Latest GreenBiz blog published here. Quite pleased with it.
Flew to Tel Aviv on Wednesday – and was again helpfully and delightfully steered through the VIP channel. Next day up early for the trip to the UBQ Materials factory, which I first visited earlier in the year – as reported in a previous entry on this site and in a subsequent GreenBiz blog.
I knew President Trump would probably be making an inflammatory announcement this week, but had hoped that sanity would prevail – but it almost never does with the delinquent denizen of today’s White House. A cool assessment of the implications can be found here in the New York Times.
All of that seemed quite a long way away, however, as we began the kick-off meeting of the UBQ International Advisory Board – even though several of our group were heading to Jerusalem on Saturday, the day after the slated “Day of Rage”.
In alphabetical order of first name, the other IAB members are: Connie Hedegaard (former European Commissioner for Climate Action), Ilan Cohn (senior partner at Reinhold Cohn, Israel’s largest intellectual property firm), Oded Shoseyov (professor in plant molecular biology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a pioneer in nano-composite materials and a renowned winemaker), Roger Kornberg (professor of structural biology at Stanford University School of Medicine and winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2006) and Scott Tobin (managing partner at Battery Ventures, an international venture capital fund).
The visit included a trip to the UBQ factory, based on a kibbutz in the Negev, where things have been coming along by leaps and bounds. Fascinating conversations every step of the journey, and again fascinated to see the former desert areas where multiple crops now flourish. Including potatoes which, because of the irrigated sandy soils, apparently emerge from the ground perfectly formed.
After an intensive couple of days, I had much of Saturday off ahead off the flight back to London. Visible in the distance from the top floor of the Hilton Hotel, where I was staying, was the peninsula part of Jaffa. Having been there briefly on our last trip, ably guided by UBQ Chief Sustainability Officer Chris Sveen, I decided to walk there along the coast – around 5 kilometres either way.
To say the city has had a complicated history is to put it mildly. But I enormously enjoyed the opportunity to freewheel for a change – and spent an interesting half hour pottering around the old town before heading back to the hotel. Then out to the airport, passing through cordons of heavily armed plainclothes guards on the approaches.
During the trip, I read Andy Weir’s new novel, Artemis. Had enormously enjoyed both his earlier book, The Martian, and the subsequent film – and very much look forward to this one being filmed. The heroine, Jazz Beshara, is wonderfully rendered and, like astronaut Mark Watney in The Martian, funny.
With Artemis set some 70 years in the future, and this time on the Moon, it is tempting to imagine what sort of Middle East the 2,000 citizens of the first lunar city would be looking down upon. And also, a couple of generations post-Brexit, what sort of hinterland to my own city of London.
Great couple of days in Barcelona, speaking at the Ship2B Foundation‘s Impact Forum. Picked up from the hotel by Ship2B co-founder Xavi(er) Post and taken on a long perambulation around the city.
One of the places we passed through was Plaça de Sant Felip, with its extensively pockmarked walls. Was told that this was where executions were carried out in the Civil War, but the size of the impact holes had me thinking of the bomb damage we still see in London – so was interested to see this blog later. Interesting how stories can mutate.
Fascinating visit to the City Council to see Francesca Bria, Barcelona’s chief technology and digital innovation officer. We share interests in such people as Nikolai Kondratiev and Joseph Schumpeter, Chris Freeman and Carlota Perez, and Manuel Castells.
Really enjoyed the 2017 Impact Forum on Thursday, themes around ‘Change Is Happening’ and held in the Mazda Space, alongside the old central market building – which is where we had lunch. Sadly, I had to be whipped away to be taken across to the airport.
As we arrived at the airport, I suddenly realised that my assertion that I had only once been to Barcelona before, in 1968, en route to Ibiza, was wrong. I have spoken at least one of the local business schools, but many years back. Checking back through this blog, I found an entry for 18 February 2004, on a visit to speak at ESADE.
I’m beginning to wish for a biochip memory implant …
One of the ideas for a new book I have been playing with has been around the parallels between the bids to end slavery and to create the National Health Service in Britain, on the one hand, and the increasingly urgent need to ward off runaway climate change on the other. Some headlines on that line of thought in this piece posted this week on LinkedIn.
On Monday evening, I spoke at the 6 Heads anniversary event a Freshfields’ HQ. Tom Burke and I did an opening session on the ‘Unlock the Impossible‘ theme.
Then on Tuesday up to Nottingham with the team to run the first of our three city-focused events for Innovate UK, this one focusing in air quality.
Among other things, I did an on-stage conversation with Robyn Scott of Apolitical and then a panel session with Jane Lumb (Head of Energy & Sustainability Policy, Nottingham City Council), Mark Saunders (UK project Director, Ferrovial’s Centre of Excellence for Cities) and Phi Ellis (co-founder and COO of the cycle light company Blaze).
Nice drink on our way back to the station at the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, billed as the oldest inn in England. Whatever, it is the only inn or pub I have ever in that has rooms carved out of the living rock – in this case the sandstone outcrop on which the castle stands. enjoyed a round of drinks bought by Jean-Marc de Royére of Air Liquide.
Otherwise, this week has largely been about phone calls as part of the next phase of our Carbon Productivity work – with a new line of thought starting to surface as a result.
A delightful supper with Alois Flatz on Thursday evening, who I have known since his days with Sustainable Asset Management, and then Zouk Capital and now Generation Investment Management.
A reminder, via a Greenpeace tweet this morning, about the incredible, potentially unstoppable power of the right sort of incrementalism. Here’s the story of a man who rebuilt a forest.
When I introduce audiences to our Breakthrough Compass (see below), my natural inclination is to encourage them to lean into the Breakthrough innovation space, top right.
But any implied disparaging of the right sort of incrementalism is unintentional. I always say this is where we all start. It’s the mulch from which the seeds of the new often spring.
Am thrilled with the filmed interview of Julia (Hailes) and I that Chris Wash and the SustainAbility team have done for the 30th anniversary celebrations.
The conversations between Julia and I, between Julia and SustainAbility CEO Rob Cameron, and between SustainAbility Director Denise Delaney and I can be found here.
Filmed in the front room of the Volans offices in Bloomsbury Place, they are an extraordinary reminder of the role we all played in the early days of the sustainability movement and agenda.
Flew BA to Porto, from Gatwick, on 5 November – before fireworks got out of hand. Met at airport by Gualter Chrisóstomo of CEiiA, who I know through our work for the UN Global Compact on Project Breakthrough.
Wonderful supper of salt cod (bacalhau) in every conceivable form alongside the River Douro, then a walk across the bridge to the other side.
Next day, off to CEiiA, where I was taken around by Gualter and Carlos Almeida. Introduced to teams working on things like submersible platforms, fire-spotting drones, mobility-as-a-service and satellite remote sensing. And met the Deputy Minister for Environment, José Mendes.
Then flew to Lisbon for the Web Summit, for me kicking off with a very interesting dinner at the Palacio Nacional.
My session at the Summit had the title: “The planet is under threat. Does tech have the answer?” With Vann Newark II of The Atlantic in the chair, my co-panellists were Constantijn van Orange of StartupDelta, Jyoti Kirit Parikh of India’s Integrated Research and Action for Development, and Kathleen van Brempt of the European Parliament.
An intriguing group, but a squeezed session, billed as invitation-only (which put a fair number of people I talked to later off coming) and with a great deal of background noise. But perhaps that’s a suitable metaphor for the world-at-large at the moment?
Among interesting conversations later in the day was one with Christoph Gebald of Climeworks, whose business it is to capture carbon dioxide from the air. Fascinating venture.
The next morning, I had breakfast with Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of one of my early influences, Commander Jacques Cousteau. She is an explorer, film-maker and water activist. Releated issues are very live in my mind at the moment thanks to David Attenborough’s extraordinary new series, Blue Planet II.
Then we were joined by her colleague at Good Impact, David Diallo, who we have known for quite some time. Wish all breakfasts could be something like that.
One memory that came to mind while we were talking was a ceremony we conducted in all seriousness when I was at prep school. Someone’s hamster had died and we decided to organise out version of a Viking sea burial.
A piece of cork was duly extracted from one of the life-rafts that sat by the river that ran through the Glencot School ground. Then the hamster was laid in state, surrounded by small blue plastic aqualung divers that could be found at the time in certain cereal packets. And off into the afternoon he/she/it went.
Then on to a session with Manuel Heitor, Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education, alongside Rich(and) Johnson of Volans and Carlos Almeida of CEiiA. Amazing how deep the links are between our two countries, though it hasn’t always been plain sailing. Came away determined to explore ways of bridging between what we’re doing on Project Breakthrough and what Portugal is doing in a growing range of sectors.
Once back to London, highlights included final interviews for the new Executive Director slot at Volans and, yesterday, a lunch in Barnes with Clément Huret of the Social Stock Exchange and his partner Julie, both from France. Another timely reminder of how lucky London (if not the rest of this country) is to be tucked in so close to the rest of Europe – and how inane and self-destructive the continuing BREXIT chaos is.
Another whistlestop week, ahead of flying to Oporto tomorrow – and then on to Lisbon on Monday. Interviews continue for the new Volans Executive Director, with some excellent candidates.
Meanwhile, the normal rhythm continues, as with a Social Stock Exchange Admissions Panel session on Tuesday afternoon at the We Work building at 1 Primrose Street, Spitalfields.
But a strong sense of change in the air, everywhere.
Among many other things, we began work this week on a new project for Novartis. On Wednesday alone, I spoke in the morning at an International Council for Mining & Minerals (ICMM) event in Westminster, at One George Street; then raced back to the office to greet and talk to a Japanese study tour, interested in learning lessons from the London Olympics for Tokyo’s impending Games; had my second session with Emily Cavendish in Harley Street; then went across to 125 Finsbury Pavement to launch the latest version of the Future-Fit Foundation‘s business benchmark.
Then on to dinner at L’Anima Café with an interesting group, including the three speakers from the panel I chaired: Chris Davis from The Body Shop, Sue Almond from Grant Thornton; and Susanne Stormer from Novo Nordisk.
As I headed home, I discovered I had left my iPhone at the Future Fit event, having been asked to do a short filmed interview – and left it where I thought it wouldn’t interfere with the mike. Third time I have abandoned it so far this year, though the ‘Find My iPhone’ service is astoundingly helpful. Went across to retrieve it on Thursday morning.
With Elaine still away with Hania in Bordeaux, Thursday evening was a dinner at Sea Containers on the south bank, hosted by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Love how they think. Great conversation with their President, Fred Krupp, overlooking the Thames. Meanwhile, Gayle Olivier, a relatively new recruit to the Volans team, took my place at a Unilever event, just across the river.
Other projects under way at the moment include a 3-city initiative with Innovate UK, which is focusing on Newcastle, Nottingham and London. More on that anon.
I began this blog with an entry reporting on a visit to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, on 30 September 2003. The blog element of the website has gone through several iterations since, with older material still available on this site.
Like so many things in my life, blog entries blur the boundaries between the personal and the professional. As explained on the Home Page, the website and the blog are part platform for ongoing projects, part autobiography, and part accountability mechanism.
In this new iteration of the site, the ‘Comments’ function has been reanimated. Please do make use of it.