Friday, March 20, 2009

Unfair contracts

Have you ever noticed how several businesses expect customers to sign one-sided contracts? These contracts leave the customer at the total mercy of the business. A large portion of such contracts is painfully devoted to explaining the rights of the business. The remaining part is dedicated to telling the customer that s/he has no rights whatsoever.

Then, to add insult to injury, the final clause will read something like this (taken from the terms & conditions of a famous tuition centre): "WE reserve the right to vary, modify, add or delete any of the above trems and conditions." Thus not leaving you in any doubt that you don't have any rights in dealing with this business entity.

And, if you point out such ridiculous contract clauses, the stock answer is: "This is our standard contract. Can not change. Company policy lah." What a standard! And some of them will have a look in their eyes which kind of says: "Accept this or get lost."

A contract by a 'reputed' car dealer which I saw vividly mentions penalties for the customer if s/he cancels the order. But, another clause made it clear that the dealer had unlimited rights to cancel the order without any notice and without any liability whatsoever.

A contract by a maid agency endlessly mentions the rights of the agency and the duties of the cutomer. Upon reading the contract, you will have no difficulty in understanding that if anything goes wrong, the agency will bear no responsibility.

The reasons are obvious. These contracts are drafted by lawyers who get paid by the businesses. Unsriprisingly, the lawyers will tend to protect their client while writing the contract rather than protecting the clients' customers. So, who protects the hapless customer then?

If you have come across such unilateral contracts shoved by businesses, please share.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Future of Green Building in China

My most recent article published on explores the Future of Green Building in China.

China’s green building demand is mainly driven by multinational companies - to achieve the country's energy saving targets local companies need to commit to green building standards too.

Nearly half of the world’s new building construction will be in China by 2015, estimates the World Bank. A forecast by McKinsey Global Institute last year said that China will build a massive 40 billion square feet floor area over the next 20 years adding up to 50,000 new skyscrapers. Energy consumption by buildings in China grew from 10% of the national total in 1970s to 20% in 2006 and is estimated to shoot up to 35% by 2020, according to a study by the Asia Business Council, an association of chief executives of companies with business interests in Asia.

Read the full story at:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Outsourcing jitters for JP Morgan

Americans are now outraged by the news that their banks are quitely shipping thousands of jobs overseas. The latest target is JP Morgan Chase. Press reports originating from India suggested that JP Morgan is working out a $400 million deal to outsource jobs to India. Interestingly, the US press did not get a whiff of the plan.

Reports have led over three dozen members of Congress to write to the bank to explain the outsouring plans. JP Morgan received $25 billion in bail out money from the TARP fund. The Congressmen have written in a joint letter to the bank that "“taxpayers of the United States of America contributed $25 billion to your company to help stabilize our economy – not send jobs overseas.”

Some bloggers were quick to call for all Americans to close their account with the bank. "Hello America!Its time to take a stand.If you really feel like you're being screwed by these big money boys, then quit whining,do something.If you have an account with chase, close it tomorrow.The only thing they understand is their bottom line.We need to let them know that enough is enough," wrote a blogger on

Another blogger's posting said, "if the story is true, you, Chase, should be ashamed. Ashamed for considering outsourcing during these troubled economic times. Ashamed for letting the story get out from India, not the U.S. Shows me a total disregard for corporate etiquette and responsibility."

JP Morgan has not offered a comment on the matter so far.

What will be a responsible act in this situation? Should JP Morgan keep jobs in the US and forego cost savings from outsourcing? Failure to cut costs will make the bank's survival even more difficult. JP Morgan is a global bank. How should it deifne its stakeholders? Should it consider only Americans as its stakeholders, because it's headquartered in the US? Or should it consider a wider worldwide stakeholder base because it's a global bank?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Japanese Cars Race Ahead for World Green Car Award

After two years of German dominance, Japanese automakers have made an impressive comeback in the green car segment of the World Car Awards.

Mitsubishi iMiEV, Honda FCX Clarity and Toyota iQ have made it to the top three finalists for the coveted honour of The 2009 World Green Car Award announced. The awards are a program initiated by, organized by, and conducted by automotive journalists from all over the world. The awards will be given out at the New York International Auto Show on the 9th April, next month.

Honda Civic Hybrid was the first winner in 2006 when the awards started. The 2007 award went to Mecedez Benz E320 Bluetec and the last year's prize went to BMW 118d with Efficient Dynamics.

More at

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Next CSR Social Eve on 2nd April

The first CSR Social Evening hosted by Singapore Compact on 5th march received an enthusiastic response from the CSR fraternity here. In attendance were over 40 participants from NGOs, unions, companies, academic institutions and consulting firms.

According to Singapore Compact, 'there was much networking and the feedback was good. Drinks were available at low prices and much food was provided. A number of attendees indicated that they will bring along others the next session.'

So expect a bigger gathering on the 2nd April, the next CSR Social Evening. At the same place: Union Square (The Amara Hotel Shopping Complex). The same time: 6pm.

The participants have access to drinks at discounted rates. A mug of draft beer or a pour of whiskey or a glass of wine goes for $5.35. There are a lot of other options, of course.