Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Took part in a GlobeScan Salon this evening. Other speakers from Amnesty, Nestle and Vodafone. Sam (Lakha) and Alex (Nick) also came from SustainAbility. Wonderful evening, lively debate, good wine, and afterwards Elaine and I took a taxi home with Doug and Margot Miller.
Chris Coulter and Doug Miller of GlobeScan, Kate Gilmore of Amnesty
Doug 3: locking up
Doug 4: this world is mine
Glorious sunset as I cycled home this evening, particularly as I passed the Albert Memorial. But a weird golden-brown effect around many of the clouds. Then, a few moments later, as I passed Whole Foods Market, the heavens opened – and I was totally drenched. Continued to cycle with claps of thunder happening almost overhead. The temperature of the rain was icy. By the time I got home I looked like a drowned rat that had been fished out of the Thames, but it was all oddly exhilarating.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
The journey home
Back home by Eurostar – astoundingly efficient, though apparently a train that went the other way on the day we went out took forever to get to Paris because of breakdowns.
Apart from a World Energy Council teleconference this evening, we had a delightful day wandering the city, taking in the perfume museum at Parfums Fragonard, the shop windows of Printemps, the Café de la Paix, Le Jardin des Plantes, a favourite scarf shop of Elaine’s nearby, and then the Delacroix museum. For me, oddly, a high point was walking by the Printemps windows, in an activity the French call lèche-vitrine, literally window-licking. A couple of the windows are captured, after a fashion, below.
Swan’s-head perfume bottle
Samsung: I liked the man’s head and the woman with magazine over hers, as sun-shade
Dans Le Jardin des Plantes
Elaine in Delacroix’s garden
Père-Lachaise et M. Blériot
A day spent walking the length and breadth of Père-Lachaise cemetery, then – at greater speed – up and down, in and out, through the Musée des Arts et Métiers. Took a long time tracking down Jim Morrison in the cemetery, even though Elaine had been there before, and found many of the other graves and tombs more moving – including one extraordinary one commemorating a Quintin Craufurd, with his knight’s helm decorated with what I think is an ermine that has seen better days. Elaine was happy to at last find Delacroix. Later, in the Museum, the scientific instruments were a wonder, but for me Foucault’s pendulum and the sight of Blériot‘s plane hanging in the church were simply out-of-this-world. Almost felt the earth move.
Crack – with skull in shadows, bottom right
Look upon my works …
Oscar Wilde’s tomb (detail) – spattered with lipstick kiss marks
Nice pair of headlights
Spirit-raising use for a church
M. Blériot’s aerial pram
We’re ‘Essential Green Reading’
At least according to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&plgroup=6&docId=1000210851
Unicorn and speech bubble
Two images shot as we walked around the Places des Vosges neighbourhood, one the sign of the unicorn, the other a delicately shod young man with an unfilled speech bubble. Tempting to imagine the horn of the one popping the bubble of the other – or simply to fill in the bubble.
– posted by John Elkington @ 10:43 PM
An article I did on the theme with John Lotherington of The 21st Century Trust is now posted on the openDemocracy site.
Footsore and fancy free
After lunch with the EcoVadis crew yesterday, we walked and walked and walked. Among the museums we visited was the Musée Maillol, full of unappealing fat naked ladies – both sculptures and paintings. That said, there were some well-known found objects. But for me the high point by far was the museum’s spiralling staircase.
Homeward bound 1
Homeward bound 2
Today it was both brighter and warmer, so we went off by Metro and Shank’s pony to the Musée du quai Branly, devoted to indigenous art, which was hugely impressive in terms of the scale of the collection. After a while, though, one tends to drown a little in all that concentrated symbolism. Have always suffered from some form of Stendhal’s syndrome – and this triggered a version of that in both of us.
Then we pottered back along the Seine to Shakespeare & Company, where I bought three books: Maryanne Wolf’s Proust and the Squid, on the reading brain; The Reserve by Russell Banks; and Joseph Heller’s Closing Time, billed as a sequel to Catch 22. Can’t imagine it’s anything like as good. Catch 22 got me in endless trouble at school, when I would collapse into helpless laughter day after day in the period when we were meant to lie in silence on our beds after lunch.
Eiffel Tower through frontage of Quai Branly Museum
Parisian gem – Shakespeare and Co
The weight of learning
Nin – and someone who looks like Paul in Sgt Pepper days
Plath & Hughes
Someone doesn’t fit
Paris in the rain
Photo: Hans Silvester
Arrived in Paris by Eurostar late afternoon yesterday and made our way to Rue de Turenne, where Elaine had found a wonderful apartment for less than we would have paid for a hotel. Pierre let us in – and turned out to be a good friend of one of the handful of people I know in Paris who works in sustainable development (developpement durable), Elisabeth Laville of Utopies. Last time I saw her was when we marched across Westminster Bridge after Anita Roddick’s wake. Will try to see her while here.
Last night, we had supper in the Place des Vosges, where I memorably stayed with Gavin Young in 1973. Today Elaine and I walked around the city, in occasional rain, slowly decompressing. Found a wonderful book by Hans Silvester on kites (cerfs volants) in a delightful little bookshop, La Belle Lurette in the Rue Saint-Antoine. Leafing through it now reminds me of when we used to fly a great orange (ex-RAF emergency) box-kite in Nicosia, in the late 1950s. There seemed to be a magic moment when the kites – of multifarious forms – would begin to sprout in the evening sky across the city.
Apartment 1: still life with wooden fruit
Apartment 2: figurine
Nearby garden 1
Nearby garden 2
Place de la Bastille
Self-portrait with graffiti, on Le Promenade Planté, an old railway viaduct
Old man watches in-line skaters
There was an extraordinary buzz around the launch events for SustainAbility’s new report, The Social Intrapreneur, yesterday and today. Last night we hosted a dinner at the Covent Garden Hotel, while this morning we co-hosted a breakfast brainstorm (a little early for my reptilian brain) and an evening reception and launch event with IDEO.
This evening, Maggie Brenneke – who had orchestrated the events – asked me to be Oprah Winfrey, facilitating a concluding panel session with Bob Annibale of Citi’s global microfinance team, Sam MacCracken of Nike’s Native American business and Kerryn Schrank of BP fuels. I opened the session by admitting that I was multiply challenged in relation to the role because of (among other things) gender, race, hair and the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever watched Oprah. Still, some photos below:
Reminiscent of SustainAbility’s early days alongside Brand New Product Development
Good to go
James Parr sparkles 1
James Parr sparkles 2
Animation: Daniel of Mars and Kavita of SustainAbility
Reflection: Nick and Astrid of Allianz
Monica of Allianz
Meghan of SustainAbility
Ziba of Nike
James of IDEO
Not one of ours
Manuela of SustainAbility, James
Polar bears – IDEO is in London’s White Bear Yard
Furniture’s equivalent of jelly babies
Sam of Nike, in the background SustainAbility’s Jonathan Halperin
Bob, Sam, ‘Oprah’
Sam and Kerryn
What’s next? Alexa (Clay), Kerryn, Maggie, Mark
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Camila Batmanghelidjh and Colonel Elkington
Began the day at The Entrepreneurs’ Summit, held at the Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square. Organised by Real Business and the Confederation of British Business (CBI), the event focused on “how risk-takers can be winners in 2008.” Early speakers included CBI Director-General Richard Lambert and Sir Ronald Cohen, chairman of Bridges Ventures. I was then part of a panel titled ‘The new agenda for entrepreneurs.’ My co-panellists were MIVA President Seb Bishop, Innocent Drinks Managing Director Jamie Mitchell and Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of Kids Company. First time I had met Camila, whose work I find glorious – like her wardrobe.
Then we listened to DWP Secretary John Hutton, who sent me a note which got to me during the course of his session. Went out to meet him in the reception afterwards – and he asked me whether I am related to my namesake, Colonel John Ford Elkington, which I am. He is doing a book on the extraordinary story.
Camila follows me into the hot-seat (photo: JE)
Friday, April 11, 2008
It’s just over 10 years since Murray Edmonds turned up in SustainAbility’s Kensington offices. An Australian, he had come across our work on environmental reporting and wanted to launch an annual series of conferences in Australia and New Zealand, which we duly did – over the years taking the show to such cities as Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Auckland. each year I shared the platform with a different line-up of speakers, starting off with Linda Descano and then opening out to include people like Tom Delfgaauw (then of Shell), Pamela Hartigan (Schwab Foundation), Rick Murray (Swiss Re), Sarah Severn (Nike), Simon Zadek (AccountAbility) and Debbie Zemke (then of Ford) and a kaleidoscope of local speakers, including politicians and business leaders.
When we first met, I said I was more interested in spotlighting the bottom line agenda than environmental reporting, but that had to wait till the second year – after which the TBL agenda replicated like rabbits across the Antipodean landscape. The only other country where I can say it had a similar impact, particularly in the 3P (People, Planet & Profits) formulation I had also come up with in 1994/5, was The Netherlands.
Now retired to Switzerland with his wife Dobrina, Murray had volunteered to fly over to celebrate our first meeting a decade ago – and all the exploits since. At times, over the years, it was like a Rolling Stones travelling show and, despite ourselves, we were soon pondering what we might do next as Elaine, he and I relaxed over a wonderful meal and French Pinot Noir at the Tamarind restaurant in Queen Street.
A distant mirror at the Tamarind
– posted by John Elkington @ 11:06 PM
Thursday, April 10, 2008
The nightmare scenario?
Have been feeling pretty exhausted in recent days, struggling to get out of bed in the mornings. Probably a combination of factors: not travelling allows the wear and tear of past travelling to catch up; unhooking to a degree from SustainAbility after 21 years also must be having an emotional impact; and then there’s the effort of keeping options open for our new venture, Volans, as we search for offices and build our capability to tackle a new generation of projects.
Progress is being made, no question, but at times it’s often a lot slower than I would like. Maybe I’ve become impatient with old age? (Met someone this week who said she had read so much by me over the decades that she had expected me to be grey and wizened … I said I am grey and the wizening will no doubt come in due course.) When I think back to the 1978 when we founded ENDS and 1987 when we founded SustainAbility, things now are coming together at least as fast as they did then – but with the difference this time that we are sliding into a much tougher business environment.
It’s not just the developing financial crisis, but the sense that the environmentalist nightmare scenario is finally beginning to build momentum, with a combination of climate change, food shortages (partly fuelled by the demand for crops for biofuels) and rioting about food shortages in cities around the world possibly heralding a new, nastier era in global politics.
Sam waves goodbye as I head off somewhere …
Birthday celebration, with Patrin, Kavita, JP and Ori
Shot while Sam I walked to the ‘scrivener’ to have my passport notarised
Lovely morning as I wend my way to the Design Council in Bow Street, pretty much exactly where the Indonesian hit me in 1975 as I cycled down to King’s College, leaving me with three broken ribs – though I only realised how much damage had been done when I got into bed in Cairo later the same day. Today it’s a Franco-British Council debate on issues around the prospect for a post-Kyoto treaty on climate change. Profoundly useful session for the project we are discussing with the World Energy Council.
With market bears on the rampage, this bull opposite the Design Council caught my eye
And this picture of a brain, particularly the yellow pin
And the red and the yellow – and the white
Then this looked like some illumined brain behind glass
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Remarkable start to the week, going out with Gaia and Hania on both Monday and this evening, Wednesday. Monday was dinner at Scott’s, the extraordinary seafood restaurant in Mayfair. A first time for us all – and in celebration of the girls making progress with their script-writing. An astounding start with four different sorts of oyster, and a highlight for me was the leek and potato soup made with wild garlic.
Then this evening, they took us on a mystery night out, to see what turned out to be the Tiger Lillies, a band Hania and John Jencks originally introduced me to – but which I hadn’t yet seen live. Tried to describe them to Elaine as we sat down for the concert, as some weird combination of scatological vaudeville and punk – but even so wasn’t prepared for the full force of their ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ show. God forbid that there was anyone in the audience who had just lost a baby or child. It takes a lot to shock me, but this show did. Still, one of those experiences that lives on in the memory, for better or worse. Three great instrumentalists, though.
Before the show
She’s eating fire
Monday, April 07, 2008
Thérèse Rein came in to the office today, to talk to Mark (Lee) and I. Impressive and engaging. Perhaps symbolically, the sun shone into our conference room as we talked, quite a surprise after earlier hail. As Australia’s relatively new PM, her husband Kevin has already taken some dramatically different positions on issues like climate change. They are turning out to be a breath of fresh air after the stagnation of the Howard era. Makes me even sadder to have had to cancel a trip to Australia this autumn.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Seahorses – good news and bad
Nice story in today’s Sunday Times about the discovery of a colony of short-snouted seahorses in the Thames estuary. Though discovered in 2006, the creatures have been kept under wraps until they could be protected. Another sign that the Thames is now far cleaner than it has been for a very long time, but also very likely a symptom of the warming waters associated with climate change.
Spent much of the day at the Work Foundation’s HQ, taking part in the first Tällberg Conversation, organised by Sweden’s Tällberg Foundation. The focus was on what sort of new economic model we now need, a question given greater urgency by what is happening in financial markets all around us.
Indeed, Jakob von Uexkull of the Right Livelihood Foundation(http://www.rightlivelihood.org/jakob.html) and World Future Council (http://www.rightlivelihood.org/jakob.html) – who I first met in the early 1980s when a number of us were launching The Other Economic Summit (TOES) – brought participants up short at one point in the proceedings by asking what would happen if the current economic model melted down to the extent that the heads of the sustainability movement were called up in the middle of the night and asked to take over the reins of government?
This was exactly what happened, he stressed, when Communism melted down in the late 1980s and people who had been on the margins, or in prison, were asked to take over. Not sure he got the sort of answers he wanted, but his question provides a useful goad in terms of the nature and scale of the challenges we are likely to face.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Sustaining a Successful Brand
Keynoted the ‘Sustaining a Successful Brand’ conference today, organised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM). Down to Bristol by train last night, staying in a hotel where football seemed to be the cult du jour. Good to see Phil Comer again, who has championed our issues energetically and effectively within the CIM.
A lively plenary session – but I left for the station in the afternoon feeling quite grateful that I don’t have to record conferences against a training budget. This event, apparently, was worth five hours of professional development, under category 7, whatever that may, towards achieving or maintaining Chartered Marketer status. Progress, surely, that sustainable development now slots into all of that, but I hope that when the time comes that my sort of work is professionalised to anything like this extent I will be either long since gone – or long since dead.
It would be easy to say something along the lines of “How quickly time passes,” but the 30 years that have passed since David Layton, Max Nicholson and I set up Environmental Data Services, better known as ENDS, seem to have stretched over several lifetimes. After spending a couple of months doing a feasibility study while still at TEST, I arrived to find one staff member, Georgina McAughtry – later a Director – in place, ahead of me by a few days, and we took it from there.
Today I did an interview with the current Deputy Editor, Philip Lightowlers, which brought it all back to mind. My involvement partly stemmed from writing I had been doing over several years for New Scientist, increasingly focusing on business – and ENDS gave me the opportunity to visit a huge number of companies around the world at a time when the environmental agenda was just beginning to blink on the edge of their radar screens. Also led to my first book, The Ecology of Tomorrow’s World, published in 1980. My thanks to all at ENDS and at Incomes Data Services (IDS), the original parent company, who made the new venture possible.