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Thirteen million people are believed to live below the poverty line in the UK. Rising costs of food and fuel combined with static incomes, high unemployment, and changes to benefits are causing more and more people to seek help with their basic needs.

Food banks are one answer, and with almost 400 already launched, the Trussell Trust is one of the biggest providers. Its aim is to open one in every town; providing those who are referred to them in crisis with a minimum of three days emergency food. But for all their good intentions charity food banks can only provide a temporary sticking plaster. Now there is another contender gearing up to supply the poor!

Just before Christmas Britain’s first “social supermarket” opened its doors, offering shoppers on the verge of food poverty the chance to buy their supplies at up to 70% less than normal high-street prices. If successful, the Community Shop, in Goldthorpe, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire, could be replicated elsewhere in Britain. It is reportedly backed by retailers, manufacturers, and brands like Asda, Morrison’s, Co-operative Food, M&S, Tesco, Mondelez, Ocado, Tetley, Young’s, and Müller.

Community Shop is a subsidiary of Company Shop, Britain’s largest commercial re-distributor of surplus food and goods, which works with retailers and manufacturers to liquidate their mistakes. Selling on residual products, such as those with damaged packaging or incorrect labelling, to membership-only staff shops in factories. The new project goes one step further, located in the community for the first time and also matching surplus food with social need.

Goldthorpe is an area of social deprivation and membership of the pilot store will be restricted to people living in a specific local postcode area who also get welfare support. Community Shop customers will not only get access to cheaper food, but will also be offered programmes of wider social and financial support, such as debt advice, cookery skills and home budgeting.

Should the pilot prove successful and sustainable, Community Shops will open in London and elsewhere next year. However, not all commentators welcome the move. Some, whilst conceding that the scheme offers access to cheap food without the humiliation associated with using food banks, suggest this is just the thin end of the wedge. The introduction to society of ‘second class citizen shopping’, and providing retailers with a positive message with which to divert lingering criticism of food waste are just two of the accusations levelled at Community shops.

In the USA, about 1 in 7 Americans receive food stamps – vouchers exchanged at specified stores – to supplement their low-income. Critics of Community Shops have voiced concerns that they are simply a covert way of introducing something similar in the UK. As one blogger put it, “It is still a division of classes, the haves and the have-nots. There would be riots if food stamps were issued in this country, this is why these stores are being introduced. Slowly and surely they will spread and when there is one in every poor community, vouchers for these stores will begin to replace some benefit payments.”

It is early days for the Goldthorpe shop, and the jury is still out on this particular initiative. But with food adulteration stories reaching the press, one can’t help wondering just what kind of damaged or incorrectly labelled foodstuffs are going to be foisted on the long-suffering shoppers, who in return could potentially have to endure ‘good advice’ on cooking, budgeting, and debt. Whatever the rights and wrongs, isn’t there just a hint of Victorian style philanthropy about all this?

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Running anything – let alone a trade association – is never easy, but to do it with your head buried in the sand requires not only a certain level of athletic ability but also a facility for decision making without the benefit of evidence and information. Risky, one might think, but plenty of association CEOs are choosing to adopt this position when it comes to the government’s upcoming changes to pensions. Lulled into a false sense of security by the phasing in of ‘Auto-enrolment’, many employers have assumed that it will be ages before the rules are applied to them; that they are too small to be affected; or the rules will suddenly and magically disappear!

The reality is of course that none of the above is true, and that the changes affect all workers including full-time, part-time, agency, zero-hours, offshore – even possibly contractors on the payroll – aged between twenty-two and the state pension age. In other words, an awful lot of people, as IofAM members who attended the Association’s latest seminar recently found out. On hand to give them the bad news was Mark Stevens, an employee benefits consultant with Close Brothers, a specialist financial services group with expertise in banking, securities, and asset management.

The changes came about as the result of the realisation that the ratio of working people to pensioners fell from 10:1 in 1901, to 4:1 in 2005, and looks set diminish to 2:1 by 2050, according to estimates from the Department of Work and Pensions. The alarm having been raised, Lord Turner, Chair of the Pensions Commission 2003-2006, set out the new ground rules, which included a fairer and more generous State Pension; low cost pension aimed at low-to-moderate earners; automatic enrolment into workplace pension schemes; and compulsory minimum employer and employee contributions.

All well and good, you might think, but even the Pensions Regulator is quoted as saying ”Employers should be under no illusion: implementing auto enrolment will take time, including assessing the suitability of their existing pensions arrangements or choosing a scheme, and adapting their payroll, HR, pensions and IT systems” – and that was in December 2011! The fundamental message is that there will be no escape from the 270 pages of legislation, and that all employers will have to comply between now and 2016. And if you think that’s a long way off, think again, as most IofAM members will have to comply within 12-18 months! Not only that, but they will come under increasing pressure from their own members to provide them with advice and guidance as the deadlines draw closer.

Finally, if nothing else convinces you that it’s time to take advice, then a quick look at the penalties for non-compliance will surely do the trick. An infringement at stage two of the process can incur a fixed penalty of £400 – a wake-up call for the unwary – whereas daily penalties escalate from £50 – £10,000 for serious and persistent offenders, dependent on the number of employees. But, if you still want to go it alone, it’s time to get stuck in. The first step is to collect complete and accurate data; assess your workforce; model the financial impact; and then establish a qualifying Workplace Pension Scheme. Then you can move on to assess payroll processes and functionality, review the market, and select appropriate technology solution(s). After that it’s just a case of communicating compliantly; continually assessing your workers; managing Opt-in/Opt-out; and maintaining you record keeping. Easy!

The Institute of Association Management (IofAM) is an independent professional body made up of managers and senior staff responsible for the management, development and governance of trade bodies, professional institutes, societies, chambers of commerce, voluntary organisations, charities and other representative groups. The purpose of the Institute is to develop, promote and share best practice for the benefit of IofAM members and all those involved in the governance of associations. To achieve its objectives, the IofAM offers a forum for education, training and development, dissemination of information, networking, and research.

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As a trade association manager, how many times have you been asked your membership’s view on a particular issue, policy, or piece of legislation, only to realise that you are completely in the dark? And, in all honesty, how many times have you responded to such an enquiry – possibly from the press – with your own best guess; hoping that the majority will tow the party line and follow you over the barricades into the thick of battle? We’ve all done it, and because we’re all seasoned campaigners – with our ears to the ground – we generally get away with it. But what if your judgement call goes awry? Second guessing the mood of your constituency is a risky business, and careers can be seriously dented by getting it wrong. Why not limit the risk by asking your members what they really think? The answer to that question is that to do so would be costly, time-consuming, and wasteful. But what if it was none of these? Enter the Digital Democracy!

Recently, during a fascinating IofAM instigated discussion, which utilised SMARTvote devices to take quick polls from the floor and encourage discussion around various points in their presentation Luke Ashby and Munni Musa from Electoral Reform Services (ERS) asked delegates to consider if digital technology could be applied to democracy. Along the way they demonstrated that online voting is an effective way to reduce an association’s printing costs, provide wider communication choice for members and be more environmentally friendly.

However, not everybody is comfortable with computers and it is vital in a democracy to ensure that no voter is disenfranchised: the right mix of communication methods need to be employed. Maximising communications and using social media within an election context is a powerful way to raise the profile of an election and foster engaging discussion with the electorate. Digital democracy is about much more than just social media, however. For example, the effective capture and use of data allows for targeted communications and buy- in to cost saving online elections.

The discussion also focussed on other barriers to voting online. These include lack of trust in the security of the process; technophobia; and voter fatigue or cynicism. However, as more commercial transactions take place digitally, and security improves, electorates are becoming increasingly comfortable with online voting. And this might be just the opportunity to learn what they really think!

Electoral Reform Services are the UK’s leading independent supplier of ballot and election services, whose expertise is recognised worldwide as independent scrutineers of voting as authorised by Parliament. Working for not-for-profit organisations and government bodies, typical assignments include leadership or board elections, proxy voting, independent scrutiny of AGMs, membership votes, employee representative elections, housing ballots, referendums, and elections of pension scheme trustees, board of governor elections, community consultations and independent audience vote verification.

The Institute of Association Management (IofAM) is an independent professional body made up of managers and senior staff responsible for the management, development and governance of trade bodies, professional institutes, societies, chambers of commerce, voluntary organisations, charities and other representative groups. The purpose of the Institute is to develop, promote and share best practice for the benefit of IofAM members and all those involved in the governance of associations. To achieve its objectives, the IofAM offers a forum for education, training and development, dissemination of information, networking, and research.

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sale bannerLong ago, I, like most well brought up children was taught that the satisfaction of acquisition was made all the sweeter if you had to wait for it. It was called deferred gratification. Toys, meals, a new bike, all would be much better if you could only exercise enough self-control to wait a little bit longer. It went hand in hand with having the discipline to buy things only when you had saved up the money. It may have been a hangover from the rationing of the war years, or it may just have been a way of fobbing kids off. Whatever the reason, my generation spent ages staring in shop windows or flicking through catalogues lusting after things we one day hoped to own, and all the time saving our pennies.

Today, instant credit and infinite choice brings everything within easy reach, and traders pander to our every whim. But who would have thought that instant gratification would become the new secret weapon of bricks and mortar retailers in their fight back against the online scourge? Now, according to an article in esciencenews, a new study from Columbia Business School, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, finds that the positive feelings consumers experience when receiving a discounted price fades dramatically if the consumer is then forced to wait for the product. “This might spell trouble for online retailers like Amazon that offer discounted items and then force consumers to wait for the product,” said Columbia Business School’s Associate Professor of Marketing Leonard Lee, who performed the research with Rotman School of Management’s Associate Professor of Marketing Claire Tsai. “Our research shows that even if the wait is relatively short — as little as 15 minutes — the consumer’s enjoyment of the product decreases dramatically.”

Lee continued: “Keeping in mind that instant gratification has become a hallmark of society, brick and mortar businesses can add value to their bottom lines by offering in-store promotions on the products they know people want to experience immediately rather than waiting for delivery. This is a key competitive advantage they could have over online retailers and one that might secure their long-term survival in an expanding online marketplace.”

The research titled, How Price Promotions Influence Post-Purchase Consumption Experience over Time, defies long-standing conventional wisdom that discounts cause consumers to enjoy products even more. For concrete proof that instant gratification gives an extra adrenaline kick we need look no further than the hysteria generated in response to so called Black Friday discounts. One disgruntled ASDA shopper was reportedly wrestled to the ground before being led away in handcuffs by police when he didn’t get to buy two cut-price tellies. While elsewhere a stampeding queue of shoppers allegedly broke an elderly woman’s arm.

Whatever next? Will retailers’ USPs soon include ‘best fist fight in pursuit of a bargain’, or ‘best Black Friday riot’?

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 ‘Tesco is to tailor adverts in petrol stations by using face scanning screens’ according to The Grocer magazine. Detractors are already lining up to condemn the idea; likening the retailer’s efforts to something out of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and threatening to never darken their doorsteps again. The company’s cause hasn’t been helped much by the MD of Amscreen, the makers of the technology, allegedly saying, “It’s like something out of Minority Report”. The hyperbole is almost guaranteed to cause apoplexy amongst civil liberties campaigners, and is a gift to conspiracy theorists, but is this latest development as sinister as it first seems?

At first glance the technology isn’t nearly as advanced as the facial-recognition tools used with varying degrees of success in many security applications to identify individuals and place them at the scene of a crime. If Tesco’s scanning can only establish age and gender, the data generated is stereo-typical rather than specific, rather like that collected by social media sites. So, maybe the real issue here is not this actual development but the sheer ubiquity of Tesco – its TV advertising already resembles brainwashing – plus the plethora of bigger questions it prompts!

Will legislation governing the disclosure of data captured by face scanning appease public concerns about snooping?  Will capturing children’s images be acceptable when the technology migrates from petrol stations – where most customers are adults – to supermarkets? And if so, will all the effort of putting tantrum inducing sweets out of sight have been wasted once kids are stimulated into a frenzy of nagging by checkout adverts aimed right at them?

Michael Hoare
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A few days ago I spoke at a Fairtrade Foundation gold meeting in London – standing in for Vivien Johnston – and was privileged to meet the miners from Peru and Bolivia who supply the raw material, and to hear first-hand their accounts of the conditions under which they work.  Their stories are a powerful testament to the benefits that can accrue from certified gold, and the positive effect that it has on local communities and people. I came away convinced that Fairtrade Gold has a pivotal role to play in building a traceable and transparent supply chain. Having noted the difficulties that had faced UK industry I was delighted to receive a positive response in return

Fairtrade Meeting (3) Oct 13

Consumer tastes are changing! Influenced by new products; technological advances; economic circumstances; and latterly concerns for the environment and the future safety of the world in which we live. This has not happened overnight. Environmental activists have been working for more than forty years, to raise awareness of the ecosystems on which we all rely.

Hand in hand with environmental concerns we have grown aware of the terrible price sometimes paid by the people who bring us the necessities that we take for granted. The result is that consumers’ relationships with the goods they buy are far more complex than ever before, and there has been a welcome rise in the number of people who want to buy ethically.

The last decade has seen considerable change in the jewellery sector. Many more miners, raw material processors, designers and jewellers want to act responsibly and ethically, and with due respect for the planet and the people that populate it. In that time there has also been a flourishing of ethical initiatives touching on all levels and segments of the sector. However the supply chain is very complex, with a proliferation of companies and individuals playing their part in bringing products to market. The result is a web of sometimes complimentary, sometimes conflicting, and often over-lapping schemes, each with their own priorities, timescales, and objectives. And of course the world does not stand still.

The result is a matrix that is not easy to navigate. Customers seeking greater understanding, and jewellers committed to the ideals of ethical trading, find themselves baffled by the plethora of initiatives. A couple of years ago, The National Association of Goldsmiths (NAG), the British Jewellers Association (BJA), and the Gemmological Association of Great Britain (Gem-A) came together to form a joint ethics working group to try and answer some of the more pressing questions; put the initiatives in context; and devise some straightforward and un-ambiguous guidance for jewellers. So, the Ethics Working Group coalition is formed of the three largest trade associations of the British jewellery industry, with occasional input from CIBJO, the World Jewellery Confederation. The NAG represents the ‘selling’ part of the industry, the BJA the ‘making’ part, and lastly, the Gem-A is a prestigious educational resource, having many thousands of students and graduates around the world.

These trade associations all have different roles to play. However, one common thread is a sincere commitment to improvement in the jewellery industry. They are also firmly united in the promotion of best practice in UK jewellery businesses. This ultimately means advocating industry-wide awareness of the challenges within the supply chain. But it also gives them an opportunity to engage closely with suppliers and to form strong partnerships with those who share this commitment.

Consumer tastes and preferences constantly change. Jewellery, as a luxury item, now competes with new products –computers, gadgets, holidays, and even experiences, for the consumer’s disposable income. Since the beginning of the recession in 2008, economic circumstances have put increasing pressure on consumers who want to keep up with the newest products on the market. Also, materials like plastic, wood, rubber, and non-precious metals, have become commonplace in jewellery manufacture. The number of items containing gold, silver, platinum, and palladium, and Hallmarked in the UK, has dropped dramatically over the last decade. From 35 million in 2003 to just over 9 million last year.

The result is that consumers are more selective than ever before, but this has not affected the number of people who want to buy fairly and ethically! Sales of ethical goods and services have increased despite the recession, growing to more than £47bn last year. And a Co-operative Bank report calculates that since the economic downturn, five years ago, the value of ethical markets including Fairtrade products, green energy, free-range and sustainable food, has grown from £35.5bn to £47.2bn. The same report shows that sales in ethical consumer markets have grown from £13.5bn in 1999.

In the last decade there has been a considerable shift in the jewellery sector. Across the globe there is a shared ambition for people to act responsibly and with due respect for the environment and other people in the supply chain. Many more miners, refiners, designers and jewellers have come to realise that they want to do ‘Good Business’ with each other whilst protecting the environments in which they live. The challenge is to connect these networks!

minersGold is treated as a commodity by investors, and is valued for its properties as a conductor by electronics companies, and in the automotive industry. However, 43% of gold represents something quite different. Jewellery has no use! It is pure ornament! Yet globally, it represents the largest use of gold!

Jewellery is a sentiment, an emotion and a passion. And pride is one result of the design innovation, the technical virtuosity, and the quality of the materials, which are intrinsic to the product itself. Luxury jewellery companies understand the pride their customers feel when they wear a piece of their jewellery. It’s not simply a product. It’s imbued with an identity, a brand, a personal statement.

Consumers now expect that pride to extend to ‘ethics’. They have become a core ‘brand value’ for many jewellery companies. The most future-thinking brands see the benefits of forming strong strategic partnerships with miners. They want gold mined by people who share their pride, passion and commitment. They want to know that every piece of the supply chain is something to take pride in. Recognising these shared values is one thing. Implementing them is quite another!

The world does not stand still. It is constantly re-shaping around us, depending on politics, economics and individual growth. Continual adjustment is requires to make sure our values remain aligned, and we continue to be accountable to each other.   The Fairtrade label has a long history of delivering a ‘brand’ of ethics to a range of consumer products including coffee, bananas, and chocolate.

As we know, gold has its own complexities. However, since 2011 Fairtrade has brought their trusted label to the outlets of some of the leading jewellery designers in the UK. The UK ethics group wholeheartedly supported this, but in 2012 it recognised that there were some factors which were preventing larger companies from adopting ASM-sourced gold in their supply chain. And, in turn, this was preventing Fairtrade from scaling-up gold production from their miners.

So, it conducted a series of industry consultations and workshops; taking stock of the issues of human rights; negative community impacts; and environmental threats that exist within jewellery supply chains – and ultimately undermine consumer confidence in the business. It also engaged with NGO’s who have campaigned to highlight such issues, or have lobbied for improvements from the sector. Next it held consultations with representatives from the gold industry and heard from their perspective why they found it difficult to achieve transparency.

There have been numerous new standards created which affect gold. These include the World Gold Council’s Conflict Free standard; the OECD Due Diligence guide for conflict minerals; the Responsible Jewellery Council’s chain of custody certification scheme, and the US Dodd Franks Act. They were examined to see how they applied to the trade – from refiners and bullion dealers to manufacturers – and the investment banks who hold the bars in their vaults. Even the London Bullion Markets Association (LBMA) Responsible Gold Guidance were studied. The committee also looked at the challenges businesses faced in complying with these standards.MinersFromSotramiFairtradeGoldMinePeru

The supply chain was simply not designed with transparency in mind, and there are too many stumbling blocks between mining and processing the gold; to the way it’s handled by banks and bullion dealers at a national level. In February this year, the committee published a ‘Gold Paper’ which looked at all aspects of the gold supply chain and identified the ‘choke-points’ that prevented companies from achieving transparency, traceability and improved accountability. It also contained ten recommendations towards jewellers achieving transparency.

Until recently there seemed to be two aspects of Fairtrade gold which were limiting growth. One was the price structure, which, given the already high price of gold, made it difficult to be competitive. The second was the marketing strategy. It needed to be more visible to consumers of small brands, but this wasn’t necessarily acceptable for companies who didn’t want to appear to ‘co-brand’ with the Fairtrade label.

The ethics committee wrote to Fairtrade emphasising the important benefits it could bring to small-scale miners, and the rank and file of the jewellery profession. Pointing out that the majority of jewellery consumers are unaware of its existence, and calling on Fairtrade to invest into the national marketing of Fairtrade Gold to the British Consumer. They were confident that this would add real ethical value to the trade’s standing. Feedback from consultations also showed that Fairtrade could exert considerable leverage on the rest of the supply chain to source responsibly.

Lastly, whilst it is accepted that traceability means extra costs, it was felt that a premium of 10%, over continually rising gold prices, effectively priced this valuable gold product out of the market. Most importantly, addressing this would also make the market even more accessible to miners who have worked hard to fulfil their own ambitions.

In 2011, World Gold Council figures showed that world gold demand was approximately 4,500 tonnes. Of this, 43% was used for jewellery; 10% for technology; 37% for Investment; and 10% for official sector purchases. 70% of that demand was met from primary sourced gold. The balance – of 30% – was met from recycled gold. Scrap gold plays an important partin the UK, but there is still a significant hole to be filled by Fairtrade gold.

Britain still supports many small workshops and retailers. They find it difficult to comply with new regulation. Equally, small scale miners around the world, who are reliant on the success of the UK industry, and access to our markets, need support to achieve the changes we ask of them. Our aim should be to ensure that British businesses are at the forefront of positive and sustainable global change and that certified Fairtrade gold miners share that success!

Michael Hoare

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