AQA BUSS4 Research Theme for 2015 - Manufacturing in the UK

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UK Manufacturing Competitiveness: The Threat from Energy Costs and Skills Gaps

Sunday, November 09, 2014

An important contribution to the debate about the UK's industrial strategy was made by the CBI in October 2014 and much of what was said is directly relevant to students researching the opportunities and threats facing UK manufacturing.

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Manufacturing - Energy Costs and Competitiveness

Friday, October 17, 2014

Surveys of manufacturing businesses in the UK often ask what aspect of government policy would be most helpful to manufacturers. High up the list of priorities come a better-trained and educated workforce, lower taxes and greater financial incentives to invest in R&D. However, there is one factor that nearly always comes top - energy pricing.

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Tesco’s fall from grace

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tesco's share price slid again today, although the firm has announced that the new Finance Director Alan Stewart started work three months earlier than expected. 

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Revision Quiz - Business & the Environment

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Try these revision questions on the environmental issues facing business

Launch Revision Quiz - Environmental Issues

Small is Beautiful in the Fast-Changing Solar Power Industry

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

We perhaps assume that the concept of economies of scale apply when it comes to the generation of "green" energy from solar panels. However, as this excellent video from The Economist explains, the fastest growth in solar panel generating capacity does not come from large solar farms in the desert. 

Instead, the utility industry is struggling to come to terms with the competitive threat from tens of thousands of small, individual installations which are able to sell their solar power into the energy grid. A great profile of a fast-growing industry and market that is making hay whilst the sun shines!

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What Happens to Your Old Phone, Tablet or Lappy? China and E-Waste

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ever wondered what happened to that old Nokia mobile phone that used to be your pride and joy. Or that Nintendo portable console that was your companion on many a long journey? If you disposed of them rather than (like me - keep them in a box in the spare room) then chances are your e-waste found its way to China.

This video clip highlights the significant amount of recycling of e-waste that is conducted in China. For the operators themselves it is a significant business opportunity, However, there are some important social costs involved too.

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BUSS4 The impact of legislation relating to business, and the government’s Red Tape Challenge

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Yesterday, David Cameron told the Federation of Small Business conference that more than 3,000 rules affecting business are to be scrapped or amended, saving more than £850m a year. BUSS4 students need '...a broad understanding of the scope and impact of legislation relating to business', and will be well aware that the legislation adds to business costs. Cameron is proud to say that his government would be the first in modern history to end a term in office with less regulation on the statute books than when it came into power.

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Seeing through the Smog - Clean Energy Business Opportunities in China

Monday, January 27, 2014

The pollution problems that affect China are well-documented and they show little sign of going away.  However, heightened public anger at pollution - and a growing political will to deal with the issue - has created opportunities for firms with the expertise to take a share of China's fast-growing clean-technology market.

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Managing Risk - Lessons from the Horsemeat Scandal

Saturday, December 07, 2013

One year on from the horse meat scandal, what has changed in the UK food industry to eliminate the problems exposed by the scandal?

The horse meat scandal highlighted the complexity and length of the UK food chain. Some supermarkets have responded by promising to source from closer to home. Others have introduced new supply chain controls.

But can we now trust what is in our food? And how important is it to us as consumers?

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Revision Quiz - Environmental Issues

Friday, May 10, 2013

This new revision quiz provides 10 MCQs on the topic of business and the environment. Ideally suited to GCSE students.

Launch Revision Quiz - Environmental Issues

Findus hurdles to uncertainty

Friday, February 08, 2013

If you had lasagne last night you might be wondering if it was the last remains of the non-running hurdler "100% Pure Beef". Findus have a major problem to resolve after tests showed that their lasagne had been made from horsemeat.

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SodaStream - A Fizzy Extension Strategy

Friday, September 21, 2012

Okay, so we know its not cool for a teacher to use an example that refers to their own youth.  Such a ploy is guaranteed to get a young person's eyes rolling and, besides, it explodes that myth that all teachers were born with the onset of premature middle-age.  However, if you want to indulge yourself, why not use this story from the BBC  that shows how the makers of SodaStream, the suburban must-have gadget of the 1970s and 80s, are attempting to appeal to a new market.

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CSR: Ikea criticised over logging practices in Russia

Monday, July 02, 2012

The provenance of the timber used by IKEA when manufacturing their self-assemble furniture is of importance to some but not all customers. The giant company has come under criticism for the logging practices of one of the leading timber suppliers from Russia as this news story reports. What systems must a business such as IKEA have in place to minimise the risks of these controversies?

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AQA BUSS4 Revision Presentations

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Our BUSS4 blog has a series of streamed revision presentations which students may find helpful in supporting their studies ahead of the exam. They are listed below:

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Did Ben & Jerry’s change Unilever?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A fascinating story has appeared on the BBC News website featuring Jerry (of Ben & Jerry’s) as he explains the extent to which, after being taken over by Unliever in 2000, they have been able to bring their values to the vast conglomerate.

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Revision Presentation - Business Legislation

Saturday, April 07, 2012

This comprehensive study presentation guides students through the relationship between business and legislation (the “L” in PESTEL” analysis). It outlines the main purposes of legislation in the business environment, including consumer protection, environmental laws, competition policy and health & safety. It also provides some recent case studies of firms and industries affected by changes in legislation.

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Revision Presentation - Business and the Environment

Friday, April 06, 2012

This study presentation outlines the role that environmental issues are now playing in business strategy. It looks at the main aspects of environmental legislation also at the role of CSR (corporate social responsibility), with a particular focus on sustainability

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MU folding electric plug

Thursday, February 23, 2012

“When I’m walking down the street I see everyday objects and ask myself why that object exists. If I can find any possibility for improvement, I start to design it.” Min-Kyu Choi.

The newly launched folding MU plug uses less materials, less space yet meets current UK regulations for electric equipment, and will appeal to users of tablets, smartphones and ipods, which require a slim USB adapter.

It is a great case study for consideration of all aspects of entrepreneurship - risk taking, design, development, finance, marketing production and profits.

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Vestas – has the wind gone out of their sales.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Last Wednesday, Vestas the leading supplier of wind turbines posted a substantial operating loss of €166m on its operations. This has led to the resignation of the Chief Financial Officer Henrik Norremark, and the Chairman Bent Carlsen and two other main board directors. Norremark was about to be promoted to Chief Operating Officer, in control of the firm’s manufacturing operations.

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Making Profit from Waste

Thursday, October 06, 2011

This is a truly remarkable 10 minute video which is perfect for showing to business students as a way of illustrating how entrepreneurial flair (and a large dose of technological innovation) can result in a profitable product which is genuinely good for society.  A big hat tip to Geoff for recommending it.

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CSR - £20m extra annual profit for M&S from Plan A

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What a timely update!  M&S has just announced an update on the progress of Plan A - its sustainability strategy.  Lots of details about the extent of progress against the many targets and objectives set by M&S.  However, the headline news is that the overall financial benefit of Plan A has increased to £70 million per year; up from the £50m profit effect which many students will have seen ex CEO Sir Stuart Rose mention in this video clip.

Where has this profit improvement arisen?  Well, more efficient use of energy in shops and distribution centres saved the most money in 2010-11, netting M&S an £13.5 million cost saving, followed by packaging reductions, which saved £11 million.

Plan A is the strategy which M&S intends will enable it to achieve its stated aim of becoming “the world’s most sustainable major retailer by 2015”. You can watch a really useful video with M&S’s new CEO Marc Bolland describing the next stages in Plan A here

A2 Business: Six key global trends that are shaping business strategy

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Students who can point to some overriding trends which help shape strategic direction and choices are much more likely to write interesting, persuasive and evaluative essays.  This new report by consultants Ernst & Young is a pinch of gold dust for such students, as it examines in a reasonably accessible way six broad, long-term developments which shape business around the globe.

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CSR - Evidence of Failure to “Walk the Talk” when it comes to Carbon?

Some great research evidence in this topical article in the Guardian - particularly for students wanting an example or two of firms that have translated concern for environmental protection into hard-nosed objectives.

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Economic environment: Oil and Petrol Prices

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An earlier blog in this short economic environment series looked at inflation - the general tendency of the price level to drift upwards through time.  A large part of recent inflationary pressure has come from higher energy costs. There’s also been discussion of the economic importance of confidence which is also influenced by the (highly visible) price of petrol.  In fact, the price of oil (and petrol ... and energy in general) is one of the most significant issues firms face from the economic environment.

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CSR - Evidence on the Greenhouse Gases of the top 300 European Firms

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A brand new report which is packed full of data on carbon emissions has been published which will make for good reading in some boardrooms but uncomfortable reading in others…

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Japanese earthquake – business aftershocks

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


As Japan struggles to get to grips with the scale of the human tragedy and the long term damage to its infrastructure, you may be thinking through some of the more immediate impacts on business.

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CSR - All Change at BP: New Era, New Responsibilities

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The first few months of 2011 are providing us with some excellent resources to research CSR and this recent speech by Bob Dudley (the new CEO of BP) is a great example in point.  The problems experienced by BP as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster are well documented and, frankly, the rights and wrongs of who did what are less relevant to business students than the impact of Deepwater Horizon on the strategy and culture of a huge multinational like BP…

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CSR - Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan

Friday, March 11, 2011

Unilever, one of the world’s biggest consumer multinationals, took a major change in strategic direction in November 2010 with the launch of its Sustainable Living Plan.  The change was certainly of similar significance to M&S’s Plan A and the Co-op Group’s “Join the Revolution” which we’ve featured already here on the Business Studies blog.  Here are some supporting resources which colleagues and students may find helpful if they decide to use Unilever during their research process:

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CSR - Greenwashing & Carbon: Consumers Just “Don’t Believe It”!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

There are lots of businesses out there making some pretty impressive claims about the green credentials of their products and services.  But how effective are these claims as part of the promotional mix?  Is it just a case of greenwashing that most customers see through? A new report from the CBI provides some insights into what consumers think - and it raises some important issues for business.  Its a cracking survey to provide some data nuggetts for students preparing for AQA BUSS4 too…

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CSR - Awesome Research Data on the Issue of Corporate Trust

Sunday, March 06, 2011

I think this has to be the best dataset I’ve come across so far for colleagues and students researching the key issues in corporate social responsibility.  The Edelman Trust Barometer has been going for over ten years, and the latest 2011 report provides some gold-standard data evidence for the A* AQA BUSS4 student essay…

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CSR - How Transparent are the World’s Oil Companies?

The impact of the Deepwater Horizon disaster continues to be felt for all stakeholders concerned.  So it is no surprise that NGOs continue to focus on the CSR & ethical activities and policies of the world’s oil companies.  A blog hat tip to Fiona Lerigo from Northampton College for spotting this terrific piece in the Guardian last week which reports on a new research into what the world’s oil companies do about corruption.

CSR - McDonalds and the Case for the Defence

Saturday, March 05, 2011

I’m indebted to Ian Pryer for sending through some suggested links to video resources which help us strike a balance when using McDonalds as part of teaching corporate social responsibility.

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CSR - Green Growth Case Studies from UK Businesses

Friday, February 25, 2011

Students researching the benefits and costs of firms which are undertaking corporate social responsibility activities will be on the look out for tangible, credible evidence of results.  This series of brief case studies from the Carbon Trust is a veritable gold mine for effective research and should enable students to include evidence which examiners find credible and relevant…

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CSR - The Mega Dairy, Economies of Scale and Cornflakes

This is a terrific, topical case study that you can use with students to examine a range of important business studies topics - not the least economies of scale, CSR and market structure.

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CSR - the Essential Economist Podcast

This podcast is a couple of years old, but frankly it is so good that I think it ought to be essential listening to every colleague and student preparing students for exams which feature CSR…

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CSR - Costing the Earth & Reporting Sustainability

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Should firms report the social costs of their activities in their financial reporting?  This Costing the Earth film, with Stephen Fry and Al Murray, explains the thoughts behind the need to embed sustainability into a firm’s DNA.  It has been produced by The Prince of Wales’ Accounting for Sustainability project which brings organisations together to develop practical tools to enable environmental and social performance to be better connected with strategy and financial performance, and thereby embedded into day-to-day operations and decision making.  Cracking lesson material for AQA BUSS4 this summer!

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CSR at the Movies - Thank You for Smoking

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A film here which is certainly not a documentary, but still takes a hard dig at the world of business lobbying in the USA.  Thank You for Smoking is a satirical comedy which follows the machinations of Big Tobacco’s chief spokesman, Nick Naylor, who spins on behalf of cigarettes while trying to remain a role model for his twelve-year-old son.

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CSR - Cooperative Group invites you to join a revolution

Monday, February 21, 2011

A major news announcement from the Co-operative Group in the UK provides a wealth of research materials for students looking at the issues of corporate social responsibility. great for teaching CSR too!

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CSR at the Movies - Manufactured Landscapes

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The impact of rapid economic growth in emerging markets such as China and Bangladesh is examined here in the acclaimed film Manufactured Landscapes…

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CSR at the Movies - The End of the Line

A haunting soundtrack and some gripping and often gruesome imagery make this another strong contender for a powerful lesson stimulus on CSR. The End of The Line is the film version of a book by journalist Charles Clover about overfishing. Clover, an environment editor of the Daily Telegraph (London), describes how modern fishing is destroying ocean ecosystems. He concludes that current worldwide fish consumption is unsustainable.

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Introducing a new kind of business organisation - the benefit corporation

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A huge, dramatic swoosh of a hat tip to Jill Mcaloon at St Mary’s College Wallasey for sending the Business Studies blog a terrific audio link which is just perfect for AQA BUSS4 and any other teacher/student wanting to know a little more about business organisation and social enterprise.

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CSR - What is “Creating Shared Value”?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

In recent blog entries we mentioned an important new contribution to the literature on business strategy and CSR (Porter & Kramer’s Creating Shared Value).  The essence of CSV is that businesses need to go beyond CSR and focus on building business models that fully embrace the link between economic value (aka profit) and social value (what business activities add to or detract from society). Nestle SA, the world’s largest food producer, has taken on the concept of CSV and embedded it into the group’s business strategy.  These two videos help explain the concept in more detail:

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CSR - Avoiding the child labour hotspots

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Several prominent businesses have been caught out when investigations have highlighted the exploitation of child labour in their supply chains.  Primark and Apple are great examples that are likely to popular research examples for students preparing for AQA BUSS4 in June 2011. So the latest Child Labour Index will probably be required reading for businesses keen to avoid the reputational damage that can arise from being seen to profit from extremely low pay.  As this Guardian article explains, the worst-offending countries include many of the emerging markets which have provided the source of low-cost supply for many multinational brands.  India performs particularly badly.  A good quote in the article from risk management specialists Maplecroft who produce the index makes an important point: [my emphases in bold]

“These large emerging economies are essential to the strategic interests of multinational business. Not only is child labour wrong but the existence of child labour within a company’s value chain can have significant impacts on reputation and profits and it is critical that companies undertake stringent monitoring of all suppliers.”

Cutting costs - with a lick of paint?

A half-term hat tip to Ian Pryer for spotting this neat story about low-cost airline about Easyjet.  Easyjet’s use of a new hi-tech paint, which is claimed to reduce flight drag and therefore reduce fuel consumption is an excellent one for both AQA BUSS2 and BUSS4 students.

For BUSS2 students, an interesting example of the lengths low cost airlines will go to to reduce costs in order to make more profit or be more price competitive.  This is a topic that they will no doubt have been recently looking at.

For BUSS4 students, there is a clear CSR angle here with Easyjet’s belief that this may lead to lower carbon emissions.  Or are they simply reducing costs?  Perhaps it’s an example of how firms can actually do both.  One for students to discuss.

Here’s an article describes the innovation and here’s the Easyjet press release which gives the news a clear corporate spin!

CSR - Branson, Paphitis and Meaden Turn into Eco Warriors

Monday, February 07, 2011

If Theo Paphitis, Deborah Meaden, Richard Branson, Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King, outgoing M&S CEO Stuart Rose and Pepsico’s CEO Indra Nooyi are prepared to appear in a video like this, then you know that the issue of CSR (and specifically sustainability) has truly risen to the top of the hierarchy of corporate objectives!

The new ‘Eco warriors or business leaders’ video is all part of Prince Charles’ Accounting for Sustainability initiative, which is ‘bringing organisations together to develop practical tools to enable environmental and social performance to be better connected with strategy and financial performance, and thereby embedded into day-to-day operations and decision making’.

Ok - so the video is a bit cheesy.  But it’s a perfect stimulus video to show students as an introduction for their AQA BUSS4 research project too...

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CSR - keeping a CCTV eye on suppliers

Friday, February 04, 2011

Another good resource for CSR here, but one which some students may not want to watch due to the gruesome nature of the topic.

The Guardian reports that leading supermarket chains are demanding that CCTV systems be fitted in the stunning and killing areas of all abattoirs that supply them with meat, as they move to reassure consumers that animals are not being cruelly treated. Morrisons, M&S, Waitrose, Co-op and Sainsbury’s have also promised that CCTV images will be independently monitored - as called for by the charity Animal Aid, which ran a campaign last year involving undercover filming of alleged brutality.

Its a good example of how retailers need to take great care with all aspects of their supply chain, and how pressure groups are becoming increasingly influential stakeholders in key retail sectors.

An idea that’s a lot of hot air….

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What a great way to make the most of a resource that otherwise goes to waste - a firm in Sweden has found a way to ‘harvest’ body heat generated by travellers at Stockholm Central Station and use it to power the heating in a building over the road. The body heat generated by 250,000 people a day who pass through Stockholm Central Station is ‘collected’ by the heat exchangers in the Central Station’s ventilation system which convert the excess body heat into hot water. That is then pumped to the heating system in the nearby building to keep it warm. More details about the story are in this report from the BBC website.

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‘Green Audits’ may be helpful for firms

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


Environmentalism has moved on such a long way in just a couple of years, with the current focus of debate very firmly fixed on practical, rational and achievable objectives.  The concept of ‘sustainability’ is something that most A2 students will have considered, as firms anxiously assemble their strategies, because, in the words of Unilever’s boss “retailers and consumers demand it and it saves us money”.

There’s a very interesting BBC piece about how firms can benefit from doing an environmental or ‘green audit’ – with research suggesting that the process can help them cut costs.

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Royal Family’s favourite water: Malvern to be axed, but wind farm harvest to come from the sea

Monday, October 25, 2010

Last week Coca Cola announced that it is closing the bottling plant for the Queen’s favourite, Malvern Water. A spokesman said that the plant cannot operate with enough economies of scale to compete: “Modern bottled water plants are around ten times the size of Colwall (the site of the plant near Malvern) and can often produce more water in a day than we do in a month.” Malvern Water is supplied to the Royal Household, having been first tried by Elizabeth 1 over 400 years ago and sold at the Great Exhibition in 1851. It is suffering from price pressures due to falling demand in the bottled water sector, as consumers become concerned that it is an “environmentally damaging” luxury.

However, the royal family could turn their attention to sea waters - not to drink, but as a source of income, as they are expected to benefit from the development of offshore wind farms within UK territorial waters. The sea bed is owned by the Crown Estates, who have announced today their intention to work with the government to develop offshore facilities to deliver up to a quarter of the UK’s energy requirements by 2020. And one of the announcements in last week’s Spending Review was that the Civil List, which provides state income to the Royal Family, is to be replaced in the next few years with a proportion of the profits generated by the Crown Estates. Creation of wind farms is bound to cause environmental controversy - there will be much debate about the ethics involved, but fossil fuels have to be replaced with reliable renewable energy somehow, and could help to provide collaboration with the private sector in clean technology and a National Infrastructure Plan, announced by David Cameron at the CBI conference today.

Bonus system to encourage safety improvements at BP

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

After the disastrous events they have experienced since the summer, due to the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig leak in the Gulf, you can quite see why BP would want their staff’s chief focus to be on safety at present. On Monday Bob Dudley, the UK oil group’s new chief executive, told staff that bonuses for the fourth quarter for BP staff will be based solely on how employees perform in terms of safety and risk management. Mr Dudley has vowed to improve BP’s safety culture, saying he is committed to ensuring that “a low-probability, high-impact incident” such as the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico never happens again. The FT reported the change in the article here.

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