Saturday, October 30, 2004
REGIME CHANGE IN LIABILITY INSURANCE
Back late last night from three days in Zurich, attending a conference on the future of liability insurance hosted by Swiss Re, the reinsurance group. Geoff Lye presented the results of SustainAbility’s forthcoming report, The Changing Landscape of Liability – for which Swiss Re was one of the major funding partners. Event held at Swiss Re’s Rüschlikon conference centre. The conclusions were very well received – and I’ll do a more detailed note on them when the report appears late in November.
Great opportunity to catch up with Peter Zollinger, whose home is ten minutes walk from the conference centre, to agree a new program for SustainAbility – and to try out the ‘Mobility’ service he uses rather than owning a car.
Geoff Lye and Peter Zollinger with ‘Mobility’ car (©JE)
Rüschlikon 1 (©JE)
Rüschlikon 2 (©JE)
Rüschlikon 3 (©JE)
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Text message from Elaine saying John Peel has died of a heart attack in Cuzco, Peru. Pretty much my favorite voice on radio. I first saw Peel at Middle Earth, Covent Garden, in the late 1960s, where he was DJ-ing. Shared his taste for bands like The Incredible String Band and Country Joe and the Fish at the time, but not always his later enthusiasms. The music magazine NME gave him a ‘Godlike Genius’ award 10 years back, which was stretching things a smidgeon, but he will be sorely missed.
Monday, October 25, 2004
DEBATING THE CORPORATION
Spent the morning with a group of Japanese companies exploring the corporate social responsibility agenda in Europe. Then some writing, then across to ERM with Judy Kuszewski to do a session with their Chairman Robin Bidwell and some of his colleagues in the CSR area. Then on to the Soho Curzon to chair a debate on The Corporation, a new film based on the book of the same name – and subtitled ‘The pathological pursuit of profit and power’. Among the panellists were Joel Bakan, who wrote the book and Jennifer Abbott who co-directed the film, plus good people from ActionAid (Ruchi Tripathi, www.actionaid.org), Corporate Watch (Claire Fauset, www.corporatewatch.org) and Platform (Dan Gretton, www.platformlondon.org).
Saturday, October 23, 2004
THE NEWS: KYOTO GOOD, BAGHDAD BAD
The news that the Russian Dura has ratified the Kyoto protocol on climate change is encouraging, given that it paves the way for an international system of emissions trading. It’s inevitable that as these great ecosystem issues become mainstream particular countries will use them to leverage their own interests – in this case, Russia wanted EU support for its application for membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
But an even more highly-publicised bit of attempted leverage – dominating the front pages – is the story of the kidnapping of Care International Iraq’s chief, Margaret Hassan. Given how much she and CARE have done for the country over such a long timescale, it brings home even more powerfully both how this war risks spiralling out of political control (e.g. with NGOs dragged into the fray) and how complicit the media can be in feeding the whole process, whether or not this is the intent.
I sent a message of support to CARE today (www.care.org). To do likewise click on the title of this entry.
NATSONS: EXCELLENCE AT MICRO SCALE
Over the nearly 30 years we have lived in Barnes, our newspapers have been delivered faithfully every day by a nearby newsagent, Natsons. As I sat this morning, ploughing through The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent and The Times, as usual, it struck me how easily we come to take such services for granted. Travelling to Zurich on Tuesday, I will sadly miss an open evening at Natsons – celebrating the fact that they have just won the 2004 UK-wide Retail Industry Industry Award for ‘Independent Newsagent of the Year’, which is quite something.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
COMMISSION FOR AFRICA
Started day wandering across Horse Guards Parade in search of HM Treasury, which is at 1 Horse Guards Road. Shows how much I know about the institutions of British governance. Still, the Parade was impressive in the early light, and I did eventually get back on track, thanks to a couple of heavily armed constables. I was chairing a workshop at a Commission for Africa conference hosted by Treasury, focusing on how the private sector can support improvements in public sector governance in Africa.
Then, after lunch, on to Docklands for a meeting of the Advisory Council of the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD). A series of sculptures caught my eye as I walked from Canary Wharf to the ECGD, including an aggressively canine one outside Canary Wharf Tube station which was like something out of Ghostbusters, a disembodied head (which impresses somewhat differently in the light of the Iraq beheadings) and a bronze rower outside the ECGD building – though the preserved dockside crane is also pretty scuptural.
Horse Guards Parade (©JE)
Canine sculpture (©JE)
Disembodied head (©JE)
Rower and crane (©JE)
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
MONTGOMERY COMES TO LUNCH
Thanks to a link-up effected by Francesca Muller, Stephen Bungay of Ashridge Management College did a lunchtime session for us today at SustainAbility. The author of books like The Most Dangerous Enemy (probably the most insightful book I have yet read on the Battle of Britain) and Alamein (the story of the battle of El Alamein, which is now top of my to-read pile alongside Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, just sent through to me by Steve Warshal), Bungay develops management insights from the thinking and behaviour of WWII leaders.
His tack today was to look at how Montgomery handled his first 100 days in the desert – and particularly the first speech he gave to his new command. Though I find much about Montgomery hugely uncomfortable, his use of language on this occasion, much of it monosyllabic, was quite masterly.
Am reading The Most Dangerous Enemy at the moment and finding it totally absorbing, with new facts and angles on every page. It was interesting that even team members too young to have had parents involved in WWII were rapt.
My father, Tim, was due to be posted to North Africa, but was switched to fly off CAM (Catapult Aircraft Merchantmen) ships, as the convoys fought their way round to Murmansk and Archangel. That was considered at the time to be pretty suicidal, but of the rest of his squadron sent to the desert, only one pilot survived. And Elaine’s father, Stanley, was in the desert for six years, as a doctor treating skin diseases. He was married just before the war, then didn’t see his wife, Margaret, until after the war ended.
I confess I had been slightly fretful about exposing the team to such military history and analogies, but their reaction was hugely positive and engaged, not least because the analysis was so insightful. Odd concatenation of circumstances, though, that I then had a (quite unrelated) meeting with – among others – an anti-defence-industry activist, as preparation for a film preview I have to chair a panel discussion at next week. The film: The Corporation.
Although I was true to type in the Sixties and radically opposed to the military-industrial complex, my view these days is that – given the sort of species we are and our history – the 21st century is likely to be at least as hazardous as the 20th, and that we will always need a defence industry. But the one we have, globally, is massively corrupt and generally motivated by the basest of principles – which makes my argument rather difficult to sustain.
Monday, October 18, 2004
A weekend largely spent on finalising our new benchmark survey report, developed with Standard & Poor’s and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Poor Nick (Robinson) was holed up for much of the time in the office, holding the reins on the various horses, and working via telephone with Rupert (Bassett) on the design and layout. I really enjoy this stage, particularly the way late-stage thinking bubbles up and creates much of a report’s character.
Eventually, the horses were stabled and the report went off to the printers this morning. One of the issues it deals with is the extent to which even leading companies report candidly and coherently on their lobbying of governments: the answer is very little, though a couple of companies are now breaking ranks.
This afternoon, with Seb (Beloe) and Katie Fry Hester of our US team, I went across to WWF’s London offices for a 3-hour Chatham House Rule session with NGOs and companies on the same theme – how corporate lobbying can be made more transparent and, a closely linked question, how companies in solution-providing sectors can be aligned to lobby more effectively for the sort of market changes that will help drive sustainable development. Then home, on my rather painful sprained ankle, for supper with Jane Nelson. As ever, an enormously stimulating conversation with one of the key figures in this area.
Friday, October 15, 2004
RULES FROM THE HP GARAGE
Across to Hewlett-Packard in Palo Alto, driven by a Bangadeshi who – it turned out – used to work with Muhammad Yunus of Grameen fame. Like many others, he’s here angling for a role in the continuing Silicon Valley adventure. I spent part of the day being made up with a powder puff in the HP boardroom, prior to shooting several brief commentaries on the e-waste recycling prospect for something that will apparently air on CNN and CNBC. On the way back to the airport (SFO – and a striking contrast to the garage era architecture) to meet Mark Lee ahead of flying out, I had the same driver take me across to the garage where there the HP story started.
Always loved The ‘HP Way’ – and the 11 rules developed by Bill Hewlett and David Packard in the early days:
Believe you can change the world.
Work quickly, keep the tools unlocked, work whenever.
Know when to work alone and when to work together.
Share – tools, ideas. Trust your colleagues.
No politics. No bureaucracy. (These are ridiculous in a garage.)
The customer defines a job well done.
Radical ideas are not bad ideas.
Invent different ways of working.
Make a contribution every day. If it doesn’t contribute, it doesn’t leave the garage.
Believe that together we can do anything.
The HP garage (©JE)
SFO detail (©JE)
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Another missed opportunity. Elaine and I were invited earlier in the year to a ninetieth birthday celebration for John Seymour, whose obituary appears in The Times today. Couldn’t go, because I was travelling, so I never got to meet the man – though his writings on self-sufficiency were a key part of the movement that I got embroiled in during the 1970s.
Seymour’s books in this area included The Complete Guide to Self-Sufficiency, Far From Paradise, and Blueprint for a Green Planet, written with Herbie Girardet, who I first met in 1976, I think when we both worked on an alternative version of that year’s UN Habitat Conference. The UN did its stuff in Montreal, I seem to remember, whereas we tried to demonstrate alternative technologies and aspects of sustainable lifestyles in, of all places, Surrey Docks.
Much of the movement’s energy has since gone into mainstreaming projects, like the work that we now do with business, but the self-sufficiency strand remains a key part of the DNA of the wider sustainability community.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
SoL SEARCHING IN DEARBORN
Just spent an entertaining and informative couple of days at the Society for Organizational Learning’s ‘Business Innovation for Sustainability’ Forum in Dearborn, Michigan, cheek-by-jowl with Ford’s manufacturing heart. Bill Ford, the company’s CEO, did the best speech I have yet heard him give by way of welcome.
Other speakers included the likes of Peter Senge (of The Fifth Discipline fame and the prime mover behind SoL), Peem Juan Arcos (from the Ecuadorian rainforest and resplendent in a rainbow of feathers when I had breakfast alongside him), Janine Benyus (of Biomimicry fame), Stuart Hart (who has done more than anyone else to get our sort of issues into the pages of the Harvard Business Review – and whose impending new book I was reading in advance copy on the plane across), Leroy Little Bear (a Blackfoot and former director of the Harvard Native Studies Program) and Amory Lovins (of the Rocky Mountain Institute and co-author of a new report – Winning the Oil End Game, see www.oilendgame.org).
My session focused on ten years – to date – of the triple bottom line, and I had two leading figures in the field riding shotgun: Sarah Severn of Nike and Mike Dupee of Green Mountain Coffee. Ended up with standing room only and an energetic – but time-limited – discussion. It was wonderful to be there and there were some excellent sessions, but I came away acutely and uncomfortably aware of just how big the gap is between where this movement is and where the world needs to be by, say, 2050.
Ford conference center reflects (©JE)
Fuel cell Ford (©JE)
Gil Friend (www.natlogic.com) and David Isaacs (www.theworldcafe.com) (©JE)
Saturday, October 09, 2004
Bought Brian Wilson’s Smile (Nonesuch Records – www.nonesuch.com) at the Royal Festival Hall earlier in the week and have been playing it more or less constantly . Unbelievable that much of this was written when he was 24. Recorded after the concert I saw – also at the RFH – earlier in the year. have loaded it onto my iPod for the flight to Detroit tomorrow.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
BILL WYMAN’S RHYTHM KINGS
Much of the day spent in meetings or working to finish the latest Global Reporters benchmark survey. Lunch at the Tate Modern restaurant, overlooking the Thames, with Seb (Beloe) and Kavita (Prakash-Mani) and Mandy Cormack of Unilever. And then …
Thames from Tate Modern (©JE)
… across to the Royal Festival Hall in the evening for an evening with Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings. Glorious music, with Ronnie Wood of the Stones and Eddie Floyd (‘Knock on Wood’) joining the band on stage. Charlie Watts of the Stones in the audience. We took Hania and Steve Warshal, of Greenpeace Business, among other things. First time I had seen guitarist Albert Lee in performance: blazing solos and delightful stage presence. Stunning encore, Johnny Burnette’s Tear It Up, with four guitars going at it hammer and tongs: Terry Taylor (co founder of the Rhythm Kings with Wyman), Lee, Wood and the extraordinary jazz guitarist Martin Taylor (www.martintaylor.com).
On his website, Wyman says that this is the last tour of by the Rhythm Kings. I hope this is just another case of a “last farewell” followed by others, but at his age I wouldn’t be surprised.
Terry Taylor and Bill Wyman (©JE)
Graham Broad, Ronnie Wood, Albert Lee and Frank Mead (©JE)
Wood, Broad and Eddie Floyd (©JE)
Mike Sanchez (© Hania Elkington)
Albert Lee and Nick Payn (©JE)
Tearing it up, with Martin Taylor, second left (©JE)
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
Attended my first Council meeting at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and the Society’s 250th AGM, which was a fairly historic moment. The Council meeting included a session on illegal drugs. In the discussion period, where most people had focused on users, I dived in towards the end – just after a judge sitting two seats along from me had spoken – to declare, in the interests of full disclosure, that I had taken illegal drugs in the 1960s, including LSD, and might well do so again if the circumstances were right, before I turned to the subject of the drug producers.
I noted that this is now a huge, highly profitable industry, that is pouring money into R&D. Put together ongoing (mainstream) work on human genomics and pharmacology, I noted, and the chances are that the next 20-30 years will see a flood of new psychoactive substances in our streets and homes that we can scarcely even guess at today. I don’t like this, indeed I think the vast illegal drugs trade is yet another dreadful legacy from the Sixties, but if we simply focus on users the flood is going to be over our heads before we have put together any sort of Ark.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
THE HOXTON APPRENTICE
Another social enterprise. Elaine and I went to The Hoxton Apprentice for dinner with two long-standing friends, Jonathan and Andrea Shopley. Developed by the charity, Training For Life, this is the first in a planned series of Restaurants For Life that will “combine high quality dining with a training and support environment for disadvantaged people from a local community.” All profits are ploughed back into the work of the charity. Restaurateur and chef Prue Leith designed the menu.
Had slightly wondered what we were in for, but it turned out to be a really delightful evening. The restaurant, housed in what was apparently once a school, proved to be in a high-roofed space which meant that you could hear each other speak, the front-of-house staff were incredibly friendly and professional, and the food was excellent. Keen to go again.
Among other things, caught up on Future Forests (www.futureforests.com), which Jonathan runs, and which has recently been the subject of some critical coverage in The Guardian. One reason, I suspect, is that Future Forests is a for-profit social enterprise, as SustainAbility is. We also had some challenging coverage in The Guardian and The Independent in the late 1980s, the second running a story with a massive cartoon showing a very large wolf in sheep’s clothing – which I think was meant to be me. Another reason, for the challenge, though, is that much of the money raised for Future Forests goes into buying carbon sequestration rights rather than planting trees, which is absolutely legitimate but not necessarily understood by everyone donating money.
It’s actually a fascinating time to be involved in all of this, with a growing range of social enterprises spanning the not-for-profit-through-to-fully-for-profit spectrum. This is another area that would benefit from better communication and greater accountability, but also from what Tim Smith (the social entrepreneur responsible for the Eden project) called for in the interview I did with him for SustainAbility’s newsletter Radar (www.sustainability.com/news/articles/core-team-and-network/john-elkington-tim-smit-interview.asp). In this case, he argued that “the environment movement needs to get closer together and be supportive of each other, forgiving of dissenting views, but working hard to establish those things we can agree on.” Ditto the wider movement that is trying to scale up the response to these challenges through purpose-built enterprises.
Saturday, October 02, 2004
ON BREAKING CODES – AND ANKLES
Back to London last night: distinctly cooler and Heathrow glittering in recent rain. A wonderful break and managed to plough through five books, apart from anything else.
Odd how many of them had something to do with breaking codes: Bill Bryson’s A Short Hisory of Nearly Everything, was the first, with its accounts of things like the breaking of the genetic code; then I read Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress, the sort of thing that John Buchan in an earlier era would have described as a ‘shocker’, which focuses on the US National Security Agency’s six-storey TRANSLATR (sic) code-breaking mega-machine; Andrew Robinson’s The Man Who Deciphered Linear B, an account of the life and work of Michael Ventris, the man who cracked the earliest European writing system pretty much at the same time that Watson and Crick were unravelling the secrets of the double helix of DNA; and, another shocker, Tom Clancy’s The Teeth of the Tiger, which is fairly gripping, but generally struck me as post-9/11 American wish-fulfillment.
By the end of our time on Lake Maggiore, my eye was trying to decode the deep symbolism of virtually everything, from the Moon sailing overhead as we watched bats flitting back and forth in pursuit of insects to workaday signs chasing each other across a hoarding in the backstreets of Locarno.
Maybe that’s why I lost my footing on our penultimate day, walking back from the dock, where we had disembarked from a boat from Ascona. Ended up twisting my ankle fairly badly — and am still wearing an elastic sock with the affected areas sluiced in Arnica cream. Amazing how everyone starts looking at you once you develop something as simple as a limp.
Full-ish Moon (©JE)
Arrows pointing to Locarno’s Castle of the Counts (©JE)