SBS Analysis: Animal Cash Karma

By Dr Atul K. Shah:

Someone, somehow, discovered that the new British five pound note, made of plastic, used ink which had beef tallow/animal fat. They were animal welfare activists, and caused a storm gathering over 100000 signatures and eventually, the Bank of England had to apologise, and guaranteed that future notes will not have any animal ingredients.

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I was interviewed on this theme by both BBC radio and television, as they were keen to get a Jain perspective. Being media, all they were looking for was a soundbite, though for me there was a much deeper story here. It also happens that I am an active writer and researcher on Ethical Finance, partly inspired by my first meeting with the eminent writer, scientist and film-maker Dr. Michael Tobias 25 years ago. He has always been most respectful and encouraging of Jain culture and science. In our rush to modernise, we have lost so much wisdom and science from our past, and replaced it with fraudulent and violent theories and practices. And those with the inherited wisdom need to be supported and encouraged to speak up and not get drowned out by the noise of modern intellectuals and academic scholarship which often is in denial of ancient cultures and their scientific discoveries.

The global finance system is an important player in social and environmental destruction, and also actively involved in the perpetuation of animal cruelty. The £5 note crisis for me was a symbol of this wider malaise – one which the powers that be would not wish us to challenge or question very hard. If I look at finance scholarship and books used at University level globally, both college and post-graduate, there is no discussion about the impact of finance on animals whatsoever. None – as if they simply do not exist. For corporate finance theory, it is regretful that there is such a thing as society, animals and the environment. In a perfect free markets world, financial transactions would help promote a competitive world where everyone can trade efficiently. The question of purpose or ecological impact does not even arise. The human being is assumed to be virtually irrelevant to finance theory. The famous sociologist Bruno Latour recently said that even if the world were to die, capitalist theory assumes that economic reality must survive and be bailed out. It is beyond nature, and yet very dominating and controlling of nature. Finance today has become a curse on society.

The theory and mechanics of finance are deliberately clouded in mystique to confuse and exploit. Experts want to guard their territory and profits, and hide their true values, greed and violence. Social media is a great tool for helping ordinary people to unravel such fraudulent thinking and theorising, and I use both my University teaching and my writings to inform the world that there can be a different, kinder, gentler, caring finance. Dr. Aidan Rankin and I have just completed a book entitled ‘Jainism and Ethical Finance’ which shows in a practical way how such thinking and practice can be achieved. Our research exposes the corruption of modern finance teaching, which completely excludes culture and ethics. The Jains have a profound philosophy of unconditional compassion for all living beings – ahimsa – and they have also successfully applied it in business for thousands of years. Of course not all Jains are perfect, but that does not mean that we ignore the faith and its science in encouraging ethical finance.

Money today has become deeply enmeshed with politics, and instead of becoming a servant of humanity, it has become our master and curse. We must revisit its fundamentals, and take away the expertise and control of finance from those who are unethical, uncaring, and professionally ignorant of the ecosystem and everyday cruelty of human thought and action. Nothing less will do.

Atul K. Shah PhD is a Senior Lecturer at Suffolk Business School and founder of www.diverseethics.com

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SBS Analysis: The Possible Impact of Brexit on Greek Tourism

Greece is bracing itself for the impact of Brexit on tourism numbers in 2017. In 2015 some 2.4 million British citizens visited Greece, up from 1.7 million in 2011. Just over 900,000 British citizens visited Greece in the first six months of 2016, up by over 13 per cent over the same period of 2015, and representing 12.5 per cent of all visitors to Greece.

Visitors from Germany form the largest group with 2.8 million visitors in 2015, up from 2.2 million in 2011. Yet in the first six months of 2016, Germany just fell behind the UK with 888,000 visitors, a modest increase of 0.8 per cent over the same period of 2015, but still representing 11.9 per cent of all visitors to Greece.

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© David Gill

Most British tourists stay in Greece for at least six nights, and Germans for seven. In contrast visitors from France and Italy only tend to stay for four nights on average. The most recent value per ‘tourist night’ in Greece is $316; British tourists tend to spend more than this ‘average’.

This suggests that UK tourists were worth at least some $757 million (700 million Euros) to the Greek economy in 2015, and some estimates have suggested that it was worth as much as 2 billion Euros. The projection for 2016 is just under $800 million.

However, the fall in the value of the pound against the Euro will make holidays in Europe in 2017 considerably more expensive for British tourists. A fall of 10 per cent of British visitors will hit the Greek tourist industry with a loss of around $70 million. In such a market, hotels and holiday lets in Greece may be forced to accept lower prices or risk having empty properties with no income.

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Athens, photograph © David Gill

 

A holiday in the UK may not be a cheap alternative. The fall in the pound is likely to make Britain an increasingly ‘cheap’ destination, and UK accommodation will be at a premium. And the destabilisation of the wider European economy due to Brexit may discourage some European visitors from taking their holidays in Greece.

Professor David Gill is Director of the Heritage Futures research unit in the Suffolk Business School.

Professor Gills presentation on “Heritage and austerity: UNESCO World Heritage sites, tourism and Greece” is available on academia.edu

SBS Analysis: The Green Paper

The green paper released earlier this month, entitled Fulfilling our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice, has called into question the current quality of teaching in higher education, and the importance of research and the REF (Research Excellence Framework).

WillThomas220x232Will Thomas, Deputy Head of Suffolk Business School, gives his initial analysis:

It is interesting that this green paper is ‘very green’ indeed – so much of the detail is open for discussion and consultation, that it is far from becoming a white paper. It does, however, tell us a great deal about how the Government is thinking about Higher Education at the moment. 

  • Clearly, they are concerned for the UK’s productivity, and skills shortage. The UK is performing badly in comparison to other OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, with growth in productivity slowing and lower average pay. The Green Paper recognises this and is suggesting that universities provide degrees with “lasting value to their recipients” particularly through the delivery of transferable skills.
  • The Green Paper is also demanding great transparency and better information for students, in particular how their tuition fees are spend, and how classes of degrees are awarded (to prevent degree inflation). Students currently struggle to make good choices about where to go to university and what to study, as current information does not enable student to make judgements about teaching quality. 
  • Higher Education is recognised as a key driver of social mobility, and access for disadvantaged students continues to be very important, with aims to double the proportion of people from disadvantaged backgrounds in Higher Education by 2020.
  • With all the talk of a TEF (Teaching Excellence Framework), the Green Paper outlines proposals for ways to measure standards of teaching in UK universities. The mechanism (still to be determined) will link teaching quality to income (perhaps in the form of higher fees for the best teaching institutions) and give prospective students access to improved information about teaching quality.

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The Suffolk Business School is well placed to respond to these challenges – not only do we have an excellent record for high quality teaching and student satisfaction (with 100% student satisfaction in Events and Tourism Management), but we have also developed the Graduate+ scheme to support the development of transferable skills and encourage students to critically reflect on their wider portfolios. We are very proud of the support we offer to all students and already have high proportions of students from so-called “widening participation” backgrounds. UCS has already done much to support social mobility and so is well-equipped to be at the vanguard of efforts to do more in this area.

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The Suffolk Business School is committed to the continual improvement of teaching standards and in recent years has made particular efforts to improve the quality of feedback for students and access to lecturers for tutorials and other support. We currently run a number of small projects to enhance the quality of provision through better use of technology and will be disseminating these both internally and externally. We therefore welcome an assessment of teaching standards as long as the mechanism for doing so supports improvement and recognises that a reliance on measures of outcomes alone is unlikely to give a good measure of the value added by teaching. Alongside efforts to improve transparency of university provision, a TEF should be broadly welcomed.