Monday, January 30, 2006
Back very late tonight from Davos, which turned out to be the best WEF event I have participated in to date, for a variety of reasons – but one was what I think of the SETI effect. On my Mac at home, there is a SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program, which analyses batches of the latest electronic signals received from space. At times at such WEF events, it’s easy to feel like a SETI researcher, sending endless signals into space but getting nothing – or only echoes – back. But this time the messages started to come back, strongly, and from every direction. I soon lost count of the number of times I was stopped by people I had never met who said that they had been told by X, Y or Z to track me down at Davos. Chaired a session on Global Risks and was a discussion leader for two others events. Will write and post a summary of the event in the next few days.
One of a number of masks in reception area of Congress Hall
Klaus Schwab mask during protest
And another mask
Peter Eigen of Transparency International spotted on Bloomberg
Social entrepreneurs spotlighted in Schwab Foundation corner of Congress Hall
Limos wait with their engines running
And more …
On his first trip to Davos, Richard Branson sells everything, up to and including Virgin Galactic
On the train between Davos and Zurich
Elaine on the way back to Zurich
A few photos from our trip to Zurich, and overnight stay for a Sustainable Asset Management (SAM)/Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes advisory board meeting today. Last night we had a wonderful dinner with Alex Barkawi, Managing Director of SAM Indexes (http://www.sustainability-index.com/), and his wife Kecia, plus Michelle Chan-Fisher of Friends of the Earth (also just back from Davos, where she launched a new report on the banking sector,
http://www.commondreams.org/news2006/0127-11.htm) and Dow Jones Editor John Prestbo.
Horizon from train yesterday
Fish in shopfront diplay – caught my eye in part because of sustainable fisheries discussions at Davos
Statue on water front
One of many beautiful signs …
… and another …
Peter in his spectacular offices
My reflection in a VW
Peter and Alex Barkawi at SAM
Monday, January 23, 2006
End of 3-day consultation at St George’s House, Windsor Castle, organised by The Environment Foundation, which I chair. This time, though, we were working alongside the 21st Century Trust. The subject: the prospects for sustainable development in the emerging economies, particularly China. One thing I discovered from Tessa Tennant of ASRIA was that Mandy Cormack, previously of Unilever and another of our speakers, is her older sister. Tessa’s language around the transition from bamboo to plastic is picked up in the scenario group I am part of and becomes one of the axes of the 2 x 2 matrix we develop to explore the interrelationships. We will develop summaries of the scenarios when I return from WEF.
After lunch, I jump in a taxi to Terminal 2, to catch a flight to Zurich with Elaine for the 2006 World Economic Forum event in Davos. Last time, I managed to lose the air tickets both on the way there – and on the way back. Elaine virtually refused to travel with me ever again. This time all I do is leave my jacket, and with it my wallet and passport, at Windsor Castle. Discovering the fact only when I get to Terminal 2, I then embark on a manic taxi ride to and fro to collect the jacket, making frantic calls to Sam (Lakha) as I do so. Miraculously, we make out flight – and get into Davos, finally, around midnight.
Friday, January 20, 2006
Great excitement today as a bottle-nosed whale turned up alongside the House of Commons (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4631396.stm). Our Portuguese cleaner, Fernando, SustainAbility’s second-longest-running employee, was almost beside himself with joy.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Day started with a visit from Pati Ruiz Corzo and Laura Perez Arce, the prime movers behind the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, in Mexico, who I first met via the Schwab Foundation (http://www.sierragordamexico.org/eng_entrada.html). Then into a wildly productive two-day strategy meeting for SustainAbility, with Yasmin Crowther, Mark Lee, Sophia Tickell and Peter Zollinger.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Across this evening to Buck’s Club in Clifford Street for the launch of the 21st Century Trust’s 2006 programme by Lord Patten. Arrived to find Lord Moore, formerly private secretary to the Queen, talking to a Polish architect I know about the Stalag Luft III prisoner-of-war camp in the country. Lord Moore said he had spent two-and-a-half years there in WWII, having been shot down on his first mission over Europe – in a Lancaster on a bombing raid against Munich.
I asked how many of the crew survived. He was the only one: as navigator he had been sitting towards the middle of the aircraft when it broke apart in mid-air. I noted that my father had had the good luck to be shot down over England during the Battle of Britain. I mentioned that in the 1960s Tim had subsequently met – quite serendipitously at an event at the West German embassy in London – the German Me109 pilot who had shot him down. Lord Moore seemed mildly thunderstruck. Said that when he once went to Germany with the Queen he found himself talking to a German who, again quite by happenstance, turned out to be the Me110 pilot who had shot him down.
Oddly, when I went to the same 21st Century Trust event last year, I met Baron Hermann von Richthofen, a direct descendant of the Red Baron. My Baron was once German Ambassador to the UK – responsible for the embassy where Tim met his would-be nemesis. A weird sense of wheels-within-wheels, or perhaps simply of the human brain as the ultimate in (sometimes spurious) pattern recognition organs.
Friday, January 13, 2006
Kavita – trying, as usual, to find out how to get to mysterious addresses
We stay at the Taj Hotel, hard by the Gate of India. In stark contrast to the grinding poverty we have seen in Delhi and, to a lesser degree here in Mumbai, the hotel today hosts a conference on ‘Luxury’. We see signs advertising it as we drive around the city.
Morning begins with a visit to the Tata Council for Community Initiatives (TCCI), where we meet Anant Nadkarni, Vice President – Group CSR. More or less wherever you go in India, the Tata Group (http://www.tata.com/) seems to be the dominant feature in the business landscape. The TCCI is chaired by Kishor Chaukar, who took an active part in the CII CEO Forum earlier in the week. An early broadening of focus moved the TCCI spotlight beyond community relations to environmental management, and now social entrepreneurship and sustainable livelihoods are also key focal areas. The 2006 ‘Tata Workout Session’ will be on sustainability.
Anant Nadkarni, left
Then on to PricewaterhouseCoopers, where we meet Drs Ram Babu and Muna Ali to discuss the nature and scale of the Indian markets for professional services in corporate social responsibility and sustainable development. Then back to our hotel on the train, which is an experience in itself, for separate (but ultimately overlapping) meetings with Deepa Ruparel of ISDC (Integrated Social Development Consultancy: http://www.isdcindia.com), who does social audits for companies, and with Nirja Mattoo, Chairperson of the Center for Development of Corporate Citizenship at the S. P. Jain Institute of Management Research (http://www.spjimr.org).
Train in the other direction
Women waiting to board their own carriage – and this is off-peak
Lunch on its way
Then a quick walk around the Gate of India before the day really starts in earnest. Kavita and I make our way over to the Hilton Towers to see the Bombay Chamber of Commerce & Industry. I speak at a meeting of their Management Committee. Walking into the meeting, with those present mainly being CEOs, company chairmen and the like, I decide on the instant not to use my slides and instead do a 25-minute presentation off the top of my head. In the event, it works rather well. Then on hot foot to give ‘Global Leader Lecture’ on the subject of ‘Sustainability and the Rise of India as a Global Power’. Then a reception, then into a taxi and out to the airport for a 02.40 flight back to London.
A cameo as the taxi blares its way airportwards. Under a huge underpass, 50-60 people are settling down for the night, on sheets of cardboard or rugs. On one, a young boy and – I assume – his mother are caught in an emotional exchange. She is crying her eyes out, in full view of the passing traffic. Few things I have seen here have touched me as deeply.
Gate of India through streaming water
Gate of India, from the sea side
Mother and child
Hitchcockian moment in front of the Taj Hotel
Thursday, January 12, 2006
‘BLACK MONDAY’ SHOWS DARK SIDE OF INDIA’S GROWTH
Our India visit coincides with a major political controversy about the killing of twelve tribal people protesting against – and demanding compensation for – land seized by the state on behalf of business. Sonia Gandhi, as president of India’s Congress Party, used a visit to the mineral-rich state of Orissa yesterday to condemn the slaughter on January 2 of people trying to stop the construction of a perimeter wall by Tata Steel – part of the giant Indian group we will visit in Bombay tomorrow.
Today’s Financial Times sees the attention being given to these deaths as likely to encourage other popular protests against development projects, including a modernisation project designed to bring Mumbai airport – where we flew this evening – into the 21st century. As the FT puts it, “The myriad regulations governing land ownership are a bonanza for venal politicians.” For eveyone else, as the Confederation of Indian Industry puts it, they are a nightmare – to use the FT’s words – “of Kafkaesque proportions.”
Another stretching day. Starts with a meeting with many of the environment/sustainability team at CII, including KP Nyati (who heads the environment management division) and Dr Aditi Haldar, Counsellor – Environment. Brian Kelly and Paul Tebo also take part. The plans for the new Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development are exciting. Next, Kavita and I are off to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), who have partnered with SustainAbility on our work on the business case for corporate responsibility and sustainable development. Meet with Robin Sandenburgh and Sameer Singh.
Main part of the day, however, involves taking part in a conference organised by the new NGO Forum for Responsible Business, initiated by Partners in Change (PIC: http://picindia.org/what_we_do_NGO%20Forum.shtml). PIC CEO Viraf Mehta is also a member of SustainAbility’s Faculty, another indication of how seriously we are now taking the challenge of developing some sort of platform in India in the coming years. I talk about the conclusions of SustainAbility’s recent study, The 21st Century NGO.
Then across to the domestic airport for our flight to Bombay/Mumbai. Excellent flight with Jet Airways, reading a book I bought in Delhi a few days back, Travel Writing and the Empire, edited by Sachidananda Mohanty. A bit academic in parts, but fascinating nonethless. And, as usual, William Dalrymple’s contribution on Fanny Parkes and the process of ‘going native’ is spellbinding. Try to take part in a SustainAbility strategy meeting by cell phone as Kavita and I head into Mumbai by taxi, but my phone betrays me yet again.
Pamela Hartigan is in New York today and, among other things, signs the contract with Harvard Business School Press for our new book on social enterprise. Many thanks to our agent, Doris Michaels – who Elaine met when we were in California early last year, when I was giving a lecture at the Haas School of Business, Berkeley. Now the really hard work begins.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
RED FORT AND HAMAYUNA TOMB
The serious, grown-up parts of today’s program included a visit to India’s Institute of Directors (much more interested in sustainability issues than its UK equivalent, from which I resigned a while back because of their policies). But the real high points of the day for me were: lunch with Shankar Venkateswaran, Executive Director of the Indian end of the America India Foundation (AIF: http://www.aifoundation.org/) and a member lof SustainAbility’s Faculty; a visit to Kavita’s delightful uncle and aunt; and, later, visits to the Red Fort and to the Hamayun tomb complex. Sign of the times: surprised to see as we headed towards the latter in our car a street vendor selling the Harvard Business Review, among other publications. We arrived at the Hamayun Tomb as the sun was setting, which added immeasurably to the beauty and the pervading sense of melancholy.
On the road
Raju Prasad, our driver in Delhi
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Kavita and I spend all day at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) CEO Forum, where I do a plenary keynote in the morning. Among those taking part from outside India are Brian Kelly, who is a key mover and shaker in the Sustainable Enterprise Academy (SEA: http://www.sustainableenterpriseacademy.com/SSB-Extra/sea.nsf/docs/SEA) and Dr Paul Tebo, recently retired from DuPont, where he led the charge on the giant US chemical company’s ‘sustainable growth’ strategy. They had invited me out to dinner on my first evening in Delhi, which had been a nice way to find my feet. Weirdly, and coincidentally, an email came in this morning asking whether I might be able to speak at a DuPont board meeting in March. Delightful dinner with a dozen or so people, hosted by Yogendra Kumar Saxena of Gujarat Ambuja Cements Ltd. Talked much of the evening with Ambreen Waheed. She is Executive Director of the Responsible Business Initiative, based in Lahore, Pakistan (http://www.RBIpk.org).
CII CEO Forum: podium and two shots of Paul and Brian
Monday, January 09, 2006
AN NGO DAY IN DELHI
If there’s one thing that India – where Kavita (Prakash-Mani) and I arrived yesterday – is not short of it is NGOs. But they come in all sorts of sizes and styles. Today we visited some of the bigger, more influential and better known ones. We did so in the midst of what is billed as Delhi’s coldest winter for 70 years: when we arrived at the airport yesterday, the temperature had fallen as low 0.2 degrees C. Quite pleasant, though finding our way out of the airport raised my temperature slightly – the place was bursting at the seams with hundreds of Indian blue berets and their kit, and our driver disappeared in the melee.
NOTE: My Indian photos look as though they have been shot through pollution haze and at night. Some, particularly the shots of the Hamayun tomb complex, were taken in evening light, but for the rest the camera seems to be in a slightly depressive mood.
We kicked off today with the Centre for Science and the Environment (http://www.cseindia.org/), where we met Chandra Bushan – who among other things leads the Centre’s work on the environmental ranking of companies and industry sectors. As we talked, we could hear the mewing of kites in the background: they seemed to be perching on the roof overhead, monitoring the passing traffic in pigeons. CSE was founded by the late Anil Agarwal, who I first met in the 1980s when he was with Panos in London. He commissioned me to write a piece on water issues dogging countries like India, particularly India. They have become dramatically more important since – indeed, CSE led the charge recently when Coca-Cola came under fire for alleged over-use of groundwater and for the levels of insecticide residues in its Indian products.
Smog from my hotel window
Kavita and Chandra Bushan
Anil campaigned on many fronts, but – although you can taste the air pollution even as your plane drops in towards Delhi – one of his greatest successes was in getting the country’s government and judiciary to drive the shift from petrol and diesel to compressed natural gas (CNG) for taxis, ‘autorickshaws’ and buses. One of CSE’s latest projects is a sector study on the cement industry, particularly interesting since one of the companie we plan to meet here ranks No. 2 in the CSE sector survey.
Later in the day, we visited WWF (http://www.wwfindia.org/), to see Ravi Singh, Secretary General and CEO – who I first met early last year at the WWF summit in Vancouver. As we spoke, and against a backdrop of whirling kites, a small squirrel with a three-banded tail fidgeted its way along his window sill – which made me take rather more seriously the notice on the door to his personal rest room declaring that the place is a squirrel sanctuary.
Rest room home for the restless
Next, we headed across to Development Alternatives (http://www.devalt.org/), founded by Dr Ashok Khosla, someone else I have known for a fair few years. We had lunch with Ashok and colleagues on the roof of DA’s interim building, which they are occupying while their new premises are built. Their motto: ‘Creating Large Scale Sustainable Livelihoods’. All hugely relevant to our growing interest in social enterprise and the scalability of small-scale experiments and pilot programs. A truly impressive organisation and team.
Askok Khosla (right), Vijaya Lakshmi (left) and George C. Varughese (second left)
Finally, we head back to the India Habitat Centre (http://www.indiahabitat.org/main.htm), where we had started off with CSE. The Centre, in fact, ends up serving as a ‘strange attractor’ throughout our visit, with our peregrinations routinely looping back through its vast air-pollution-hazed spaces. Our last formal meeting of the day was with TERI (http://www.teriin.org/), where we had an interesting session with Director-General Dr R K Pachauri, who I first met 4-5 years back when we helped organise and facilitate a stakeholder engagement session for Ford in the US. He chairs the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an issue that has even India exercised – though the unusually cold weather here at the moment apparently has some Indians querying the whole notion of global warming. One of the most impressive features of his office: a collection of cricket memorabilia, alongside probably the most extensive array of Christmas and New Year greeting cards I have seen anywhere, anytime. No question, the man’s connected, though I wonder (and doubt) whether there was anything from President Bush.
India Habitat ‘roof’
Dr Pachauri and part of his collection of cricket memorabilia
Friday, January 06, 2006
SustainAbility has always refused to work with tobacco, defence and nuclear companies. There are many reasons for this, but key among them on the nuclear front were the risks associated with nuclear breakdowns and meltdowns, the timescales involved in the disposal of radioactive wastes, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Such concerns were already in the air after the US Three Mile Island accident in 1979, but they became even more urgent in 1986—the year before we founded SustainAbility—in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster. Now the twentieth anniversary of Chernobyl will provide some of 2006’s great media stories. Mark Lee and I got one in early late last year, as part of our regular column for Grist (http://www.grist.org/biz/fd/2005/12/13/nuclear/).
The statistics that will be rolled out will do nothing to help politicians trying to sell nuclear power to the public. Take thyroid cancer, normally a rare disease, with just one in a million children falling victim. In the highly abnormal conditions found in the main Chernobyl fallout zone, perhaps a third of children who were under four years of age when they were exposed are likely to develop the disease. In Belarus, where perhaps 70 percent of the fallout landed, around 25 percent of the country’s farmland has had to be removed from production, and nearly 1,000 children die each year from thyroid cancer.
All of which makes the nuclear industry a very difficult partner for NGOs and others wanting to advance sustainable energy. Indeed, when the Chernobyl site was closed down in 2000, activists celebrated the beginning of the end for the industry. Today, they can point to the trend line for nuclear reactor construction starts as evidence that the industry is dying. The line begins by leaping upwards from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, peaking in the wake of the first oil shock, but then falls back sharply over the subsequent 20 years.
And yet growing numbers of people—including several well respected environmentalists—argue that the industry has a bright future, thanks to climate change. In 2004, for example, green activists were shocked when one of their idols (and one of mine), James Lovelock, the independent scientist best known for his ‘Gaia Hypothesis’, warned that global warming is now advancing so rapidly that only a massive expansion of nuclear power can save our industrial civilization.
There has even been talk of a ‘Nuclear Renaissance’. Climate change is one driver, but so is the ‘Peak Oil’ debate, the idea that global oil production has passed—or will shortly pass—its peak. The World Energy Council says that the nuclear industry is “poised to expand its role in world electricity generation. Plant life will be extended in some markets, such as Finland or Sweden; new plants will be built in Asia; governments and voters will accept the inevitability of new nuclear power stations in Europe, Africa, North America, Latin America, and even the Middle East.”
Meanwhile, some of the world’s biggest users of nuclear power are signaling that they will soon have to decommission many existing reactors. Strikingly, Tony Blair warns that by about 2020 coal and nuclear plants generating more than 30 percent of the UK’s electricity will have to be decommissioned. “Some of this will be replaced by renewables,” he notes, “but not all of it can be.”
Having written a book on the prospect for renewables as long ago as 1984 (Sun Traps: The Renewable Energy Forecast, Pelican Books, see http://johnelkington.com/pubs-books-science.htm), I’m about as pro-renewables as it’s possible to be – with a long-standing mistrust of the nuclear industry, having watched them fairly closely during periods like the Windscale/Sellafield THORP planning inquiry and via visits over the years to the Windscale area to see cousins. Nor do I want to see nuclear siphoning off funding that would be better spent on energy efficiency and renewables.
It seems to me fairly clear that we can count out nuclear fusion for the foreseeable future. For the west, the fission future will very much depend on things like the forecast price of fossil fuels, the cost of the carbon permits needed by fossil fuel power plants, and the extent to which governments subsidize nuclear power. New technology, like the much-vaunted pebble-bed reactor, will also likely play a key role in determining the relative acceptability of the nuclear option. So, whatever the outcome, we probably do need to review our ban on nuclear industry work at some point. If you have views on the subject, please e-mail me at email@example.com.
Monday, January 02, 2006
Arrived back in London via Eurostar late last night, after four wonderful days in Paris with Elaine, Hania and her boyfriend. It was snowing lightly when we arrived in Paris. Walking through the Luxembourg Gardens (where we were taken with the graffito assuring us that ‘Life is not bed of rosese’), it became distinctly Siberian. Later, as we emerged from the catacombs on the first full day it seemed that the cold weather was set in for the duration, but not long after it turned to rain.
‘Life is not bed of rosese’
Some denizens of catacombs would have agreed, presumably
Happier times underground: Le Franc Pinot Jazz Club, Ile Saint Louis
Great meals at places like Le Dome and Angelina’s, near where we had to give way for a troop of 8-10 Segways semi-cruising, semi-tottering, along the pavement. Despite the extraordinary technology, which I learned about when reading the book Code Name Ginger on Dean Kamen’s attempts to revolutionise transport, there is something ridiculous about them in such surroundings – particularly when compared with conventional bikes, also in evidence.
Segways on the Rue de Rivoli
One day, Elaine and I walked around old haunts, including the Place des Vosges. I had come here in 1973, to stay with Gavin Young, the Observer foreign correspondent, in an apartment owned by part of the Rothschild family. I was interested in the Place des Vosges for a number of reasons, one was that it was an early attempt at town planning, which I was studying at the time, and it is now the oldest square in Paris, apparently. My main memory of the apartment was of a giant wood and canvas Siamese cat, perhaps six feet high. An extraordinary time in all sorts of ways, mainly because of Gavin’s company (our jaunts took in everything from La Coupole to the Marx Brothers and A Night at the Opera) and deep knowledge of the city. But it also sticks in my mind because Paris at the time was like a ghost town in parts, policed by CRS forces – because, I think, Golda Meir was visiting. And because Elaine’s brother had just had a near-fatal car accident and was in a coma.
Place des Vosges
Among the visits this time, we went to a great jazz gig at Le Franc Pinot jazz club on L’Ile Saint Louis (to hear a quartet led by by Pierre Christophe, playing in the style of Erroll Garner) and to the Centre Pompidou, to see the extraordinary Dada exhibition (http://www.cnac-gp.fr/Pompidou/Manifs.nsf/0/9F43A653A3897921C1256EBD00476011?OpenDocument&sessionM=2.2.1&L=2). Wish I had had a couple of days to wander around the exhibition, particularly once I realised it ran chronologically. Have always loved Max Ernst and Man Ray, of whose work there were masses of examples, including Cadeau, shown in my photo below. It was only after taking it – with no flash, as is my way in such circumstances – that I noticed that no-one else was carrying a camera, so tucked mine away.
Struck me as I walked around the exhibition that we may now be moving towards another period like the one that spawned Dadaism. We don’t have WWI, thank heavens, but the world as we have known it is in flux because of the impact, among other things, of the Internet, terrorism and counter-terrorism, and the entry of China and India into world markets. There’s no name yet for the deep stirrings under way, or maybe there are too many names, but 50-100 years from now the future (and exhibition designers) will no doubt have a name for what we are living through – and headed towards.
Dada exhibition poster
Man Ray’s Cadeau
A (very) distant view of the Eiffel Tower
Elaine and Hania at the Centre Pompidou
On the last day, yesterday, we walked until I almost collapsed, through at times fairly heavy downpours. Walking the streets suits me much less well than walking in the fields or mountains. So the last few images are studies in (fairly dark) blue of New Year’s Day 2006.
Dark clouds hung over the city, at the end of a year that has been traumatic for the French, what with the state of the economy, the voting down of the proposed European Constitution, the loss of the 2012 Olympics to London, and the recent race riots. In many ways, the Chirac era will be seen as a time of missed opportunities, but France will recover. Hopefully, while retaining and re-energising its culture, it will come back less arogant, friendlier. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but there was already some sense of that in the streets. People stopped and asked if we needed directions more often than I remember from past visits. Or maybe that was just post-Christmas good cheer?
The Eurostar home gave me an opportunity to read another 150 or so pages of Juliet Barker’s extraordinary book Agincourt, though I felt a need to hide the cover each time one of the French attendants arrived alongside. One of the most insightful books on medieval history I have ever read – and one that also brings home the startling emotional, family and social impacts of what happened just north of the Somme in 1415.
Roof-top knights caught my eye because I’m reading Juliet Barker’s Agincourt
Seine-borne evidence of the night before
We’re lost, looking for Priori a The