Our latest ‘Critical Conversation’ podcast features an exclusive interview with authors of the acclaimed “The World for Sale”, Javier Blas and Jack Farchy, discussing the history of the commodity trading industry, its sometimes problematic influence over resource-rich countries, and the growing scrutiny of these companies’ activities.
Javier Blas and Jack Farchy are journalists at Bloomberg News, where Blas is chief energy correspondent and Farchy is a senior reporter covering natural resources. Previously, they covered commodities for the Financial Times. The discussion was moderated by Daniel Litvin, Founder and Managing Partner of Critical Resource.
In our 30-minute conversation, recorded on 26 April 2021, Javier and Jack share insights from their research, including stories of traders wading into civil wars, as well as detailing some of the social and ethical critiques against an industry that has largely flown under the radar. They also outline some of the mounting global scrutiny from governments and civil society facing this sector, and the changes these pressures may entail.
Javier and Jack’s recently published book, The World for Sale: Money, Power, and the Traders who Barter the Earth’s Resources, can be purchased through this link.
Please note that Javier and Jack are speaking in a personal capacity, and their views do not necessarily reflect those of Critical Resource.
Among the key points raised by Javier and Jack:
- Commodity traders have become extremely influential – often shaping history through their actions. Yet, as they are often privately held and not household names, they have done so with limited external scrutiny.
- The commodity traders have often stepped in when countries have been most desperate for financing, sometimes giving them enormous leverage and political influence. Combined with the lack of external oversight, this has at times created a dangerous mix.
- These firms are essential for global trade – our lives would all be very different without them. But many executives traditionally had few worries about meeting broader societal expectations, often sitting on a ‘knife-edge’ of what was legal.
- Lawmakers and civil society are waking up – scrutiny of these businesses is increasing, in a similar way to what happened to the banking sector after the global financial crisis.
- While a number of the large firms have been working actively to improve their ESG credentials on specific issues, the sector as a whole still has a long way to go to fully align its ESG performance with international best practice.