A great new report on green innovation is now available from Environmental Defense at http://www.edf.org/documents/7904_innovationsreview2008.pdf. I was part of the Advisory Panel.
A great new report on green innovation is now available from Environmental Defense at http://www.edf.org/documents/7904_innovationsreview2008.pdf. I was part of the Advisory Panel.
Apart from the podcast interview with John Varley on Monday, already blogged, I did an advisory board meeting with zouk ventures (where I was delighted to meet Esther Dyson) at the Lanesborough Hotel, flew up to Aberdeen on Tuesday evening to do a speech at a breakfast meeting the next morning, organised by the Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce, ahead of the ‘All Energy’ conference on Wednesday, spoke at a session ogrnaised by LEAD International on Thursday evening, and then travelled to Cambridge on Friday to be filmed (for an hour) by Wayne Visser and colleagues from the Cambridge Programme for Industry. (The background is that Cannibals with Forks has been picked as one of the 50 top books in the green/sustainability space. Apparently,The Green Consumer Guide also made it to the short-list, but only one book per author was allowed.) Then did a session with Polly Courtice of CPI and her colleagues, before joining Polly and Wayne for a session at Pembroke College with perhaps 60-70 people.
A podcast I recorded with Barclays CEO John Varley yesterday is posted on their website today at: http://www.barclays.com/sustainabilityreport07/ceo_introduction.html. Short and to the point, but tucks in a question about social entrepreneurship.
Drove west early with Elaine, Gaia and Hania, for Pat and Tim’s sixtieth wedding anniversary. Started out fine, then clouds heaped up as we passed Oxford, though by the time the party (with over 70 people and a marquee on the back lawn) got into full swing, the sun was out and about fairly regularly. A wonderful gathering of family and friends from all eras and generations, including a couple of total surprises: Ian Keay and Nigel Palmer, both with long grey or white pigtails.
Part-way through, Caroline had asked me to do some sort of speech in celebration. While I started out by trying to get all the younger family members involved, on the basis that the first-born male was an inappropriate toast-master these days, I found myself in the role.
So I set to – and spotlighted five key years: 1920, 1922, 1948, 1959 and 1960.
1920, which was a Leap year, was the year that Tim was born. To give people a sense of what else was going on that year, I noted that 1920 was the year that Prohibition began in the USA, that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (‘Mounties’) began operation in Canada, and that a certain Adolf Hitler presented his National Socialist program in Munich. I also commented that it is a miracle in multiple dimensions that Tim is still with us, having been shot down in the Battle Britain, having crashed a Mustang in India and a Shackleton in Ireland, and a Rover 3-litre at 70 mph, after which he was sent to hospital by Pat when she noticed he had a 9-inch crack in his skull. I also recalled how often Hill House shuddered when he collided with beams in the attics, far too tall for those parts of the house.
The second year was 1922, when Pat was born. That was when the first radio appeared in the White House and the BBC began radio broadcasts in England. Benito Mussolini became the youngest Premier in Italian history. And Howard Carter & Lord Carnarvon broke through into Tutankhamun’s tomb – the first people to do so in 3,000 years. Quite a Harrison Ford moment, though I noted that it wasn’t Tim’s slouch hat – but his RAF uniform – that worked the trick with my mother-to-be.
1948, another Leap year, was the next year selected, the year that Pat and Tim were married. That was also when the state of Israel – and the Hell’s Angels – were formed. Prince Charles was born in 1948, and Pat and Tim had just received an impressive card (with golden tassles) from the Queen, who had married the previous year. I pulled Pat’s youngest brother, Paul, in at this point in the proceedings, as apparently he is now the only other person still living who attended the wedding. We also spotlighted the painting Caroline did in celebration of Pat and Tim’s 50th anniversary, in 1998.
1959 came next, the year that we bought and moved into Hill House. And it was particularly nice to see so many people from the village taking part in the party. That was also the year that Cyprus (from which we had just returned) won its independence, that Castro took over Cuba and the Dalai Lama left Tibet. And what an extraordinary home it has been, with various wings of the family present today (including the Adamsons, Griffins and Mills, in addition to the myriad branches of the Elkingtons). And then there were all the parallel families we grew up with, among them the Langers, the Sweetings, the Lanes & the Lanes, the Hanks, the Keays, the Palmers, the Davenports and Feichtingers. More recent additions included the Hedderwicks and the De Borgrave Nibletts.
Finally I focused on 1960, another Leap year, and the year the last of we four siblings, Tessa, was born. That was the year JFK won the US presidency, that Nikita Kruschev banged a UN table with his shoe—and the USSR downed the U2 piloted by Gary Powers. Also the year when the newly-named Beatles began a residency at the Indra Club, Hamburg. I then pulled in Tessa, but in the excitement forgot to ask Caroline (who had organised the party, but refused to speak) the threatened question: Who had given the best excuse for not being there? Answer, cousin Toby, currently sailing somewhere between the Faroes and Iceland.
Then I called in Gray and referenced a number of things Gaia and Hania had said the previous evening in London about their memories of Hill House, which has been their home-from-home. Gaia remembered, at age 8, being reprimanded for standing in the End Room and asking the Hill House ghost, Belinda, to cut the power, please, because she didn’t want to take the train home. Which Belinda duly did, to Tim’s deep distress as the barn freezers shut down. They remembered swimming in the nearby Windrush with Caroline and the rest of the family. They remembered the giant Bramley tree, long since felled because of old age and disease, the ‘rubbing post’ that I did some time in the 1960s with Tim, and which has occupied pride of place in the kitchen, with the varying heights of successive generations marked on it. They recalled midnight picnics on hay-bales with hurricane lamps up in Bobble Barn field. And they celebrated Christmases when Tim’s old white RAF socks were used as their wildly capacious present stockings. Gaia got a pair of fairy wings aged five – and noted that she was still wearing wings to St Paul’s Girl’s School at eighteen.
My final memory before proposing the toast to Pat, Tim and Hill House was lying out on the same lawn on a camp-bed in the mid-1960s, after seeing the film I Love You Alice B. Toklas in Chletenham, and waking up around 02.00 with the scent of honeysuckle in my nostrils – to find the entire night sky aflame with the biggest Perseid shower for over 100 years. Literally mind-numbingly beautiful. But, I then went on to say to my beloved parent that they were the stars today – and we all drained out glasses, again.
Door into past and future Caroline has been the centre pivot Bling 1 Bling 2 Gray and Robin tune up Pat and Paul Olive and Pat Sky, looking past my old bedroom window Pat, Tim and Caroline’s family tree painting for their 50th Tessa’s button Dr John (Chambers) Christina and Caroline Paul recalls the wedding in 1948 Pop Lydia, Gray, Boo Those magnificent men in their flying cup-cakes Gil and Tessa Caroline, Nigel (Palmer), Nicky (Hanks), Jane (Davenport), Gray, Cally (Feichtinger), Ian Tessa, Christina, Caroline, Jane, Cally, Nicky, Ian, Alda (Angst/Keay) Jane, Christina, Caroline
Some further photographs, of Pat and Tim (holding the model Spitfire and alongside Caroline’s 50th anniversary painting from 1998) and of those of some of us who grew up alongside one another all those years ago in Little Rissington and Icomb, taken by Alda Angst. The fleeting smudges may be passing ghosts, like Belinda, or they may be – as Ian (Keay) assures me they are – specks of dust inside Alda’s camera.
Dinner this evening was at 798 Space, an old factory evidently designed by East German architects – and a bit of an acoustic nightmare for those of us with bats’ ears. The vaulted ceiling reminded me of those giant concrete ‘ears’ that were erected on the British coast to detect the sound of incoming WWII bomber fleets. We took some pretty extraordinary paths on our way to developing those early acoustic locators or sound mirrors; it’s just a pity that architects didn’t reflect what happens when you design roof structures in the same way.
Fascinating conversations – against intense background noise – about the relationship between mainland China and Taiwan, about innovation and about nuclear power. And one conversation where I was told that the West should not underestimate China’s capacity to sustain – and accelerate – its current development and innovation trajectory. I don’t, though I doubt that we will see anything like a straight line upward trajectory, let alone an exponentially upwards one, whatever people here may think.
Got back to the hotel to find the South China Morning Post in my room, with the cover partly devoted to a horrifying image of rescue workers uncovering a group of dead primary school children, packed in shattered rubble like sardines in a can.
Meanwhile, in Beijing, the same paper notes the first death from a recent outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease as the authorities here struggle to contain the spread of the virus just three months before the Olympic Games. On the bus across to 798 Space this evening, we were reminded that the Chinese see the number ‘8’ as lucky, which is why the Games open on the eighth day of the eighth month of 2008. But, whether true or not I don’t know, we were told that the quake hit on the 88th day before the games open. Something doesn’t quite add up.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Arrived in fog- and smog-cloaked Beijing this morning, after easy fight from London. Blown away by the new Terminal 3 here, the biggest in the world, only open for around a month, and stunningly efficient as far as my experience went. Met off the plane by a charming VIP guide and steered through all the formalities, which helped immeasurably.
Then into the city by limo, alongside someone who does Formula 1 racing for a living. I mentioned my recent role with Honda, who raised something like $1 million with their Earth-painted racing car. Managed to steer some significant funding towards the Marine Stewardship Council and Wiser Earth. But am much more interested in how F1 racing can be used to force technology, as in recapturing energy lost in braking – something the industry is coming under intense pressure to crack. Talking with Scott Garrett, head of marketing at Williams, I noted that I like competition, as in The X-Prize Foundation’s work on sustainable mobility, because it taps into fundamental elements of the human psyche which the missionary approach to sustainability rarely – if ever – does.
Here for an event organised by Aegis Media on the theme of acceleration. Interesting to hear Nigel Morris, CEO of Isobar, encouraging the conference to engage with the sustainability agenda. As the man who identified the digital media challenge and opportunity space ahead of many in the industry, his views carry real weight. But when I saw the clothes he was wearing, and knowing he was chairing the introductory session I was about to do, I streaked upstairs, stripped off my tie and changed shirts. Adaptable, me.
As I write this, while waiting to go out to dinner, the sky over Beijing is pulsing with lightning, rolling with thunder. A reminder of the difficult weather in which the rescue operations are proceeding here after the recent earthquake. And now it’s pouring with rain, which hopefully will flush some of the gunk out of the city air. It’s stunning what China has achieved in short order, but looking out of the window I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to run a marathon here yet awhile.
Friday saw the launch of the first version of the revamped SustainAbility website.
Front covers of the National Journal, where I was interviewed yesterday
Was hoping to fly back from Dulles at 23.00 last night, after doing my lunchtime session at the National Press Club for the World Environment Center. Unfortunately, however, something went wrong with one of the engines, so our take-off was aborted part-way through. We ended up spending a further 3-4 hours in the plane and airport before we were released to bed for the night. In the meantime, someone stole my suit jacket from the plane. Merry chase with an air steward trying to track down the culprit, him convinced we would find the jacket, me – having seen the jacket that had been left instead, pretty sure I would never see my jacket again. Because the loss means I can’t wear my only smart light-weight suit in Beijing next week, this means I have to buy another in short order. Flew back with United Airlines, which was rather less hectic.
Hurricane chases Spitfire around Dulles
Israel celebrated it’s sixtieth anniversary today. I haven’t been there since I was a child, in 1959, when one of the high points – as I remember it – was sitting on the lap of a pilot of a DC3, or Dakota, as we flew across the Dead Sea, and being allowed to ‘steer.’ Now, with Beirut teetering on the edge again, it’s hard not to have mixed feelings about the Near and Middle East, Israel included. But there was another anniversary today that I feel much less conflicted about, my parents’ sixtieth wedding anniversary. Well, perhaps conflicted in another way. It’s painfully characteristic that I’m travelling – that I allow myself to be borne along on this travelator – rather than there, but we will be celebrating this extraordinary family event in just over a week, when (hopefully) we’re all back in the country.
Flashes of lightning and thunder claps as I wrestled once again with Microsoft Outlook over a glacial Internet connection in the JW Marriott Hotel, Pennsylvania Avenue. Cold rain slashing at the window. CNN covering, endlessly, tomorrow’s Time magazine cover declaring Barack Obama as the “winner” of the Democratic nomination. But with the process still under way, it’s hard not to recall the saying, “There’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip,” or words to that effect. Still, if I had a vote I would vote for him, not least because America, to my mind, needs to make a truly radical break with its recent past, and nothing would signal that more clearly, particularly in places like the Middle east, than an Obama win.
Arrived in from San Francisco late last night, then today had meetings with people from the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Environmental Defense (Fund: EDF). Shuttled across to the old Watergate complex for an interview with the National Journal early in the afternoon, then back to SustainAbility’s offices in R Street, NW. Thrilled I brought an umbrella. Then back to the hotel to work on things for WEC, China Dialogue and innovations. Will catch up on blog entries when I get back to London, hopefully on Saturday.
Started the day with an hour-long interview on the Forum program on KQD, alongside three social entrepreneurs: Stephanie Bernstein (CEO & Founder, To-Go Ware), Matt Flannery (Co-Founder & CEO, Kiva) and Eric Grossberg (CoFounder, Brilliant Earth). Then Matt kindly drove me across to Pier 28 and IDEO, where I met up with Matt (Lee) and we dived into the rest of the day c/o IDEO, where we were launching our latest report, The Social Entrepreneur: A Fieldbook for Corporate Changemakers.
In the afternoon, overlooking the Bay, we did an IDEO-style session with 40-some folk. In the evening – introduced by IDEO CEO Tim Brown – we opened it out to some 60 people. Then, after dinner, I chaired a panel session with Sam McCracken of Nike, Cristin Lindsay who heads the Progressive Automotive X-Prize operated by The X-Prize Foundation and John Wood of Room-to-Read.
Eric, Stephanie, Matt
In front of Kiva.org
Debra Dunn, John Wood, Brett Galimidi
Martin Fisher of KickStart holds forth
Sam McCracken, John Wood, Cristin Lindsay
Susannah Kirsch and Will Rosenzweig of Physic Ventures
Flew to San Francisco on Thursday, with a mad dash to get to T5 because of a taxi that didn’t arrive. Then the BA check-in was primeval, following which – with my adrenaline cranked up to unusally high levels – I left my credit card in a machine and didn’t wake up to the fact until I was half a T5 away, which was an unbridgeable distance. Plane was late to take off and therefore late into San Francisco, which then meant I was racing to get to a dinner hosted by Physic Ventures at Kokkari. But great when I eventually managed to get there.
Friday was pretty much all Physic, where I am a member of the Strategic Advisory Board, on the twentieth floor of One Embarcadero center, with a spectacular view of the harbour. As I was photographed by a floor-to-ceiling window, I kept getting flashes of intense vertigo. Then in the afternoon Will (Rosenzweig) drove me in his Prius, across the Golden Gate Bridge to his Marin County home, from where I looked down on circling turkey vultures – and, among other things, did a long telecon in relation to a stuttering energy-related project that Volans may or may not do this year.
Yesterday, I did a fair amount of work on the laptop in the hotel, before first meeting up with Paul Hawken for a semi-magical chat, and then heading across to see old friends, Ian Keay and Alda Angst. Wonderful Indian meal, after which they drove me back into town. Today, I have been working pretty solidly, until around 18.45, when I walked across to 570 Fourth Street for dinner with Mark (Lee). Keep walking through slipstreams of hashish or marijuana here in San Francisco, which is oddly comforting. Flashes of the old San Francisco.
As I packed this morning for T5 (God help me) and the US, I tidied up a set of cuttings from recent newspapers, including two obituaries, one from today’s Times and the other from yesterday’s paper. Today’s was for Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who worked with Sandoz and discovered LSD. When we met Shawn Phillips in Positano in 1970 (see under Influences, Music), Hofmann was a key topic of conversation. Some sort of psychedelic saint. My own LSD experience had been either in 1968 or 1969, I can’t now remember. But, though I wildly regret what has happened to the illegal drugs industry since, that experience truly opened doors of perception I am glad didn’t stay closed to me.
And the link to the second obituary? This was for Sir Derek Higgs, who was Chairman of Alliance & Leicester, and who I mainly knew through the time when we worked together at Business in the Environment, part of Business in the Community. In any event, his key 2003 report on corporate governance was a brave attempt to help business leaders cope with the blizzard of signals that come in from every part of the business environment today.
In a way, it is almost as if companies are potentially on the corporate form of LSD, open – through their employees and other stakeholders – to endless stimuli. And we have certainly added to the challenge with all our efforts to promote wider forms of stakeholder engagement. The key task of boards and other organs of corporate governance is to ensure that the doors of corporate erception are sufficiently open, but that in the midst of all of this the key strategic priorities are identified and addressed.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Took part in a GlobeScan Salon this evening. Other speakers from Amnesty, Nestle and Vodafone. Sam (Lakha) and Alex (Nick) also came from SustainAbility. Wonderful evening, lively debate, good wine, and afterwards Elaine and I took a taxi home with Doug and Margot Miller.
Chris Coulter and Doug Miller of GlobeScan, Kate Gilmore of Amnesty
Doug 3: locking up
Doug 4: this world is mine
Glorious sunset as I cycled home this evening, particularly as I passed the Albert Memorial. But a weird golden-brown effect around many of the clouds. Then, a few moments later, as I passed Whole Foods Market, the heavens opened – and I was totally drenched. Continued to cycle with claps of thunder happening almost overhead. The temperature of the rain was icy. By the time I got home I looked like a drowned rat that had been fished out of the Thames, but it was all oddly exhilarating.
Back home by Eurostar – astoundingly efficient, though apparently a train that went the other way on the day we went out took forever to get to Paris because of breakdowns.
Apart from a World Energy Council teleconference this evening, we had a delightful day wandering the city, taking in the perfume museum at Parfums Fragonard, the shop windows of Printemps, the Café de la Paix, Le Jardin des Plantes, a favourite scarf shop of Elaine’s nearby, and then the Delacroix museum. For me, oddly, a high point was walking by the Printemps windows, in an activity the French call lèche-vitrine, literally window-licking. A couple of the windows are captured, after a fashion, below.
Swan’s-head perfume bottle
Samsung: I liked the man’s head and the woman with magazine over hers, as sun-shade
Dans Le Jardin des Plantes
Elaine in Delacroix’s garden
A day spent walking the length and breadth of Père-Lachaise cemetery, then – at greater speed – up and down, in and out, through the Musée des Arts et Métiers. Took a long time tracking down Jim Morrison in the cemetery, even though Elaine had been there before, and found many of the other graves and tombs more moving – including one extraordinary one commemorating a Quintin Craufurd, with his knight’s helm decorated with what I think is an ermine that has seen better days. Elaine was happy to at last find Delacroix. Later, in the Museum, the scientific instruments were a wonder, but for me Foucault’s pendulum and the sight of Blériot‘s plane hanging in the church were simply out-of-this-world. Almost felt the earth move.
Crack – with skull in shadows, bottom right
Look upon my works …
Oscar Wilde’s tomb (detail) – spattered with lipstick kiss marks
Nice pair of headlights
Spirit-raising use for a church
M. Blériot’s aerial pram
At least according to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&plgroup=6&docId=1000210851
Two images shot as we walked around the Places des Vosges neighbourhood, one the sign of the unicorn, the other a delicately shod young man with an unfilled speech bubble. Tempting to imagine the horn of the one popping the bubble of the other – or simply to fill in the bubble.
– posted by John Elkington @ 10:43 PM
An article I did on the theme with John Lotherington of The 21st Century Trust is now posted on the openDemocracy site.
After lunch with the EcoVadis crew yesterday, we walked and walked and walked. Among the museums we visited was the Musée Maillol, full of unappealing fat naked ladies – both sculptures and paintings. That said, there were some well-known found objects. But for me the high point by far was the museum’s spiralling staircase.
Homeward bound 1
Homeward bound 2
Today it was both brighter and warmer, so we went off by Metro and Shank’s pony to the Musée du quai Branly, devoted to indigenous art, which was hugely impressive in terms of the scale of the collection. After a while, though, one tends to drown a little in all that concentrated symbolism. Have always suffered from some form of Stendhal’s syndrome – and this triggered a version of that in both of us.
Then we pottered back along the Seine to Shakespeare & Company, where I bought three books: Maryanne Wolf’s Proust and the Squid, on the reading brain; The Reserve by Russell Banks; and Joseph Heller’s Closing Time, billed as a sequel to Catch 22. Can’t imagine it’s anything like as good. Catch 22 got me in endless trouble at school, when I would collapse into helpless laughter day after day in the period when we were meant to lie in silence on our beds after lunch.
Eiffel Tower through frontage of Quai Branly Museum
Parisian gem – Shakespeare and Co
The weight of learning
Nin – and someone who looks like Paul in Sgt Pepper days
Plath & Hughes
Someone doesn’t fit
Photo: Hans Silvester
Arrived in Paris by Eurostar late afternoon yesterday and made our way to Rue de Turenne, where Elaine had found a wonderful apartment for less than we would have paid for a hotel. Pierre let us in – and turned out to be a good friend of one of the handful of people I know in Paris who works in sustainable development (developpement durable), Elisabeth Laville of Utopies. Last time I saw her was when we marched across Westminster Bridge after Anita Roddick’s wake. Will try to see her while here.
Last night, we had supper in the Place des Vosges, where I memorably stayed with Gavin Young in 1973. Today Elaine and I walked around the city, in occasional rain, slowly decompressing. Found a wonderful book by Hans Silvester on kites (cerfs volants) in a delightful little bookshop, La Belle Lurette in the Rue Saint-Antoine. Leafing through it now reminds me of when we used to fly a great orange (ex-RAF emergency) box-kite in Nicosia, in the late 1950s. There seemed to be a magic moment when the kites – of multifarious forms – would begin to sprout in the evening sky across the city.
Apartment 1: still life with wooden fruit
Apartment 2: figurine
Nearby garden 1
Nearby garden 2
Place de la Bastille
Self-portrait with graffiti, on Le Promenade Planté, an old railway viaduct
Old man watches in-line skaters
There was an extraordinary buzz around the launch events for SustainAbility’s new report, The Social Intrapreneur, yesterday and today. Last night we hosted a dinner at the Covent Garden Hotel, while this morning we co-hosted a breakfast brainstorm (a little early for my reptilian brain) and an evening reception and launch event with IDEO.
This evening, Maggie Brenneke – who had orchestrated the events – asked me to be Oprah Winfrey, facilitating a concluding panel session with Bob Annibale of Citi’s global microfinance team, Sam MacCracken of Nike’s Native American business and Kerryn Schrank of BP fuels. I opened the session by admitting that I was multiply challenged in relation to the role because of (among other things) gender, race, hair and the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever watched Oprah. Still, some photos below:
Reminiscent of SustainAbility’s early days alongside Brand New Product Development
Good to go
James Parr sparkles 1
James Parr sparkles 2
Animation: Daniel of Mars and Kavita of SustainAbility
Reflection: Nick and Astrid of Allianz
Monica of Allianz
Meghan of SustainAbility
Ziba of Nike
James of IDEO
Not one of ours
Manuela of SustainAbility, James
Polar bears – IDEO is in London’s White Bear Yard
Furniture’s equivalent of jelly babies
Sam of Nike, in the background SustainAbility’s Jonathan Halperin
Bob, Sam, ‘Oprah’
Sam and Kerryn
What’s next? Alexa (Clay), Kerryn, Maggie, Mark
Began the day at The Entrepreneurs’ Summit, held at the Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square. Organised by Real Business and the Confederation of British Business (CBI), the event focused on “how risk-takers can be winners in 2008.” Early speakers included CBI Director-General Richard Lambert and Sir Ronald Cohen, chairman of Bridges Ventures. I was then part of a panel titled ‘The new agenda for entrepreneurs.’ My co-panellists were MIVA President Seb Bishop, Innocent Drinks Managing Director Jamie Mitchell and Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of Kids Company. First time I had met Camila, whose work I find glorious – like her wardrobe.
Then we listened to DWP Secretary John Hutton, who sent me a note which got to me during the course of his session. Went out to meet him in the reception afterwards – and he asked me whether I am related to my namesake, Colonel John Ford Elkington, which I am. He is doing a book on the extraordinary story.
Camila follows me into the hot-seat (photo: JE)
Friday, April 11, 2008
It’s just over 10 years since Murray Edmonds turned up in SustainAbility’s Kensington offices. An Australian, he had come across our work on environmental reporting and wanted to launch an annual series of conferences in Australia and New Zealand, which we duly did – over the years taking the show to such cities as Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Auckland. each year I shared the platform with a different line-up of speakers, starting off with Linda Descano and then opening out to include people like Tom Delfgaauw (then of Shell), Pamela Hartigan (Schwab Foundation), Rick Murray (Swiss Re), Sarah Severn (Nike), Simon Zadek (AccountAbility) and Debbie Zemke (then of Ford) and a kaleidoscope of local speakers, including politicians and business leaders.
When we first met, I said I was more interested in spotlighting the bottom line agenda than environmental reporting, but that had to wait till the second year – after which the TBL agenda replicated like rabbits across the Antipodean landscape. The only other country where I can say it had a similar impact, particularly in the 3P (People, Planet & Profits) formulation I had also come up with in 1994/5, was The Netherlands.
Now retired to Switzerland with his wife Dobrina, Murray had volunteered to fly over to celebrate our first meeting a decade ago – and all the exploits since. At times, over the years, it was like a Rolling Stones travelling show and, despite ourselves, we were soon pondering what we might do next as Elaine, he and I relaxed over a wonderful meal and French Pinot Noir at the Tamarind restaurant in Queen Street.
A distant mirror at the Tamarind
– posted by John Elkington @ 11:06 PM
Have been feeling pretty exhausted in recent days, struggling to get out of bed in the mornings. Probably a combination of factors: not travelling allows the wear and tear of past travelling to catch up; unhooking to a degree from SustainAbility after 21 years also must be having an emotional impact; and then there’s the effort of keeping options open for our new venture, Volans, as we search for offices and build our capability to tackle a new generation of projects.
Progress is being made, no question, but at times it’s often a lot slower than I would like. Maybe I’ve become impatient with old age? (Met someone this week who said she had read so much by me over the decades that she had expected me to be grey and wizened … I said I am grey and the wizening will no doubt come in due course.) When I think back to the 1978 when we founded ENDS and 1987 when we founded SustainAbility, things now are coming together at least as fast as they did then – but with the difference this time that we are sliding into a much tougher business environment.
It’s not just the developing financial crisis, but the sense that the environmentalist nightmare scenario is finally beginning to build momentum, with a combination of climate change, food shortages (partly fuelled by the demand for crops for biofuels) and rioting about food shortages in cities around the world possibly heralding a new, nastier era in global politics.
Sam waves goodbye as I head off somewhere …
Birthday celebration, with Patrin, Kavita, JP and Ori
Shot while Sam I walked to the ‘scrivener’ to have my passport notarised
Lovely morning as I wend my way to the Design Council in Bow Street, pretty much exactly where the Indonesian hit me in 1975 as I cycled down to King’s College, leaving me with three broken ribs – though I only realised how much damage had been done when I got into bed in Cairo later the same day. Today it’s a Franco-British Council debate on issues around the prospect for a post-Kyoto treaty on climate change. Profoundly useful session for the project we are discussing with the World Energy Council.
With market bears on the rampage, this bull opposite the Design Council caught my eye
And this picture of a brain, particularly the yellow pin
And the red and the yellow – and the white
Then this looked like some illumined brain behind glass
Remarkable start to the week, going out with Gaia and Hania on both Monday and this evening, Wednesday. Monday was dinner at Scott’s, the extraordinary seafood restaurant in Mayfair. A first time for us all – and in celebration of the girls making progress with their script-writing. An astounding start with four different sorts of oyster, and a highlight for me was the leek and potato soup made with wild garlic.
Then this evening, they took us on a mystery night out, to see what turned out to be the Tiger Lillies, a band Hania and John Jencks originally introduced me to – but which I hadn’t yet seen live. Tried to describe them to Elaine as we sat down for the concert, as some weird combination of scatological vaudeville and punk – but even so wasn’t prepared for the full force of their ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ show. God forbid that there was anyone in the audience who had just lost a baby or child. It takes a lot to shock me, but this show did. Still, one of those experiences that lives on in the memory, for better or worse. Three great instrumentalists, though.
Before the show
She’s eating fire
Thérèse Rein came in to the office today, to talk to Mark (Lee) and I. Impressive and engaging. Perhaps symbolically, the sun shone into our conference room as we talked, quite a surprise after earlier hail. As Australia’s relatively new PM, her husband Kevin has already taken some dramatically different positions on issues like climate change. They are turning out to be a breath of fresh air after the stagnation of the Howard era. Makes me even sadder to have had to cancel a trip to Australia this autumn.
Nice story in today’s Sunday Times about the discovery of a colony of short-snouted seahorses in the Thames estuary. Though discovered in 2006, the creatures have been kept under wraps until they could be protected. Another sign that the Thames is now far cleaner than it has been for a very long time, but also very likely a symptom of the warming waters associated with climate change.
Spent much of the day at the Work Foundation’s HQ, taking part in the first Tällberg Conversation, organised by Sweden’s Tällberg Foundation. The focus was on what sort of new economic model we now need, a question given greater urgency by what is happening in financial markets all around us.
Indeed, Jakob von Uexkull of the Right Livelihood Foundation(http://www.rightlivelihood.org/jakob.html) and World Future Council (http://www.rightlivelihood.org/jakob.html) – who I first met in the early 1980s when a number of us were launching The Other Economic Summit (TOES) – brought participants up short at one point in the proceedings by asking what would happen if the current economic model melted down to the extent that the heads of the sustainability movement were called up in the middle of the night and asked to take over the reins of government?
This was exactly what happened, he stressed, when Communism melted down in the late 1980s and people who had been on the margins, or in prison, were asked to take over. Not sure he got the sort of answers he wanted, but his question provides a useful goad in terms of the nature and scale of the challenges we are likely to face.
Keynoted the ‘Sustaining a Successful Brand’ conference today, organised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM). Down to Bristol by train last night, staying in a hotel where football seemed to be the cult du jour. Good to see Phil Comer again, who has championed our issues energetically and effectively within the CIM.
A lively plenary session – but I left for the station in the afternoon feeling quite grateful that I don’t have to record conferences against a training budget. This event, apparently, was worth five hours of professional development, under category 7, whatever that may, towards achieving or maintaining Chartered Marketer status. Progress, surely, that sustainable development now slots into all of that, but I hope that when the time comes that my sort of work is professionalised to anything like this extent I will be either long since gone – or long since dead.
It would be easy to say something along the lines of “How quickly time passes,” but the 30 years that have passed since David Layton, Max Nicholson and I set up Environmental Data Services, better known as ENDS, seem to have stretched over several lifetimes. After spending a couple of months doing a feasibility study while still at TEST, I arrived to find one staff member, Georgina McAughtry – later a Director – in place, ahead of me by a few days, and we took it from there.
Today I did an interview with the current Deputy Editor, Philip Lightowlers, which brought it all back to mind. My involvement partly stemmed from writing I had been doing over several years for New Scientist, increasingly focusing on business – and ENDS gave me the opportunity to visit a huge number of companies around the world at a time when the environmental agenda was just beginning to blink on the edge of their radar screens. Also led to my first book, The Ecology of Tomorrow’s World, published in 1980. My thanks to all at ENDS and at Incomes Data Services (IDS), the original parent company, who made the new venture possible.
It’s an odd reflection of the modern world that you can see far more of many events by staying away than by going, as was illustrated by today’s Oxford vs. Cambridge Boat Race. This was the seventieth year that the race has been televised, one commentator mentioned, but the degree to which cameras are now everywhere is extraordinary. Since the race passes Barnes, a few blocks over, Elaine walked down in the rain to watch from the river bank, while I stayed at home working on a new project for the World Energy Council. But simpy by turning to the television and snapping away at the screen, I could get more intimate – if somewhat granular – images of the race than Elaine could with the same sort of camera.
Light and dark
Ahead by more than a nose
The moment that …
I have no idea how it happened, but during the fifth Skoll World Forum on social entrepreneurship this week, I managed to slice open a knuckle. It happened when my mind was elsewhere. The theme of the event, held at the Saïd Business School in Oxford, was culture—and I was talking over lunch with an American who was trying to persuade me to help Disney (who have played a key role in defining our consumer cultures) engage the rapidly evolving world of social and environmental entrepreneurs. It was he who kindly pointed out that I was bleeding profusely, which later struck me as a metaphor for some of the challenges the world now faces—and which Al Gore would spotlight in an extraordinarily speech the next morning.
In the case of our planet, we have managed (without intending to) to slice into our global knuckles and knees, with the result that tropical forests are shrinking, fisheries collapsing and the polar ice-caps melting. Not much new there. Indeed, Jeff Skoll, who co-founded the online market eBay, introduced Gore by recalling the foreword the former US Vice-President had written in 1992 for a new edition of Rachel Carson’s paradigm-shifting book Silent Spring, published three decades earlier in 1962. At the time, Skoll noted, Carson was described as “hysterical” by the chemical industry and some of the scientific community. In the same way, many of the social and environmental entrepreneurs assembled in Oxford have been described as “crazy,” even by their family and friends—because they propose solutions to problems that most people see as insoluble. These are the extraordinary people who we spotlight in our new book, The Power of Unreasonable People.
As my finger continued to bleed, I was painfully aware that I was missing the start of the second of SustainAbility’s sessions on how to build successful partnerships between such actors. We had developed the sessions with the Skoll Foundation and two other leading organisations, the International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF) and IDEO, the hugely influential international design company. So successful were our sessions—and so great is the interest of social entrepreneurs in working with committed companies—that there were queues to get in, with even some leading entrepreneurs unable to gain entry.
There were queues, too, for other key sessions, particularly for the one with ex-President Jimmy Carter and the closing session featuring Al Gore. Though there was a strong sense, as Skoll, Foundation President Sally Osberg put it, that there are no “silver bullets,” there was an extraordinary degree of optimism about the potential to bring the world of the best social entrepreneurs to scale.
For me, one of the most fascinating presentations in that final session came from Paul Collier, author of The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It (http://users.ox.ac.uk/~econpco/). Interestingly, he argued that the direct markets represented by the world’s billion poorest people are “tiny.” Or at least they are tiny if we think of these people as consumers, but it could be very different if we think of them as producers. He proceeded to give some remarkable examples of how countries—whether coastal or land-locked—could create clusters of customized production, like the single town that now controls 65 percent of world button production.
As Acumen Fund’s Jacqueline Novogratz put it as the meeting drew towards a close, markets are “the best listening devices” we have for understanding people’s needs. Many of the world’s biggest social, economic and environmental challenges exist precisely because there are market failures, areas where the economy is both deaf and blind. So the third year of our Skoll Foundation-funded work on entrepreneurial solutions will switch from the social entrepreneurs (covered in our 2007 survey, Growing Opportunity, see http://www.sustainability.com/insight/skoll_article.asp?id=937) and their counterparts inside companies (who we spotlight in a new report called The Social Intrapreneur, see http://www.sustainability.com/insight/article.asp?id=1457) to the potential future markets for the sort of solutions that an increasingly populous and carbon-constrained world will demand.
Sonidas de la Tierra in the Sheldonian
Manuela (Fremy) posts it
Work in progress
Sophia on camera
Reflective monment, Richard Kelly of IDEO presiding
Back this morning from two days in Oxford. Initially had lunch with Sophia (Tickell) at The Jam Factory, then across the road to the Said Business School for the first advisory board meeting for 2degrees (http://www.2degreesnetwork.com/index.html), founded by serial entrepreneur Martin Chilcott. Then, yesterday, much of the day spent with Elaine, Geoff (Lye) and Sophia, before dinner in the evening with Sophia and her husband James.
Geoff and Elaine
Near the castle
My hat and coat on Geoff’s Klimt mannequin
Sam, Elaine and I spent the morning visiting some of the offices that are on the short-list for our new organisation, Volans Ventures. One, which I particularly liked, was highly reminiscent of the offices Earthlife had in Bedford Square over 20 years ago – and is also owned by Bedford Estates.
Can we vote our way to a sustainable future for a world of 9-10 billion people—or are new forms of leadership (even forms of dictatorship) going to be necessary?
Is China—with little need to consult its people—or India—with its flawed democracy—best placed to move towards more sustainable forms of development?
Are the time-scales of democratically elected governments appropriate for delivering sustainable development?
If not, what needs to be done—and by whom?
These are some of the questions we (The Environment Foundation, which I chair, and The 21st Century Trust, with support from The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation) have begun discussing at http://democracy.sustainability.com/.
Today we held a series of events at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre on the same issues – with a particular focus on London. Among the speakers was Doug Miller of GlobeScan, who brought along the Rt Hon Joe Clark, a long-serving Foreign Minister for Canada – and, briefly, that country’s PM. A particularly interesting session saw Sara Parkin presenting one of her former students, Jenny Pidgeon, now with Upstream.
Later, I found myself recruited onto the final panel at the last moment, chaired by Lord (Chris) Patten and also including Sara Parkin and Charles Secrett. Tom Burke did a couple of hugely insightful sessions. To minimise disruption, I didn’t use flash, which explains the suitably blurred effect in some of the images. Walked back to South Kensington station with Tessa Tennant.
Sara Parkin en route to be YouTubed
Hugh Knowles and Sara
Dana Centre 1
Dana Centre 2
Charles Secrett, Craig Bennett and statue
Preparing for ‘Question Time’
John Lotherington of The 2st Century Trust
Sara, Charles, Chris Patten
Professor Chris Rapley of The Science Museum sums up
Back late from highly impressive launch of Aflatoun (http://www.childsavingsinternational.org/) in Amsterdam. Last night, after a session with the impact metrics committee that I chair, we all went to dinner in a mini castle. Then today I chaired a lively session in the afternoon with a panel of bankers from around the world. Then a fair number of us climbed into a canal boat and went cruising through the drizzle. After a rushed – but delightful – dinner at an Indonesian restaurant in the city centre, I headed off to the Schipol.
Just back, h3 Los Angeles, from the Wall Street Journal ‘ECO:nomics’ conference in Santa Barbara, California, which was sub-titled ‘Creating Environmental Capital’ (http://www.economics.wsj.com/index.php). On the way out, I was bounced from an ANZ flight to LAX at Heathrow, when the plane had to turn back after an engine failed. The steward on the flight home told me he had been on that problem flight and that they had had an interesting hour-and-a-half flying around while they dumped enough fuel to make a safe landing. In the event, I ended up on Virgin Atlantic, which wasn’t as bad as I remembered, even though I was more or less cheek-by-jowl with the bar. Slept less than I had hoped.
Asked the taxi driver who drove me from the local airport what Santa Barbara is best known for and he answered rich people and its avocado and citrus orchards, even my weary brain recalled the Santa Barbara oil-spill of 1969, which did so much to spur early environmentalism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Barbara_oil_spill). Wasn’t sure whether that was why the Journal chose to locate the event there, but it made sense of a sort to me. They have always struck me as a lagging indicator of change in this field – and at least one of their people at the event was still in the old, snarkey mode, though interestingly she got precious little support from the audience.
Recalling the oil spill reminded me of just how long change can take. Indeed, it struck me as we drove into town that it is now 21 years since I produced The Green Capitalists, sub-titled ‘How Industry Can Make Money – and Save the Environment’ (Gollancz, 1987). With a final chapter by Tom Burke, the book mapped out much of what is now happening, though it has all taken rather longer than I think I then expected.
Thank God I had been reading Thomas McCraw’s absolutely stunning biography of Joseph Schumpeter, Prophet of Innovation (The Belknap Press, 2007), which underscores how long truly fundamental economic change can take. By the time I got home, I had read around 350 pages of the book, which is one of the most exciting works on economics – indeed on history – I have ever read.
Schumpeter was among my greatest influences in the late 1960s, alongside the likes of Nikolai Kondratiev, Thomas Kuhn (he of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, probably the book that most changed my thinking), Rachel Carson, Frank Herbert (particularly Dune, with its exploration of how environment shapes culture), Buckminster Fuller, Stewart Brand (the Whole Earth Catalog was pretty much my bible) and Jim Lovelock. I was privileged to meet Fuller, Herbert and Lovelock over the ensuing decades, but what I wouldn’t give for a couple of hours with Schumpeter in his later years! What an astounding personal story, full of intense intellectual excitement and Stygian tragedies, all set against booms, busts, two world wars and the Cold War. Page 300 brought it all home with a vengeance.
But back to ECO:nomics. A very impressive roster of CEOs spoke, starting with GE’s Jeff Immelt (who I missed, since that was on the first evening and I was still in the air) and then including folk like Lee Scott of Wal-Mart, Andrew Liveris of Dow Chemical, Jim Rogers of Duke Energy, Bob Lutz of GM and Dieter Zetsche of Daimler. Among the NGO speakers were Mindy Lubber of CERES and Fred Krupp of Environmental Defense, whose new book – Earth: The Sequel – The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming – was handed out. Delightfully, The Power of Unreasonable People went into everyone’s bags, themselves a nice shade of green and supplied by Patagonia.
The most inspiring session – SustainAbility CEO Mark Lee said to me later – was that by John Doerr of venture capitalists Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. But the session I found most useful was the one that pitched the climate specialists for the three major presidential campaigns – McCain, Clinton, Obama – against each other. Fascinating to see how the issue has now shifted to centre-stage, though with the financial market news getting darker by the day in the background, it will be interesting to see how robust the climate interest proves in the coming months. Sadly, I missed the final summing up by Arnold Schwarzeneggger, because I had a couple of planes to catch and a carbon footprint to extend.
Another (professional) photographer at work – witness the size of his lens
Lee Scott explains his ‘personal sustainability plan’
Abyd Karmali, Global Head of Carbon Emissions, Merrill Lynch
In the distance, centre stage, an oil-rig
Dinner at the Bacara Resort & Spa
In the LAX lounge, I watched the planes go by – and tractors waltz to and fro – as I imbibed Schumpeter
Very lively meeting with Rupert Bassett and the team (Maggie, Alexa) on the design of the latest report produced as part of our Skoll Foundation-funded work. Getting to this point has been tough work for all, but I always enjoy this stage. This time we are focusing on social intrapreneurship, entrepreneurial work done on social and environmental challenges inside major companies.
Alexa (Clay), Maggie (Brenneke), me and Rupert (Bassett)
Shooter shot (Sam)
Forced to lie upside down on the Power Plate this evening, to relieve the intense ache in my shoulder muscles from another day spent at the laptop, tapping away at the second in our series of reports for the Skoll Foundation, this time on social intrepreneurs. Worked most of the time at the kitchen table, from which I could see – through the glazed roof – the successive layers of rain cloud pass through. A large storm is meant to be on the way. Had been hoping to cycle to work tomorrow, but perhaps I’d end up in Kansas? What with having ‘flu for something like 6 weeks before it finally went, and travelling fairly intensively in the midst of it all, have not been cycling as much as I would have liked, and am seriously mising it. Still, got a modest walk in today, watching parakeets fly past against the gathering clouds.
Interesting article by Charles Campion on wild garlic in today’s Independent Magazine. Known by some as Ramsons and by others as Snake’s Food, Stinking Jenny or Bear’s Garlic, I remember the plant well from when I was away at prep school near Wookey Hole and Wells, in Somerset. In the woods on the grounds there were areas of Ramsons, which I used to snack on – without at the time realising what they were. Then one evening, when all the boys were having supper, the headmistress – the redoubtable Mrs Adams – suddenly brought the proceedings to a grinding halt and demanded to know who had been eating garlic.
With no idea that this was what I had been eating, I stayed mum. So she embarked on a grand tour of the dining hall, smelling every boy’s breath, until she came to me. She was quite convinced that I had a stash of something like garlic sausage in my tuck-box. So an inspection of said tuck-box was duly initiated. When she heard that instead the aroma reflected the fact that I was in the habit of eating leaves, roots and berries around the grounds, she took it even worse than if the alleged sausage had been discovered. But, somehow, I had always had a sense of what was edible and what not – and continue to find Ransoms exquisitely beautiful to this day.
Sam (Lakha) was in the British Library yesterday when she noticed that a nearby reader, apparently with much evident pleasure, was absorbed in The Power of Unreasonable People. So at least it’s out there.
Am just starting the process of contributing to a Harvard Business Review online discussion on ‘The Hard Economics of Green’ (http://www.hbrgreen.org), following on from an initial post by Sir Stuart Rose on Marks & Spencer’s ‘Plan A’ (see http://www.hbrgreen.org/2008/03/the_hard_economics_of_green.html).
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.
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