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January 2014

Your company and social media.


After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, oil giant BP experienced a backlash via social media, becoming a victim of “brandhacking”. A source unaffiliated with the multinational company created the Twitter handle @BPGlobalPR, gathering more than 137,000 followers while sending out satirical tweets about the multi-billion-dollar disaster, such as “Catastrophe is a strong word, let’s all agree to call it a whoopsie daisy.” The account is still in existence and has almost double the followers of the actual corporate BP account.

Even the world’s savviest corporate executives can be caught off-guard by the power regular consumers wield when it comes to expressing their thoughts on social media, said Paul Armstrong, founder of UK-based Digital Orange Consulting, who has worked with giants like Google and Mindshare. “Many brands are simply not prepared for the worst-case scenarios,” he added. Only 12% of the 2,100 global companies interviewed in a 2010 Harvard Business Review survey said they were using it effectively, but two-thirds of those companies say their social media use will grow.

Social media is still in its infancy, which is something acknowledged by social media executives and the companies that employ them. In fact, employees on the social media front are the most powerful–and therefore vulnerable–asset a company has when it comes to brand perception. The people charged with maintaining a company’s persona need as much support as those companies can give, both in training and resources.

Crafting a roadmap
To avoid gaffes such as BP’s social media debacle, marketing directors are getting smarter about using tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to their advantage – even if they cannot always control the message. Social media strategies can be even more effective once they move outside of the marketing department and start quantifying results, said Steve Nicholls, UK-based author of Social Media in Business. “Companies need to think about how to use social media to gain competitive advantage,” explained Nicholls, whose clients include British Telecom and Ciena Corporation.

Communications professionals should focus on a few social media platforms, rather than tackling them all. “What works for one company won’t work for another,” said Nicholls. For example, encouraging public Facebook comments for a company such as a financial institution “where customers hate their guts” can magnify complaints, he added. Many of those companies are better off growing their presence on LinkedIn or Google+ where comments are less prevalent. Continue reading “Your company and social media.”

Time to leave GDP behind!


Image Continue reading “Time to leave GDP behind!”

Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean (Newsflash)


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We invite you to read up more on this great initiative by clicking below link:

http://www.infodev.org/EPIC

Information on warranty collected from selected establishments in Belize


Cell Phone Survey Results - BC and SI_001

The Belize Bureau of Standards is currently conducting a cell phone survey to capture information about warranties provided by selected establishments across Belize. Kindly click on the link to view the results for Belize City and San Ignacio collected in January 2014.

Cell Phone Survey Results – BC and SI

Metrology in Food Processing


By: Lennox Nicholson, Consumer Protection Inspector, Belize Bureau of Standards

During the last quarter of 2013, the Bureau conducted a metrology survey that collected a wide range of information on the inventory and use of metrology equipment across the productive sector in Belize. The results show that of the 1865 equipment documented, 496 (26.6%) items are used to monitor/measure pressure. These equipment are used to measure fluid (water) and gas (primarily ammonia) pressure. Pressure equipment is prevalent across many sectors in Belize especially the food processing and agro-processing sectors. The bulk of pressure equipment in Belize can be found in power generating and refrigerating equipment used in activities such as citrus processing, shrimp processing and storage and fish processing.

The monitoring of pressure is rarely associated with food processing. However, its importance to these industries is derived from the essential role another indicator plays to these industries ie: temperature. The maintenance of appropriate temperature throughout the production process is essential to maintain product quality and safety. The equipment used to establish and maintain the optimum temperature in production and storage are power generating equipment and refrigeration equipment. In order to ensure that such machinery is functioning properly, pressure is a key indicator. If the proper ranges are not maintained during the operation of machinery, a failure may occur. Such machinery failure can inhibit the plant’s ability to maintain optimum temperatures leading to product loss or deterioration of product quality. Therefore, pressure is an essential indicator to the food processing and agro-productive sector. Given its importance to product quality and safety, it is essential that the readings obtained from the gauges and dials be accurate and reliable. In view of this, there can be no doubt that in the future, the BBS must develop the capacity to verify and calibrate pressure measuring equipment. This will go a long way to assist the productive sector in maintaining and enhancing the quality of its products.

Benefits of Accreditation to Private Sector, Consumers and Regulators


By: Rodolfo Gutierrez, Consumer Protection & Liaison Officer, Belize Bureau of Standards

A National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) would be incomplete without its important elements which include the fields of Metrology, Standardization, Testing, and Quality Management including Certification and Accreditation. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on accreditation and its benefits to private sector, consumers and regulators.

Accreditation is a process that allows a business or person to be seen as a knowledgeable body that can carry out a specific task. This approval is provided by a respected organization (Accreditation Body) that recognizes that such a business has the systems in place to continually provide reliable and quality services or products.

Belize has increased its awareness on Accreditation and both private and public sector are buying into this concept. Importers of products and local producers realize that the market has become competitive and demanding thus requires selling and producing quality items. This can only be achieved if production processes and operations use approved standards or requirements. Service providers are no exception. Organizations like public/private medical laboratories, hospital, clinics and testing facilities are venturing into accreditation as being certified would mean that test results and procedures are more credible and trustworthy. A company that is certified shows the public that it has proper quality systems with which it can perform more efficiently. The business keeps itself at the top level of service and provides a guaranteed source of income for employees not to mention a secured job.

So what does accreditation means for business? Certainly the bottom-line will improve as customers and consumers will patronize to a greater extent, a certified service provider. However, several businesses becoming accredited will present more purchasing choices and options for consumers hence cost of service will have to be competitive. Consumers will know that products are physically safer and that those businesses have their interest at heart. Consumers move to a high quality level service and can expect an assurance that service quality provided by businesses meets or exceeds international standards. A society now becomes open minded to this change and the confidence in public purchasing increases.

This makes the job of the government or regulator easier. Regulators use accreditation as a way to reduce the uncertainties associated with regulatory decisions that affect the protection of human health and the environment. By businesses engaging in accredited certification will show governments that both private and public sector are following set standards and requirements. While governments and regulators may be busy setting overall policy requirements or detailed technical requirements, they can in turn depend on the accredited certification bodies in the private sector to monitor and evaluate compliance on their behalf. In this way, there will not be a need for regulators to have its own audit personnel thus eliminating duplication of audits.

Accreditation: Facilitates Trade


WAD-Poster-2013

Accreditation: Facilitates Trade
By: Lloyd Orellano, Standards Officer, Belize Bureau of Standards

International trade is the exchange of goods and services across international borders or territories. However, with the rapid increase in globalization the demand for a vast number and range of quality products and services is becoming more available to the consumer. Most of us would find it impossible to imagine a world where the choice of goods and services was limited to only those we can produce in our country. Despite all the varieties of products available, we still demand that the goods and services be of acceptable quality. How do we assure that the goods and services provided are safe and of acceptable quality?

International trade represents a large share of our gross domestic product which means that we must have the systems in place to ensure that these goods meet specified requirements of acceptable quality. In the same fashion, our exports must also meet the specified requirements in those exporting markets that we are involved in. In other words, as international trade has grown, so too has the number of national and international voluntary and mandatory technical regulations, standards, testing, inspection and certification procedures across all market sectors which apply to samples, products, services, management systems or personnel. The overarching system that ensures efficient and effective trade facilitation has to do with the existence of a national quality infrastructure which incorporates important pillars such as testing, standards, metrology, certification and accreditation. Generally, these pillars are introduced to meet the legitimate requirements of quality and safety that consumers, businesses, regulators and other organizations demand of goods and services, whatever their country of origin. Although we need to increase the movement of goods and services across borders, these legitimate requirements come along with the increase in global demands without causing undue risk to the health and security of individuals or the environment. Acknowledging challenging economic conditions, it is also vital that these requirements which can vary from country to country are not burdensome to businesses and that they do not represent technical barriers either to domestic markets or to export opportunities. Therefore one way of addressing technical barriers to trade would be via Accreditation. Accreditation works through a process of transparent and impartial evaluation of conformity assessment bodies (inspection, testing laboratories, etc) against internationally recognized standards and other requirements. Accredited conformity assessment is one tool that is helping businesses not only to comply efficiently and effectively with regulations and standards around the world but also to gain competitive advantage in the market and to expand into new markets. Gaining an Accreditation shows credible evidence of conformance with national and international standards and regulations which can differentiate a business from its competitors. Accreditation is recognized internationally and constantly markets are demanding more of this service therefore this can open doors overseas as well as those in the domestic market. Given the fact that the public and private sectors in domestic markets and trading partners are specifying accredited testing, inspection or certification as a precondition to conduct business, accreditation is necessary to facilitate trade.

Therefore it is imminent that we address these important pillars to support the continued movement of goods and services which is of huge importance not only to the health and wellbeing of consumers but also to the economic health of this country.

5 Benefits of Buying Belizean Made Products


Buy Belize Build Belize Collage

5 Benefits to Buying Belizean Made Products:
By: Aldo Manzanero, Market Intelligence Officer, Belize Bureau of Standards

“Buy Belize, Build Belize!” continues to be the clamour of local business and manufacturers and it is with good reason why this is so. For purposes of this article let us examine a few notable ones to stir some interest and thought:

5) Foreign Exchange Savings: The Foreign Exchange Reserves is important for Belize to maintain its current peg to the US dollar. With an imbalance in trade favouring a high and continuous demand for imports it means that more foreign exchange is needed to purchase imports. This leads to a draw down on the country’s international reserves and is made worse where not sufficient foreign exchange is earned through exports. . . Also the high demand and low supply encourages black market transactions lessening the ability of the country to maintain its international reserves.

4) Innovation: The injection of new ideas or utilizing old ones in new ways helps to stimulate innovating thinking which could ultimately, all things considered, lead to increased efficiency and improved market penetration. Innovation with a customer oriented focus is key for branding and customer loyalty, it is the stem that keeps customers coming back for more even if the change in a product or service is not out of this world. Supporting local production may provide that spark needed for innovation, without it local businesses and manufacturers have little incentive to invest time and energies in innovative thinking.

3) Job Creation: Having an eye for local products can result in increased demand. This is the signal that local producers look for in the market to invest, innovate, expand, and employ to meet increased market demand. For sectors that are labour intensive, the latter is of great benefit since it helps to generate jobs, reduce poverty while at the same time providing for a boost in economic activity.

2) Producer Confidence: Buying Belizean products allows producers to gain confidence in their products and therefore they may be more willing to take on risk. Also in a never changing business climate producer confidence is important for local producers to maintain a positive outlook towards producing more. Confidence is important for existing producers to assert themselves in the market while serving as encouragement for those who are looking for opportunities to skip into the market

1) Investment: Increased sales equals increased demand and increased demand equals increased investor interest. Realistically nobody really wants to gamble their money; but if the risk benefit is lower meaning there is less perceived risk there is a greater chance for investment. Better yet there may be improved investor confidence which may result in greater levels of investment both by local and foreign investors. Increased investment usually means improved productivity and improved capacity which translates to economic growth.

Pacing Towards Accreditation


Accreditation Collage

Pacing Towards Accreditaiton
By: José E. Trejo, Director, Belize Bureau of Standards

A few years ago I was to be tested at a local public laboratory for diabetes after having developed an unusual blister that had appeared on the surface of my skin. A young lad appearing to be invincible and immune, I remained unconvinced and dismissive of this possibility. Yet my family history got the better of me, my grandfather a victim himself of this chronic disease I was more on the better side of being forced than encouraged to be tested. Medical attention whether by force or will, there is always that dreaded result that we happen to fear. My experience no different, I awaited the results in agony perhaps due to the fact that I spent much of my time reflecting on the life changes I would have to make. After all, having to give up some of life’s little pleasures in dramatic fashion on the heels of better health is easier said than done.

Results are just one part of the ordeal that the mind becomes preoccupied with, on the flip side is the more critical element such as the accuracy and the reliability of the results which sometimes at the individual level is overlooked. As luck would have it, my results proved to be negative and for me that was sufficient to the ear. Admittedly, I gave little consideration on whether the results were accurate and reliable; it’s as if my trust and confidence was automatic. Freed from the mental and physical bondage of this chronic illness, I contend to this present day that the results proved to be in my favour. On the aggregate however, this may not always be the case as someone you probably know may have had the misfortune of running into the world of false positives and false negatives, cases of which may prove to be comforting while in others devastating.

As our society has evolved through the ages it has become impossible to imagine it without systems of measurements more so the assurance and confidence which are now deeply rooted in them. It is for this reason that accreditation has become a key pillar in not only building confidence in the systems of measurements so commonly used today but also in establishing international recognition in measurement standards and processes – trade , commerce and industry, health etc – used across countries.

For many of us the notion of accreditation may appear “alien” to our everyday lives and the way we do business. So why all this fuss about accreditation and what does it mean? Accreditation means recognition, acceptance and official approval. It is the perfect combination of status (being recognized) and process (how a product, a person or an organization is recognized). In other words, it is the means by which a determination can be made on whether a person, institution or laboratory is “creditworthy” i.e. it can be trusted regarding its competence. This “badge of approval” per se is normally granted by an authoritative body such as an Accreditation Body. This authority in larger economies exists as an independent body while in developing economies are found to be functioning arms of the National Standards Bodies.

For purposes of this article accreditation helps to build trust and confidence in the competencies of clinical laboratories and their respective personnel – public and private. Knowingly or unknowingly the general public must be assured of the accuracy and reliability of test results produced on a daily basis. In reflection this is the very assurance I would have needed to cast out any lingering doubt on the results I had received.

Be it known, accreditation is a costly but voluntary endeavour hence the reason why it is more developed in advanced economies. More importantly it is a rigorous process for the astute and not for the faint at heart. In Belize, the Bureau of Standards is charged with this responsibility serving merely as the National Focal Point for Accreditation. Despite limitations at the national level, efforts for accreditation is on the march as the Bureau, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health, is seeking to revitalize interest as well as to gradually pave an economic and realistic approach for accreditation.

At a workshop held on November 4th of 2013, the Bureau with the support of a Regional EU funded project titled “Support to the Caribbean Forum of the ACP States in the Implementation of the Commitments Undertaken Under the Economic Partnership Agreement” was able to gather a total of 29 public and private laboratories – testing and clinical laboratories – exposing them to regional and national initiatives that can and will support the development of accreditation. Furthermore, as the Chair of a formal working group to establish a National Laboratory Network for Belize, the Bureau, the Ministry of Health and its partners are framing both the institutional and legal framework necessary to embrace accreditation and where possible levelling the playing field for clinical laboratories so that in the least, established minimum requirements are met across all laboratories. All parties recognize this effort as necessary to improve competency with the ultimate goal to assure confidence in the accuracy and reliability of test results across every nook and cranny.

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