Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Interview: Dr. Matthias Altmann, New Markets Manager, Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International

Established in 1997, Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) is an association of 3 producer networks and 21 national labelling initiatives that promote and market the Fairtrade Certification Mark in their countries. Fairtrade labelling organizations exist in 15 European countries as well as in Canada, the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
To ensure the transparency and the independence of the Fairtrade certification and labelling system, Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International was divided in January 2004 into two independent organizations:
FLO International develops and reviews Fairtrade standards and assists producers in gaining and maintaining certification and in capitalizing on market opportunities on the Fairtrade market. To ensure the transparency of the system, the standards are developed and reviewed by the FLO Standards and Policy Committee, in which FLO members, producer organizations, traders and external experts participate.
FLO-CERT ensures that producers and traders comply with the FLO Fairtrade Standards and that producers invest the benefits received through Fairtrade in their development. Operating independently from any other interests, it follows the international ISO standards for certification bodies (ISO 65).
As noted by Dr. Matthias Altmann, New Markets Manager, Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, Fairtrade is an alternative approach to conventional trade and is based on a partnership between producers and consumers. Fairtrade offers producers a better deal and improved terms of trade. This allows them the opportunity to improve their lives and plan for their future. Fairtrade offers consumers a powerful way to reduce poverty through their every day shopping.
“When a product carries the Fairtrade Mark it means the producers and traders have met Fairtrade standards. The standards are designed to address the imbalance of power in trading relationships, unstable markets and the injustices of conventional trade,he said.
He noted that there are two distinct sets of Fairtrade standards, which acknowledge different types of disadvantaged producers. One set of standards applies to smallholders that are working together in co-operatives or other organizations with a democratic structure. The other set applies to workers, whose employers pay decent wages, guarantee the right to join trade unions, ensure health and safety standards and provide adequate housing where relevant.
Fairtrade standards also cover terms of trade. Most products have a Fairtrade price, which is the minimum that must be paid to the producers. In addition producers get an additional sum, the Fairtrade Premium, to invest in their communities.
“The minimum price paid to Fairtrade producers is determined by the Fairtrade standards. It applies to most Fairtrade certified products. This price aims to ensure that producers can cover their average costs of sustainable production. This means it can serve as a safety net for farmers when world markets fall below a sustainable level. Minimum price only sets the minimum trading price; producers and traders can also negotiate a higher price, for example on the basis of quality, and for some products, FLO also sets different prices for organic crops, or for particular grades of produce, Mr. Altmann said.
In addition to the Fairtrade price, there is an additional sum of money, called the Fairtrade Premium. This money goes into a communal fund for workers and farmers to use to improve their social, economic and environmental conditions.
This sum of money is paid on top of the agreed Fairtrade price. It is usually invested in social, environmental or economic development projects that are decided upon democratically by producers within the farmers organization or by workers on a plantation. For example, education and healthcare, farm improvements to increase yield and quality, or processing facilities to add more value to the products.
As many projects funded by the Premium are communal, the broader community, outside the producer organization often benefits from Fairtrade, he said.
There are now thousands of products that carry the Fairtrade Mark. Fairtrade standards exist for food products ranging from tea and coffee to fresh fruits and nuts. There are also standards for non-food products such as flowers and plants, sports balls and seed cotton.
For the first time in its history, FLO is revamping its standards. Better cost-benefit ratio, simplified compliance criteria and ensuring that FLO meets the needs of Fairtrade farmers, workers and traders: these are the key goals of the New Standards Framework. The new framework has three pillars: Production, Trade, and Business & Development which cover economic tools unique to Fairtrade and help to reinforce the Fairtrade Minimum Price and Premium.
“Our standards apply to producers and their buyers in the supply chain. They include producer standards for workers/ Hired Labour and small-scale farmers organized in Small Producer Organizations or who sell through external bodies, which is known as Contract Production. There are also standards for the importer, exporter or processor who buys directly from the producer group, he said.
Mr. Altmann noted that the Fairtrade Mark is now the most widely recognised social and development label in the world. The Mark is owned and protected by FLO on behalf of its members.
In this context he pointed out that Fairtrade Labelling Initiatives that founded FLO originally had different labels. In 2002, the International Fairtrade Certification Mark was created and since then it has gradually replaced the different national labels. Two of FLO's members are still using their own original labels. In Canada and the United States the Fair Trade Certified labels indicate that Fairtrade standards have been met.
2009 was another year of positive growth for Fairtrade, as sales continued to increase across all LI countries. It's estimated that roughly 27,000 Fairtrade products are now sold in over 70 countries. According to recent surveys, consumer awareness of the Fairtrade Mark has exceeded 80% in some countries. And, despite the economic downturn, Fairtrade has achieved a 15% increase in global retail value, with estimated sales amounting to 3.4 billion euro.
“Our ambition is to increase the number of producers in the Fairtrade system fivefold, while delivering ten times the Fairtrade Premium and increasing Fairtrade sales tenfold, by 2015,he said.
Mr. Altmann said that the best way consumers can support Fairtrade is to buy products that carry the Fairtrade Certification Mark. The Mark is now the most widely recognised ethical label in the world. When a consumer product bears the Mark it ensures that the product has been traded according to FLO's international Fairtrade Standards.
There are roughly 27,000 products on store shelves around the world bearing the Fairtrade Mark. When consumers choose to buy a product labelled with the Fairtrade Mark, they are helping to reduce poverty and encouraging companies around the world to trade fairly.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Interview: Mr. Michael Breen, Founder & Chairman, Insight Communications

In what should certainly come as a big shock to Koreans, but has been royally ignored by the local media, the latest Nation Branding Index produced by East West Communications ranked South Korea in 167th place globally in its second-quarter results, which is down from the 3rd place in the first quarter of this year.
The East West Nation Brand Perception Index is based on analyzing millions of mentions of countries in hundreds of thousands of news articles, every quarter. As pointed out by the agency, it is difficult for countries to address their branding and communications problems if they don't know where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Until now, it has been possible to make only an educated guess as to how a country is viewed by the world, based on news clippings, surveys, focus groups and the like. That is why East West Communications has teamed up with Perception Metrics to create a scientific basis for analyzing international perceptions of a country's brand.
So, what this research shows is that South Korea's perception within international media , in recent times has been pretty bad. Korea's international image is less than clear and by and large very narrowly defined by its ties with North Korea. For this reason, it can be easily assumed that the 'Cheonan' distaster is largely to blame for this slip in the rankings!
While that may well be the case, it is certainly not very inspiring for the government officials, who have for several years now been trying to improve the country's international reputation with overseas investors and tourists by adopting various branding strategies.
As any long-time observer of the country will tell you, so far, they have failed to come up with anything that seems to work.
As Mr. Michael Breen, a public relations consultant who has lived in Seoul for 28 years, points out: We have seen slogans and logos attached to the Korea 'brand' in the same way as taglines and imagery are linked to commercial products. However, none of them have clicked.”
A former correspondent for The Washington Times and The Guardian newspapers, he is currently the chairman of Insight Communications, a public relations firm.
Since entering public relations in 1999, he has been engaged in a number of large projects in Korea, including the World Cup in 2002, and promotional programs for Seoul City, Incheon International Airport and the Korea Exchange, as well as for numerous multinationals. He is the author of The Koreans (1999) and Kim Jong-il: North Korea's Dear Leader (2004) and was made an honorary citizen of Seoul in 2001.
He said, one of the main problems of the 'Korea brand image' is that there is no unique message about Korea that is sent out to visitors. Different government departments have their own promotions and the message often lacks consistency. Each organization seems to try to promote itself, with its own objectives, egos and stakes.
“Instead of having different organizations bringing their own expertise and skills to the National Branding effort in a coordinated manner, independent initiatives are taken, often adding confusion and difficulty to the already extremely complex debate.”
Starting this year, Korea's tourism attractions are being promoted through a new English slogan, "Korea Be Inspired" which emphasizes the hope that foreign tourists will gain new inspiration by visiting the country. The Korea Tourism Organization is aiming to attract 8.5 million foreign tourists in 2010. This year also marks the beginning of the 2010-2012 "Visit Korea Campaign," aimed at generating $10 billion in annual tourism revenue and advancing Korea's stature as a tourism power.
Previously, the slogan "Korea Sparkling" was used in various promotional materials at home and abroad since 2007. However, it had been criticized for lacking identity and relevance to tourism.
The country is also sold to investors as Dynamic Korea and the Hub of Asia, or a combined version. We've also had the less familiar Korea's IT.
“These brands are not bad or wrong, but they do not appear to have lifted the country or made an impact in the way that was hoped,Mr. Breen said.
Not that this disappointment has stopped provinces and cities from following suit. Many of the different local governments have their own promotion campaigns and logos, which are equally confusing and at cross-purposes.
They include- Hi Seoul: Soul of Asia; Dynamic Busan: City of Tomorrow; Fly Incheon; Colorful Daegu; Beautiful Gyeongju; Happy Suwon; Jeonju City: City of Culture; Cheongju, the happy city worth living in; It's Daejeon; Green Land JeollaNamdo; and GyeongGi-Do: Global Inspiration.
Busan's 'dynamic' is a straight copy of Dynamic Korea, which was developed in the Kim Dae-jung administration. A smaller city could get away with hitching its wagon to the national brand, but Busan is a very important place and, with four million people, is bigger than a lot of countries. It needs something original, he said.
Of all of the various brands, the one that does sound apt is ``Fly Incheon.'' Although it sounds like ``Fly United,'' whatever else Incheon wants to be, it is now identified with the airport. As such, the logo fits the brand.
All the examples do represent an effort in the right direction, which is to find a way to boost the economy. It suggests that the branding effort is part of a broader effort to promote and communicate, which is appreciated, but more though needs to go into the process, he said.
What government needs to do is recognize that the design and the tagline should come at the end of a process of research and strategizing that may take some time and cost some money, especially if international opinion surveys are required.
“At the heart of the process is a decision as to how to ``position'' the country or city, in other words, exactly how we want investors, tourists and other audiences, including citizens themselves, to think about us.
They also need to be extremely careful not to copy others because the whole point is to identify what is special and fitting about their place. For this reason he thinks that the new slogan- 'Korea, Be Inspired' is unique and sends the right message.
“Some say that you cant really brand a country of South Korea's size. However, a lot of us can relate to the new slogan. You find yourself walkign faster here, the shamanism, gi, feng- shui, all make up for an inspiring stay.”
'Dynamic Korea' didn't work because it sounded like a copy of 'Incredible India' and 'Amazing Thailand'. But with adjective and noun reversed, 'Korea, Sparkling' sounded original, wlthough it did not last.
The goal of making the logo fit the brand involves describing a place in a way that is acceptable and which highlights something distinct, or in a way that captures an aspiration, how the city or country would like to be.
He also noted that as awareness of South Korea spreads around the world with the country's growing importance, so too do negative perceptions. The problem arises when the negative associations outweigh the good. In this case, the dangerous antics of the North Korean rulers.
There is much more to South Korea and this has be highlighted in the various campaigns.
The country is good at knowing what physical infrastructure is needed, but what needs improvement is communicating about what they have acquired. People who are responsible for the communication side need to be alert. There is also a need to have thorough audit of the communication system.
As an example, he pointed out that the story telling at various temples and palaces need to be more interesting. What one gets told now is the most boring version.
Mr. Breen also mentioned that So much that the officials could learn about tourism, identifyign and developing tourism attractions and promotions from EU countries. The key is not to oversell oneself.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Interview: Simon Harding-Roots, Chief Operating Officer, Treasury Holdings China

From its origins in Ireland, the Treasury Holdings Group now operates globally, across two continents and in seven countries. The Group continues to lead the way in identifying and capitalizing on ever-changing global property trends. Established in Dublin in 1989 by John Ronan and Richard Barrett, Treasury Holdings has been a pioneer in the property sector, and has consistently been ahead in identifying and capitalizing on property trends.
Treasury Holdings now controls over 131 individual real estate projects with a combined value in excess of $4.6 billion. The gross development value of the Treasury Holdings Group's projects is over $19 billion.
After its success in Ireland during the 80s and 90s, in the early part of the decade Treasury Holdings began to focus its attention on global property development and investment markets with particular emphasis on China.
As noted by Mr. Simon Harding-Roots, Chief Operating Officer, Treasury Holdings China, today, the company is one of the largest Western developers and investors in China.
“Through our considerable experience in urban development, we endeavor to bring uniqueness to every project under consideration. In addition, Treasury's considerable asset management experience has enabled it to improve existing property assets through active administration of the investment property portfolio.
He joined THCL with over 20 years of international property development experience. A qualified Chartered Surveyor (RICS) he specializes in delivering major mixed use projects. Following 8 years in Dubai where he was responsible for some of the region's most successful retail led mixed use schemes for a leading development organization, Simon spent two and a half years with an international investment and private equity firm in Bahrain establishing their development portfolio. This included the award winning 'Bahrain Bay' waterfront scheme, valued at $2 billion.
He noted that the company intends ultimately to locate one-third of its worldwide activities in the Chinese market. Treasury plans to become fully integrated into Chinese business and culture and to be the most successful Western property company operating in China.
Benefiting from Treasury Holding's synergistic combination of sophisticated Western management practices and the intimate local market knowledge and extensive network developed through its presence in China since 2005, TCT has successfully assembled a high-quality portfolio of income-producing commercial real estate and development opportunities located in China's financial and political centers of Shanghai and Beijing.
Treasury has four offices in China: in Shanghai, Beijing, Qingdao and Hong Kong. Treasury Holdings is currently building a high quality mixed investment portfolio with its main concentration on acquiring excellent buildings or sourcing development opportunities in prime locations. It is currently concentrating its search for development and investment opportunities in the first and second tier cities in China, he said.
“Foreign investment remains a strong element in China's remarkable expansion in world trade. This is in part due to the way in which the Chinese government has opened up previously closed sectors of the economy in line with World Trade Organisation requirements,he said.
The Company currently manages 3 separate investment projects in office and retail sectors located in Shanghai. Due to its long-term investment outlook, it is now a driving force in China and is identifying many exciting development and investment projects. The combination of western development management skills, together with the scale, local knowledge, and strength of local partners makes a powerful team, he said.
Mr. Harding-Roots pointed out that to enable Treasury to take advantage of its position as the predominant western developer in China and offer western shareholders a unique opportunity to gain exposure to the burgeoning Chinese property market, the Company established China Real Estate Opportunities (CREO), which listed on the AIM market in London in July 2007, having successfully raised 」259 million.
On June 21st this year, the company moved CREO's listing to Singapore, betting that investors there will better appreciate the portfolio of the Chines property assets. CREO shareholders were offered five units of Treasury China Trust (TCT), a Singapore-based business trust for every CREO share they held. TCT was then listed on SGX by introduction.
TCT provides a comprehensive platform of proactive management and through its dedicated team, numbering more than 70 on the ground in China, delivers out-performance across all elements of real estate ownership, asset management and development capability.
This combination, unique to the Chinese market, underwrites the company's commitment to a total return business model which exposes its shareholders to a broad operating platform and diversifies risk across its asset classes and revenue sources and through its development arm creates strong accretive income growth, he noted.
He said that the company's strengths are: Unique and exclusive focus on commercial real estate in China with strong opportunities for both income and capital growth; Exposure to key gateway cities in China; Long term commitment to the China market; Successful and proactive asset management of the portfolio by Treasury Holdings, thus benefiting from its extensive experience as a high quality, global property developer and investor; and, strong pipeline of investments for revenue and balance sheet growth
Speaking on the main challenges, he noted that in the real estate market, supply of land and building is the most frustrating thing, as is the ability to get experienced staff.
Since the company is focused on China, Seoul is still out of sights for the company at present.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Interview: Mr. Youn Jang-bae , President, Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corporation

By establishing leading export groups and cultivating professionals, Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corporation (aT) enhances the export competitiveness of Korean agricultural and fishery products and provides consulting and marketing support.
For Enhanced Export Safety of Agricultural and Fishery Products, aT strives to maximize export safety through the adoption and equalization of internationally-accepted GAP, ID management for fresh agricultural products, and strategic safety management by inviting inspectors from overseas.
Agro-Trade is an Internet Trade Mediation System that develops and expands overseas markets for export companies. aT also plays a leading role in providing information services, such as KATI, which provides information on the export of agricultural and fishery products on the Internet.
Moreover, aT’s nine aT Centers in six countries around the world play active roles in supporting the export of Korean agricultural food products.
Excerpts of interview with Mr.Youn Jang-bae, President, Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corporation:
>Founded in 1967 as Agriculture & Fishery Development Corporation for balanced development of agriculture and industry, it was renamed as Agricultural and Fishery Marketing Corporation (AFMC) in 1987 for the settlement of marketing and promotional functions. In 1992 we expanded the export promotion program and suggested reinforcement of competitiveness by developing export system of agriculture and fisheries in the era of trade liberalization.
Our purpose is to stabilize the food supply by price stabilization and improve distributional system so we can improve farmers’ profit and develop national economy in balance.
We have been undertaking following four projects: 1) Export promotion: Foundation/production of base of export items, opening up the global market, commercialization of export items, and etc. 2) Marketing innovation: Operation of cyber agricultural and fisheries product exchange, activation of wholesale market, and support for local producers and retail market. 3) Price stabilization: Meet demands and supplies by buffer stock and inter-Korean agricultural cooperation. 4) Food industry support: Create new growth power of agriculture by activation of food companies, establishment of infrastructure, and globalization of Korean food.
>Export situation has not been ideal due to the drop of exchange rate lasted since the beginning of this year, bad crop caused by temperature changes, and global economic depression caused by European crisis. As of May 31st, we recorded $2.1 billion, 23% increase compare to 2009: farm products $ 1.286 billion (23%), forest products $0.075 billion (106%), fishery products $0.686 billion (18%).
For fresh products, production of vegetable and horticultural products has been inactivate due to the unusually low temperature, however, it’s per item cost have increased according to the decreased production of Japan, the main target: vegetable $69 million (15%), flower $30 million (44%), fruit $52 million (27%).
Export of mushrooms, enoki ($7 million) and king oyster ($4 million) particularly, is decreased and congested due to the inactive export situation to counties like China and Hong Kong. For fishery products (tuna $143 million, halibut $21 million, oyster $36 million) and process food such as sweets ($104 million), drinks (beverage $39 million, liquor $105 million) export rate is increased according to the economic recovery of China, Russia, and Southeast Asia as well as their attempt for opening a new market.
The export rate has been increased according to the active economic growth of main exporting countries such as China ($281 million, 55%), Russia ($98 million, 27%), Japan ($675 million, 11%), U.S.A ($204 million, 16%), EU ($130 million, 83%), Hong Kong ($91 million, 26%), Taiwan ($57 million, 29%) and ASEAN ($ 245 million, 32%).
>It took 20 years to increase the export rate of agricultural products from $3 to 4 billion, however, 2 years to raise up to $5 billion. In the past, Korea’s export was mainly on primary industry products, only dealing with so many countries like Japan and dependent on the quota. But recent export is expanded to high value added products such as process food, and our effort for opening up a new diverse export market has made a great contribution.
We strengthened the stable supply system of high quality agricultural products by scaling up and systematization of production in poor situation started from economic crises in 2008. In particular, we expanded and modernized the facilities like constructing glass houses, established 19 export-specialized organizations and 16 advisory committees to consolidate our control power in the global market.
Also, we have been implementing new marketing strategies for large sales, expanded customer range from overseas Korean markets to local markets, and concluding MOUs with major supermarkets (8 countries, 22 companies) to push ahead with the direct export. The partners who signed MOU with aT center include; Melissa’s, Titan Foods, Rhee Bros, H-mart, CGC Japan, Marche, Lotte mart, RT mart and etc.
We are also aiming to contact China and Southeast Asian market that have great potential. The export rate to China recorded the greatest increase from $336 (′06) to 565 million (′09), 68% increase. The changes of export rate in Southeast Asian countries are as follows: 1) Hong Kong- $159 (′06) to 196 million (′09), 23 % increase, 2) Taiwan- $110 (′06) to 155 million (′09), 41% increase. For ASEAN, the rate increased from $267(′06) to 521 million (′09), 95% increase.
Rapid growth of export has been considered as a result of our intensive focus on systematic export policies including establishment of strategies for accomplishing $10 billion and strengthen export support systems.
>Due to the different food cultures, it is very difficult to enter the liquor market in EU and it is limited to the Asian markets only. It takes about 6 to 10 months for the store location as well as requiring costs.
Hence, we are going to implement the following long and short-term strategies to promote Korean food products in EU region:
1) Participate in exhibitions for health and restaurants reflecting European health trend and organize promotion events in major retail stores across the Europe.
-Exhibitions: Bologna, Lyon, Cologne, Barcelona, Brussels
-Promotion events: England, Germany, France, Austria
2) Promote a co-marketing strategy with major food companies succeeded in local market-Cj and Daesang, to lead into an expansion of export.
3) Conclude MOUs and promote co-marketing system with major local retailers to take over the local market directly in a medium and long term, and help Korean agricultural products to enter into the local European markets.
-Provide product information, select promising items, organize systematic sampling promotion events for major retailers who signed MOU.
-Organize general promotion exhibitions linked with Wahnamhong (Chinese, 15 stores) in Europe
-Expand the location of Korean food store in ASDA, the major liquor retailer in England: 2 units (Nov. 2009) → 4 units (April. 2010) → 50 units (by end of 2010)
The Korean government and aT center is going to constantly push forward with the political support reflecting the food safety and health interests for the Europeans. Also, we are aiming to increase the export rate from current rate of 6 to 10 percent by 2012 eventually.
>We are going to focus on establishing infrastructure, training professional manpower, and supporting overseas expansion of Korean restaurants for this year’s Globalization of Korean project. Our useful networks, including Korean Food Foundation, Korea Tourism Organization and KOTRA will fulfill their roles to contribute to the project.
Also, we aim to activate the globalization of Korean food related to our professional function. That is to vitalizing the export of Korean food products, supporting with consultative groups for Korean restaurants using aT center in overseas, and providing promotional project such as developing manpower.
>Korean food, with excellent fermented food, is considered as high quality and healthy food. Kimchi, ginseng and citron tea are the most famous food that are healthy and low in calories. In particular, kimchi has been chosen as one of the world’s top five cuisines which is effective in preventing SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and many other disease. Meanwhile, Yuichiro Miura who conquered Mt. Everest in the age of 70 revealed that he packed 30kg of kimchi and ate kimchi stew to fight with a cold weather when he climbed the mountain.
Modern people are not only sensitive to its taste, but also prefer health food. In this context, Korean food is ideal for the modern food trend. Recently, consumption of meat has dropped due to the booming in healthy, fresh and organic food. Considering that people prefer to buy more beans, fruits, and vegetables, Korean food are the most ideal food with its outstanding taste and quality.
Since western countries are paying more attention to Korean food, I would say we are going to try to discover and export our superb products that will attract more interests of not only Asians, but the whole overseas countries. aT center will also put our best effort for the effective marketing strategies to create new markets and sustainable demand.