Sunday, November 30, 2003
Pilot lite: Gaia as Amelia Earhart (©JE)
Passing through en route to Cotswolds, Shaftesbury and Bristol, the latter for a fancy dress party, Gaia flew into the kitchen in full regalia. I always loved the stories, even if they both ended tragically, of Amelia Earhart and Amy Johnson – Johnson shot down, it seems, by one of our own flak batteries in WWII.
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
Just in from a fascinating evening at the Foreign Press Association Media Awards, held at the Park Lane Hotel, as part of a table hosted by Rory Stear of Freeplay Energy (www.freeplay.net). Among other things, he’s one of the Schwab Foundation’s social entrepreneurs. Freeplay develop windup radios and other devices that help connect people in the developing world – though one unexpectedly large market post-9/11, apparently, has been Americans stocking up their bunkers.
U2’s Bono, clutching a pint of Guinness, cheered up the journalists present by saying (via video) that they were at the “top of the food chain of information”. But they took some cheering up: the issue of ‘friendly fire’ kept coming up – with over 50 journalists killed this year, and John Simpson getting an award for his reporting after a friendly fire incident in Iraq which killed 15 people. One of the winners was the cameraman who continued filming after the incident, wiping his own blood off the camera lens.
Alastair Campbell did a surprisingly funny speech, part of which recalled how he had recently rescued someone in North London who had been beaten up by thugs, helping him to find his way back to a church. Then he handed him his card, at which point the rescued victim realised who his rescuer was and said: “You’re Alastair Campbell? I fucking hate you!” Quite endearing. Hard to disagree with him when he said that skepticism about politicians has morphed into cynicism and even phobias, though it’s equally hard not to see him as part of the problem.
Sat next to Anita Roddick, of The Body Shop, which was good fun. It’s 15 years since she did the foreword for The Green Consumer Guide. Currently, she is much exercised about child slavery. She was handing out this year’s Environment Prize, sponsored by Freeplay, which went to a team which made a TV documentary about China’s much-abused moon bears. One of the things we talked about was the art of blogging, something she does very energetically (www.anitaroddick.com).
Several Andersons present, including Clive (who told an endless series of jokes, one of which was about George W. Bush sitting down so fast when he arrived at Heathrow that Blair didn’t have time to kiss him on both cheeks) and Gillian, of X-Files fame, who wore a ravishing red dress but looked somewhat trucculent throughout.
Sunday, November 23, 2003
B&HRRC: Greg Regaignon, Chris Marsden, Chris Avery (©JE)
Week started off with meeting of ACCA social and environmental committee, which I chair, on Monday. That evening, Jed Emerson arrived to stay. On Tuesday I accompanied him to his event on his Blended Value Map (www.blendedvalue.org) at the London Business School.
Thrown in amongst everything else over these few days, did interviews for two different parts of Newsweek and for the Wall Street Journal (who are profiling Tom Burke).
Meeting of ECGD Advisory Council on Wednesday, after which I return to chaos on the Underground. Nothing to do with President Bush’s visit, they say: signal failures, although I’m still unsure why they threw us all out of Green Park station and told us to walk to Hyde Park Corner. But while I’m away in Lancaster several of the SustainAbility team take part in the protests in London, during one of which an effigy/statue of Bush is toppled.
Took train to Lancaster on Thursday morning. Picked up from the station by Professor V.N. Balasubramanyam of the University’s Economics Department, for the Esmee Fairbairn Lecture I was due to give that evening. Following in footsteps of people like Lord Jenkins and Samuel Brittan. My theme is: ‘Sustainable business: useful – or dangerously misleading oxymoron?’. Useful, I say, but dangerous if we forget just how volatile markets are – and need to be. End by referring to the work of people like Joseph Schumpeter and Nikolai Kondratiev.
Turns out that the new vice-chancellor is Paul Wellings, who I knew when he was at CSIRO in Australia. Nice evening after the lecture, followed by dinner at Paul’s home with a range of people from the University and business. Then back to London on Friday, with a carriage-full of extremely unpleasant supporters of some sport or another. Much of the week devoted to the latest issue of Radar, which will be on the HIV/AIDS issue.
And then on Saturday, yesterday, a meeting of the Trustees of the Amnesty spin-off, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (B&HRRC). Held in SustainAbility’s offices. The photo shows Chris Avery, who has built this extraordinary website (www.business-humanrights.org), Chris Marsden who chairs both the B&HRRC and Amnesty International’s UK business group, and Greg Regaignon, who is helping with the US side of things. Also met Annabel Short for the first time: she has joined to help Chris A with the website, together with Debbie Legall, a volunteer. Good news is that Mary Robinson has agreed to chair the International Advisory Network.
Yesterday was also the 40th anniversary of the JFK assassination. Can still remember the news arriving literally like a bombshell in the common room at our Bryanston house, Forrester. Initially, I recall, the story was that he had been hit by a bazooka in Mexico. Walked around the site, including the Grassy Knoll, a few years back when I was in Dallas. The whole saga still exerts an extraordinary pull, even after all these years.
Saturday, November 15, 2003
Heavy metal: Henry Moore sculpture @ Wolfsberg (©JE)
Day started horribly early, with a 7.30 briefing of speakers for yet another event on sustainability. Really excellent speech to start with by Professor John Silber, President Emeritus of Boston University. Then Peter (Zollinger) and I ran two of the parallel sessions, focusing on global environmental trends and the implications for competitiveness.
Asked to be provocative, I compared the chief financial officers (CFOs) present – and their companies – to the pigs that they had watched race the previous evenings. Like the pigs, companies compete as they strain every sinew to gain the prizes on offer, be they apples or market share. No-one welcomes those who lean over the fence and ask whether the pigs (or companies) have woken up to the fact that the circumstances in which they find themselves aren’t designed with their long-term best interests in mind. But at least it raised a laugh!
After lunch, walked around the Henry Moore sculpture on the hill overlooking the nearby lake, before once again taking a taxi, this time to Zurich airport. Booked on BA, but ended up on a packed plane operated by Swiss, sitting in the very back row of seats, and feeling distinctly queasy as the plane bucked vigorously in high winds as it dropped towards Heathrow. Only mildly sedated by reading John Keegan’s remarkable new book on intelligence in warfare through the ages.
Thursday, November 13, 2003
Schweine: After the pig race (©JE)
Still in Switzerland. Took train to Zurich on Tuesday, staying with Peter and Doris Zollinger in their home overlooking the lake. Yesterday afternoon, Alois Flatz of Sustainable Asset Management (SAM) picked me up and we drove to Vorarlberg in Austria, where we were staying in the Hotel Deuring Schlossle.
The old castle, converted from a fortification into a mansion in the 17th century, has a wonderful atmosphere, but rain was belting down as we arrived in the dark, continued through a splendid dinner (spotlit by the floodlighting outside the castle) and was still at work this morning when we drove to the conference venue.
We were speaking at the 20th International Economy Forum, this time focusing on sustainability. Massive audience and speakers projected onto large screens, so we all had to be made up before our ordeals. Among other speakers, I was delighted to catch up with Jermyn Brooks, who was Global Partner with PwC when I first met him and more recently has been part of the directorate of anti-corruption organisation Transparency International.
Alongside the conference centre was a stage, jutting out into Lake Constanz, set for West Side Story, with the scenery powerfully suggesting the collapsing towers of the World Trade Center. Walked around it in the rain, then was picked up by a taxi for the 1.5 hour drive back to Wolfsberg, the UBS executive development centre. Had been told to bring waterproof clothing, but had pretty much ignored the instructions, thinking it was for optional walking in the countryside. Instead, it turned out that we were having dinner on a farm, with over 100 bankers and their clients eating in a barn, over a the byre where some 80 cows looked on nonplussed.
When I first arrived, I found the guests standing around what looked like a race course, with pigs milling around at various points. I was told that a pig race had just happened – and that another would soon start. Happily, fretting about animal welfare, I was taken off for a drink in one of the barns by Professor Prabhu Guptera of Wolfsberg. We missed the second race, hence my photograph of the coats the pigs had worn during the races, while the pigs were cooling down and being fed.
The smell of cows as we ate was amazingly reminscent of the 1950s on the farm in Northern Ireland. We were told that the cows choose when to be milked and the process if fully automatic. On many farms, cows are milked once or twice a day, whereas here they choose to be milked an average 3.2 times a day. The rafters of the barn were lined with recently picked apples – and crates of apples stood around the dining tables.
Sunday, November 09, 2003
Geneva swan interruptus (©JE)
Last day of the Evian Group conference really got into its stride, not least because of a last-minute – and very candid – intervention by ex-President Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico. Met some quit extraordinary people, then after the conference ended there was a nice winding down over lunch. In the afternoon, took a walk along the waterfront: slight mist, grey skies, strong sense of end of season. This evening, took Joan Bavaria (Trillium Asset Management and CERES) and her husband Jesse to dinner at la perle du lac. They had travelled across from Amsterdam – where they had attended the Triple Bottom Line Investing conference run by Robert Rubinstein – to talk about NGO accountability, something we’re all increasingly interested in these days.
Saturday, November 08, 2003
Second day at the Evian Group’s annual conference in Geneva (www.eviangroup.org), on the theme of ‘Economic Order in the Global Era’. Invited because the Evian Group’s founder and Executive Director, Professor Jean-Pierre Lehmann of the business school IMD, is someone I’ve known for some years, since we met in Norway when we both spoke at Statoil’s 25th anniversary conference, and has since been a member of SustainAbility’s Faculty.
Up at some ungodly hour to lead a breakfast session from 07.15 on the NGO agenda. It triggered a very lively discussion. A fair number of people here, as with the World Economic Forum meeting a few days back, are inclined to blame NGOs for the collapse of the Cancun trade talks. So have spent a fair amount of time painting a rather different picture.
Among the speakers today were people like Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi, head of the WTO, and Rubens Ricupero, head of UNCTAD. One speaker, more candid than most, noted that “talking about Cancun is like talking about a car accident” – we were all witnesses, but everyone now has slightly different stories about what happened. One Japanese speaker even noted that it was all a bit like Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express: everyone was responsible to some degree.
At the dinner this evening, I sat next to Dr Lyushun Shen, Taiwan’s ‘ambassador’ here. All the functions of an embassy, but not recognised by the government, which makes things a little more difficult. Fascinating conversation which took off in all sorts of directions, ranging from the Communist Revolution in China (his father accompanied the Nationalist gold across to Formosa) to the ‘Flying Tigers’, the aircraft of WWII, the history of islands like Malta and Cyrpus, the affairs of Lord Mountbatten, and films like The Guns of Navarone and Waterloo Bridge. A hugely enjoyable evening.
Thursday, November 06, 2003
A wonderful, almost Spring-like day. Awake from one of my ‘significant’ nightmare-dreams, that come along every few years. In this dream I found myself for some reason strapped to a towering crow’s nest structure on a vast, juggernaut-like vessel steaming down a major river. A bit like a pocket battleship. All grey metal and sharp edges. The vantage point afforded wonderful views of pink-tinged waters, as the sun set, but I was acutely aware that we would be passing under low bridges and that I would also likely suffer from hypothermia by the end of the night. No way down the vertiginous structure. The vessel picked up speed and I became increasingly agitated. Eventually, I can’t remember how, the crew woke up to the fact that I was above their heads and a rescue team arrived, though they were wielding surgical instruments that had me wondering whether they planned amputation. An over-reaction, perhaps, to the accelerating pace of events in the office?
In any event, Elaine and I start off with a meeting with Stephen Ward, the pensions expert who managed to extract us from the rubble of the Equitable Life disaster – one of the reasons I am so interested in the corporate responsibility and international justice issues surrounding the pensions sector.
Then, after several other meetings, off to St Yeghiche Armenian Church in Cranley Gardens for a World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting. Met by Armen Sarkissian, previously Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, who explains the history of the church and of the Armenian diaspora (right back to the Crusades) to Guy de Joncquieres (World Trade Editor of the Financial Times) and I. The meeting is held in an upstairs room, with a glazed wall overlooking the nave of the church. Meeting chaired by Jose-Maria Figueres, co-CEO of WEF and an ex-PM of Costa Rica. One of the most interesting suggestions for the 2004 WEF agenda comes from Kazuo Ishiguro (An Artist of the Floating World, Remains of the Day), who proposes that the nexus of celebrity and power be explored. With Schwarzenegger now Governor of California, the proposal resonnates strongly.
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Erotic Gherkin (©JE)
Francesca (Muller) and I start the day with a visit to Sara Fox, New Building Director at Swiss Re reponsible for the construction of the company’s new London headquarters skyscraper, fondly known as the ‘Erotic Gherkin’. Huge fun and we emerge determined to launch a new series of ‘Change Agent’ profiles in SustainAbility’s Radar. Jed Emerson of the Hewlett Foundation will be retrospectively adopted as the first in the series, Albina du Boisrouvray will be the second and Sara the third.
Sunday, November 02, 2003
Getting ready to fly to Copenhagen, to speak at Nordic Partnership conference tomorrow. Yesterday had a wonderful interview with Albina du Boisrouvray of the Association Francois-Xavier Bagnoud (www.fxb.org), which will feed into the HIV/AIDS issue of SustainAbility’s Radar newsletter. In the evening, Elaine and I went to Steve Warshal’s 60th birthday party in Queen’s Park. Fair number of current and ex- Greenpeacers, including Peter Melchett (wearing an anti-GM T-shirt and sporting an animated third arm, reminiscent of Zaphod Beeblebrox’s second head), Robin-Grove White, John Sauven and Peter Knight.
Saturday, November 01, 2003
Several linked environmental stories in The Times today, on the loss of Arctic ice and the long-term threat to polar bears, on the impact condensation trails produced by high-flying aircraft are having on global warming trends, and on the likelihood that in future planes will have to fly 5,000 feet lower, exposing passengers to more turbulence. This evening, watched a programme on the 1953 storm which killed over 500 people around the UK and some 1800 in The Netherlands.
Often feel people are completely disconnected with the slow-burn trends affecting their environment, but as I cycled home along New Oxford Street I found myself tailing – and then joining – a mass bike rally, with a surprising number of motorcycle and bicyle police riding herd. They were shutting off all the side streets, including Tottenham Road, so we could pass. A massive sound system on one cycle-based platform was booming out The Bee Gees’ Tragedy. One cyclist, just ahead of me, was trailing a huge hammer and sickle flag, which seemed slightly out of tune. Drivers and pedestrians seemed friendly, or nonplussed. After a slow amble for 10 or 11 blocks, I parted company with the throbbing herd, ducking down Berwick Street.