would mean the end of business for the fishermen, which would greatly affect the local fish market and the economy. However, if the factory can come up with another solution to manage their industrial waste without dumping it into the river, both businesses can continue to flourish and the community can still benefit from the economic activities of both parties.

From the criteria mentioned and the brief analysis of the case above, it can therefore be concluded that the fishermen should have more right to use the river as compared to the factory.

2. Can you propose any instrument or agreement to solve the problem?

A cost-benefit analysis could first be adopted to analyse the costs and benefits of each party’s use of the river. Then for the short term, I would propose the use of regulation, or enforcement of the law to solve this problem. The factory should be fined for polluting the river and causing damage to public property, ordered to stop their dumping of the industrial waste into the river or they would have to shut down the factory, and perhaps some compensation should be extended to the fishermen as well, because their business was badly affected by the pollution, which caused the number of fish in the river to decrease.

For long term, I would suggest the incorporation of extended accounts such as that of the NAMEA into the national account as it takes into consideration the multi-dimensional aspects of the environment and relates it to the economy in efforts to develop sustainably. It could be used to measure the impact of certain cases on the environment, such as the case discussed above, and provide statistical analysis that can be further studied to decide on the best ways to handle future cases concerning the environment.


More Than Managerial Skills

How to become a better speaker, presenter, negotiator, and leader – that’s what my colleagues and I were taught in the course we attended on Managerial Skills. But was that all we learned from Mr. Christopher Metcalfe?

Of course not, because more than that, we were taught on how to enter into the hearts and minds of an audience, how to reach a win-win agreement, how to direct and motivate colleagues, co-workers and subordinates, and also how to manage time more efficiently and carry out tasks in more creative and innovative ways, as opposed to taking the conventional road.

In many respects, it was a class that I found very useful and in fact necessary, especially during a time when employers are seeking job candidates that not only possess knowledge and technical skills, but also the right attitude, conduct, professionalism, ability to handle work under stress as well as to work in teams and collaborate with diverse groups of people.

In Malaysia, for example, I used to work in a department of a government agency that focused on developing the country’s ICT talent pool and one reoccurring issue with ICT graduates, which the employers of multinational corporations reported to us, was the lack of good soft skills.

It is apparent that beyond being able to carry out specific tasks listed under a job description, employers are looking to hire employees that are skillful and knowledgeable but also driven and able to translate and communicate their knowledge to others. Current situations show that even with jobs in the ICT field that were once thought of belonging to the realm of the “geeks”, embodied in this outdated idea of a lone individual who works on the computer without much communication with the outside world, has changed because having basic soft skills are becoming more and more important.

Today, as I have increasingly witnessed and experienced, many jobs require employees to interact with others, attend corporate events, and present findings, suggestions, or ideas to top management.

Through our Managerial Skills course, I was given an opportunity to polish the soft skills that I already possess in a “safe” environment. It made me think as well on how I could go about maximizing the other skills I have, how to better “sell” myself to prospective employers, and how to someday become an influential leader who inspires others. I’m sure anyone who is motivated and driven to succeed will always look for ways to improve and impress.

Thus, in addition to the constant words of encouragement provided by our course teacher/trainer/coach, I believe that the lessons we learned throughout the course, including the priceless advice of doing what we can to avoid “getting shot by the Nazi” are valuable to our future career and undertakings, no matter which field we choose to pursue.


Finance: Hypermarkets in Spain

In these times of crisis, it is generally assumed that hypermarkets in Spain such as Auchan, Carrefour, Hipercor, Eroski, and El Corte Ingles are struggling to retain their piece of the shrinking European pie.

Let’s take a quick look at the financial situation of the biggest hypermarkets in Spain, which are Hipercor under the El Corte Ingles group, and Eroski which is part of the Eroski group.

According to the financial information provided by El Corte Ingles, the sales turnover and net income of Hipercor hypermarkets in 2010 saw a general decline in contribution as compared to 2009, with a 5.4% decrease in turnover and profit, and a 25.6% decrease in consolidated profit. The decline in net sales and profits was a result of a reduction in prices and margins, as well as structural changes. However, the hypermarket chain continues to hold 14.9% share within the group, being the second largest area of activity after the El Corte Ingles department stores.

On the other hand, Eroski’s 2010 fiscal year managed to yield a 7% increase in consolidated profit and 17% increase in operating profit. A significant cut in prices in order to gain competitiveness and paying back of bank debt, however, resulted in a burden of 70.5 million euros. The increasing rate in unemployment and fall in confidence of consumers and consumption of families due to the economic crisis was seen as the main cause of the decline in its financial figures.

However, Eroski managed to cut some of their long-term and short-term financial debt with the paying off of bank loans, and reinforced measures to cut costs and improve internal management. In order to build consumer confidence, the hypermarket chain launched EROSKI basic, a brand that claims to offer “products of proven quality at very competitive prices”. Eroski’s reinforcement of its competitive prices has represented a saving of over 143 million euros for customers.

It can be concluded that although some hypermarkets in Spain are generally encountering financial decline, some policies and measures have been adopted to counter the drop in profit and gain consumer confidence, while hypermarkets such as Hipercor seem to focus on improving staff productivity and expanding its presence throughout the country, as seen in the opening of a new centre in A Coruña in 2011 as well as diversifying its range of products, such as perfumes, children’s clothes, diapers, and other baby products.


Extreme Thanksgiving

At the moment, many residents in the United States are tucking into their slices of turkey and sweet potato pie, and giving their special thanks on Thanksgiving day.

I, on the other hand, am feeling nostalgic.

As I may (or may not) have mentioned previously, I spent a part of my life growing up in the U.S of A. I still remember the first time I tasted turkey – I was 4 years old and attending kindergarten in Pennsylvania, and it was during Thanksgiving day.

Later on, I spent 6 years growing up in New York, where I attended high school and college, and also grew accustomed to the feasts and festivities associated with Turkey Day. Everytime the seasonal pumpkin soups would begin to appear in local cafes and restaurants, I knew that Thanksgiving day was near and that my birthday was not far from it.

So…in my current state of reminiscence, I happened to come across this online article that related thanksgiving dinner to climate change. Since I had recently posted on how climate change affects our food and diet, in terms of the cocoa, coffee and wine industries, I thought I would also share with you the link to this article and the image below that was taken from the article (click on it to view the larger version), which I thought was interesting.

Happy Thanksgiving & que aproveche! 😉

Extreme Thanksgiving - Source: www.care2.com



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