Bureaucrats Saving the World

Posted: April 21, 2011 in Responsible business
Tags: , , ,
Thousands protest banks on Wall Street

Image by SEIU International via Flickr

Next time I use the word bureaucrat pejoratively, I shall try to remember this.

The European Union is of course the supra-national body based in Brussels which coordinates many of the affairs of European nations.

Something about it seems to make English speakers’ eyes glaze over and our news media is thoroughly uninterested in it. If I may speculate, that is because it is doing its job. The French and German governments love it to bits because it befuddles and diffuses the chest-thumping nationalistic sentiments that twice brought them catastrophically to war last century (and a few times in the century before that too).

To do this it has to arouse as few passions as possible and just hum along without notice. It does it very well and, suffice to say, the nations of Europe have never before enjoyed the peace that they have in recent decades.

The other reason its absence is inexplicable is that it is the biggest show in town. Nobody in the USA or Australia seems to know this! (I’ve lived in both but can’t speak for Britain or Canada) Some examples:

USA:

EU:

  • 492 million citizens
  • $16.5 trillion economy
  • 152 Fortune 500 companies

Anyway the point is, those invisible public servants in Brussels have announced something of huge significance, which the mainstream media completely missed (as they intended); they announced draft changes to the EU Public Procurement policy for 2012.

The draft seeks to lock in higher standards of transparency for all public authorities to adhere to when tendering for projects. If it happens, this is big big news! It would make it impossible for corporations who do business with European governments to fob off the demands of activists that they publish information about their supply chains. They would basically have to do so, like the gold mining companies mentioned last week.

Moreover when you have to do business in a certain way for such huge clients, it is often not worth your while to have one set of standards for the major client and another (presumably lower) set of standards for other clients. At least that is what has been found with municipal living wage law campaigns: suppliers compelled to pay higher wages for city contracts will pay the same wages for all their jobs to minimise red tape.

2012 is a long way off and there remains a consultation period. Still it’s good news and I have greater faith that the Europeans will manage to pull this off. Who do we have to thank? Who’d know!

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  3. […] proxies, the accountants and bankers? I’ve previously looked at strategies of regulation, corporations bound by charter and consumer pressure to bring corporate behaviour under control in […]

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