Hania, who came back from Greece just before I arrived back from Brazil, took this picture for me while there – in the spirit of my CounterCurrent symbolism. Wish I had taken it!
Spoke at a lunch today hosted by Camargo Correa, a complex Brazilian group straddling areas like cement, construction, environmental engineering, textiles and footwear. Had met one of the shareholders, Renata Camargo Nascimento, a while back at an Alcoa Foundation event. With the aid of people like Carla Duprat and Ciro Fleury, she is encouraging the group down (or is it up?) the sustainability path. Among others, also met her daughter Luiza.
One of our challenges going forward, and particularly as SustainAbility does more work in countries like Brazil and India, will be to explore how best to help family-owned businesses like this. At least potentially, some of them could prove to have longer term time horizons than publicly listed companies.
As I left, Renata gave me a pack of information on Camago Correa – all contained in a large transparent bag, into which were inset a set of 12 flip-flops in different colours, symbolising one of their other businesses. And because the bag didn’t fit into my case, I carried it on top of my bags as I went through the airport later in the day. Remarkable how many people followed m pointing at the bag – and one very attractive woman even came up to me as I was about to go through security to ask me where I had got the bag? She wanted one, if at all possible. Felt as if I was trawling a succulently baited hook through the waters.
One thing I signally failed to do in the speech, however, was to refer to a key project SustainAbility did recently for IFC. This report made the point that companies from emerging economies are increasingly making their presence felt in the global business community. Not only are they acquiring more and more companies in the developed world, but they are also pursuing strategies that are highly competitive with those of established businesses in western markets.
Market Movers: Lessons from a Frontier of Innovation explores whether such emerging economy firms are also managing to embed sustainability in their business strategies in ways that stand comparison with companies anywhere else in the world. It tells the stories of four firms ranging across the globe from Beijing to Sao Paulo – in many cases operating in some of the most challenging environments in which to foster commercial success – and how they have found business value in strategies based on sustainability.
The companies are: Amanco, a Latin American water pipe manufacturer that decided to develop a new water-tight technology and cater to low-income customers; Deqingyuan, an ambitious Chinese enterprise which supplies high-quality eggs in Beijing; Jubilant Organosys, an Indian chemical producer that has been able to reassure and attract investors with its high environmental, health, and safety record and efficient sustainability reporting; and MAS Holdings, a Sri Lankan apparel manufacturer that increased the retention of its mostly female employees by offering them benefits, including training courses in information technology. The company is now a supplier to some of the world’s leading retailers.
The report identifies a number of ‘ingredients of success’ – factors that contributed to the strong results in all four case studies and helped them overcome some of the constraints that many emerging-economy companies face. The five ingredients are :Leadership: the role of the chief executive or chairman in pushing through a strategy based on sustainability. Integration: the embedding of sustainability elements in corporate strategies from the very beginning. Innovation: using sustainability as a source of innovation. Differentiation: having the courage to be different. Quality of relationships: business benefits from strong relationships with stakeholders – suppliers, customers, employees.
Today, Silvia Thompson and I visited one of the most fascinating social enterprises I have encountered, Turma do Bem. Founded by dentist Dr. Fábio Bibancos, the organisation has inspired thousands of Brazilian dentists to offer their services pro bono to the country’s poorest young people (through to age 18) – for whom bad teeth (or no teeth at all) mean not just an inability to smile and engage others, but also compound the problems of poverty by massively increasing the chances that they will be unable to find a suitable job. One of the striking facts I picked up was the point that one of the men Turma do Bem helped had been turned down for a job with the police force – which requires candidates to have at least 20 teeth.
First met Fabio at the Schwab Foundation summit in Zurich earlier in the year – and recall Pamela (Hartigan)’s semi-ecstatic reaction when she first encountered Turma do Bem, which applies Robin Hood principles to dentistry, cross-subsidising treatment of the poor through services supplied to the better-off. Very much like their lead value: ‘To do for the others what we’d do for our children.’ Spent a wonderful couple of hours with Fábio, Tatiana Cleff and Eduardo Moura Egas, and came away determined to help Turma do Bem if I possibly can.
Writing on the wall
Arrived in São Paulo first thing on Monday morning and raced (if that was the word in the midst of intense traffic jams) into the city to take part in the 10th anniversary meeting of Instituto Ethos’ International Advisory Board. The lanes of traffic were shot through with speeding motorcyclists, travelling at impossibly unsafe speeds – indeed, I saw one come off in collision with a vehicle and as we crawled past, the growing crowd of other bikers gathering around his still form looked pretty much like a group of mourners.
A very different spirit at Ethos, where I took part over a couple of days in a meeting of the Ethos International Advisory Board, which at times – as I (and others) put it at various stages – felt like an exercise in group therpy for some of the leaders of the global corporate responsibility movement. On the second day, however, the energy went external and the thing took off.
Among other things during these few days, I addressed a group of participants in the Ethos Sustainability Management Strategies Program, chaired a plenary session at the Ethos anniversary summit on financial management for sustainable development – and was a panellist (with Ernst Lichteringen of GRI, VCP President José Luciano Duarte Penido, Ricardo Young of Ethos and Simon Zadek) in a 2-hour session with Ray Anderson of Interface, moderated by Helio Mattar, President of the Akatu Institute for Conscious Consumption – and another Ethos co-founder. The theme here was ‘Global leadership Towards Sustainability’. this is something that the Ethos founders have consistently offered the rest of us – and it’s a huge privilege to be on the journey with them all.
Jane Nelson and Brad Googins Jane, Oded and Georg Kell (UN Global Compact) behind Simon Zadek The rhetoric, at least, is changing Tomorrow’s tools Liked the spirals: on right, Cynthia Rosenburg of Época NEGÓCIOS (to which I contribute a regular column) Cynthia, Georg My shadow on a Golden Road TV truck – who’s listening or watching? Ditto Four answers to the question: Where will the next decade take us?
By car this afternoon with Tábata Villares of Ethos to do a TV interview for Rede Globo’s Globo News (Conta Corrente). Generous fomat, apparently allowing for over 20 minutes on screen when broadcast next week. Delightful interviewer – the only thing I’m kicking myself over is that when she asked me to list the most ecologically damaging industries I somehow managed to miss the fossil fuels producers. Maybe all that make-up had gone to my head? Then Tábata and her boyfriend drove me back to the Ethos event, after I had made the acquaintance of their Dachshund, which was charming – but developed a compulsive attachment to my leg.
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
I began this blog with an entry reporting on a visit to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, on 30 September 2003. The blog element of the website has gone through several iterations since, with older material still available on this site.
Like so many things in my life, blog entries blur the boundaries between the personal and the professional. As explained on the Home Page, the website and the blog are part platform for ongoing projects, part autobiography, and part accountability mechanism.
In this new iteration of the site, the ‘Comments’ function has been reanimated. Please do make use of it.