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Ilco van der Linde Headshot

Trade Without Principles is Lethal

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Last week the European Union (EU) took a very courageous decision. Japan has been given to understand that if it does not stop with the so-called 'scientific whaling' there will be no agreement on free trade. Period. The bravery is not in the protest towards Japan, which happens each day, because Japan mocks all criticism. Despite the international ban on commercial whaling since 1987, the country has already killed 13,000 whales. Japan calls this 'scientific whaling' and nobody has questioned it so far. But the EU now has.

In 2009, Copenhagen Economics calculated that free trade between Japan and the EU can bring Japan 53 billion and the EU 43 billion. Stopping the whale-killing Japan can therefore pose a big reward! And the EU shows in return that in spite of the crisis, she is willing to let go of revenues and actually suffer for her principles. I think that is a decision that adorns a true Nobel Peace laureate. And that makes it very different than telling everyone else what to change.

It is a wonderful development, this link between trade and principles. Hopefully similar incentives for good behavior will soon be applied to countries with illicit arms trade, countries that destroy their rainforests, countries with child trafficking or other serious human rights violations. Reward them 1 for 1 with free trade or subsidies or special trade missions, provided ... they give back to humanity. Don't those who save money get interest, and those who drive damage free get discount on his premium? Good behavior should be rewarded. That immediately makes destructive behavior less attractive.

Also for companies and brands principles are lucrative. A growing number of articles inform you why it pays. Customers, media and shareholders increasingly know to appreciate principles. The only banks that are still growing are those that are not investing in the destruction of man and the environment, such as the Triodos Bank, called the 'most sustainable bank or the world' by New York Times in 2009, or the Australia & New Zealand Banking Group, both mentioned on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes. Last month Dow Jones published the names of hundreds of companies who really (no green washing) invested in sustainability and they mentioned a 8.4% growth of sustainable investments. Check out these companies and their brands, they deserve our love. Like the EU deserves applause. And soon, hopefully, Japan as well.