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Complexities of reputation management and policy making in a globalized world: Bangladesh after Rana Plaza

Sonia Jawaid Shaikh's picture

On April 24, 2013, a building called Rana Plaza in Dhaka came crashing down on thousands of workers, killing more than 1,100 and injuring more than 2,500 individuals. Unlike any other building collapse, this received widespread international attention - and continues to do so - because the building housed factories that sewed garments for many European and American clothing brands. As a result, a chunk of blame for the collapse and deaths was placed on retailers and brands that outsourced their work to Bangladesh, and particularly Rana Plaza.

Since the tragedy, these retailers and companies, both big and small, utilized several brand reputation management strategies. This, in turn, impacted the policies of the garment industry in Bangladesh. Primarily, two retailer blocs, The Accord and The Alliance, emerged which have created their own local and international dynamics.

The Accord is a legally binding agreement that has been signed by many European and North American companies and allows for factories to be vetted and shut down in case of non-compliance with safety standards. The Alliance, signed by North American groups such as Walmart and JC Penny, however, does not guarantee any such protections and allows companies to use their own rules with any legal requirements.

Interestingly, many companies who are either part of The Alliance or The Accord, choose not to publicise their participation in such agreements on their own websites. This allows them minimize any attention that could turn into criticism while still taking part in initiatives in case there ever is an inquiry from media, regulators, or other interested parties.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

One Internet
Global Commission on Internet Governance

Internet governance is one of the most pressing global public policy issues of our time. Some estimates put the economic contribution  of the Internet as high as $4.2 trillion* in 2016.1 The Internet of Things (IoT) could result in upwards of $11.1 trillion in economic growth and efficiency gains by 2025.2 And, the Internet is more than simply a system of wealth generation; it also acts as a platform for innovation, free expression, culture and access to ideas. Yet across multiple levels, the Internet’s basic functionality and the rights of users are under strain.

The Lopsided Geography of Wikipedia
The Atlantic

Think about how often, in the course of a week, you visit Wikipedia. Maybe you’re searching for basic information about a topic, or getting sucked into a wiki-hole where you meant to study up on the “Brexit” but somehow find yourself, several related pages later, reading about the carbonic maceration process for making wine (to take just one example that has totally never happened to me).  Now imagine you can’t access Wikipedia. Or you can, but not in your native language. Or there are plenty of entries in your language, but few on the subjects that are part of your daily life. Or those entries exist, but they’re not written by locals like yourself. You certainly have other ways of getting information. But Wikipedia is one of the most ambitious information clearinghouses in human history. How would these challenges shape your understanding of the world? And how would that understanding differ from the worldview of those who don’t face such challenges?

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Curbing corruption and fostering accountability in fragile settings - why an imperilled media needs better support
BBC Media Action
An independent media is one of the most effective assets we have in efforts to curb corruption and foster accountability. Yet it is deeply imperilled, particularly in fragile states and often poorly understood by the international development sector. This policy working paper argues that unless development strategies begin to prioritise support to independent media, corruption may continue to go unchecked and the accountability of states will diminish.

Africa’s digital revolution: a look at the technologies, trends and people driving it
World Economic Forum
We are at the dawn of a technological revolution that will change almost every part of our lives – jobs, relationships, economies, industries and entire regions. It promises to be, as Professor Klaus Schwab has written, “a transformation unlike anything humankind has experienced before”. In no place is that more true than Africa, a continent that has yet to see all the benefits of previous industrial revolutions. Today, only 40% of Africans have a reliable energy supply, and just 20% of people on the continent have internet access.

Reputation and Governance Styles: The Leader as a Smart Aleck

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Because we have a global audience, I must start by explaining that, according to the Oxford American Dictionary, a smart aleck is “a person displaying ostentatious or smug cleverness’.  It also reports that one usage of the word ‘smart’ means: “(of transactions) unscrupulous to the point of dishonesty”. If you watch crime movies the way I do, there is a tendency to admire ‘smart play’, that is, ruthlessly clever and effective maneuvers. The best crime bosses are masters of ‘smart play’. In order words, they are smart alecks.

What is fascinating is how often (particularly in the massed punditry of elite global media) a capacity for smart play by political leaders is glorified. Leaders are routinely judged and compared with regard to whether or not they appear to shape the game, determine events, or impose their will on others and so on. If they do not seem to do that, they are dismissed as effete. If they seem to do that, they are admired and glorified.  What is particularly striking is how often the writers who say these things leave out ethical standards. I believe, for instance, that true evil is a willingness to act without ethical considerations. Yet, notice how often leaders are admired for ostentatiously clever play even if the methods are odious.

But I am interested in a much narrower question. And it is this: if we leave out ethical considerations, is a reputation for ‘smart play’ good for a leader? Does it make her more effective?  To throw this into bold relief, I am going to tell two kinds of stories- one domestic, and the other global.

Quote of the Week: James Surowiecki

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“But, if recent history has taught us anything, it’s that self-regulation doesn’t work in finance, and that worries about reputation are a weak deterrent to corporate malfeasance.”

-James Surowiecki, Staff Writer, The New Yorker

-As quoted in The New Yorker, July 30, 2012. Bankers Gone Wild