Author: orwellcontent

Profile: ProCredit Bank

Social Stock Exchange profile: ProCredit Bank Orwell partner Gary Mead likes what he discovers about the ProCredit Bank Can you think of a bank that offers a course on ‘The Rise and Decline of the Roman Republic’? Can you nominate a bank that might even think that offering such a course to its management trainees might make good sense for its business? Neither could I, until I encountered ProCredit Holding and its group of banks, one of the more recent recruits to the Social Stock Exchange. I don’t have a lot of time for banks: their behaviour leaves almost everything to be desired, almost as if they see no responsibility for the systemic half-witted mayhem they helped create in 2008. In fact, the only bank I’ve had any respect for is the scrupulously squeaky-clean Handelsbanken of Sweden. Until now, that is. The ProCredit group – an assortment of development-oriented commercial banks working in Southeastern and Eastern Europe as well as in South America, and which includes a German bank – is based in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Many …

I Love Lucy

No, this isn’t some throwback to the 1950s US TV show. It’s a homage to Lucy Kellaway, who for almost 25 years has been stripping away the bullshit from the English language as it is mangled, abused, and left for dead by the business world. She’s soon giving up her weekly column in the Financial Times, to take up teaching maths in a school. The newspaper will be a much diminished read without her. In her latest column Lucy tackles the very things that make us despair here at Orwell. She is relentless in spotting the bullshit from big executives and attacking it. Nonsensical stuff such as ‘110% committed’ or, in her column today, Howard Schultz of Starbucks saying the new roasters of the company are delivering a “coffee-forward experience.” That’s almost hilariously meaningless. But what Lucy doesn’t point out is that many of the top bosses who spout such ludicrousness no doubt have acres of communications and media advisers, some of whom no doubt scrutinise the language used by them. How does it get …

Thought leadership from Odgers Berndtson

Odgers Berndtson is one of the world’s leading executive search firms with 27 offices in more than 50 countries. It finds and places some of the most senior C-suite executives across all business, industry and non-profit areas. In 2014 Jonathan Arnold, now a Partner at Orwell and then Editorial Director of content agency Archant Dialogue, proposed that Odgers would greatly benefit from a global, thought leadership print and digital publication that focused predominantly on boardroom issues. Although reticent at first, Odgers Berndtson recognised that this was a tool that could be multi-functional and assist greatly in demonstrating that the company has its finger on the pulse of the key issues that affect boardrooms – and people – around the world. Now in its third year, Observe has become a major part of Odgers’ marketing armoury. Issue number 11 shown here focused on the crucial subject of work: where it’s going, what are the significant issues that affect it and how can business and boardrooms prepare for a new age of automation.     Jonathan Arnold …

Profile: Impact Investment Trust

Profile: Impact Investment Trust Gary Mead, SSX editor and Orwell partner, talks to Eighteen East’s Thomas Venon, co-founder of the Impact Investment Trust One of the frequently repeated gripes about the impact investment world is that it’s effectively closed-off to the ordinary retail investor, those with a few hundred or thousand available to invest. It’s a strange irony that only the rich, it seems, can put their money into investments that might make a difference to the sum total of human happiness. Of course there are places where people who aren’t high net worth individuals can stash their savings and still feel they are making a positive impact – but you have to search for them quite diligently. But from 10 July this all changes – the minimum you’ll need is $1,000 to take a stake in the Impact Investment Trust PLC, a new trust that as of that date will be trading on the London Stock Exchange, while simultaneously becoming a member of the Social Stock Exchange. The dollar-denomination is because all the underlying …

Social Stock Exchange profile: Ashley House

Social Stock Exchange profile: Ashley House Orwell partner Gary Mead talks to Tony Walters, CEO of Ashley House – a property developer with a conscience Ashley House is a property developer. In case the phrase ‘property developer’ sends you scurrying for your shotgun – think again. Ashley House is a property developer with a conscience; a conscience that it puts into practice in its business. Last year it won the ‘Social Impact Company of the Year’ award at the Small Cap awards. It was a founder member of the Social Stock Exchange in 2013, and it has a clear statement of its beneficial mission: “to develop the most cost-effective health and community care property solutions, through enduring partnerships and proven expertise.” To put some flesh on the bones of this I spoke to Tony Walters, Ashley House’s CEO. I started off by asking how the company made a remarkable financial turnaround, turning an £11 million pound loss in 2015 to a small profit in 2016. “The nature of our business is lumpy. We are reliant …

Social Stock Exchange profile: Emergex

Social Stock Exchange profile: Emergex Orwell partner Gary Mead takes a look at Emergex – a company hoping to improve the lives of people across the world with its disease-busting vaccines How badly does the developing world need cheap, effective, easily-available vaccines against deadly viruses? As rhetorical questions go, that one’s a whopper. In March 2014 an outbreak of the Ebola virus spread across much of West Africa, with a fatality rate of around 50%. By 2015 it was headline news. As with many other disasters, the established media caravan has now moved on and the Ebola panic is over – until the next time. Ebola, Zika – the story trajectory is similar. We panic and wring our hands at the horrific deaths of thousands; the world seems to mobilise, spending millions on tackling the problem; then media fatigue sets in; the problems remain, barely noticed outside specialist agencies. While anything that promises a treatment for malaria grabs headlines, Chikungunya – a mosquito-borne viral disease that causes intense joint pain and is incurable though not usually …

Consumption of illegal drugs is a menace

Consumption of illegal drugs is a menace Gary Mead, Orwell Partner, argues that muddled thinking has left everyone confused, and hysterical language doesn’t help either A remarkable event went almost unnoticed over the Easter weekend – Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, introduced a Bill to legalise the recreational use of cannabis. Only one other country – tiny Uruguay in South America – has completely legalised cannabis as a consumer product, although eight US states have done so to various extents. Portugal decriminalised all drugs in 2001. There, drug use among the 15-24 year-old population has declined steeply, as have drug-related deaths. Trudeau’s Bill is expected to pass the Canadian parliament and by mid-2018 the country is expected to have legal sales of the drug. Growing, importing, exporting or selling cannabis outside licensed channels will remain serious crimes in Canada – but in this country there is finally recognition that prohibition has failed, and that state control is the only solution to dealing with cannabis, as with tobacco and alcohol. I’ve grown to adulthood living under …

Profile: London Rebuilding Society

Profile: London Rebuilding Society By Gary Mead – SSX Editor and Partner with Orwell One of the unexpected pleasures of writing these Profiles of Social Stock Exchange member companies is the continual discovery of courage in the face of adversity; the discovery of people, and companies, trying and succeeding at ethically creditable enterprise where it’s most needed, where it’s most overlooked. A fine case in point is the London Rebuilding Society (LRS) – which is in the process of rebuilding itself and, in so doing, is tackling a largely forgotten social issue. The LRS was established in 2000. Naomi Kingsley, the CEO, tells me that she “originally set it up as a social finance institution. It’s always been about access to finance, which it still is.” Its home improvement scheme for older people is perhaps what it is best known for, and it’s this part of the business that underpins its main ambition today. Private sector homeowners occupying decaying houses, yet who have no means of accessing finance to render their homes of a decent quality, …

Design matters

Design matters Orwell partner Nick Paul played a part in the recent redesign of The Sunday Times newspaper. Here he tells us how good editorial design really can make a difference Design is important. It makes things look good and it makes them easy to use. For instance, a well designed car is a pleasure to drive, helps keep the occupants safe and is attractive to look at. Similarly, a well designed map, such as the London Underground diagram, should be easy to follow and navigate from. Often good design goes unnoticed, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – but we soon become aware of bad design when we struggle to open a sachet of milk or cannot find what we need from a website… Good editorial design should help make the written word easy to digest, and the best editorial designers should have a real understanding and feel for storytelling in the same way that the best journalists do. By using effective design, clear typography and good picture selection, the editorial designer can help communicate the message. We call this visual …

The missing link

The missing link It’s heartening to see my old employer, the Financial Times, give such a ringing endorsement today of Orwell’s core principle – that clarity in language is synonymous with clarity of meaning. Not that Michael Skapinker’s FT piece was intended as such. Just that his clearly expressed view on the vital necessity for considered use of language exactly mirrors our own thoughts here at Orwell. He takes a case now going on in the US where a missing comma has given rise to a legal dispute, with potentially serious financial consequences. But he identifies a problem much broader than the specific. He writes: “Some of you will already be pointing at the problem: children are not taught punctuation any more. They leave out apostrophes, commas and capital letters on WhatsApp, Twitter and other social media.” While Skapinker takes an understandably relaxed view of this development – “people are fast learners…You learn a lot about writing from being misunderstood” – we think it would be better if they weren’t misunderstood in the first place. …