Tuesday, November 30, 2004
FROM PARIS TO PYGMIES
Still cut off by BT. Am in Paris with Nick Robinson for the French launch of Risk & Opportunity, working alongside Utopies. Unbelievable morning sunshine glittering off the gilded domes of the city, particularly the Musee de lArmee, which is just around the corner from the Ministry where our launch was held – and blazing from buildings and columns as the taxi flashes across the Place de la Concorde.
Take the Eurostar back to London, where I am due to take part in a multistakeholder event at the Department of Trade & Industry, hosted by CSR Minister Nigel Griffiths. Am part of a panel with Nigel, Sara Parkin of Forum for the Future and Ian Russell, chief executive of ScottishPower.
Then chair the discussion session, at the end of which I spot Bob Worcester of MORI in the audience and invite him to take my slot on the podium to do a summing up. He does wonderfully well and, though some thought it was a set-up, it was really on of those spur-of-the-moment jollities. Explain to the audience that one of my New Years Resolutions is to let others do the work, wherever possible, though there was serious intent: the event was a bit too stage managed for a real stakeholder dialogue, so I was trying to pull different voices into the conversation.
Next, walk across Westminster Bridge, trundling my bags, to the Shell Centre for the first (and apparently the last in the present form) Shell Chairmans Christmas party hosted by Jeroen van der Veer. Stop by the London Aquarium to take a photo of the extraordinary car-converted-into-a-fish-tank.
As Elaine and I stroll back through Waterloo Station after the party, we bump into Phil Agland a colleague in the Earthlife days of the mid-1980s, a film-maker who has made wonderful TV series on the Cameroonian rainforest (Korup), the Baka Pygmies and a Chinese city (Beyond the Clouds), plus a rendering of Thomas Hardys The Woodlanders. We hadnt seen him since the premiere of that film. Wonderful case of serendipity.
Then, having missed our train, we were walking back to find a new one when we saw Nick Hildyard of The Corner House, a long-standing friend, who was seeing off a couple of Sudanese anti-diamond-industry campaigners. Among other things, he told me he had filed suit earlier in the day against the ECGD, whose advisory council I sit on. What a day!
Thursday, November 25, 2004
Still cut off by BT. Busy morning in the office, then across with Yasmin (Crowther) to McKinseys offices at 1 Jermyn Street for a meeting of the Harvard Business School Alumni Club, where I was due to be the main feature. The event, organised by Daniela Barone Soares of Save the Children, resulted in an energetic discussion and a roiling series of conversations afterwards, with among others a number of current and would-be social entrepreneurs.
Then on with Yasmin to ?What If!, the innovation company based here in London, and in Manchester, New York and Sydney. We are talking to Kris Murrin about developing a process to help leapfrog SustainAbility into a new way of operating by the time we (hopefully) hit our twentieth anniversary in 2007.
Among the reasons we are interested in them: they were recently listed by the Financial Times as No 1 in the Best Place to Work for in the UK competition; and they are interested in supporting social entrepreneurs, as they have in helping launch the Belu bottled water brand, which generates funds to pay for clean water in developing world communities.
Then across to Regent Street to meet Hania and wander agog around the new Apple store there. Centred around a great glass staircase, the store is a virtual heaven on earth for the Apple-minded, Hania and I among them. What looks like a full moon this evening and, as ever, I feel revived. Home to find an amazing programme on BBC 2: a portrait of the wildlife and landscape of the Mississippi through the eyes of River Rat Kenny Sawley. Outstanding, numinous. Had me in tears at times. And then Gaia arrives back from Edinburgh. A red-letter day.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
PACKAGING, BHOPAL AND NATASHA KAPLINKSY
A somewhat convoluted day and also finally discover that my ability to connect to the Net and broadband from my Mac at home is because BT have cut off the line. They had been sending bills to an old SustainAbility address and our accounts people hadnt noticed that. But dealing with BT is like dealing with a vast, emotionless robot, a Kafka-esque maze of dial this number and dial that but get used to being ignored whichever number you dial.
Started with a keynote speech at a conference organised by INCEPEN and the Packaging Federation. Among the people I met was Robert Opie, who founded Britains first museum of advertising and packaging, in Gloucester. Now it is moving to Londons Notting Hill and, he tells me, will focus more on environmental and sustainability aspects of the packaging story.
Then back to SustainAbility for the tail-end of an editorial meeting for the next issue of our newsletter, Radar. Then a couple of campaigners involved in campaigning for justice for the victims of the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India came in to discuss our impending report on liability regimes, which Geoff Lye has mainly authored, and which contains a case study on Dow Chemical which took over Union Carbides Bhopal assets.
The race back to Barnes to install myself in a black tie outfit which I loathe and head off to Thorpe Park, via the M4 and M25 and what seemed like endless traffic jams caused by a crash in Richmond and huge roadworks on the M25. Arrive simultaneously with Graham Tubb, Head of Sustainable Development at SEEDA (South East England Development Agency), who kindly ushers me in. Once inside the Dome, full of Disney-style giant fossils and writhing octopus tentacles, I gave another keynote to kick off the 2004 Sustainable Business Awards for the South East awards ceremony organised by SEEDA.
At dinner, find myself sitting between Kit Oliver, who first dreamed up the award scheme and chairs the judging panel, and BBC Breakfast News presenter Natasha Kaplinsky. Enjoyed them both tremendously – and found the evening tremendously energising.
One of the award winners (in fact, they won three awards) was CottonBottoms, founded by Joanne Freer to manufacture and distribute cotton nappies and to provide a nappy laundry service. Boots, Woolworths Big W and John Lewis now all supply the companys products. The significance of what CottonBottoms is trying to do is underscored by the fact that in 2003 alone 6.8 million disposable nappies were landfilled in the UK each day. And the approach avoids around a tonne of waste being landfilled for each child using real nappies.
As I mentioned to Joanne at the end of the event, our 1988 book The Green Consumer Guide had looked at the nappy issue and concluded that there wasnt (at that point) much to choose between disposable and non-disposable nappies. One reason: at that stage, nappies had to be boiled and a fair amount of detergent and/or bleach used. The increasing use of laundry services helps address those issues.
In parentheses, its interesting to note that when Gaia was born in 1977 she inherited Elaines huge, designed to last forever cotton nappies. We switched to disposables later, because of the sheer damned nuisance of all the soaking and boiling. Then I spent a merry Christmas evening, with snow falling, unblocking the drains because we had flushed the disposables and clogged the sewers.
Sunday, November 21, 2004
On my way back from a day spent at the office yesterday with the board of trustees of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, I dropped into Waterstones and Virgin in Piccadilly. Bought a number of CDs, including albums by the likes of Bill Haley & The Comets, Link Wray, Les Negresses Vertes and – on an impulse – Les Paul’s ‘The Complete Trios-Plus (1936-1947)’. Know Les Paul from his guitars for Gibson, but hadn’t realised what an extraordinary guitarist he was/is. Love his tracks with Georgia White and with Bing Crosby.
Looked him up on Google and found that not only is he still alive, but still plays in public. According to Associated Press and Yahoo News, he “can use only his left thumb and pinkie [little finger] to perform at his weekly nightclub gigs in New York. The 89-year-old takes no medication for his painful arthritis and permanent injuries from a car accident 56 years ago, because it exacerbates his ulcers. But twice every Monday night, the renowned musician also known for his innovations on the solid-body electric guitar and multitrack recording gets on stage with his trio at the Iridium Jazz Club.”
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland opened a Les Paul exhibit in March. Born Lester William Polfuss, over the past three decades, Paul has won various awards, including a Grammy with Chet Atkins for best country instrumental performance. In 1998, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in September he won a lifetime achievement award at the Emmys.
Iridium, hopefully, here I come.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
SAP RISES IN EAST BERLIN
Berlin. Taxi from Tegel airport drops me a block or so from the front door of software-maker SAPs front door, which gives me an opportunity to see what a contrast their modern office block makes with the surrounding dereliction of the old East Berlin. In town to do a panel session, hosted by SAP, on the results of SustainAbilitys Gearing Up report for the UN Global Compact and, in particular, to focus on the issue of corruption.
Moderated by author and journalist Susan Stern, the panel includes Catherine Volz (Chief, Treaty and Legal Affairs Branch, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Vienna), Peter Eigen (Chairman, Transparency International, Berlin), Michael Buersch (Member of German Bundestag, Berlin, and Chairman of the Parliamentary Study Commission on the Future of Social Civic Participation), Pierre-Christian Soccoja (Executive Director, Service Control de Prevention de la Corruption, Paris) and Chris Sorek (Senior VP Public Communications, SAP, Walldorf).
The event, aimed at German corporate members of the Global Compact and of Transparency International, academics, the media and other stakeholders, is lively and prompts a good discussion. The scale of the problem in countries like Russia was underscored by several speakers, however. Having had my PC temporarily taken over by a swarm of viruses and pop-up ads while in Brazil, that is the image that comes to mind now when I think of corruption: demands for bribes at every step. We heard that even getting permission to build an apartment block in Russia takes 127 permits, involving 127 bribes.
Whatever the figures, the syndrome can only be an intense drag on the health of the economy and on the ability of ordinary citizens to think and act in the interests of the longer term.
Stay at the Westin Berlin and find myself looking straight down on the VW building where I spoke earlier in the year.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Spent much of the day with Instituto Ethos, a leading Brazilian CSR organisation which SustainAbility has worked with on a couple of projects. Its 907 company members account for annual revenues of approximately 30% of the Brazilian GDP and employ roughly 1.2 million people. Their main characteristic, Ethos says, is “their interest in establishing ethical patterns for the relationship with employees, customers, suppliers, community, shareholders, public power, and the environment.”
Chaired by Oded Grajew, the person who conceived the Social World Forum and a member of the Global Compacts Advisory Council, Instituto Ethos has also recently launched UniEthos, a ‘CSR university’ for Brazil. Meet some of those involved. Then out to the airport, for Iberia, Madrid and London.
Read Bob Dylan’s book Chronicles on the flight back from Brazil, given to me shortly before I left by Steve Warshal. He and I have been a couple of times recently to see Dylan play – and, though my ears tend to ring for days after, the man and the music are pretty much part of my DNA. Facinating to read about his own influences – and about the process of re-invention he put himself through. Time for me to do the same?
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Spent the day with ABN Amro Real, doing two sessions, first with CSR people and then with senior management. Very impressive bunch of people – and clearly committed to the sustainability cause.
In the evening, across to dinner with Fabio Feldmann and friends. In October 2000, Fabio was appointed the Executive Secretary of the Brazilian Climate Forum, and was also Special Advisor to the President for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) meeting preparatory process in Brazil. Before that, in 1994, he was appointed State Secretary for the environment of São Paulo, leaving office in 1998. He coordinated the group that wrote the chapter on the environment in the Constitution passed in 1988. Like Julia (Hailes) and I, he holds UNEP’s Global 500 award.
Monday, November 08, 2004
Spend the day with Natura, the hugely successful Brazilian cosmetics company, an hour’s drive from the city. Do two 1.5 hour sessions during the day with different audiences, either side of a lunch with senior management, including: Antonio Luiz da Cunha Seabra (Board Member and Founder Chairman); Guilherme Peirão Leal (current Chairman and Board Member); and Pedro Luiz Barreiros Passos (Board Member and CEO).
Natura came sixteenth in SustainAbility’s latest benchmark survey of corporate sustainability reporting, an extraordinary achievement. As the photos below show, the company’s NQ is both dramatic and beautiful, overlooking an extensive bowl of forest. Then in the evening, dinner with several Natura people at Carlota’s, run by chef Carla Pernambuco. Great wine: Case Silva 2003, from Chile.
One of the many great things about the visit to Natura was seeing an example of Brazil’s national tree, Caesalpini aechinata, commonly known as ‘pau brasil’ (www.globaltrees.org/reso_tree.asp?id=25). The tree gave its name to the country.
Sadly, years of harvesting of the Atlantic Coastal Forest have reduced the species to the verge of extinction. Exploitation still continues, however, because the tree’s extremely dense hardwood is ideal for making bows for stringed musical instruments. It was also long used to produce red ink – an ironic link to the ecological its felling has caused. Tried its fruit: delicious.
Part of Natura’s HQ (©JE)
Natura vista 1 (©JE)
Natura vista 2 (©JE)
Inside view (©JE)
In the Hall of Mirrors (©JE)
Darkest tree is Pau Brasil (©JE)
Sunday, November 07, 2004
NO MAN’S LAND IN SAO PAULO
Nelmara Arbex of Natura picked me up from the hotel and took me to lunch and then to the São Paulo’s 26th Biennial art exhibition, held in 25,000 square metres of exhibition space on three floors of the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion, Parque do Ibirapuera. The theme: Território Livre. In English, apparently, that’s ‘Image Smugglers in a Free Territory’. The concept stems from the notion of no man’s land, geographically, politically, socially and aesthetically – with art defying the boundaries of reality.
Among the wonders: a giant spider by Louise Bourgeois and a huge plane made from all the sharp objects we aren’t allowed to take into the skies these days. As we walked back through the park, dropping off to suck on a coconut on the way, my eye was taken by a 10-seater bike at a cycle rental stall. Perfect locomotion for a crowded world.
Spider by Louise Bourgeois (©JE)
Memorial to extinction of passenger pigeons (©JE)
Giant plane made out of … (©JE)
… all the sharp things we can’t take on plaes today (©JE)
Nelmara Arbex (©JE)
Bike for an increasingly crowded world (©JE)
ECONOMIST ON RISK & OPPORTUNITY
The Economist ran a nice article and leader on SustainAbility’s latest report, Risk & Opportunity, in last week’s edition.
The leader, which is premium content, is at:
The article, which is freely available, is at:
Saturday, November 06, 2004
THE SOCIAL CAPITAL MARKET
Chaired the final plenary session of the Schwab Foundation summit early this afternoon. The focus was on what financial and development institutions can do to support social entrepreneurship.
The panel were: David de Ferranti (Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean, World Bank), David Horn (Managing Director, Private Wealth Management, Morgan Stanley), Jan Piercy (Shorebank, one of the first US regulated banks to embrace sustainable development goals), Alvaro Augusto Vidigal (President, Banco Paulista, and Head of BOVESPA’s – they are the Sao Paulo Stock Exchange – social investment market), Youssef Dib (Global Coordinator, Private Wealth Management, BNParaibas) and Peter Blom (CEO, Triodos Bank).
A very enjoyable session, with real energy. Then by car to Sao Paulo, with Thais Corral, who runs REDEH (Rede de Desenvolvimento Humano), then out to dinner with Thais and Fabio Feldmann (see subsequent entry).
Friday, November 05, 2004
Second day of the conference – and I chair a session on the potential of mergers & acquisitions in the field of social enterprise, then report back to the plenary. Vigorous discussion, but most of the entrepreneurs find it hard to see how M&A approaches could help, or at least do so without inolving the sacrifice of their values. But towards the end of the session, a number of speakers give examples of how mergers have worked in the worlds of social enterprise.
In the evening, there’s ‘Brazil Night’. We are serenaded by Gilberto Gil, one of the founders of the ‘Tropicalia’ movement in the 1960s. His first album in 1967 helped win him great popularity, but then he and Caetano Veloso were exiled from Brazil by the military regime. Returning to Brazil in 1972, Gil not only continued to build his musical reputation but also emerged as an energetic political and environmental activist – and was appointed Brazil’s Minister of Culture by President Lula, a role he continues to play.
Finding myself at Gil’s table, we talk about guitars: one of his first instruments was an accordion – and he later tranposed his accordion style to the guitar. Then the evening rages on with an extended performance from one of the samba schools. [Later addition: Because of my ankle, I don’t dance – and on the next day am repeatedly chastised for my failure to do so by folk who had invited me to take to the floor. An extraordinary example was set by one of the social entrepreneurs who took the floor in his wheelchair and executed the most amazing gyrations in the midst of the samba dancers.]
Gilberto Gil (©JE)
Thursday, November 04, 2004
BIRDSONG WITH HAMMERS
Arrived in Campinas, Brazil, yesterday morning. The noise outside my window in the Royal Palm Plaza is more or less what you’d expect of any emerging economy: birdsong, overlaid with frantic hammering and sawing, against the backdrop of distant traffic. Am here for the ‘How Big Can Small Get?’ annual summit of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. And because of recent changes at the World Economic Forum, I have been asked to chair an additional session tomorrow – on the theme of what we can learn from scaling in different growth models, which is pretty much core to the event’s theme and an area we are increasingly pondering at SustainAbility.
Monday, November 01, 2004
RISK & OPPORTUNITY LAUNCHED AT S&P
Frenetic day, then across with much of the SustainAbility team to Standard & Poor’s HQ in Docklands for the launch of Risk & Opportunity. Energetic event, though the acoustics in the vast atrium left a little to be desired. Powerful reverb.
One difficult question in the discussion period focused on why British American Tobacco (BAT) appears in our Top 10, given that their products kill people? Question came from the anti-smoking group ASH.
My answer was that, while we don’t work with the tobacco industry, despite frequent requests to do so, I feel that our benchmarking work should cover all sectors and all relevant companies. provided the data are publicly available, campaigning groups and other actors can then bring better informed pressure to bear on offending industries – as ASH did with BAT’s first social report, which they reverse engineered to produce and publish statistics on how many deaths it took BAT to make each million pounds – or whatever – of revenue.
Next: Nick (Robinson) and Peter (Zollinger) area heading off to Seattle to launch the report at an event hosted by Starbucks, then come Berlin and Paris.
Some of the participants at the launch (©JE)