Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Energetic day, including intense 2.5 hour brainstorm on our Global Compact project. Facilitated by Jodie (Thorpe), the session involves Seb (Beloe), Yasmin (Crowther) and Peter (Zollinger). Leave slightly early to join a meeting of most of the Environment Foundation Trustees: (Dr) Malcolm Aickin, (Sir) Geoffrey Chandler, Jane Nelson and Tim O’Donovan. We are joined by John Lotherington of the 21st Century Trust. The idea of to merge our activities – with an annual Consultation on sustainable development. We make considerable headway.
Monday, January 26, 2004
Cast of The West Wing
Went down by train to Oxford, to spend the day with Geoff Lye and Peter Zollinger, both Directors of SustainAbility, to think through our future aims and strategy. After a tour of Geoff’s new home, which among many other things has a solar roof and ultra-high-tech instrumentation that tells you how much of the current energy use is being supplied by the sun, we surveyed the landscape SustainAbility is moving into – and worked through plans for the London, Washington and Zurich offices. Peter is planning to move into new offices in the old quarter of Zurich, in a building which dates back to the 1400s. Later, Peter returns with me to Barnes, where we end the evening by watching a couple of programmes from the second series of The West Wing. Incredibly funny, hugely thought-provoking and, paradoxically, wonderfully relaxing.
Sunday, January 25, 2004
Back from WEF. The absent-minded-professor sequence continues: when we arrive at Zurich airport, I discover I have lost the air tickets. Probability is that I jettisoned them in Davos along with some of the mountain of paper we collected during the five days of the conference. We buy new, standby tickets. On the flight, I start marking up my notes of the social entrepreneur interviews – and am struck by their richness.
Saturday, January 24, 2004
Mira, Simon and Elaine struggling with scarf (©JE)
Four more interviews, plus innumerable conversations through much of the day. It’s in danger of becoming a production line. Then walk across to the Hotel Derby with Tae Yoo, who heads Cisco Systems’ philanthropy side, for the launch of HP and Visa International’s Global Giving program in support of social entrepreneurs. Afterwards scoot back to the hotel and then on with Elaine to the Hotel Gentiana for a wonderful dinner with Simon Zadek of AccountAbility and his partner Mira Merme. It’s snowing quite heavily when we leave. But we hardly notice, since we are semi-catatonic with Davos syndrome.
Friday, January 23, 2004
Social entrepreneurs Chief Fidela Ebuk of WHEDA and Bunker Roy of Barefoot College(©JE)
Yet another busy day. Start off with four interviews, with Alan Khazei of City Year in the US (www.cityyear.org), Dr Ibrahim Abouleish of SEKEM in Egypt (www.sekem.org), Millard Fuller of Habitat for Humanity in the US (www.habitat.org) and then Vijay Mahajan of BASIX in India (www.basixindia.org). Then speak at a roundtable session chaired by Gordon Conway (President of the Rockefeller Foundation) on strategic alliances between business and NGOs. Followed by an ultra-high-powered ‘atelier’ on ‘Reducing Inequity’ with people like the heads of AID, UNDP and the World Food Programme and Hernando de Soto, facilitated by Ged Davis, previously head of Shell’s scenarios unit and now with WEF. So high-powered and pressured I end up just listening. In the evening, I speak at a dinner on the theme of ‘Does Social Activist Generate Light or Heat?’ Smallish group, but turns into remarkably animated discussion. Find myself saying that we may well be moving beyond the “Golden Age of NGOs”.
Thursday, January 22, 2004
Mrs Mbeki and Pamela Hartigan (©JE)
Busiest day yet. Start out with an interview with Richard Jefferson of CAMBIA. At one juncture I ask him what happened to his siblings? “I shot and ate them,” is his instantaneous reply. He has an ultra-broadband brain, indeed Elaine notes that one of his hobbies – juggling – is known to boost synapses. Then I speak at a private lunch of food and textile sector CEOs, facilitated by Anthony Ruys, Chairman of Heineken.
Next I scoot across town for the latest round in the ‘CSR Leaders Summit’ process organised by Bob Dunn of BSR. Some great people there, but frustrating for a number of reasons, not least because we run out of time as several of us have to flit back across town for a brainstorming session with WEF and the Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape (SAEFL). A lively session, chaired by Jose Maria Figueres, now co-CEO of WEF, but previously President of Costa Rica. He asks us to reconvene later in the year to discuss the sustainability agenda – and what more WEF can do in the area.
‘Can Science Take Sustainability Seriously?’ is the theme of the dinner session we go to this evening. Facilitated by Baroness Susan Greenfield (Director, UK Royal Institution), the session promises to be lively. Unfortunately, Greenfield goes for pizazz rather than understanding. The speakers – including Eileen Claussen (President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change) and Claude Martin (Director-General, WWF International) – struggle to keep the session on the rails. Find myself agreeing time and again with film producer (Lord) David Puttnam, for example on demographic pressures.
But, in a section of the debate on how we can build trust in science and other institutions, I suggest that maybe the very nature of science is part of the problem. Every time you have a major issue like climate change you always have dissenting voices arguing that there is no problem – providing a comfy alibi for polluters. (The unspoken question: ‘Can we trust scientists regardless of who pays them?’) The good Baroness manages to turn my spoken question in a split-second into an argument for mainstream science, as if more of the same is guaranteed to solve all our problems.
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
I paid a CHF10 fine, though I don’t totally trust UNICEF (©JE)
For me, the highlight of the day was Bill Clinton’s speech over lunch, in which he called for systemic change, rather than just piecemeal initiatives. Slightly under parr performance, indeed I found myself worrying about his health. Since he had flown in that morning from the Middle East, it may have been simply a case of jet lag, but maybe the man’s pushing himself a little hard? Start the sequence of social entrepreneur interviews with Pamela Hartigan (MD, Schwab Foundation), for the book we are planning: hugely energising.
In the evening, Elaine and I go to a dinner entitled: ‘Why are GMOs such a hard sell?’ Facilitated by Guy de Jonquieres, World Trade Editor of the Financial Times, it includes contributions from Gordon Conway (President, Rockefeller Foundation, who I’ve known for over 20 years), Hugh Grant (Chairman, President and CEO of Monsanto, who I first met when we were working with the chemicals-to-biosciences company in 1996-97, before our public resignation of the contract) and Jacques Diouf (Director-General, UN Food and Agricultural Organization, who I find myself sitting next to).
But the liveliest input by far comes from Richard Jefferson (Chairman and CEO, CAMBIA), one of the social entrepreneurs on my interview list. First met him last year at a similar Davos session, where we shared a table with the likes of Bill Joy, Chief Scientist of Sun Microsystems – and one of the wierdest people I’ve come across. First came across Joy’s thinking in any depth when he contributed a piece to Wired in April 2000, entitled ‘Why the Future Doesn’t Need us’. More specifically, he argued that technologies like robotics, genetic engineering and nanotech threatened to make humankind a threatened species. Surprisingly little of that sort of thinking this evening.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Barbed wire and snow in Davos (©JE)
Elaine and I fly to Zurich, then take a conference coach to Davos for the World Economic Forum summit on ‘Partnering for Security and Prosperity’. Spend part of the ride reviewing the proofs of the latest issue of SustainAbility’s newsletter, Radar, then chat with Ed Mayo, now chief executive of the National Consumer Council (NCC) about possible joint projects. Arrive in snow, then find our way to the Hotel Club, out on the trailing fringes of the Milky Way. Still, we walk into town and find the Gentiana restaurant, which we had failed to get into last time we were here. Luckily, we are the last people allowed in – and Elaine is beside herself because they serve snails.
Saturday, January 17, 2004
The World Social Forum (www.wsfindia.org) is now under way in Mumbai, or Bombay. Motto: ‘Another World Is Possible.’ Sadly, Kavita (Prakash-Mani), who was going to represent us, has damaged her back and can’t fly. Thought of her this morning when I finally started William Dalrymple’s City of Djinns, which she lent me many moons ago. Wonderfully funny introduction to the multi-layered worlds of New Delhi, but also in part a clear-eyed account of the massacres that have created strata of bones on which later versions of New Delhi have been built.
Meanwhile everyone at WSF, The Guardian reports this morning, “is sure of what they are against – capitalism, imperialism and George Bush.” But, Randeep Ramesh notes, “Nobody can say what precisely they are all for.” It will be interesting to see how, with India hosting, the WSF folk handle the caste issue.
Three images stuck in my mind from today’s papers. Two appeared in The Times: these were two grotesque photos found in a clear-out of an Argentinian photographic laboratory. They show how commandos were trained to torture dissidents during the country’s “dirty war” in the 1970s. But foul though they are, they seem like a cottage industry compared to the operations shown in an aerial reconnaissance image of Auschwitz featured in The Guardian. This shows inhumanity taken to an industrial scale. Smoke billows from mass burial pits, as the sheer volume of bodies in the “climactic frenzy of killing in 1944 and early 1945” outpaced the camp’s crematoria. Those waiting to be gassed had to queue for a day near one crematorium, in a rain of ash from the bodies of earlier victims. The photos can be found at www.evidenceincamera.co.uk.
Once again, the question arises as to why we didn’t act to halt or at least slow the killing? One reason, John Ezard suggests in The Guardian article, is that “technology outstripped its operators. The RAF’s photographers fired their cameras as fast as machine guns, bringing home millions of images – too many to inspect properly.” The resolution of this one extraordinary image of Auschwitz is so good that apparently inmates can also be seen standing at roll call. Somewhat reminiscent of the way images from NASA’s Nimbus 7 satellite showed the growing Antarctic ozone hole for years before British balloons revealed the growing crisis. NASA’s computers had apparently been programmed in such a way that anything like an ozone hole was considered “impossible”.
What are we missing today?
Friday, January 16, 2004
Moleskine world map by Stamen Design (http://www.stamen.com/projects/books/)
Started day by turning up at Waterstone’s, Piccadilly, just after 09.00, to find them closed until 10.00. In pursuit of Moleskine notebooks for the interviews I’ll be doing at the World Economic Forum next week, with 18 social entrepreneurs in the diary at the last count. With a high, buffeting wind, I had decided not to cycle to the office, instead taking the Tube and reading Into the Arms of Strangers, by Mark Jonathan Harris and Deborah Oppenheimer, the story of the Kindertransport – which brought Jewish children out of Germany before WWII.
Was sent the book a few days back by Robert Crawshaw, originally a friend of Elaine’s in the late 1960s when they both worked at Oxford University Press. He has been staying with us on occasion recently when working in London and the book came up when we were talking a week or two back of ways weaving an book from multiple stories, something I’m hoping to do with the social entrepreneurs book. The Harris/Oppenheimer book starts with a wonderfully touching preface by Richard Attenborough, whose parents took in two German girls when their onward passage across the Atlantic became impossible.
Made the best of the interlude, dropping into Tower Records, a frequent haunt: bought a double CD by Mahalia Jackson and Dev’lish Mary by The Hot Club of Cowtown, the latter to send to Gaia in Edinburgh. Then the W doors open and I found they don’t now do the particular style of notebook I have used for some while, so I gritted my teeth and bought three irridescent violet variants. At least they’ll stand out if I leave them on a table somewhere.
And that’s very likely to happen. Find my brain’s off on its own travels at the moment. So, for example, David Grayson of Business in the Community came in this afternoon to talk about his new book on how we can turn the responsibility agenda into a opportunity space, but my grey cells really struggled to get into gear. Maybe because I’m chasing too many hares – or, to bring things up to date, exceeding my bandwidth. But David suggested it might also because I had just found that I had mislaid by current Moleskine for the second day running. As I explained to Maddy, using Moleskines (www.moleskines.com) has become so much of an unconscious ritual that their absence may well be derailing me. The wrong sort of notebook, as Raitrack might have said. Yesterday, at Shell, Joppe Cramwinkel asked why I wasn’t using my little black book? Interesting what one becomes notorious for …
As I wrote this entry, I surfed in search of Moleskine images and came across the website of Stamen Design in San Francisco. Have always adored artists’ notebooks, and Stamen’s use of Moleskine notebooks and sketchbooks took my fancy. The rapid response e-mail from Eric Rodenbeck of Stamen giving permission to use the map image above is signed ‘with verdancy’.
Thursday, January 15, 2004
Having teased it out for the sheer wonder of the thing, I finished Bitter Lemons last night. It concludes with a rising tide of violence as EOKA tries to prise the island from the grip of the British Empire. Durrell’s idyllic life is brought to a rude end as the government hangs the young Greek Karaolis, convicted of a terrorist killing. I still remember, as a child, hearing the prelude to at least one hanging in Nicosia. The other prisoners rattled their plates and anything else they could lay their hands between the bars of their cells. On a still night you could hear the noise for miles. For years afterwards I imagined I might end up at the end of a rope. The banning of capital punishment in Britain came as a relief.
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
By train to Downing College, Cambridge. Had agreed some time back to help judge entries for a new award scheme for entrepreneurs, CU Entrepreneurs (www.cue.org.uk). Founded in 1999, CUE’s main award scheme is the Business Creation Competition, with a top prize of £30,000. I have been asked to help judge a brand new competition, focusing on a slightly modified 3P: ‘People, Planet and Productivity’. CU Entrepreneurs is a student-run initiative, working with Cambridge Enterprise and the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning. Top prize: £20,000, with a further £20,000 available for protype development. We managed to shake down the field with relatively little disagreement to six strong candidates – and a couple whose champions we would ask to do further work. Another round of judging will come later in the year when each team has put together a business plan.
Sunday, January 11, 2004
Cyprus (Ministry of Commerce, Industry & Tourism)
April shower-like weather, thumping rain one minute, ragged blue skies the next. Am loving Bitter Lemons, much of which takes me back to the late 50s in Cyprus. Durrell’s book came out in 1957 and we were there in 1958 and 1959, when the EOKA terrorists/freedom fighters were really getting into their stride. Durrell seems to have unwittingly come across a couple of early EOKA arms shipments when sleeping on beaches near Kyrenia. We were in Cyprus mainly, I think, because my father, Tim, was involved in trying to monitor and intercept the arms shipments.
An extraordinary moment not long after the US invasion of Afghanistan, when I was flying back from Australia and the plane made a long diversion to avoid the trouble spots. We came up over Dubai, where I looked down on the extraordinary new palm-shaped complex stretching out into the Gulf, and then out across the Mediterranean. There was a great deal of cloud, but I suddenly had an urge to look out the window, and there was most of the Cyprus panhandle. I couldn’t see the curvature of the Earth, as in the satellite image above, but it was a heart-stopping moment nonetheless.
One of the things that is interesting about the book is the unconscious references to things that (hopefully) would be totally unacceptable these days. For example, alongside the Enosis graffiti in Bellapaix, the village where he buys a house, there are painted records of when the area was last sprayed with DDT to control mosquitoes. And another thing I remember as a child was seeing the asbestos mining in the Troodos range. Durrell notes that “Amiandos made us catch our breath in pain. It lies against the side of a mountain which has been clumsily raped. The houses, factories and shacks are powdered white as if after a heavy snowfall; mounds of white snow rise in every direction, filling the cool still airs of the mountain with the thin dust of asbestos. Men and women walked about in the moon-landscape, powdered into ghoulish insignificance by the dust.”
And that, in turn, reminded me of the arguments I had while editor of The ENDS Report in the late 1970s with people from the asbestos industry, both from companies like Cape Industries and their trade association. Despite the growing evidence of the links with asbestosis and mesothelioma, most such people were still in total denial. A few years later, The Environment Foundation was founded, its funding coming from insurers who were underwriting risks linked to asbestosis, contaminated land, radioactive wastes and so on. (I have chaired the Foundation since 1995, but have recently catalysed a discussion about where we should head next. We have had an extremely productive exchange of e-mails among the Trustees this weekend.)
In one exchange today with (Sir) Geoffrey Chandler, an Environment Foundation Trustee, I asked whether he had ever come across one of the people who pops up a number of times in Bitter Lemons, Patrick (Paddy) Leigh Fermor. I knew that they had both served in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in WWII – and in Greece. Geoffrey replied: “I think Bitter Lemons is Durrell’s best book, though I much enjoyed the first two volumes of the Alexandrian quartet. His other Greek books I find precious. Paddy Leigh Fermor is in a totally diffferent class. In 1945 we travelled together to Corfu in a small caique which just transported my Jeep by placing it athwart-ships. I had a bag of sovereigns to pay those who had helped us in the German occupation. I can’t remember what Paddy was doing, but even in that short acquaintance he came across as a truly remarkable person. I wish – as do so many – that he would write the third volume of his travels. But, damn it, I am told he is translating Wodehouse into Greek instead!”
But back to asbestos and insurance, despite the distractions of caiques and bags of sovereigns. At the risk of sounding hugely argumentative, I also remember having arguments with some of those then carrying out environmental audits in the US for the insurers (including Bain Clarkson, who funded the Foundation from a ‘social tithe’ on their environmental impairment liability policies) on the basis that you really couldn’t expect to identify material risks in the space of a half-day visit to a company – which, in any event, would have a vested interest in pulling the wool over your eyes. It wasn’t long before those toxic chickens came home to roost. The US Superfund legislation was enacted and the concept of ‘joint and several’ liability adopted. If you had dumped asbestos into a landfill site, for example, and you were the only company surviving out of all those also dumping such problem materials, you became liable for their problems, too. The resulting costs for industry were staggering. Some 20% of the liabilities that almost sunk the Lloyd’s insurance market resulted from such problems.
The financial sector is increasingly aware of such risks, though it doesn’t always know quite what to do with them. This weekend I’m reading through a draft of a new SustainAbility report, by Geoff Lye and Francesca Muller, which focuses on the ways in which liability regimes are evolving around the world. What started with issues like asbestos and tobacco, then morphed out into areas like breast implants and ‘Nazi’ gold, is now broadening out to embrace sector such as fast food (obesity and diabetes) and climate change.
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
Finally got around to responding to Paul Hawken’s request for nominations for the Natural Capital Institute (NCI)’s proposed 100 Best Companies in the World index. The criteria being used are different from those used by most socially responsible investment (SRI) funds. As Paul explained: “Most funds accept a company’s business model (with the exception of tobacco, nuclear, gambling, and armaments) as sacrosanct or neutral, and then grade the company on how well it performs within its chosen mission.” NCI, by contrast, plans to “reverse the perspective, and weigh the company heavily on what it actually does. The reasoning here is simple: If a company is heading down a questionable path, it matters very little how it gets there.” More details from www.naturalcapital.org.
Monday, January 05, 2004
Nice start to working year: Oliver (Dudok van Heel)’s birthday means cake in the afternoon – and most people have had wonderful holidays, decompressing well. The exception is Judy (Kuszewski), who contracted a case of the ‘bends’ while diving off Dominica, in the Caribbean. She ended up in a decompression chamber, having had to be airlifted to Martinique. But she is apparently feeling much better now.
Thursday, January 01, 2004
A weird coincidence this morning. In 2001, Gaia’s friend Mahalia had compiled his version of Brian Wilson’s missing album Smile, or Dumb Angel as it was originally called. Wilson, who Mahalia describes as “the half-deaf, half-mad, non-surfing genius of the Beach Boys”, had promised that the album would exceed even the glories of Pet Sounds. ‘Good Vibrations’, which appears in my own ‘Desert Island Discs 16’ compilation (see ‘Influences’), gave every sign that the promise would be honoured. Then Wilson had a breakdown and The Beatles overtook with Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band. The Beach Boys allowed various bits and pieces of Smile to dribble out onto later albums, but the project as a whole became one of the great mythical might-have-beens.
Anyway, just before Christmas, Gaia gave me a copy of Mahalia’s CD, with 25 tracks starting with ‘Our Prayer’ and ending with ‘You’re Welcome’. The compilation contains two tracks attributed to Dennis Wilson, ‘Little Bird’ and ‘Never Learn Not to Love’, which were in fact at least part-penned by Charles Manson. The second song, apparently, was originally titled ‘Cease to Exist’. I wonder whether he gets royalties in prison? Well, whatever, I have been listening to the CD, much of it unclassifiable, if – like ‘Good Vibrations’ – outlandishly well produced. But also often a bit cloying. Indeed I suspect that when some of this stuff is played live later in 2004 it will be considered over-rated. What they really needed was their own version of George Martin riding shotgun on the project.
And then this morning, in The Times, there was a short note that Brian Wilson will be “performing the legendary Smile for the first time in February.” His voice may be pretty ropey these days, but what intriguing news to start to the New Year: the Holy Grail disinterred?
NOTE: When I visited cider-makers HP Bulmer in the early 1980s, I learned that the word ‘ropey’ comes from the times when cider-makers would often get off-fermentations that resulted in white, ropey strings of rogue yeasts. They would dump the off batches in the hedgerows, and there were then tales of cows, horses, pigs, chickens and all sorts of other animals staggering around the landscape in a state of advanced intoxication. And that, it seems, was a key part of Brian Wilson’s challenge in getting to Smile. Finally, still on subject of music, while watching Jules Holland’s eleventh New Year’s Eve extravanganza last night on BBC2, I heard the Hot Club of Cowtown for the first time. Can’t imagine how I’ve missed them all these years.
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