Friday, February 29, 2008
Arrived back this morning, Leap Year Day as Google informs us, from Washington, D.C., where we made a number of leapfrogging announcements at our conference at The Willard Hotel on Wednesday. Among them, SustainAbility will this year set up a Foundation and an operation in India, both developments that I had long dreamed of. The third announcement, though we aren’t going in to any great detail as yet – partly because we are still developing our plans – was that from April I will be launching forth with a new organisation, Volans Ventures, with the other founding partners being Pamela Hartigan, Kevin Teo and Sophia Tickell.
Some of the background can be found at http://www.sustainability.com/insight/article2.asp?id=1338. An extract from our press release:
Pointing to findings from the just released GlobeScan/SustainAbility survey of active sustainability practitioners, [SustainAbility CEO] Mark Lee emphasized that “approaches from the past will not help much with tomorrow’s challenges. We need new business models, new ideas, and new thinking. New forms of collaboration are already emerging within leading companies as they find ways to turn risk into opportunity and generate value for both shareholders and stakeholders.”
Stressing the critical need to drive step change with business through markets, Elkington spoke of the growing urgency “to scale solutions rapidly so we bridge – and then begin to close – the growing global divides that threaten the economic and social well-being of current and future generations. The risks are now beginning to be recognized – our challenge in the next decade is to ensure that the opportunities are just as clear to those who run, invest in, work for, buy from and invest in business.”
SustainAbility and Volans Ventures anticipate working collaboratively on select research projects to leverage their dual capabilities, experience, and orientation to risk. Additionally, SustainAbility and Volans will share strategic resources, key people will have joint appointments, and both firms share the same core ambition to quickly advance the sustainability agenda.
A few final ruminations. The name Volans comes from the Latin volans, for flying or flying thing, as in Pisces volans, or flying fish. When I was prowling around the Internet this evening, searching once again for images of flying fish, I came across two which literally took my breath away.
The first is this, of a galleon during Spanish Main days, the skies full of piscatorial aerobatics:
The second is by Andrea Offermann (http://www.andreaoffermann.com/), done for the book The Life of Pi, which – if memory serves – was discovered at Canongate by a friend of Gaia’s, Francis Bickmore:
Ode to Unreasonable People
The reviews of The Power of Unreasonable People are coming in thick and fast now, but Ode magazine (http://www.odemagazine.com/p/about) is, I think, the first to review the book back-to-back with Muhammad Yunus’s new book, Creating a World Without Poverty.
I quite like their fist Earth illustration – at one stage, in the early 1990s I collected images that played games with the image of Earth, from advertising, campaign posters and the like, intending to do a book, but never quite got round to it.
Some more photographs from some of last week’s sessions in Washington, D.C.
Flowers in the Willard Hotel lobby – the word ‘lobbying’ was coined in the Hotel
Mark prepares alongside a poster for one of our reports of yore
Jonathan (Halperin) and Mark (Lee) keep seats warm for filming
Exhibits at Georgetown University, where I did a session on social entrepreneurship
View from seminar room window
A nice mention of The Power of Unreasonable People in the New York Times can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/24/business/24social.html?ex=1204520400&en=d4aed6ababf81903&ei=5070&emc=eta1.
The Wallacespace Six
Spent three days this week (20th-22nd) at the Wallacespace in Covent Garden, with six members of the team for a new venture I’m working on. Dinner on second night on the top floor of Waterstone’s, Piccadilly, with – among others – Bunker Roy of Barefoot College. The formal launch for the new venture won’t be until the Skoll World Forum next month, though we are trailing it at a session SustainAbility is holding at The Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., this coming week. More anon.
Auspicious number for our meeting room
Good to go
Feet first into the future
Kevin and Pamela
Pamela and Sophia
Paws and cookies
En route to dinner
Work in progress
Sam and Kevin
Kevin and Sophia
Interesting to see myself quoted in a splendidly long article on carbon footprinting in The New Yorker, at http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/02/25/080225fa_fact_specter?printable=true. Michael Specter (who I liked enormously when he came into our London office) writes very well and is accurate in terms of what I said. But, as ever, some of the context is left out.
SustainAbility, for example, continues to work with Ford, but I haven’t in quite some time. I do indeed think that much of Detroit is doomed, but I really wouldn’t single out Ford ahead of other US manufacturers as particularly vulnerable. Each of these companies is on something of a roller-coaster ride and, as with Chrysler in the past, it’s often a matter of timing and luck (good or bad) as to whether a particular company goes down, stumbles on or recovers.
The problem that companies like Ford and GM face is that they are long-rooted incumbents, with deeply entrenched operations and mind-sets. But we are seeing Ford experimenting with some fascinating projects focusing on sustainable mobility in cities Sao Paulo, so who knows?
Chris Banyai-Riepl painted the Me-109 of my father’s nemesis Helmut Wick (see blog entry for Sunday June 25 2006), and now Robert Gretzyngier has turned his brushes to the Hurricane Tim was flying when his path (we now believe) crossed Wick’s in 1940.
Drove down to Little Rissington yesterday afternoon with Gaia and Hania, arriving to find the house bursting at the seams. Odd to see various Cotswold stone walls in the village doing the same, including part of the wall of the lower garden, towards the church. Luckily, it burst inwards rather than out. Saw another in the village in a similar state on our way out this afternoon to Burford.
Much comment as Gaia, Hania and Pat read Elaine’s account of her somewhat erratic career, 1968-1977, due to appear on her website, itself slated to launch later in the month. Ranges from Lord Lucan to Antonioni, via Hammer Horror Films and the Playboy Club. The stars were brilliantly clear last night as we said goodbye to parents of Marina, one of Caroline’s most-painted models. This morning, no surprise, there had been a hard frost. When Dad cut a full stalk of Brussels-sprouts and brought them into the kitchen to accompany Hania’s extraordinary pie, it took a fair while for the sprouts to defrost. Should have gone for a walk. Didn’t.
Distant frost in lower garden
Pat reading Elaine’s reminiscences of work, 1968-77
Marina in style
Saturday, February 16, 2008
In the next phase of my working life, I plan to focus even more urgently on the nexus of challenges at the interface between the areas flagged by my 1994 formulation of the triple bottom line, ‘People, Planet & Profit’ (the 3Ps).
Fascinating to see in today’s Financial Times an article on recent research showing that early poverty impairs the development of the human brain, locking in a range of social and health problems. Interesting, too, that the same paper carries a report on Muhammad Yunus’s Grameen Bank making its first microfinance loans in, of all places, New York City. As the FT puts it, “the bank’s entry into the US, its first in a developed market, comes after mainstream banks’ credibility has been hit by the mortgage meltdown and many people are turning to fringe financial institutions offering loans at exorbitant rates.” Once again, Grameen is helping the iron grip of poverty on the poor.
One of the most painful experiences of my entire life came off the Greek island of Skaithos in 1970. Swimming over quite a distance back from an offshore islet, I suddenly felt I had been kicked in the chest by a mule. The aftershock was like a combination of an electrical and chemical burn. Looking down, as I tried to regain my breath, a saw a tiny purple jellyfish floating away. Now the Mediterranean is being plagued by a spectrum of the blooming things, a symptom – some scientists believe – of the rapidly deteriorating health of the world ocean. A key cause, it is thought, is overfishing. More at http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/the-spineless-menace-jellyfish-overwhelm-the-sea-783036.html.
Hoax and Prairie Home Companion
Am scrambling to write a number of things, most particularly the latest report for our Skoll Program. yesterday, for example, kicked off with a session in Barnes with Rupert Bassett, Maggie Brenneke and Alexa Clay on the structure and design of the report. Some really quite intriguing ideas surfaced over coffee and croissants.
Somehow, however, Elaine and I have managed to squeeze out time to watch two films from 2006 in the past week – and both have had me beside myself with joy. The first was Hoax (http://imdb.com/title/tt0462338/), about the spoof biography of Howard Hughes, which delightfully – among many other joys – includes a pair of Creedence Clearwater Revival tracks.
Then last night we finally got around to watching Prairie Home Companion (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0420087/) – and I was completely blown away. It took me a while to realise the full import of the angel’s appearance in the final frames, however. I want the cast version of Red River Valley/In the Sweet By and By played at my funeral, please.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Fascinating brown-bag lunch today with LEAD International and much of SustainAbility’s London team. More on LEAD at http://www.lead.org/. They were kicked off in 1991 by a huge grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, which at the time was run by Peter Goldmark, later a member of SustainAbility’s Faculty. We are looking for ways to overlap and better use our networks.
LEAD set up
The LEAD story
JP perplexed by an illuminated Simon Lyster
A piece of mine on the theme of the new book appeared in The Guardian today – and can be viewed at http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2008/feb/13/socialenterprises?gusrc=rss&feed=society, albeit without the ‘Hell’s Social Entrepreneurs’ cartoon that accompanied the article in the paper. Rajni Bakshi also had a piece on the book published in LiveMint.com in India, owned by the Wall Street Journal, at http://www.livemint.com/2008/02/12231129/Power-of-unreasonable-people.html.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
A chauffeur-driven car was waiting for me a few days back when I arrived at Oslo airport, in driving snow. We headed north for three hours, at a fair click on fairly hazardous roads, at one point seeing a massive road-train that had lost traction and ended up on its side in the ditch, like a road-weary line of elephants. We also saw a pair of cows madly racing along the road amongst the snow flurries, but I missed the reindeer that apparently wandered past the Sanderstolen hotel where I was due to speak at a conference organised by the Energy Policy Foundation of Norway. The theme: Sustainable and Secure Energy (http://www.epf.no/).
Apart from a 1.5 hour session which I had to myself, I also appeared on a panel as the event wound towards a conclusion, moderated by Ed Crooks, Energy editor at the Financial Times. Also on the panel were people like Andris Piebalgs (EU Energy Commissioner), Helge Lund (President and CEO, StatoilHydro), Graeme Sweeney (Executive Vice President, Future Fuels and CO2, Shell) and Rex Tillerson (Chairman and CEO, ExxonMobil). Ended up finding Tillerson quite engaging, but he and I locked horns a numbers of times, both in my session and during the panel session. Somewhat reminiscent of those antlered beasts I hadn’t seen, I suppose.
Flew back to Oslo in a small plane on Friday night, arriving after midnight to find the hotel had no registration in my name – though finally managed to find somewhere to spend the night. Then back to a brilliantly sunny London on Saturday afternoon, where I found that my online bidding via a U.S. escrow account for a website I desperately need for a new venture I am involved in had finally been successful. The site had previously been held by a man in St. Petersburg with the memorable surname Nabokov, who may – or may not – be the first cybersquatter I have encountered. But all’s well that ends well, as they say. More anon.
Arrived earlier this evening in Sanderstolen, Norway, after a three-hour drive north from Oslo – in fairly heavy snow. Despite the Mercedes suspension, the ice-packed road surfaces meant that at times it was like being on a PowerPlate vibrator. Highlights along the way included two escaped cows bowling along the road in the dark and a huge road-train that had just slid off the road into the ditch and was lying on the snow like a herd of elephants having a siesta.
Still fighting the ‘flu, despite having come to the end of the antibiotics I was prescribed in Davos. And only half way through a week that feels a month long already, starting on Monday morning wih an interesting session with Colin Le Duc at Generation Investment Management and then a SustainAbility Board meeting yestereday, both exploring paths into the future. And then we heard yesterday that we have probably landed a very challenging project with the World Energy Council, a project which (if successful) is bound to get under some folks’ skins – but that has always been a key part of what we do when we are in change-driving mode.
Friday, February 01, 2008
The last in the short series of Davos-inspired blog entries by Sophia Tickell and I has just been posted on the SustainAbility website at http://www.sustainability.com/insight/article2.asp?id=1332.
A summary of some my headline conclusions on Davos 2008 can be found at the openDemocracy website at http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/globalisation/davos_2008_the_hydra_s_year.