Category Archives: Accounting, Business & Finance

This is a place for the professional-related stuff I do from time to time. A lot more can be found on http://www.quoracy.com

Should Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Reporting be mandatory?


The interesting thing is, if we were to ask individuals doing business to report on all the good they do, they could with justification point to the high ethical standard of the Sermon on the Mount and other western Christian-derived ethical ideas which make it at least in bad taste and at worse a prideful thing that would deprive you of your “reward in heaven” to boast about good social works that an individual has done.

Maybe your reaction to the above paragraph is, “ok, but we are talking about companies, companies don’t have souls, they should report”, but the point then is: should we be applying to legal entities doing business requirements that we would not be able to apply to non-legal entities (sole traders and partnerships) if these are in direct competition with them?

I would like to suggest that the requirements for CSR reporting shouldn’t be a one size fits all even when by “all” we mean “all companies over a certain size limit”. It should be applied on a sector by sector basis, with sectors which have a larger environmental/social impact being asked to address specific points in CSR reporting selected for their industry or service sector.

The standards for CSR should contain a table with industries in the column headers, 100 CSR report questions in the row headers and 20-30 mandatory ticks as well as 10-15 secondary ticks where answering these questions in the CSR report is either mandatory or strongly advised, and each industry would have a tailor-made profile. Then unincorporated businesses in the particular sectors should also answer at least the mandatory questions, which would be tailored to address the particular adverse social aspects of the particular industry.

Obviously this needs to be done on an international basis, as business is international and these days more and more companies are “born global”.

Does that not sound reasonable?

Airport shops – a Poll


I sometimes think that airport shops are simply there to prey on the captive audience which is standing around, bored, waiting for a plane. I always laugh when they ask me to show my boarding card – even if I tell them I’m not leaving the EU and therefore have to pay the VAT, not that it makes any difference most of the time if you are leaving the EU – it’s like you’re getting privileged treatment to be able to pay a few dozen percent more than you’d pay on the highstreet.

It works a bit like hotels. The posher they are, the more they rip you off with overpriced minibars, extra for internet, and nonsense like that. The same Cialdini-ism seems to be used in reverse by these airport shops, in that they think that if they treat you like rubbish and overcharge you, then you’ll feel like you are in a privileged setting and that it behoves you to shell out for things you probably didn’t even want or need in the first place.

Some places are worse than others, but the airports that will actually give you some kind of bargain seem to be in the minority, an increasing small minority.

One time in Prague airport I wanted to buy a deodorant as it was a hot day and I didn’t normally carry a toilet bag as I had a flat in Prague with that job. I was asked by the sullen saleswoman if Warsaw was my final destination. I quipped that I hoped not, as I hoped to go to heaven one day. At this her eyes clouded over, she just took the purchase out of the bag, placed it on a little shelf in her booth and refused to serve me.

Evidently I had offended against the culture of the Czech Republic. I knew they were the most atheistic country in the world, I just didn’t realise they were so religious about it.

What’s your experience with airport shops? Do you tend to use them or not?

Greece as a Financial Plutoid


English: The final planet in our solar system,...

Ironically it is the solidarity of Europeans with their common culture that could drag down the EUR. Nobody wants Greece out of the EURO because it’s the cradle of European civilisation. However, as far as economy and attitude are concerned, they are outside the other members.

I would liken the case of Greece to that of the planet Pluto. Scientists reckoned Pluto was a planet for a while, and included it in the planet club as the ninth planet of the Solar system. After a while, scientists saw that it was too remote to be a planet really, and belonged among these other “dwarf planets” or “plutoids” that kept on being discovered, ie the so-called Kuiper Belt.

Greece is still a Euro-Zone country, a planet, because people haven’t managed to determine the reclassification – we don’t have an economical Kuiper Belt to reassign Greece too. We are also wary of the effect of a nation that would contuniue to be an EU member being squeezed out of the EURO, left to fend for itself and failing to do so. Regardless of the poverty and problems that would ensure, the nation would still be in the EU. They would still be having their hand out for subsidies one way or another.

If they were removed from the EU and plunged into economic chaos, then probably the Chinese would come back and renew their bid for the Port of Thessalonica again, but this time there would be less to stop a potential dictator sweeping aside the mess Orban style and enabling Chinese investment, which would put the cradle of Western Civilizisation in thrall to the Han Dynasty.

On a lighter note, just because Pluto became a non-member of the planets club, it doesn’t mean that the infection passed on to Neptune or Uranus. Portugal seems to be taking its medicine, Ireland too. While in Greece there is chaos with people out on the streets burning stuff and there seems to be little to show for the previous EU investments while the Iberian countries made significant improvements to their infrastucture and invested their fundings more wisely.

Logic would say get rid of Greece. Sentiment towards our common culture says “bale them out some more”. And unfortunately, they know that.

In the Eastern Forest


Playout date: 3 October 2006
Camera: Fuji Finepix
Post Production: Windows Movie Maker – medium use
Location: Primorskiy Kray, Russia
Other people featured: Various Foresters
Genre: Environmental
Music used: Solovenko Ukrainian Songs
Languages used: Russian, Ukrainian
Animals featured: Not many other than the ladybirds on the video, but this is the domain of
the Siberian Tiger, black bear and snow leopard. Numerous unusual forest
plants are also seen in the gallery

It’s a long story how I came to be here, and in fact I can’t go into details at it involves work – I ended up auditing the forestry operators of a territory larger than Greater London. The climate was hard and the Mosquitos were hard. I was working for China, and they needed an English speaker who knew Due Diligence and knows Russian, and they received recommendations that I was the man for the job.

Well, it took all summer five years ago, and I still have the Mosquito bites. The gallery shots show in places the anti mosquito suit they managed to bite through. suffice it to say they are simply not in the same league as the European ones.

This is one of my earliest “gallery style” films showcasing photographs and I haven’t really got the style right, they are flashing through too quickly and they’re not fading into each other as I started doing when I got the hang of it.

But still some of the photos are not too bad though I say so myself and worth a few additional comments – the foresters were very friendly folk, we spend a great few days with people that live a very close to nature way in the forest in conditions that most of us would find wearing. These are not the kind of parks you get in Europe. They are logging and replanting in forests that are being cultivated effectively for the first time. This sort of forest in Europe exists only in any size in Bialoweza, where the bison are. The fauna here is very varied, but it’s not common to see them. When I went behind a tree to go to the toilet at one point, I saw a Siberian chipmunk,  or “burunduk” – but when I told the woodsmen about it they said that when I go off to have a leak I’d better let them know so that they can cover with a rifle, because it’s when they do what I just did that they come across other “stripey animals” but ones who are more inclined to attack us than the burunduk are!

We saw cedar nut trees and manchurian nut, and those strange grape like things that you see in the woodsman’s hand – to get them he swung out over a fifty-foot drop on a tree branch, as agile as a monkey. Also you’ll see the huge ladybirds that they had there, you can see one that landed on me – they are so pick that when they land on you it feels like someone’s flicked you with their finger.

The tipped over lorry full of logs you can see in one photo there goes to show how tough the terrain is there – they basically dig their roads out as they woork the forest.

Don’t miss also near the end the home-made fitness area they made for themselves from various machine parts. It showed their skill in making do.

EU’s “Most Dodgy” List, and how you can make a difference.


Ali Hassan al-Majid, hearing in Baghdad, Iraq ...

One man's terrorist is another man's hamburger stall customer...

The EU keeps a list of people you need to keep well away from. You’re not allowed to enter into business deals with these people. Not so much as a choc-ice should you sell or buy to them. If one of these people comes up to you and asks you what time it is, then you should give a refusal to answer, or at worst a misleading answer, and then immediately tell your local EU anti-dodginess enforcement officer about the contact.

If they come up to you and say “good morning”, they’ve already lied to you once. It can’t possibly be a good morning if you met one of them on it.

This list will go out of date almost as soon as it appears, so for the latest one head over to this place and get the latest list of total world scale hooligans to avoid.

Now that this is up on the EU’s site for public consumption, nobody in the EU has any excuse for failing to comply with sanctions. If you run a hamburger stall or a small taxi company, you could be liable if someone from this list buys a good or a service from you and you don’t tell them to get the hell outta here. So it’s up to you to ensure that the whole list is memorised the whole time, or at the very list look up people you are doing business with if you’re not sure about them or their organisation. Read the rest of this entry

Top 30 Languages to learn for 2050


Map showing countries and autonomous subdivisi...

The Turkic linguation - to a greater or lesser extent mutually intelligible languages. However often not the preferred business languages of their regions, hence only 12th place in this economic utility-based prediction.

Here are my 2050 predictions, originally shared on http://www.how-to-learn-any-language.com :

1. Chinese (all types)
2. English (all types)
3. Arabic (all dialects)
4. Russian
5. Spanish (all types)
6. Japanese
7. German
8. French
9/10.Portuguese and Korean(if there is Korean unification, Korean takes the higher slot)
11. Italian
12. Turkish and mutually intellible forms of Turkic Read the rest of this entry

I think, therefore I audit. I film, therefore I am. (CUV)


The point of this video is discussing what Descartes‘ famous maxim “I think therefore I am” means to me today, whilst driving past the house he grew up in in the village that bears his name in France.

This is actually video number 18 in the French holiday season, but I didn’t number it as I wanted to present it earlier, so later on the French series will jump from 17 to 19.

Portrait of René Descartes, dubbed the "F...

Oh, Renee!

The phrase “I think therefore I am” always seemed to me to be ridiculous. After all, when people become thoughtless they don’t just stop existing. They exist as they did before. Some even go through life in a thoughtless state. We have no idea to the extent that animals think – some such as bonoboes, whales and elephants may experience thoughts closer to our own than we may expect. Maybe there is thoughtfulness even further away in the cladoscope from mankind than we would even expect. It doesn’t make the more thinking animal more or less existant than the less thinking animal.

So I decided some time ago that another verb was needed rather than “to be” in order to make a more fitting end to this sentence, and I came upon it while teaching audit. I used to, and still do from time to time, train younger folk how to audit businesses, do reviews, due diligences and all manner of accountancy related services for business. I taught that mindless ticking and bashing of documents, without understanding the heart of an entity’s business, its purposes and its systems, would lead to a valueless and proabably flawed audit process, and that the only way to audit properly was to switch the brain on and keep it switched on for the duration of the audit. So I coined the term “I think, therefore I audit” and taught with this motto all around East Europe in the nineteen nineties and still do from time to time now.

The problem is of course, that because the audit profession is dominated by Big Four firms, who know that they cannot make profits on audits by putting people who can think for themselves on jobs, they have made the profession more and more of a box-filling matter so that junior staff, especially first years fresh from university with precious little practical training and little time to have learned how to think about the things they need to look out for, even though they mainly would probably want to, can go in and perform the bulk of an audit. This is not popular with middle tier clients who want some added value from the observations of their auditor which these younger ones are not yet ready to give, and on the contrary frustrate the client with naive questions as it becomes painfully apparent how they are learning on the job, and the middle tier try to field more senior people on work, and this actually costs our firms more, although we are taking generally less because the audits are smaller and the Big Four are erroneously assumed to have more prestige.

Yes. Even after Enron, and all the other Big Four messes. And the middle tier are forced to endure tighter regulation to assure that audits are being done “properly” but this “properly” means being done the way the Big Four instituted and keep on doing – namely mindless box filling. The Big Four lobby the professional bodies and state how things need to look in the way a standardised audit is carried out, and having any actual talent for sniffing out what could be wrong in a company, having any ability to think your own way through to what could be ailing in a company, these things have no premium whatsoever, on the contrary audit has become such a secretarial job over the last ten years that anyone with a spark of imagination is likely to run from the profession screaming. Read the rest of this entry

I’m still getting the hang of doing galleries…


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This doesn’t look like I thought it would, but what it is is actually four photos from the International Business Forum website – the Christmas party event at which I was asked to be the auctioneer for the evening’s charity auction, so you can see me here in the best bib and tucker. I just took the ones with me in but you can see more on the site http://www.ibforum.cz

What I found gratifying was that the shots of others taken while I was talking as auctioneer looked as if people were enjoying the humour. They had completely different faces to the ones during the serious bit before where the people running the Pink Crocodile charity talked about the difficult conditions of the kids they are helping. People looked a bit stressed by that, nobody likes suffering, much.

But people gave generously in the auction, we sold everything for good prices, and I hope my jokes didn’t upset too many people!

Some footage from my actual auctioning should be coming up in the not too distant future on video too!

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