Friday, March 31, 2006
Just back from three extraordinary days at the Skoll World Forum at the Said Business School in Oxford. The results of the Forum can be found on the Skoll Foundation website (www.skollfoundation.org). The video of the session I chaired with Al Gore and David Blood of Generation Investment Management can be found at http://www.socialedge.org/events%20resources/032106/algore.html.
One of the absolute highlights for me was the dinner which followed the Blood & Gore session, out at Raymond Blanc’s Le Maison aux Quat’Saisons (www.manoir.com). He welcomed the guests, not least – I suspect – because they included people like Al Gore and Robert Redford. The food was wonderful, as was the fact that I found myself sitting between Debra Dunn (among other things, a member of the Skoll Foundation Board) and Zohre Elahlian (http://www.global-catalyst.org/who_we_are_2.htm). Later, to my delight, Redford and I got into conversation, and I was enormously impressed by his deep commitment both to environmentalism and to the cause of social enterprise. His own Sundance (www.sundance.org) was an early, extraordinary example which continues to evolve.
Peter Randall-Page sculpture in the gardens of the Said Business School
Sally Osberg and Robert Redford
Blurred but happy – Andrea and Barry Coleman of Riders for Health
Peter Wheeler (FutureBuilders), Muhammad Yunus (Grameen), Ron Grzywinski (Shorebank) and Celso Grecco (a founder of Bovespa, a philanthropic initiative of Brazil’s Stock Exchange)
Jacqueline Novogratz of the Acumen Fund
Saturday, March 25, 2006
In the same evening, I watched Siddiq Barmak’s heart-rending film Osama on BBC4, underscoring the underadulterated evil of the Taliban, and received the following email about a sermon delivered by Bob Massie, a long-standing friend and colleague, who I called this week from San Francisco. It explores the increasingly terrible repercussions in the US of the Bush regime’s response to the Taliban, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein et al. I mistrust religions and generally loathe sermons, but this one struck a deep, deep chord:
I am sending you an account of something powerful that happened at our church last Sunday. A few of you may already have received the words but not the description of what happened.Many people have asked if this can be sent on and my answer is yes, if you think others would find it of value. To the extent that you feel similarly, I also urge each of you to consider what actions might be appropriate for you. Words seems to have lost most of their meaning.
Peace be with all of you.
Forwarded Message from Anne Tate (Bob Massie’s wife)
Subject: What Happened at St. James
Something happened in church this week. It left many of us stunned, moved and motivated. The week before, Reverend Michael Povey had powerfully preached about taking up the cross and speaking truth to power in Jesus’ name. This week, Bob Massie picked up the message and brought it home for us here now, in the US. Bob was tired when he came into the pulpit. But he gathered strength as he spoke. At times he spoke softly with sadness, sometimes his voice rose in anger and once he wept. Here is what he said ……
Last week our rector Michael Povey preached a powerful sermon about the need for us to take up our cross in following Jesus. He said that we needed to remember that taking up our cross was about more than coping with arthritis or physical ailments, and more than doing our best in our complicated lives. He said that sometimes taking up our cross meant being willing to challenge the most powerful forces in the world when those forces are corrupting and destroying humanity. I was moved by his sermon. I wanted to respond to it – not just in words but in my actions.
I went up to Michael and told him that I wanted to accept his challenge and that I was sure that there were many other people in the congregation who wanted to respond, but that to do so truly we would need to build new relationships with each other. I love and admire so many people in this community. I admire the devotion and persistence that you bring to many forms of Christian service and witness. I know that many people here are already living intense lives of commitment, and I draw strength and hope from that. My only reservation concerning our Christian witness is that we do so much of our work individually. We go into the world and give what we can, working on many different fronts, giving in many different ways, and then we come here on Sunday for relief, restoration and renewal. Thanks be to God for all the good work that is being done.
But my brothers and sisters, I want to put to you the question that struck me so forcefully last week: are we doing all that we could be doing as a community of the faithful in the face of year after year after year of this “endless war”? On the morning of September 11, 2001 I had a doctor’s appointment at 8:30 in the morning. As I left his office a little before 9:00 I heard from the nurses in the hallway that something terrible had happened – some sort of explosion at the Pentagon.
When I got into the car I learned that the World Trade Center Towers had been hit. I was driving down Highland Avenue, staring through the windshield at the glorious blue sky, when the radio announcer suddenly went silent. I thought my radio had stopped, but the silence had occurred because the announcer was too horrified to say what he had just heard – that the first tower had collapsed. Anne was on her way to Providence but she turned around and came back and together we made sure that our children were fine. And then we came here. We came to this church. We sat alone in that pew and we prayed.
I remember the sunlight that poured in through the great lantern over our heads and I remember how that light shone off of the pool of tears that gathered on the floor. We prayed and prayed and hurled our minds and voices in anguish to God. We prayed for the thousands of men and women who had awoken that same morning just as we had, and who had gone to work or boarded an airplane and sipped their coffee and stared at the glorious blue sky until their lives were ripped from this planet through an act of unthinkable brutality. We prayed a thousand prayers for them and for their families. And in the midst of all those prayers there was one prayer that I prayed with particular intensity, because I felt a great fear rising up within me.
Dear God, I prayed, protect this nation from what it might become. My brothers and sisters, you all know that I have worked hard for candidates I have supported in the past. I have done so because I believe that it is our responsibility as citizens and as Christians to take the future seriously and to live our lives not only as people with private compassion but also with public commitments. But I believe we are now straying into a domain that is far beyond partisan politics. I believe that somehow, through some process that I do not understand, and for which we all bear responsibility, we have drifted into a dark and dangerous place. And because we have busy lives and because we are so conscious of our own limitations and because we feel powerless and because we are never quite sure what it is the right path, we, as citizens and as Christians are watching the erosion, the destruction, the desecration of the ideals which have guided us as Americans for more than 230 years.
The founders of this country feared one thing more than anything else. They feared the concentration of power. They believed that such concentration of power – cloaked in exuberantly blind self-justification – had caused more injustice, and cruelty, and war than any other force in the history of humanity. And with the establishment of our American democracy – government of the people, by the people, and for the people – they sought to forestall that concentration through two tools: the separation of powers and the rule of law. They believed that through the separation of powers and the rule of law, they could hold back the natural human instinct toward coercion. They believed they could hold the line against tyranny. I am standing here because I believe that we are in the midst of crossing that line.
I don’t know when exactly we crossed it. I don’t know what exactly we can do about it. I don’t know why I am suddenly stepping before you today, rather than yesterday, or a month ago. But Michael’s sermon last week touched me powerfully, when he reminded us that we are called to take up our cross and follow Jesus. When Jesus collapsed on his way to the crucifixion, Simon of Cyrene was compelled to take up his cross and carry it. He did not choose it. He was compelled. And some of the crosses that fall before us are clearly not of our own choosing.
My brothers and sisters, somehow, somewhere we have crossed the line. I know that because somehow we have come to accept – to accept! — that there are thousands of fellow human beings who have been imprisoned for four years without recourse, in cages, all around the world outside of normal American legal jurisdiction. They exist in legal limbo without rights. They are not prisoners of war, they are not criminals. They have been kept as animals, they have been turned into slaves, American slaves. And we have done nothing.
We all want freedom and peace and democracy for every human being on earth. We want freedom and democracy for Iraq. But I do not believe that we can achieve such freedom and peace and democracy for ourselves or for anyone else by violating, before the eyes of the world, the principles that we are working to establish. Four and a half years ago, even as I sat in that pew and wept for my country, even as I sensed the terrible dark cloud of revenge and hatred and self-righteousness and brutality that might come over us, I never imagined that I would find myself listening to a president who could shamelessly ignore and then justify torture, who could in his addresses to Congress boast our ability to murder anyone anywhere I never imagined that we would drift to the point where the most fundamental of our legal rights – the presumption of innocence, the protection from warrantless search, the ability to exercise free speech – could be abandoned without all of us rising up into a great wall of indignation. But we have not done so.
Somewhere we crossed the line. On the front page of this morning’s New York Times there is a story about how a shadowy American force called Task Force 6-26 turned one of Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers into a torture chamber of their own, a place without rules or limits, a place they called “The Black Room.” We are drifting into a national Black Room, a place of intimidation and helplessness.
I wanted to phone the Department of Defense and demand to speak to someone about the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay – but then I wondered whether I really wanted to be put on yet another government list and then find myself under arrest the next time I go to an airport. When I talk to my father, an eminent historian and former Naval officer, and I hear him vent his fury over the phone about our government, I find myself wondering what machines or people might be listening in on his intemperate words – and I urge him to be quiet.
Somewhere we crossed the line. We are witnessing the slow militarization of every part of American life. We are bowing down to the false god of endless war. Every brutalized person, every abuse of power, every absurd expenditure, every insinuation of treason, every collapse of legal protection has been justified and excused because we are a “nation at war.” Every time I see that phrase in the newspaper I want to know: at war with whom and with what and for how long? Where is the capital of the enemy that we can march into and occupy? Whose unconditional surrender are we seeking? With whom could we ever sign a peace? How long is this war going to continue? How far will it spread? How much more death can we swallow – how long will it take for us finally, as nation, to gag?
We know from history and experience, from the wisdom of the founders and the wisdom of scripture that the idolatrous pursuit of endless war against an unknown enemy is the most direct path from democracy to tyranny. We are already far down that path, and now we must turn back. My brothers and sisters, I do not know the answer to any of these questions. I am only one person – a frail and tired person. I cannot stop anything by myself. But I believe in you. And I believe in us. And I believe in God. As it says in today’s reading from Ephesians “God’s weakness is stonger than human strength.” And I believe that if the people of St. James, in our frailty and busyness and imperfection, could add our voices to those who can no longer stomach the idea and culture of endless “war,” then the same God who came to us in Jesus can yet again bring forth justice and peace in his name.
What is to be done? I have no brilliant ideas – only faith. I believe we must restore the rule of law. We must decisively and permanently reject the idolatry of endless war. I believe we must pray – each of one of us individually, and all of us together. I believe we must pray – in public, before our legislatures, before our governor, before our military. We must bear witness against the asphyxiating culture of death. When you come forward today, if you want to stop this endless war, put something of yours in this basket. A piece of clothing that you will never see again. Put in your photos of your children or your shoes. And we will mail them to Congress and say, “This is our offering. You have not heard our voices, so we are sending you a piece of ourselves. A piece of ourselves in exchange for the defense of our ideals, the rebirth of our democracy, and the restoration of the rule of law.”
Amen, Amen – dear God Amen.
Bob’s wife Anne writes: “When he stopped speaking, Bob took off his jacket and threw it into the basket he had placed on the rail of the choir. Then he seemed to collapse into the choir pew. Even as he was leaving the pulpit, one young mother stood up, walked directly to the basket and dropped something in. Then another. Slowly, steadily, one by one people came up and placed a piece of themselves in the basket.
“For fifteen minutes or so, the church was silent, except for the steady sound of footsteps as from every corner of the church people came up. Not all at once, never in a bunch but reverently, one by one as if making space for each person’s individual sacrifice, steady as a drumbeat they kept coming up until the basket was full. When we approached the altar for communion, more people were adding things and it was possible to see some of what was placed there. Gloves, someone’s pocketbook, a sweater, pictures, a leather jacket. It was stunning. After the service we collected at the side chapel to pray and talk. Many people seemed to feel that some valve had been opened in them that had been stuck shut.”
My final comment: I can’t remember who it was who said something along the lines of, ‘Be very, very careful which enemies you choose. You will end up being like them.’ Like a sailing ship whose ballast has shifted, the United States has skewed towards its own forms of fundamentalism and seems to be veering way off course. As Peter Schwartz of GBN put it earlier this week, Osama bin Laden – for an inital cost of just 19 lives – has forced the US to spend perhaps $1 trillion to no great effect – and, my words, has turned the one-time champion of global freedom and human rights into one of their most conspicuous abusers. In bearing witness to this profanity, Bob serves us all.
Four by-the-way snaps appear below. The ‘No Pedestrians’ sign is a little unfair, since San Francisco is such a glorious city to walk around. The Caltrain images recall my trips south to Palo Alto this week to see The Skoll Foundation and, a couple of days later, HP. Great service, despite the battery-hen look of the interiors. The carved mammoth tusk was something I caught sight of as I walked back to my hotel. For me, it symbolized both the impact of climate change – and human hunting – on the mammoth populations, and the impact of hunting, habitat change and climate trends on modern-day elephant populations. And something organically complex to set against the mechanical complexity of the Caltrain interior.
Snapped while walking to Dana-Lee Smirin’s car
Pachyderm train: a carved mamoth tusk
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Last day in San Francisco started very early, catching Caltrain to Palo Alto again to see the corporate responsibility team at HP. Odd feeling walking through vast expanses of cubicles, many of which seemed deserted. Dilbert territory – and the echoing aftermath of the great gold-rush of the New Economy days. But great people – and my fears about the throttling back their e-Inclusion programs (http://www.hp.com/e-inclusion/en/index.html) were somewhat allayed.
Then a towncar way across the city to Emeryville to see Peter Schwartz of GBN (http://www.gbn.com/). Arrived way too early, but – to my amzement – Peter invited me in to a closed session on future trends in the areas of security, borders and boundaries. Utterly fascinating, with those taking part including former NASA astronaut Rusty Schweickart (http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/schweickart-rl.html), ecologist Peter Warshall (http://www.gbn.com/PersonBioDisplayServlet.srv?pi=22075) and one of my all-time heroes, Stewart Brand, who I first came across via The Whole Earth Catalog (http://www.well.com/~sbb/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stewart_Brand), stacks of which still loll on our domestic bookshelves. I brought up the notion of ‘bodily trespass’ as an interesting example of the ways in which our thinking on boundaries is changing (http://www.sustainability.com/insight/issue-brief.asp?id=347).
Then, on the flight back to Heathrow, I read more of Joseph Marshall III’s extraordinary book on my favourite light cavalryman, Crazy Horse (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0670033553/104-9912561-8885533?v=glance&n=283155). Fascinated – particularly after the GBN session – by how much of the account boiled down to wildly different cultural perceptions of borders and boundaries. The Lakota with their floating boundaries defined by their continuous sparring with people like the Crow and Snake tribes, the trespassing whites with their maps, stakes and surveying tools.
I found myself wondering what the surveyors who carved up Lakota holy spaces like the Black Hills into road and rail routes and gold mining claims would have made of the GPS-based navigation system my Pakistani driver used this morning to get me from Palo Alto to Emeryville? (Just as I wondered what Crazy Horse would make of the memorial being sculpted in his memory by the Ziolkowski family – http://www.crazyhorse.org/ – when we went through the Dakotas many years ago.)
How much we now take for granted as our 747s magically find their way around the globe, but Marshall’s account of the stinking, fetid wake left by the migrants as they passed through once-lush grazing grounds left me deeply uneasy – not least because some of my American ancestors formed part of the wagon trains that moved through that region in the critical era, the 1860s.
Have been re-reading this morning the account that Clara Witter left of their family’s journey across to Denver in 1862. On boundaries, she says, of a trip back east in a wagon in 1864: “The Indians would make a map on the dirt floor of the cabins as we went east and said kill all white people, and they did as they said. Do you wonder I have no love for Indians?” Weird to be able to prowl around the colliding worldviews …
History is concertina’d by seeing my grandmother Isabel’s cousin Hollister, who hosted Elaine and I in Seattle on our first trip to the US in 1973, mentioned as present at Clara’s golden wedding, in 1905. And gold – sadly, the metal that the Black Hills turned out to hold in quantity – was central to the later stages of the Witters’ journey. When the family ran a post office in the hills west of Denver, it had a dirt floor. Miners would come in to collect mail and buy tobacco and other supplies. Clara again: “In those days there was no money – everyone carried a bottle or buckskin bag with gold dust and paid with that. Once a week we would sweep up the office floor and wash the sweepings and get quite a little gold dust.”
No wonder they ended up running a bank.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Spent the day at the Cleantech Venture Network’s latest mega-event, this time in San Francisco (http://cleantech.com/documents/SF%20Forum%20IX%20Overview%20Mar%2002%2006.pdf). Did a 60-minute plenary session with Dr Robert Grubbs of Caltech, who last year shared the Nobel Prize for his work on catalysis (http://www.cce.caltech.edu:16080/faculty/grubbs/). So I began by noting that, having given up chemistry at age 14, I felt at a slight disadvantage! But the session went very well – and I noted that if Bob had been teaching me chemistry I would never have given up. In the midst of his presentation, he noted that US research on catalysts had done much to boost the performance of WWII Spitfires to match the performance of the best of the German fighters. I publicly thanked him – as representative of this branch of chemistry. Didn’t say that I wouldn’t be here if such developments hadn’t happened, given my father Tim’s Spitfire (and Hurricane) days.
We were followed by a particularly high-energy session featuring John Doerr and John Dennniston of legendary venture capitalists Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (http://www.kpcb.com/). Given the often active disinterest of the VC industry in sustainability investments, this was fascinating. They focused on three emerging mega-issues: security, megacities and climate change. Anyone who watches the KPCB website wouldn’t have been surprised (http://www.kpcb.com/news/). They recently announced a new $100 million initiative in “green technologies”. For five years, KPCB has quietly backed greentech entrepreneurial ventures, including Lilliputian (battery technology), Miasole (solar cell technology), and a revolutionary solid oxide fuel cell maker. Two other ventures, they say, wish to remain “stealth”.
“Entrepreneurs are passionate about pursuing clean and affordable water, power and transportation. We’re seeing exciting, sustainable and scalable ventures, including biofuels (like ethanol), energy storage and energy conservation,“ John Doerr was quoted as saying at the time. ”Greentech could be the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century. Disruptive innovations are possible because of recent advances in chemistry, genetics, and material science. American and world leaders are calling for alternatives to $60-a-barrel oil, and entrepreneurs are rising to the challenge.”
My photos (see below) had to be taken without flash, but they give some sense of the session.
Had thought I would know very few of the folk at the Cleantech IX event, but found I knew a fair few. Among those who I bumped into was Jan-Olaf Willums, who told me had recently bought the Th!nk electric car business (http://www.think.no/), so nearly killed when it was taken over some years back by Ford. When San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom (who Elaine had a long walk with through the snows of Davos earlier in the year) announced later in the day that the city had just decided to specify alternative fuel vehicles in all areas, Jan-Olaf was in there like a shot.
Day ended with a dinner hosted by Cleantech Venture Network co-founder Nick Parker. He had introduced the session I did with Bob Grubbs by saying that I had “saved his soul” a couple of decades back with The Green Capitalists (Gollancz, 1987), in which I had argued that it was possible for capitalism and ecology to work together, hybridize. Whatever, the Cleantech series of events is an extraordinary demonstration of the gathering power of this diverse sector – and much of that has to do with the way Nick and his colleagues have branded the movement as cleantech. No wonder he didn’t particularly like Doerr and Denniston’s use of the alternative term greentech.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Spent the day with the Skoll Foundation (http://www.skollfoundation.org) in Palo Alto, after early start with Dana-Lee Smirin (Special Assistant to the Dean of Berkeley for Sustainability & New Initiatives). SustainAbility and Skoll have just announced a 3-year partnership, backed by a $1 million Skoll grant. More at http://www.sustainability.com/news-media/news-resource.asp?id=453
CALDER & IDEO
Plane landed in San Francisco in driving rain. On the way into the city by cab, I noticed posters advertising an Alexander Calder exhibition at the SF Museum of Modern Art. Strange coincidence, given that I had mentioned him in a blog on Jackson Pollock a few days back. So once I had dropped off my things at the hotel and taken a shower, I walked across to the SF MOMA (http://www.sfmoma.org/exhibitions/exhib_detail.asp?id=224). A few exhibits were extraordinary, like Two Acrobats, but once again I found that there were 3-4 things I didn’t like for every one I did – but the good pieces were exquisite. Also took in an exhibition on the 1906 earthquake and another (somewhat disappointing) by earth artist Richard Long.
Then I walked (a fair way) across to The Embarcadero. Assuming Pier 28, where IDEO (http://www.ideo.com/) have one of their offices, would be near Pier 29, I made my way there, only to find that Pier 28 was the other side of the Bay Bridge. Having arrived at Pier 29 on time, I then had to scurry – on foot – all the way back past the Ferry Building to Pier 28, in intermittent rain. No cabs, no trams, but plenty of brooding black storm clouds. Got there 25 minutes late, but had a fascinating meeting with their sustainability people – one of whom, Bob Adams, I have invited to take part in our September conference series in Australia and New Zealand.
IDEO, at least this office in an old warehouse, was amazingly reminiscent of the office SustainAbility shared for a couple of years with Brand New Product Development in the Notting Hill area. A sense of wheels turning, with my appetite for getting involved in consumer-focused initiatives and product design building again.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Getting ready to fly to San Francisco tomorrow morning. Most of the weekend has been taken up by book writing and preparation for events and meetings next week, but Elaine and I did manage a walk through the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park today, in wonderful Spring weather. trees just about to break into bud, but sense of impending drought. Yesterday’s excursion was across to Volvo in Twickenham, to get a new battery for the car. SustainAbility, incidentally, is currently doing a 6-country stakeholder engagement process for Volvo, and Matt (Loose) has just flown to Beijing to work on that with SustainAbility Faculty member Jeanne-Marie Gescher, of CGA.
Otherwise, we watched Ed Harris’s extraordinary film Pollock, on the last years and art of Jackson Pollock (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0183659/), whose work I have always found particularly powerful, which includes a brief glimpse of a mobile by Alexander Calder, who is probably my favourite artist. Tonight the freshwater programme in the Planet Earth series (http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/planetearth/), narrated by David Attenborough. Out of this world.
Friday, March 17, 2006
If all goes well, 2007 will mark SustainAbility’s twentieth anniversary, which makes our current strategic review particularly timely. It began with a survey of our Network last year (http://www.sustainability.com/compass/register.asp?type=download&articleid=105) and has continued with an intensive series of parallel processes designed to jump us into the next stage of our evolution. The last two days have involved intensive sessions with seven of us: Jeff (Erikson), Kavita (Prakash-Mani), Mark (Lee), Peter (Zollinger), Seb (Beloe), Sophia (Tickell) and I. The new team was humming along on all seven cylinders – the eighth, Geoff Lye, unfortunately being struck low by flu, as have been many of the team in recent weeks. Overall, one of the most extraordinarily creative and productive strategic conversations I can remember in our near-20-year history. We ended up with the walls of the conference room covered in flip-charts, but with a growing clarity on priorities and next steps.
Not so heated, actually
Thursday, March 16, 2006
REPTILE MEETS IMPERIAL STUDENTS
I’m pretty much a reptile in the mornings – it takes me a while basking in the sun to wake up. This morning, instead, I cycled into the teeth of a vicious, cold wind as I raced into the office to do an early morning session with 15 or so students from Imperial College, shepherded – as usual – by Andrew Blaza of Imperial’s Centre for Environmental Policy (http://www.env.ic.ac.uk/research/epmg/EPMGFrontpage.html). As usual, I found the session quite invigorating. Awake, I then moved into the first phase of a 2-day SustainAbility strategy process.
The UK Government has published its final response to the Export Credits Guarantee Department’s consultation on the changes made to its anti-bribery and corruption procedures in December 2004. This is something I have been fairly closely involved in as Chair of the ECGD Advisory Council. ECGD will now make a number of changes to its procedures which, the Government believes, will reduce the risk of ECGD supporting contracts tainted by corruption while also being workable for exporters and banks. Details at http://www.ecgd.gov.uk/news_home.htm?id=7001
The response of The Corner House, which catalysed this latest round of discussion, can be found at http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
There are moments when the complexity of our our various interlinking movements and worlds is brought home forcefully – and today was one of those moments. I spoke this afternoon at an event held at Imperial College to raise the profile of the Earth Charter (http://www.earthcharter.org/). The conference was chaired by Alan AtKisson (http://www.atkisson.com/), a member of SustainAbility’s Faculty who is now International Transition Director for the Charter, and by Andrew Blaza of Imperial College (http://www.env.ic.ac.uk/research/epmg/AndrewCV.html).
The other speakers were Princess Basma bint Talal (http://www.princessbasma.jo/), Ruud Lubbers (Dutch prime Minister 1982-1994, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruud_Lubbers), Alexander Likhotal (President and CEO, Green Cross International, http://www.greencrossinternational.net/index.htm), Jane Nelson (among many other things a member of our Council, http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/alum/refresher/bio_nelson.html) and Herman Mulder (co-chairman, ABN-Amro Group risk committee, and a leading light in the banking world’s adoption of the Equator Principles, http://www.equator-principles.com/).
A fascinating cross-linking of some quite disparate networks, followed by a reception at the Polish Club and then dinner at Hugo’s, in the Goethe Institute building in Exhibition Road (http://www.goethe.de/ins/gb/lon/uun/hug/enindex.htm). As Elaine and I entered the restaurant, I bumped into Bryn Jones, who I first knew decades ago as a director of Greenpeace, then founder of Landbank, and now (though this was news to me) co-proprietor of Hugo’s. Excellent organic food.
The thrust of our argument in our latest Grist column, posted yesterday (http://www.grist.org/biz/fd/2006/03/14/elkington/), is that, with billions of poor people in the world, there is an increasingly powerful case for bringing poverty “into the laboratory,” to study with rigor what alleviates or exacerbates it.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Speak at the Chatham House conference on Corporate Responsibility: Emerging Risks and Evolving Responsibilities (http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/index.php?id=5&cid=84), the seventh in a series. Then back to the office, where the team is celebrating (among other things) Mark Lee’s arrival in the London office as CEO and today’s launch of our latest report, Taxing Issues: Responsible Business and Tax (http://www.sustainability.com/insight/liability-article.asp?id=449).
In headlines, our argument in Taxing Issues is that corporate tax planning must come out of the shadows and be subject to the same standards of transparency and accountability as corporate environmental and social performance. Published with support from tax experts and leaders in corporate responsibility, the report argues that pressure is mounting for more transparency over tax in business. However, it also concludes that most companies are resistant to greater scrutiny of their tax planning, and that there is dramatic polarisation between those who see tax as simply a cost to be avoided, versus those who acknowledge stakeholder interest in the issue and recognise tax as part of their social contract with significant ethical issues.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Arrived back in London early this morning from Washington, D.C., after a slightly fraught Friday. After taking part in a session of the Base of the Pyramid Learning Lab at Cornell University (http://www.johnson.cornell.edu/sge/boplab.html), run by a long-standing friend and colleague, Professor Stuart Hart, Meghan Chapple-Brown and I drove back to Syracuse – in order to be up early for crack-of-dawn flights to different parts of the US. In the event, she made her flight to Michigan, while I missed mine – because of huge queues at my airline, US Airways. Then discovered that every flight out of the airport (and for all airlines) was booked – overbooked – for the next 24 hours. So had to rent a car and drive 7-8 hours south to DC. Missed my meeting with Lester Brown, a considerable regret, but managed to catch my flight, which was the key thing.
While at Cornell, I also did a lively session with a small group of students. Overall, I found the Cornell visit fascinating. One of the most interesting projects under way there, at least as far as I am concerned, is the open-source Base of the Pyramid Protocol™ Project – designed to generate insight into the processes by which firms can identify and develop sustainable new products and business models in partnership with BoP communities. Stu and his colleagues aim to establish and test a ‘protocol’ for understanding the needs, perspectives and capabilities of BoP communities in depth – and in a manner that provides both them and the corporation with lasting value. Another project they have under way is ‘The Great Leap Initiative’, an experiment to utilize markets at the base of the socio-economic pyramid as the environment for commercialization of undercapitalized intellectual property (http://www.johnson.cornell.edu/sge/greatleap.html).
Shortly after I got back this morning, Pamela Hartigan arrived to talk through our book for Harvard Business School Press. She is mainly here to speak at an event on social entrepreneurs organised by The 21st Century Trust (http://www.21stcenturytrust.org/2006.html), ‘The state, the market and social entrepreneurs: crossing boundaries, building alliances, avoiding pitfalls in meeting social needs,’ held in association with the Coin Street Community Builders and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
Not sure what Cornell Man is meant to be doing – but he seems almost Californian, despite snow and lack of clothes
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Beside my bed in the Ritz-Carlton I find a fortune cookie. The message inside reads: “Do today what you want to postpone until tomorrow.” Well, today actually started with a breakfast at the Cosmos Club, with David Jhirad (VP for Science & Research, World Resources Institute) and his colleague Virginia Barreiro (Director, New Ventures, WRI Sustainable Enterprise Program – see http://projects.wri.org/project_description.cfm?ProjectID=17). Then across to SustainAbility’s wonderful new loft offices, which we moved into in January, but which I hadn’t yet seen. Next, lunch with Jeff Erikson and Juliet Eilperin, environment correspondent of The Washington Post, then back to our offices for a session with Mark Gunther of Fortune. Then across to Union Station with Meghan Chapple-Brown to meet Paul Tebo, previously of DuPont, who I last saw in Delhi earlier in the year.
Monday, March 06, 2006
Arrived yesterday in Washington, D.C. and had dinner out with our US team. Today was a session with the DuPont Board of Directors, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Georgetown, which was fascinating. They are in search of ‘sustainable growth’ opportunities. In the evening, across to the Smithsonian for dinner with the BOD, where we were told as we arrived in the new Mammals Hall that we should consider the hippopotami and other kindred animals looming around us as we ate as part of a “family reunion”. Not sure all those present were totally comfortable with the idea.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
Once, Rotten Row was pretty much the end of my cycle journey to work, back when SustainAbility’s offices were at Hyde Park Corner, overlooking the Park. Now when I get there I still have 20 minutes or so to go. But I very much enjoy riding alongside the horses and guardsmen in winter, with their breath steaming out, rather than than in summer, when it’s all dust and flies. When I can find my little Canon in my pocket, I shoot pictures as I streak by. And getting back on the bike after so long jetting around has jump-started the brain again. Ideas for projects, the book and other ventures have been flowing nicely. Photos from two different days this week below.
Friday, March 03, 2006
Really, I have only myself to blame. I had been lobbying at SustainAbility for ages for something that combined a cell phone with the storage capabilities of a PDA and the email connectedness of a PC. A couple of days ago, 3 BlackBerries arrived at home, and the next morning I cycled them in to Holborn in one of my panniers, like three joeys in the maternal pouch. They have since been incubated very much like a little clutch of aliens, under the loving care of Kim Russell, fed electricity and data, three little parasites feeding on a live host. But once I started to play with them, I was in love. Strange, for someone who hates the telephone so.
The parasites feed
Sam and Kim tend the aliens
One of the most extraordinary books I have read in the last couple of years or so was Downfall, by Traudl Junge (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traudl_Junge), the story of the Third Reich, seen from the perspective of Hitler’s secretary. The film (www.downfallthefilm.com/), which I watched last night on TV through to midnight, despite feeling in need of an early night, did the book proud. The film was well received, unlike a TV series to be shown on Germany’s ZDF TV channel on Sunday and Monday, which sets a love story between a downed British bomber pilot and a German nurse in the heart of the firestorms that destroyed Dresden. Apparently the most expensive made-for-German-TV preduction ever, Dresden: An Inferno is creating a fire-storm all of its own. The best book by far I have read on the Dresden raids was Dresden: Tuesday, 13 February, 1945 by Frederick Taylor (http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0747570787/qid=1141490362/sr=2-2/ref=sr_2_2_2/026-1100468-6454015).