Monday, July 31, 2006
Elaine, Sophia (Tickell) and I had lunch today at the Galleria Charlick (http://www.charlick.co.uk/), then went back and – with the help of Craig Ray, who helps us on website and other electronic fronts – Sophia and I recorded our first podcast. Will be posting it once the new Skoll Foundation area of our website is ready, but on today’s experinece I could quite get into it …
Friday, July 28, 2006
600 POUND GORILLA
Spent middle of the day with World Economic Forum, at 11 Cadogan Gardens, brainstorming agenda for the 2007 Davos summit. Fascinating session, but off the record. The thing that sticks in my mind, however, was one of the WEF team saying that this year in every company boardroom they have visited the sustainability issue looms, if I heard right, like “a 600-pound gorilla.” If I did hear accurately, that’s 200 pounds short of a 800-pound gorilla, the meanest gorilla in the forest, but I count it as progress of sorts.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
BUSINESS IN THE ENVIRONMENT
Across to Canary Wharf for a Business in the Environment (http://www.bitc.org.uk/programmes/programme_directory/business_in_the_environment/) advisory group dinner, chez Barclays Bank, ahead of a BiE corporate members meeting. Dinner on the 31st floor, with spectacular views across Docklands. Among advisory group members taking part were Tom Burke, Polly Courtice and Mark Goyder, and the BiE members noted at the end of the session that they had been struck by how often – and how forcefully – the issue of climate change surfaced.
Monday, July 24, 2006
EasyJetted from Gatwick to Marseilles on Saturday morning, with Doug Miller of GlobeScan (http://www.globescan.com), to take part in a brainstorm session on the future of the TH!NK electric car company (http://www.think.no), chez Jan-Olaf Willums. With four partners at InSpire Invest (http://www.inspiregroup.no/), Jan-Olaf recently bought the company. He picked us up at the airport and drove us to Mas des Graviers, his extraordinary home-from-home outside Pourrières.
Among those also taking part were people from Inspire and TH!NK, plus Alf Bjorseth of Scatec (Norway), Richard Blundell of Environmental Businesses (Switzerland), John Boesel of Calstart in the USA (http://www.calstart.org/), Patrik Kunzler of MIT’s MediaLab, Philip MacNamara of Inspire Nation (Eire), Eva Solheim of Innovation Norway (she’s based in San Francisco), Ber Sweering of ABNAmro (The Netherlands), and Claude Fussler – who also now lives in Provence, is a long-standing friend and colleague, and used to work with Dow Europe and then the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
The idea behind TH!NK can be tracked back to the 1973-74 oil crisis, when Lars Ringdal conceived the idea for a compact plastic-bodied urban car. (Early designs struck me as rather like garbage cans on wheels, but more recent products have been more attractive.) The idea lay dormant for several years, but growing environmental concerns in the late 1980s got things back on the road. In 1990 PIVCO AS (the Personal Independent Vehicle Company) was founded by Lars’ son, Jan Otto Ringdal. During the Lillehammer Olympic Games in 1994, only electric cars were allowed into the centre of town, where 10 second generation PIVCO prototypes were tested under pretty extreme climate conditions. PIVCO’s third vehicle generation was developed during 1994 and 1995, and named CityBee in Europe and Citi in USA.
Financial difficulties temporarily stalled development, but in January 1999 the Ford bought a 51% share of PIVCO Industries, which was renamed Think Nordic AS. That was shortly after SustainAbility started working with Ford. Ford later bought the remaining 49% of Think Nordic and formed the Think Group, which led the development of environmentally friendly vehicle technology in Ford. Over the course of the next two-and-a-half years, 1005 vehicles were produced, creating one of the largest fleets of electric vehicles on the road. The car was sold in 14 countries, including Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and selected cities in Europe and the United States.
Despite considerable investment and a fair amount of progress, Ford announced in August 2002 that they were pulling out of Think Nordic, on the basis that they wanted to concentrate on other alternative technologies such as hybrids and fuel cells. On February 1st, 2003 Kamkorp Microelectronics was announced as Think Nordic’s new owner – and it was from Kamkorp that InSpire recently bought the company.
We had an extremely productive series of sessions, and a good deal of fun, with pretty much everyone becoming more enthusiastic about the potential of the product and business as the meeting progressed. Certainly the ambience and home-produced wine helped, but then I have always found the combination of cities, mobility, design and sustainability a fairly heady mix.
For me, it’s all part of my growing fascinating with the world of entrepreneurial solutions to sustainability challenges, which I’m working on both as part of our evolving program of work funded by the Skoll Foundation (http://www.skollfoundation.org) and in the book I’m doing with Pamela Hartigan of The Schwab Foundation (http://www.schwabfound.org).
Even if Ford ultimately couldn’t make sense of the TH!NK business, part of what drives me in all of this is a growing interest in understanding what mainstream business can learn about tomorrow’s value, markets and business models from the ever-widening spectrum of social and environmental entrepreneurs, and – at the same time – how big companies and financial institutions can weigh in, both helpfully and sucessfully.
Waiting for the bee
Part of Mas des Graviers
… and Doug too
Eva making sense
Under the mulberries
Is this a queue or a line?
Doris (left) introduces the tapanade
Or an estate-agent showing off the pool?
The night before
Still life with balls
Thursday, July 20, 2006
CAKE FOR CAMERON
Delightful interlude this afternoon when Judy (Kuszewski) came in with her new baby, Cameron. The photo below is in the spirit of a piece I’m writing for Radar on diversity at SustainAbility. Shown are Maddy, Corrina, Sam, Kelly, Ritu, Antonia and Ivana. And there’s more diversity there than meets the eye, though the line-up is perhaps a little skewed to the distaff side. The photo above is of Antonia, one of our Canadian interns, holding Cameron while Judy caught up with tea.
Took part in the first Bosch Consumer Forum this evening, in the Churchill Dining Room at the House of Commons. Security worthy of a G8 summit, but we slipped through like eels. Managed to pass on Elaine’s thanks to Bosch UK Managing Director Robert Meier for her kitchen machines, which have served us very well over many years – and with a considerably lower environmental impact than would have been the case with many other brands (http://www.bosch.com/content/language2/html/index.htm). Over dinner, Robert told me about the company’s history, including the fact that the founder went public before WWII, but then bought the company back. Controlled by a foundation today, Bosch is able to pursue a much more independent line, and has long featured environmental excellence as a key part of its strategy.
Peter Ainsworth spoke, as the Conservative Shadow Secretary on Environment and the usual bundle of DEFRA extrusions (http://www.peterainsworth.com/). Surprisingly engaging for a Tory. Noted that “most people don’t go through life wanting to be part of the problem. They want to be part of the solution.” He also underscored the fact that what we need now is visionary leadership and “smart legislation,” coupled with tax incentives and financial penalties. Meant to ask him what he thought of Ken Livingstone’s congestion charge …
He had kicked off with what must be an oft-quoted (in this dining room) and perhaps apocryphal story of Churchill, from the days when Labour’s Clement Atlee was Prime Minister. Churchill apparently arrived in the Gents when Atlee was already installed, and walked determinedly to the other end of the line of urinals. When Atlee complained that this wasn’t “friendly,” Churchill – perhaps brandishing his not insubstantial member – growled words to the effect that “every time you see something big, useful and largely functional, you want to nationalise it!”
A little over my head
Interest has been building rapidly in the latest round of SustainAbility’s every-second-year ‘Global Reporters’ benchmark survey of international best practice in corporate sustainability (or non-financial) reporting, carried out in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Standard & Poor’s (S&P). As part of the process, we have had the pleasure of four GR06 interns in the London office: Manuela Fremy, Antonia Gawel, Ivana Gazibara and JP Renaut. (Another intern, Chris Guenther, is working in our Washington, DC office on our stategy in the area of innovation.) More GR06 information at: http://www.sustainability.com/insight/globalreporters.asp?id=458
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
SERPENTINE COSMIC EGG
Because I’m reading The Cloudspotter’s Guide, I couldn’t resist posting another photo of the dome alongside the Serpentine Gallery, taken as I cycled by this morning. The weather may be a little steamy, but it’s wonderfully uplifting to see the aerial precursors of further summery days.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Heard a few days from a friend who we know from holidays with family in the Seattle/Vashon Island area. Blake Trask was updating me on various family members who are ill, but also noted that he had returned to the Alaskan Arctic for “another go at shorebird research. While I didn’t think I’d return, my researcher friends greatly expanded their research due to new funding from the avian influenza scare and the offer of actually getting paid to do once-in-a-lifetime work lured me up again. For the last two weeks I flew around in helicopters across the oil-threatened National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (contrary to much of the rhetoric, this is the real biological gem of the Alaskan Arctic), and starting around 15 July or a little earlier I will be in charge of a small remote field camp located on the Arctic Ocean. I posted some photos and words of my time up here at www.blaketrask.com.”
I asked Blake if he minded my including the link. He didn’t.
Friday, July 14, 2006
Fascinated as I am by mutation and evolution, I couldn’t miss the exhibition of Theo Jansen’s strandbeesten at the ICA, which I dropped in to see on my way in to SustainAbility early this afternoon. They look way better in motion (http://www.strandbeestmovie.com) than strung up from the ceiling of a black-walled gallery, but they were striking enough. Jansen hopes that the things will continue to evolve to the point where they can lead an independent existence on beaches, or some other habitat. A form of mechanical tumbleweed, driven by the winds. A delightful conceit.
Photo by Loek van der Klis
Photo by Loek van der Klis
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Spent much of the day at London Business School, taking part in a conference on Corporate Responsibility and Global Business – the third in a series organised by Craig Smith of LBS and Boston University, the Center for Responsible Business, and California Management Review (http://www.london.edu/crconference/). The event was sponsored by Nestlé, and my panel session involved Peter Brabeck-Letmathe (Chairman and CEO, Nestlé SA), Deborah Doane (Director, CORE Coalition), and Stefan Stern, a management columnist for the Financial Times. A very lively debate, and I then stayed on for the dinner, at which Craig Sams, President of Green & Black’s, did a very funny after-dinner speech.
At one point he said that Green & Black’s had had to play the role of the “serpent in the Garden of Eden,” telling consumers about all sorts of horros in the chocolate supply chain that they didn’t much want to hear about. Interesting that Green & Black’s were taken over a while back by Cadbury’s, and that L’Oréal, owned by Nestlé, has recently taken over The Body Shop. Who’d have thought it? But when I asked Craig in the discussion period what the most difficult part of the relationship with Cadbury had been, he said the whole thing had gone remarkably smoothly. Sounded a bit like a long-gone chocolate ad, but such routes to scale for social entreprises represent a key theme Pamela (Hartigan) and I are covering in our new book.
On the eve of the St. Petersburg G8 Summit focused on energy security, a 19-nation opinion poll conducted for the BBC World Service by GlobeScan (http://www.globescan.com/news_archives/bbcwsenergy) shows that large majorities around the world see grave threats from the way the world currently produces and uses energy.
Across all countries polled, majorities express concern that current energy policies pose the triple threats of harming the Earth’s environment and climate, destabilizing the global economy, and sparking conflict and wars. There is overwhelming support for alternate energy development as well as higher fuel efficiency standards in automobiles. (Interestingly, the UK media today carry news that London Mayor Ken Livingston plans to cane SUV drivers by charging them £25 a day to enter the city’s congestion charge zone.) In some countries there is concern – not surprisingly – that major energy suppliers, especially Iran and Venezuela, may withhold oil exports.
More detailed findings:
Eight in ten citizens (81%) across the 19 countries are concerned about the impact current energy policy is having on the Earth’s environment and climate.
This concern for environmental and climate impacts is closely followed by three in four citizens expressing concern that energy shortages and prices will destabilize the world economy (77%) and that competition for energy will lead to greater conflict and war between nations (73%).
Strong majorities across the 19 countries want governments to actively address energy issues, especially through tax incentives to develop renewable energy supplies (80% favor) and higher fuel efficiency standards for automobiles (67% favor).
According to GlobeScan President Doug Miller, “People see the energy status quo as too risky. What’s fascinating is that in the midst of historically high energy prices and geopolitical tensions, the number one energy concern in every industrialized country we surveyed is the impact on environment and climate.”
While I am at home this morning, working virtually ahead of speaking at a conference at the London Business School this afternoon, Elaine has made off with Doug’s wife, Margot, to take in some art exhibition … while there’s still time, perhaps.
Well, they’re back. We commented only a few days ago that we hadn’t seen many swifts this year, and I said I thought that they normally seem to arrive in late July. And there’s a reason why I notice. As I cycled in to SustainAbility yesterday, the glorious screeching of swifts filled the air. Their shadows raced over the tarmac all around. But they haven’t yet started to play chicken with me, with 5-6 flying at me at head height, then breaking to either side at the last possible moment. A bit of background on these extraordiunary birds can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/insideout/south/series7/swifts.shtml, and I’m now looking to see if we can find a ‘Swift Brick’ or two to boost their chances of breeding in Barnes.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Waiting for Elaine outside the Royal Horticultural Halls late this afternoon, I found myself immersed in a steady stream of friends and colleagues, some of whom I hadn’t seen for 20-plus years. This was a celebration of the life of Richard Sandbrook, who I first met in the early 1970s at Friends of the Earth, when Elaine briefly volunteered there. Worked with him later in the 1980s on the UK response to the World Conservation Strategy and on several projects at IIED (International Institute for Environment and Development, http://www.iied.org). Among those there this evening was (Professor) Tim O’Riordan, who also worked on the project – and has been a key figure at the University of East Anglia, where Richard studied.
My mental image of Richard is somewhat clouded by the cigarettes he smoked in industrial quantities. But from the stories friends told this evening of his giant bonfires of garden rubbish, I got off lightly.
Our most recent encounters had been courtesy of Tim Smit of The Eden Project (http://www.edenproject.com), and his ‘Breakfast Club’ sessions with environmentalists – encouraging them to bury hatchets and to develop critical mass on critical issues. This evening’s event, compered by Dave Runnalls of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (http://www.iisd.org), was an astounding indication of the impact Richard had – and of the respect and affection in which he was held. There must have been 500-plus people. Tim Smit’s eulogy which concluded the contributions from the podium was very moving, ending with “Godspeed – and thanks for the magic.”
Monday, July 10, 2006
As I cycled in this morning, I took a shot of the new egg-dome atop the Serpentine Gallery – impressed by the way that it almost totally blended into the sky (http://www.serpentinegallery.org/). The Gallery had quite an impact on me in the early 1970s, when we went to an exhibition of the work of artists who were trying to cheer up school playgrounds – and I got embroiled, including writing an article for a magazine called New Behaviour, if memory serves.
Sam (Lakha) was playing around with my Canon IXUSi today, while pondering what sort of camera to opt for – and this resulted:
Friday, July 07, 2006
On the way to the National Portrait Gallery today, I dropped in on the Gagosian Gallery (http://blogon.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/drupal/?q=node/1242), to see the exhibition of Francis Bacon triptychs and various reeking bits and bobs by Damien Hirst. The visit confirmed my prejudice that Bacon will be seen centuries hence as one of the truly great painters of the twenty-first century, though I infinitely prefer his canvases of popes in torment than those of him and his sundry lovers similarly assailed. Probably a function of a childhood part-spent in Ireland. The Hirstworks, on the other hand, I would have gladly treated to a flamethrower and loaded into a skip. One might as well display a show of human-skin-lampshades as works of art.
Then, as I walked through King’s Cross, I came across the memorial service for the 7/7 victims. Explosives can make Hirstworks, too.
NELSON AND PORTRAITS
Mainly working on the book, but spend the morning interviewing at SustainAbility, then head across to the National Portrait Gallery with Elaine and Donald MacLeod. Nelson’s Column looked somewhat Christo’d in its scaffolding – but the view from the restaurant, to which we repaired after viewing the portrait exhibition, was as staggering as ever.
Nelson’s Column Christ’d
St Martin’s, etc
Thursday, July 06, 2006
WHITE BICYCLES AND TAMARIND
In a temporary respite from writing the book, Elaine and I head across to Piccadilly yesterday, mid-afternoon. I kicked off at Virigin, buying White Bicycles, a CD that runs alongside Joe Boyd’s new book of the same name; the new CD by Nouvelle Vague (Bande A Part), a set of CDs of original Tango music, and three of Johnny Cash’s American recording series. The White Bicycles CD includes a number of tracks I already have, by the likes of Fairport Convention and Pink Floyd, but closer listening reveals that some of the tracks are very different from versions featured on albums like Heyday, particularly ‘If I Had a Ribbon Bow,’ which includes wonderful vocals from Judy Dyble and jazzy guitar from Richard Thompson.
In addition, there are a bunch of tracks I haven’t heard for something like 30 years, including ‘Way Back in the 1960s’ and ‘Chinese White’ by The Incredible String Band, ‘Granny Takes a Trip’ by The Purple Gang, ‘Spanish Ladies Medley’ by Dave Swarbrick, and ‘Brazil’ by George and Maria Muldaur, who I best remember for her ‘Midnight at the Oasis.’
Then across to Waterstone’s, for further depredations. Tracked down a signed copy of White Bicycles, plus a riveting book on fads (Joel Best’s Flavor of the Month), and copies of The Spanish Civil War (by Anthony Beevor, whose books on the sieges of Stalingrad and Berlin are among the best history I have ever read) and Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy, by Adam Tooze. On the latter, I have been fascinated by the history of the I.G. Farben (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IG_Farben) ever since I visited Bayer in the early 1980s, alongside Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, following a Greenpeace blockade of Bayer’s massive Leverkusen site. The book raises questions in my mind about what it might take in future for business to align in similar ways with new tyrannies.
Then on, via a flying visit to the forecort of the Royal Academy (where in addition to a giant, partially flayed woman, there is a wonderful carving by one of our favourite artists, Peter Randall-Page, http://www.peterrandall-page.com/), to the Tamarind restaurant in Queen Street. A lovely dinner with Gaia, Hania and John Jencks, who brought me a copy of a new CD by Jolie Holland (http://www.jolieholland.com/), called Springtime Can Kill You. Marking the end of an era, given that we have just sold the Edinburgh flat bought a decade ago when Gaia was at Edinburgh University.
Then woke up screaming in the middle of the night, apparently, with cramp in both legs. Maybe I’m spending too much time sitting with a laptop atop my lap? Tant pis, am back at it again today.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
A MAZE TO JANE
Back in the early hours from a trip to Woking area, in which we managed to get lost repeatedly in a maze of roundabouts and sundry other turnings. Almost an hour late. The purpose of the exercise was to have dinner with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Jane Davenport. Wonderful evening – but am glad I didn’t spool out a golden thread on the way there. We only got lost once on the way out. The fact that I coudn’t do it all on automatic is a sad reflection on how work and other pressures often get in the way of a proper social life.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Cycled across to Putney this morning, to put bike in for service. I love bicycle shops, such elegant technology. Walked back in bright sunshine, past a Hyde Park milestone by the old abandoned hospital, and then across the Common, through the old cemetery. The grasses have turned a glorious gold, though it’s probably the harbinger of desertification. The horse chestnuts are also showing the browning symptoms of the disease that has been hitting them in recent years. Work on the book progressing well: it’s starting to talk to me, which is always a good sign.
Ready to go