Thursday, May 31, 2007
Back late from the launch of SustainAbility’s latest report, Raising Our Game: Can We Sustain Globalization? (http://www.sustainability.com/raising-our-game/), at an event co-hosted by Anglo-American at their HQ in Carlton House Terrace. I introduced the report and Sophia (Tickell) chaired the discussion panel that followed, which featured folk like Doug Miller of GlobeScan and Charles Secrett, previously head of Friends of the Earth and now an advisor to London Mayor Ken Livingstone.
Gave special thanks to Ritu Khanna for keeping the project on the tracks – and to Mark Lee, our CEO, for keeping the orgnaisation on its own tracks during the somewhat protracted process. But I’m really pleased with the end result. There was an extraordinary buzz at the reception that followed. These are three pictures that Sam (Lakha) took as she circled Chris Marsden, Jonathon Porritt and I. Our latest recruit, Ori Chandler, who it was announced only today was joining the team, took photos throughout the session, so may post some of those, too, later.
Chris, Jonathon, me
Me, Chris, Jonathon, Mark (Lee)
RAISING OUR GAME
Our second report as part of our Skoll Program was launched in London today. It is now posted on our website (http://www.sustainability.com/raising%2Dour%2Dgame/). Raising Our Game: Can We Sustain Globalization? looks out to 2027 to examine future scenarios for sustainable development, and proposes a new set of rules which could help business rise to the unprecedented challenges ahead. The report looks at the trade-offs involved in future choices over environmental and social value, and at the role to be played by innovation, entrepreneurship and the emerging economies of the South. There will be winners and losers, but no more business as usual. For more information or to register your seat at one of our launch events, please contact Ritu Khanna at firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, May 25, 2007
Spent much of the day with the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre in Charlotte Street. Their website, which is a treasure trove of material on business and human rights – as the label on the tin might suggest, is in the process of being revamped. The new version, which launches shortly, will be a major step forward.
Then back to the office for a call to Brazil, ahead of my trip there next month, followed by a meeting with Henry Saint-Bris of Suez. Also get to leaf through a print copy of our twentieth anniversary report, Raising Our Game: Can We Sustain Globalisation?, which has just arrived from the printers. Much of the weekend will be spent doing slides for the launch on 31 May, hosted by Anglo-American.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Glorious, fascinating day at the Chelsea Physic Gardens, for a session of the Avdisory Board of Physic Ventures (http://www.physicventures.com/) – during which I did a joint presentation with Sophia (Tickell). The weather was wonderful, although there were moments in the morning when it felt as if we were in Kuala Lumpur. Then in the evening, across to Cafe Fish, near Piccadilly Circus, for dinner with Elaine, Jed Emerson and Jason and Kippy Scott, he of Generation Investment Management.
Monday, May 21, 2007
LOW CARBON, HIGH ADRENALINE
Slightly scrambled day, part of which involved being stranded in a Piccadilly Line train outside Hammersmith for an unconscionable time en route to a meeting on biofuels at Clarence House, chaired by Prince Charles. Got there just as the group was convening – and more or less got over my “low carbon, high adrenaline” experience by the time I was called on to speak. Then back to the office to be filmed for a BBC World series on, of all things, Formula 1 racing. Then out to dinner with Elaine, Will Rosenzweig and his wife Carla. Slightly tired by the time we got home.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
THE SPITTING IMAGE
A couple of days ago, Geoff Lye, Sophia Tickell and I had an interesting lunch with John Gummer and the Quality of Life Challenge team. Geoff has prepared a statement on the need for the UK to become ‘carbon positive,’ which is now posted on the SustainAbility website (http://www.sustainability.com/insight/article_open.asp?id=953) and on the Quality of Life Challenge website (http://www.qualityoflifechallenge.com/). As we convened upstairs, waiting to head downstairs to lunch, I couldn’t resist taking a picture of John’s ‘Spitting Image’ dummy in its glass case …
Thursday, May 17, 2007
I’m facilitating a debate on social entrepreneurship on Social Edge this week. If you’re interested in taking a peek – or, even better, inputting – here’s the link:
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Ready for inhalation of the vapours
Flew in to JFK late last night and was up early today in New York’s Marriott Financial Center to take part in the CRO Conference, sub-titled ‘A Board’s-Eye View of Corporate Responsibility.’ In this case CRO stands for Chief Responsibility Officer, with the event organised by CRO magazine (http://www.thecro.com/). Was part of an early panel session on where the whole agenda is headed, alongside the CERES Director of Governance Programs, Anne Kelly, and two companies: Interface and Neenah Paper. The photograph shows the bank of chairs we were asked to sit on. They reminded me of the tripod that the Oracle of Delphi used to sit on while inhaling the vapours – methane, ethane and ethylene predominantly, as I have been reading in a fascinating book on the subject as I flew around the country. This is The Oracle: Ancient Delphi and the Science Behind Its Lost Secrets, by William J. Broad (Penguin, 2006).
The Oracle of Delphi at work
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Last night, Maggie and I had dinner with Bob Adams of designers IDEO (http://www.ideo.com) at a fantastic Greek cuisine restaurant in Emerson Street, Kokkari (http://www/kokkari.com). Then this morning we made our way across to IDEO at Pier 28 on the Embarcadero, for a session with members of their San Francisco team. We are plotting a possible joint project. Wonderfully bright bunch of people – and an environment that reminds me strongly of the world we worked in when SustainAbility first moved out of our house in Barnes and slotted in alongside Brand New Product Development in Holland Park. Then out to the airport for flight to NYC.
IDEO 6: Maggie and Bob
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
After our meeting with Mitch Kapor, Maggie and I are forced to take a town car out to Palo Alto to get to the Skoll Foundation in time. The shame, the guilt, the footprint! And, to make matters worse, we are supplied in the luxurious back seat with elegant bottles of Norwegian mineral water. Sally (Osberg), the Foundation’s President, beats me up on that pretty much the moment we arrive. But then we then have two wonderful sessions, one with Sally and her immediate team, then a wider one, over lunch, with most of her colleagues. A great opportunity to report back on our work so far as part of our ongoing 3-year program with the Foundation. As we travel across the States, Maggie and I are liberally dispensing copies of our first Skoll report, Growing Opportunity: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Insoluble Problems (http://www.sustainability.com/insight/skoll_article.asp?id=937).
The WEF session itself was held out at HP’s HQ, where we were kindly driven by Laura Vais of the Skoll Foundation. The event, which I facilitated, was off-the-record, but one of the thing that always impresses me about their workshops like this is the instant charting done by their artists. One of the charts for my session appears below.
Our waves hit the big time, again
Day started with a magical session with Mitch Kapor (http://www.kapor.com/: see, too, my February 24 blog). What a startlingly rich city San Francisco is in terms of its human capital and diversity. Maggie and I made our way across to Mitch’s extraordinary building, where dogs were everywhere in evidence, from the moment we were ushered in to the moment we left. In his own office, we also met Wanda, who gave the entire proceedings a slightly surreal, Starwarsish effect.
Talking about the sustainability agenda, and my impending session on ‘The Future of Green’ with the World Economic Forum out at HP, Mitch noted that it is “a done deal,” “game over,” and that the last place any self-respecting company wants to be is “on the trailing edge.” We also talk about his wife Freada’s new book, Giving Notice: Why the Best and Brightest are Leaving the Workplace and How You Can Help Them Stay, which explores why bright young people are leaving the business mainstream (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw/002-9400800-1657641?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Giving+Notice). If there were more people like Mitch, the tide would become a tsunami. I’d join – just for the shirts.
Warm welcome for Maggie
How’d a porcupine get in?
Color-coded: Mitch and Wanda
Monday, May 07, 2007
After an early, fascinating visit with Nan Stone of Bridgespan (http://www.bridgespangroup.org/), Maggie and I make our way across to see Will Rosenzweig and his team at Physic Ventures, particularly Phil Giesler, Director of Innovation at Unilever Corporate Ventures – and now deeply engaged in Physic. This is a venture capital firm that “works closely with entrepreneurial teams and invests in technology-enabled, consumer-driven businesses in North America, primarily early to mid-stage.” Key areas are health, wellbeing and sustainable lifestyles. I’m on their strategic advisory board (http://www.physicventures.com/leadership.html). It’s their first day in their new offices on California Street. Sense that things are on a roll.
Then an interview with Cheryl Dahl, who I first came across through Fast Company, and who is now working on a fascinating web-based venture aimed at green consumers – particularly people who don’t really consider themselves as such. In the evening, Will and his wife Carla take Maggie and I to a wonderful Basque restaurant along Battery Street, Piperade (http://www.piperade.com). Really had no idea that Basque food – and particularly Basque wine – could be so good. I could live here.
A shape that imprinted itself on my brain when I first came to Frisco in the early 1970s
HURRAH, I’M 2,589,000TH …!
While in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a couple of days ago, I met Keith Schneider of the Michigan Land Use Institute. We were talking about websites and blogs with Jonathan Halperin, from SustainAbility’s Washington, D.C. office, when Keith asked how many people visited my personal website. I said I had never asked – and, to a degree, didn’t want to know. But after further discussion he offered to take a look at the site’s performance according to Technorati, which rates sites by number of links rather than visitors.
His feedback TODAY is that this site ranked “778,427 out of 71 million blogs tracked by Technorati.com, the best blog search engine.” Then he took a look at this site and SustainAbility’s via www.Alexa.com. In the interests of transparency, he reported that “Your personal site is ranked 2,589,000. And sustainability.com is ranked 559,024.” He went on to say that “SustainAbility.com is doing very well,” whereas I am beginning to oscillate between a wish that I hadn’t shown an interest and, on the other hand, a mildly competitive need to boost my numbers!
Sunday, May 06, 2007
First full day in San Francisco started with breakfast with Maggie (Brenneke), following which I took the BART train out to San Bruno and a truly weird yellow cab (at least as far as the driver was concerned, but at least with Duke Ellington playing on his fading in-and-out radio) onward to San Mateo for lunch with Debra Dunn, ex-HP and now a member of SustainAbility’s Faculty. Then mainline train back to the city and fairly soon afterwards, with Maggie, across to see Denise Caruso of the Hybrid Vigor Institute (http://hybridvigor.org/), also a member of our Faculty. She recently published an extraordinary book on risk, Intervention: Confronting the Real Risks of Genetic Engineering and Life on a Biotech Planet (hvpress, 2006).
After dinner at a Thai restaurant, Denise drove us back into the city in her open-topped car, with The Beatles booming out Come Together as we crested the rise from her home – and gazed out over that astounding cityscape of lights. The stars were amazingly clear, as was Venus, I think. Given that I have described her part of the city as very much like an aircraft carrier, giving you the sense that you are about to take off over the city and Bay, and that aircraft carriers are sometimes called flattops, it was slightly spooky that the line playing as we crested the ridge was “Here come ol’ flattop, he come groovin’ up slowly” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Come_Together).
San Mateo station
Saturday, May 05, 2007
LETTER OF SUPPORT FOR JOHN BROWNE
Signed a letter of support for Lord Browne of BP while in the US. It appeared today in the Financial Times (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/7a2ddd32-faa7-11db-8bd0-000b5df10621.html) and The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,,2072999,00.html).
In to San Francisco, after a couple of days in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with Jonathan Halperin of our D.C. team. We took part in a conference at Michigan University’s Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise (http://www.erb.umich.edu/) on the theme of ‘What Do NGOs Want?’ Professor Tom Lyon, the Institute’s Director, is developing a book on the theme. Our report The 21st Century NGO will make up one chapter. Groups like Environmental Defense, Greenpeace, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and WWF who took part quipped that they felt like “lab rats” or “beetles on a pin,” but the event turned into a very interesting exercise. Great to see old friends like (Professor) Tom Gladwin and Marty Zimmerman, who was a key figure at Ford when SustainAbility first started working with the company.
Magical moment when Erb Institute Associate Director Andy Hoffman asks me how we calculated the height and variation of the waves of societal pressure since 1960 that I have been tracking at SustainAbility since 1994. The answer is that the process has often been a bit like that scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind when Richard Dreyfuss frantically models Devil’s Tower out of mud. I have grabbed at any data and stray information I could get my hands on. But then Andy opened several pages from his thoroughly studious book From Heresy to Dogma: An Institutional History of Corporate Environmentalism (Stanford Business Books, 2001), and a winner of the Rachel Carson Prize. The trends and the patterns were remarkably similar, even though these maps were data-driven and mine have been somewhat more intuitive.
At one point, Jonathan and I strolled around the town and stumbled across a wonderful shop, The Shaman Drum Bookstore. Couldn’t help myself, as usual. Came away with books like William Broad’s book The Oracle, Gary Snyder’s Back on Fire, Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains (which Jane Nelson has been encouraging me to read for ages), A Billion Bootstraps: Microcredit, Barefoot Banking, and the Business Solution for Ending Poverty by Phil Smith and Eric Thurman, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Just as well we’re driving a truck …
Jonathan asked for a hybrid – and instead we got …
I’m vertically challenged
Marty Zimmerman (centre) asserts, while Dow Chemical and BP reflect
Jonathan does social service
Thursday, May 03, 2007
BEDFORD ROW TREES
Don’t know what species they are, but the trees in Bedford Row make this my favourite time of year there. The fragrance from their blossoms is heady – though it competes at the moment with the smell of solvents and hot, drilled materials in the London office, where a bunch of new desks and cupboards are being installed at the moment, together with what look like several entry ramps to the fabled information superhighway.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Associated Press: Johan Huibers’ Ark
SustainAbility’s London offices are being rewired and redesked this week, so have been working mainly at home, though with regular excursions into central London for meetings – today with James Cameron, Monica Araya and Tanja Havemann of Climate Change Capital in Grosvenor Street. Have also been working on the book and the final stages of our globalization study, the latter due out on 31 May. Plus preparing slide presentations for Ann Arbor and San Francisco later in the week.
And climate is the unlikely link to the obituary this week (Independent, 28 April) of Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett. One of my least favourite tracks on my least favourite Beach Boys album, which I nonetheless bought while at school in 1964, was ‘Monster Mash’ on Beach Boys Concert. But once heard, the words – by Pickett – were difficult to flush out of one’s mind:
I was working in the lab late one night,
When my eyes beheld an eerie sight,
For my monster from his slab began to rise,
And suddenly to my surprise …
He did the mash,
He did the monster mash,
The monster mash,
It was a graveyard smash.
And the link? Well, in 2004 Pickett took his song, originally released in 1962 and which he also later morphed into such forgettable songs as ‘Transylvania Twist’ and ‘The Werewolf Watusi’, and updated it to produce ‘Climate Mash’, designed to help turn up the heat under the Bush Administration.
Any the picture at the top of this entry? It’s an AP image of the half-size Ark built by Johan Huibers in The Netherlands (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6604879.stm). If you can’t win the politics on climate, and you can’t sell enough humorous records to buy yourself a hilltop retreat, the next big thing is to built a monster version of an upended Airstream trailer/caravan and take to the waves.