NEXT A SAFE AND SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
Henrik O. Madsen - WHAT’S NEXT
H.R.H. Crown Prince Haakon - INVEST IN YOUNG LEADERS
Alec Loorz - THE MORAL AUTHORITY
Jessica Cheam - THE POWER OF A GOOD STORY
Kevin Noone - SETTING BOUNDARIES 18 Achim Steiner - GROWING A GREENER ECONOMY 22 Robert Engelman - THE FEMALE EQUILIBRIUM 26 Kim Tan - INVESTING FOR IMPACT 30 Marina Grossi - LESSONS FROM BRAZIL 32 Georg Kell - A FORCE FOR GOOD 34 Bawa Jain - MOVING THE MASSES 38 Jeremy Bentham - READY FOR AN OIL CHANGE 42 Jeanne Ng - THINKING BIG, ACTING SLOW
Peter Bakker - LEADERS MUST LEAD 48 Pavan Sukhdev - A MAKE-OVER FOR ADVERTISING 50 Grace Mwaura - NOURISHING YOUR MINDS
John Fullerton - CAPITALISM BY NATURE 56 Hunter Lovins - ACTION, FOLKS! 58 Rajendra E. Pachauri - POSITIVE MOMENTUM
Tristram Stuart - WHY WASTE YOUR WASTE? 64 Rob Cameron - MOVING TO A RE-DEVELOPING WORLD 66 Sarah Collins - COOKING UP CHANGE 70 Per Heggenes - BUILDING CHILDREN A BETTER FUTURE 72 Jørgen Randers - THE LIMITS TO SHORT-TERMISM 74 Fengshu Liu - ONE IN A CHINESE BILLION 78 John Ashton - NO MORE HOLLOW PROMISES 80 Bright Simons - AFRICA: LEAPFROGGING TO HEALTH AND WEALTH 84 Nathan Eagle - TURNING KNOWLEDGE INTO ACTION 86 Eva Joly - YOU CAN’T CHEAT CLIMATE CHANGE 88 Ajay Banga - CASH IS NOT KING 92 Ana Marques - CONSCIOUS LEADERSHIP 94 Jo Confino - A MOMENT OF CLARITY 98 Paul Polman - LEADING BY EXAMPLE
Bjørn Kj. Haugland - NEXT IS NOW 106 INDEX 112
HENRIK O. MADSEN
WHAT’S NEXT Winston Churchill once noted that “the farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” Having existed for 150 years puts DNV GL in a unique position to ask the question which we set out to reflect on in this book: What’s next for a safe and sustainable future? No amount of hindsight can buy the ability to predict the future. But as we embark on the next chapter, we feel certain that the future will revolve around the question of how to create a world in which all people can prosper within the ecological limits of our planet. That’s a humbling challenge. And if there is one thing our 150-year long history has shown us, it is that even the most experienced organisation is unlikely to come up with all the answers on its own. For that reason, we decided to ask a number of forward-thinking, progressive and inspiring people what they think must come next, in order for us all to move towards a safe and sustainable future. Through personal commitment and vigorous initiative, the 32 individuals whose stories make up the pages of this book have all engaged in creative and courageous ways to address the problems facing the world. Whether in their businesses, parliaments or from their own private homes, they continue to work tirelessly to push sustainability higher up the political agenda and deeper into the public consciousness, every day reminding us that these are pressing issues which indeed affect us all. Their ideas and solutions derive from years of academic research, longstanding business experience or great technological prowess – or in some cases, have been conceived from the clear-viewed vantage point of a young and unafraid mind. What they all have in common, though, is the desire and ability to turn thought into action, be it through zealous campaigning, pioneering innovations or bold, fearless leadership. We commend them for their efforts, and draw inspiration from their ideas and energy as we move forward as DNV GL – a new company committed to advancing our objective of safeguarding life, property and the environment, through our global impact for a safe and sustainable future. I am deeply grateful to our contributors for sharing their profound insight with us, and I am confident that this compilation will encourage readers to want to create a more sustainable world, for all. After all – just like the many ideas presented here – many small actions can form a bigger, brighter picture of change. DNV GL enjoys the variety of the contributions. Together, they help us envision a safe and sustainable future in an increasingly more complex and interdependent world. I wish you an inspiring read.
Henrik O. Madsen Chief Executive Officer DNV GL Group
H.R.H. CROWN PRINCE HAAKON
INVEST IN YOUNG LEADERS Twelve years ago I met Mathumbangel, a young woman who lived outside Durban in South Africa. She impressed me greatly. She had AIDS and was already very sick. Despite this, she had started support groups for other residents in the village who were HIV-positive and who, because of discrimination and stigma, were excluded from their communities. Mathumbangel organised meetings in the neighbourhood where she spoke openly about her condition, and communicated how others could protect themselves from HIV. Despite her lack of material resources, she had great impact and created an important example of leadership. To solve the world’s most severe challenges, I believe we are dependent on young leaders – like Mathumbangel. I want to share with you why I think this is so important - by highlighting three aspects: make use of technology, create meeting places and base all our efforts on dignity. Half of the world’s population is under 27 years of age. These young people represent a tremendous resource, which we should take advantage of. Youth today live in a world filled with diversity, conflict, opportunities and technical means of connecting with others. The global networks of youth are stronger and wider today, than those established leaders ever experienced when they were young. Today’s youth are born at the same time as the internet started to spread, and they have developed alongside modern technology. No one knows technology, and its possibilities, like this generation. Technology has made it easier to establish meeting places across borders. By gathering youth from different parts of the world, and by exchanging opinions and learning from each other, we can all work to reach the same goals. For several years the Crown Princess and I have worked to strengthen youth leadership. We believe that when future leaders come together, they can bring out the best in each other. We believe young people’s participation in, and access to, decision-making is important to create social change. We believe the world is dependent on the energy, creativity and stamina of youth to create a more sustainable future. Above all, and most essentially, to achieve a sustainable future both socially and environmentally, I believe we must build on a foundation of dignity. Since 2006, our organisation Global Dignity has arranged so called Dignity Days at schools all over the world. On a Dignity Day, students are invited to reflect upon and discuss dignity as a guiding principle for our actions. The message is this: Once we realise that every human being has the right to lead a dignified life, our differences become less important. We then want to make life as good as possible for each other, and improve the one world we all share. We all have the ability to increase other people’s dignity. The beauty of this is that we thus enhance our own dignity. For the last 150 years DNV GL has made it possible for other companies to improve their safety and sustainability. As the world’s leading classification society DNV GL provides an important contribution to safeguarding life, property and the environment. Facing our global challenges is a complicated matter. It concerns wealth disparity, climate change, education, health care and human rights. Investing in young leaders will help us move in the right direction. Congratulations on the 150th anniversary.
â€œWhat the world is missing is more involvement from young people. We have a moral authority that no other group hasâ€?
A L E C
LO O R Z
THE MORAL AUTHORITY Sick of seeing US leaders waste his right to a safe and healthy planet, Alec Loorz took the world’s most powerful government to court at only 16. In the ever-louder cacophony of climate change discussions, it sometimes takes a kid’s voice to break through the noise barrier.
Alec was tasked with finding young plaintiffs who had been personally affected by climate change.
“Sustainability just means living as if our future matters,” says Alec Loorz, founder of Kids vs. Global Warming, and recently the plaintiff in a climate lawsuit against the US federal government.
“We had thousands of kids in our network with amazing stories, like Nelson from Alaska whose village was built on melting permafrost. A nearby river had been coming closer to his house. Then there was a big storm and the entire village eroded into the river.”
With a shrug of self-evidence, he adds: “That’s all it comes down to, really. Learning to understand that every action we take somehow has an impact on the future, on the natural world, on other people. Making that connection is what will get us to a safe and sustainable society.”
An overnight life-changer
With his towering, lanky figure, 19-year old Alec doesn’t really qualify as a child anymore. But his message has been crystal clear since he was barely a teenager. Growing up in Ventura, California with his mother and sister, his 13th birthday was only a few days away when his life changed overnight. “The first time I ever heard about climate was when I saw Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth. I had this moment of realisation where I just felt an outright sense of calling. It was almost as if I had this deep understanding that there is something wrong with our world, and that we are causing it. Then I realised it is my generation which is going to have to deal with the consequences.” That night, a captivated Alec watched the documentary twice over, convinced he would spend the rest of his life spreading the message. Failing to find an organisation that mirrored the sense of urgency he felt, Alec instead set up his own, Kids vs. Global Warming. “At first, it was just meant to function as a headline for my public speaking,” he recalls. “But then it became clear that kids were ready to get involved and it became a movement we called the iMatter campaign. We recruit and train young people to be leaders in their communities. And we created campaigns like the iMatter March, where, through social media, we organised marches led by young people in 45 countries.”
An inconvenient lawsuit
Alec spent his teens travelling the country to talk about what he has dubbed “a new revolution” to a sustainable and just society. His network of young environmentalists grew and at 16, he was given a unique chance to put it to work.
He clearly feels his friend’s experience deeply. “We thought that by putting young faces to these stories of climate change, we would make it real for people. Even those Americans who believe in global warming seem to think it’s happening way off in India or the Pacific. The point is kids are suffering in the US now. It’s no longer some future scientific projection.”
The battle continues
In 2011, in collaboration with the non-profit organisation Our Children’s Trust, iMatter went to court to sue the US federal and state governments, demanding a six per cent reduction of American CO2 emissions per year as of 2013. “The lawsuit is currently in the US District Appellate Court,” he explains. “We expect a decision this year.” For Alec, who has won numerous awards including the Sophie’s Legacy Award and is one of DNV GL’s Future Sustainability Leaders, the experience has been an eye-opener. “The fossil fuel industry sent their best lawyers to join the case as co-defendants with the government. They didn’t argue the science. They are trying, though, to avoid their responsibility to my generation to put a higher value on protecting our atmosphere than protecting the profits of a few corporations.” In the end, Alec says he isn’t sure that even the legal system holds the key to change. Something at the core of the systems themselves needs to change, he argues. But he is unflinching about who will be the most powerful agents of that transformation. “What the movement is missing is more involvement from young people. We have a moral authority that no other group has. We have the unique power to push through political barriers or economic restraints and get to the point: Our future is at stake. It is our survival that is on the line.”
“It is my generation which is going to have to deal with the consequences”
“We were connected to a group of lawyers who were developing a legal theory called Atmospheric Trust Litigation,” he explains. “Basically, it says that our government has a legal responsibility, as part of the Public Trust Doctrine, to protect the planet and atmosphere for future generations.”
THE POWER OF A GOOD STORY We must not underestimate the power of good stories to inspire people to value sustainability, says eco-editor Jessica Cheam. Churning out the same message will only create climate fatigue. “Creating awareness through credible, positive storytelling is an important aspect of getting people and businesses to value the importance of sustainable development,” says Singaporean Jessica Cheam, the woman behind Eco-Business.com, a leading sustainability portal serving the Asia Pacific region. After working for several years as a political and environmental correspondent at Singapore’s national broadsheet, she decided it was time to tell a different story.
Perspectives from Singapore
Cheam’s idea of a sustainable future revolves around “a global economy that has transitioned away from a heavy reliance on fossil fuels to one that is greener and cleaner.” “Primarily I think governments have a big role to play,” she argues. “The right legislation, framework and incentive structures are things governments need to put in place – waiting for businesses and consumers to make the right decision will just take too long. It’s a perspective partly inspired by the story of her home country. “Coming from Singapore, I’ve seen success stories on how government leadership really can make a difference,” she says. Cheam explains that when Singapore became independent from Malaysia in the mid-1960s, it faced severe environmental, social and economic challenges. “What Singaporean leaders decided right from the start was to develop the city economically without sacrificing the quality of life,” she says. “Because land was scarce in this country, people understood if we didn’t consider the environmental impact of growth, it would have severe consequences on our quality of life. So the focus of the development has primarily been on being clean and green even as the city grew.” Cheam recognises that the country has simultaneously developed carbon-intensive industries, but says the government is taking progressive steps towards diminishing its environmental footprint. “In 2009, it launched a Sustainable Singapore blueprint to achieve a greener future, and part of that plan is to provide incentives for research and development into clean technologies that can help the transition to a cleaner economy. It has also introduced legislation which requires big energy users to carry out energy audits and report their usage, and it was one of the first countries to pass minimum green building standards on new and retrofitted constructions. So while there is still much left to do, I think Singapore is setting a good example of government taking progressive steps for sustainability.”
more stories, especially in English-language papers here, that focus on sustainability because companies have started to recognise its importance. Even developing Asian countries and their governments are picking up the terminologies of climate change and sustainability, and I think that’s very encouraging. Of course, steps must still be taken to implement change but it shows that the level of awareness is increasing and that leaders have acknowledged and are beginning to address the challenge.” Cheam is however concerned that with increased coverage, a sense of “climate fatigue” could also be creeping into the global sustainability debate. “Much has been said and written about climate and sustainability, but then you have the climate sceptics throwing a spanner in the debate. So it’s quite challenging to find a clear message out of all the information. If I was an average Joe on the street, I’d be quite turned off by the whole thing because frankly, there seems to be a lot of arguing, and a lot of jargon. When you don’t grip their attention, people just turn to their own bread and butter issues.”
The importance of good storytelling
She is not unfamiliar with the feeling herself: “Sometimes I write the stories and I’ll think ‘Oh my God, it’s the same message.’ I talk about this often with a lot of international journalists and we agree that one of the ways we can be more effective is in telling positive stories – about how clean technology has helped save the lives of children in rural areas because their traditional cooking stoves are replaced by cleaner, more efficient versions and they are no longer breathing in carbon and soot. Or how solar-powered mobile chargers are helping to improve livelihoods.” The responsibility to tell good, informative stories is imperative to creating a balanced and constructive debate. “People can only make informed decisions if they are presented with the right information and the right choices,” she says, adding that wherever possible, an inspiring story goes much further than apocalyptic prophecies in mobilising people for change. “Rather than spread scary stories about floods, typhoons and the disaster that awaits you if no action is taken, let us actually spread a more positive message about what business and policy innovation can achieve, and what a cleaner, greener economy can do for our societies.”
Fighting the climate fatigue
“Let us spread more positive messages about what a cleaner, greener economy can achieve”
Part of the reason Cheam set up her successful online news portal, Eco-Business.com, was to help tell stories that could spread awareness about the need for, and advantages of, sustainable development. “Five years ago, if you searched for sustainability in Asian newspaper archives, you could hardly find any stories. But today, you see a lot
“As a scientist, if I’m having a good day, I might be able to get people to think about things a little bit differently. But it’s really difficult for me to get people to feel differently”
K E V I N
N O O N E
SETTING BOUNDARIES If sustainability is to be managed, it must be measured. Kevin Noone’s breakthrough research shows we are crossing vital environmental thresholds supporting life on Earth. “A sustainable society to me,” begins scientist and environmental engineer Kevin Noone, “is one in which we can flourish within our planetary limits. Where we have the ability to make our dreams come true, but we do it in a way that doesn’t compromise anybody else’s ability to make their dreams come true.”
The authors believe that three of the nine boundaries (climate change, biological diversity and nitrogen input into the biosphere) may already have been crossed, and warns that the interconnections between the boundaries mean that transgressing any of them makes it more difficult to stay within others.
Start acting like adults
The sustainability dashboard
Noone, the Executive Director of the Swedish Secretariat for Environmental Earth System Sciences, is an optimistic guy by nature. But he warns we need certain preconditions to keep flourishing on an ever-more pressured planet. “We need to move from adolescence into adulthood in terms of how we use and manage the resources we have available to us to create sustainable well-being for all.” Most demographic estimates point towards a 30 per cent population increase by 2050. Given our current rate of natural resource use, sustaining a global population of that size would require three planets’ worth of resources. That’s why Noone insists we need to think and act differently. “We need to actively work to build and strengthen resilience in our natural, social, economic systems,” he argues. “We need to embrace complexity, and work to optimise ecosystems rather than just maximising short-term economic return. We know deep down that infinite growth based on finite resources is impossible.”
Nine planetary boundaries
Noone’s easygoing and genial character somewhat contradicts the significance of his scientific research. He is one of the leading authors of the ‘Nine Planetary Boundaries’ report, published in 2009 by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, which has had considerable influence on the sustainability discourse. The report brought together findings from a group of 28 internationally renowned scientists that identified nine planetary boundaries within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come. These boundaries defined thresholds that can be considered safe in areas such as atmospheric carbon dioxide, ocean acidification, freshwater use, biological diversity and chemical pollution. Noone says the study was an attempt to quantify the biophysical thresholds which, until now, have “allowed human civilization to thrive.” “If you compare the last 40,000-50,000 years with the previous 9,000 years, our civilisation has enjoyed a fairly stable environmental condition,” he explains. “We wanted to ask the question of what human activities might be changing the fundamental behavior of the planet in a big way, possibly putting us in a risk zone for flipping the planet into a different state.”
Noone says the report also attempted to examine the state of our planet in its entirety – as we tend to shy away from complexity by looking at each issue as isolated and independent of each other. “Our analysis was fundamentally trying to do a risk analysis for the bigger picture,” he says. “It’s not as if any of us had expected it to become the framework for thinking about sustainability issues. But what we wanted, and have been pleasantly surprised to see, is that it’s becoming a kind of dashboard of metrics. It’s like flying a plane. The altimeter is fine but if the altimeter’s the only information you’ve got, you’re probably in trouble. You want several instruments, right? I think the planetary boundaries is a step in the right direction in that it allows us to look at more than a single metric at a time.” He hopes to develop more metrics that can contribute to a broader and more comprehensive understanding of our planetary state. “It only contains sort of environmental elements now,” he explains. “We also want to minimize for instance the gap between the poorest and the richest. It will never be zero, but it’s increasing and that leads to social instability. We need to come up with a dashboard of all these appropriate indicators, and it’s something that we all need to be involved in.”
Both sides of the brain
There is no doubt in Noone’s mind that well-being and prosperity can be advanced, but he stresses that no one community can come up with all the answers. To speed up the transition towards a safe and sustainable future, he says we need to create coalitions of the forward-thinking. “As a scientist, if I’m on my game and having a good day, I might be able to get people to think about things a little bit differently. But it’s really difficult – if not impossible – for me to get people to feel differently. I think to change behavior you need both halves of your brain. You need the half of the brain that’s analytical and can work on the equations, and then you also need the other half which goes: ‘I don’t like this, I’d rather have it this way.’ I think one thing we really need to work on is collaboration between for instance artists and science. We need people who can develop a fresh philosophical foundation for living.”
“We know deep down that infinite growth based on finite resources is impossible”
â€œA license to drill oil could actually become a liability for a company, rather than an assetâ€?
A C H I M
S T E I N E R
GROWING A GREENER ECONOMY Our current economy views planet Earth as an eternally exploitable mine, says Achim Steiner. But transforming it doesn’t need to be some mystic enterprise. Progress and prosperity have long been considered synonymous with traditional economic growth, but Achim Steiner’s work is doing much to add some nuance to that relationship.
“Even traditional economists will admit that the gross domestic product indicator is an incredibly crude form of measuring progress,” says Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and an expert in environmental policy. “But it has simply become the standard by which everybody measures economic activity.” Like any other standard, however, it only holds until a higher one is set. As the voice of the environment within the United Nations, Steiner and his colleagues are hard at work to raise the bar. “We want to give the public a full appreciation of a business’ liabilities and assets,” he says. “It’s still difficult for some to imagine a day when a license to drill oil could actually be a liability for a company, rather than an asset. But if we determine that we cannot add more CO2 emissions to the atmosphere, then we will reach that point.”
Green growth gains ground
But things may be changing. “The whole debate about the green economy is fascinating to me right now, because from Sheikh Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai, to the presidents of Korea and Kazakhstan, we see leaders all over the world beginning to let this concept drive their economic policy discourse,” Steiner enthuses. His point coincides with recent developments in countries like Brazil or Ethiopia, where growth has been successfully redistributed to benefit the poor, while initiatives to reduce deforestation and emissions are simultaneously beginning to yield results. But to gear up and accelerate the speed of the transition to a green economy, Steiner says the big financial engine must be put to work. “If you look closer at UNEP’s green economy agenda, you will recognize that public finance alone is completely inadequate to trigger the transformation.”
The financial frontier
A circular economy
“Few people realise that 60 per cent of the urban infrastructure we will need 40 years down the line, is yet to be built. Imagine that for a moment,” he pauses. “To introduce new transport, energy and food supply systems will require fundamental investment redirections and technological solutions. If we cannot get capital markets and entrepreneurs to crowd into the new space of green investment, we will have no chance.”
“First of all, we need to start looking at a circular economy. That means an economic model which doesn’t view planet Earth as some exploitable mine. Whether we’re talking about fisheries, arable land, water resources or carbon space in the atmosphere, unsustainable extraction is clearly no longer an option in the 21st century.”
The question, Steiner says, is how to fundamentally change the rules of the financial game to encourage more capital into the green economy, across all financial asset classes. He thinks sovereign wealth and pension funds, with their long-term horizons, could catalyse the direction of investment flows. “Sometimes you don’t need to get 90 per cent of the actors in a market to agree on something. If you have just 20 or 30 per cent of key actors putting a different direction into the discussion, the rest of the market will follow.”
Steiner, an amicable and easy-going Brazilian who was raised in Brazil and Germany, thinks reinventing and transforming our economy is the great challenge of our time. “This is not some mythical or mystic enterprise,” he says.
Making companies responsible for the environmental costs they cause is a central tenet of the ‘green economy’, a model the UNEP has been among the key institutions to help develop. In 2011, its influential report ‘Towards A Green Economy’ laid out how environmental sustainability and economic progress could go hand-in-hand, and called for governments to create jobs and growth by providing sustainable infrastructure and incentives for green investment. That call remains largely unanswered, however. For example, in 2011 the International Energy Agency found that fossil fuel subsidies were around five times higher than the roughly USD100 billion allocated to renewables.
He believes once we get our fiscal policies onto a more environmentally conscious track, the possibilities for the green economy are endless. “Solutions are knocking on the door everywhere,” he says.
“From Sheikh Maktoum in Dubai to the president of Korea, we see leaders all over the world beginning to look at how to achieve a green economy”
“While we have seen a big uptake in renewable energy in the multiples, fossil fuel subsidies demonstrate that we still have a long way to go. Why is this?” Steiner asks.
“ I think it’s easy to imagine how our population can be sustainable. It relates to the well-being of women”
R O B E R T
E N G E L M A N
THE FEMALE EQUILIBRIUM Robert Engelman has no problem imagining a sustainable population. He thinks it all comes down to empowering women. Type ‘population growth’ into Google, and one of the first returns you get is a link to a real-time global population clock. Click through, and a bold, ten-figured number appears, its last few digits climbing steadily upwards at an almost alarming pace, as it counts the amount of humans being born every minute. You can’t help but wonder: How long can this continue?
More people, more problems?
“Ultimately, population growth is something that is inherently not sustainable,” says Robert Engelman, who in addition to serving as President of the Worldwatch Institute, has written a book and numerous articles on population and sustainability. Pragmatic and level-headed, Engelman has been running the global research organisation since 2011, equipped with an extensive knowledge of how the population connects to environmental change, economic growth and civil conflict. “We know that it is a finite planet, but we don’t know what an optimum population is, or how many people the Earth can support. I don’t like to go into that answer, because it implies we need to control population.” Population control is a historically delicate topic, but it looms ever larger with the global population expected to spike to nine billion by the middle of the century, according to the UN. To put it into context, that population has been predicted to require a rise in meat production from 200 million to 470 million tons – an increase of over 130 per cent. Such staggering numbers call into question a number of concerns about the fundamentals of life on planet Earth. “The current 7.2 billion of us are already putting a lot of pressure on the planet,” Engelman points out. “We might be better off if we have fewer people, but it wouldn’t be socially sustainable to do that in any other way other than through the decisions that individuals make themselves.”
What women want
It may sound like an impossible proposition, but Engelman, who was born and raised in Washington D.C. where the Worldwatch office is located, does not think it needs to be all that complicated. “I think it’s easy to imagine how our population can be sustainable,” he says resolutely. “It relates to the well-being of women. Women can have satisfying, prosperous lives in very sustainable ways, and I believe that through assuring they do, we will actually reach sustainability in population.”
“It’s catalytic how much societies can change if women really gain control over their own lives. If everyone would insist that women should have access to reproductive healthcare, birth control and family planning, and make sure that women can ride bicycles, drive cars, inherit property and vote, we would see change.” While the women’s rights movement has come a long way, it took over 70 years of activism just for American women to gain the right to vote. With the environmental situation worsened by inequality and poverty, Engelman thinks the global community is way beyond the point of choosing not to take a stand. “It should just be a matter of governments insisting that any other governments repressing women are not fully a partner in international relations. It would result in changes in population and in the economy, and because I think women are more conscious about environmental stewardship, we would be more sustainable as a result.”
Finding a fairer alternative
With governments vulnerable to political paralysis, Engelman believes citizens will have to take matters into their own hands. He likens it to the 1960s civil rights movement that played out only a stone’s throw from his Washington D.C. office. “The systems themselves are going to have to change because the natural systems are already reacting and responding. Dense populations are having difficulty living with each other, and people are seeing that there are just so many people in the same kind of situation. People in power will begin to realise that if they don’t respond to their citizens’ increasing anger they will face threats to their own survival as leaders.” The idea that population growth will inevitably cause our social systems to collapse on us was famously voiced by Malthus in the eighteenth century. Engelman maintains that today the challenge has returned as a serious one. “As you probe these issues, it becomes clear that utopia is very unlikely when talking about sustainability. We would probably still have greed, inequality and conflict in a sustainable world, but unlike now, those things won’t all be increasing and building momentum in ways that rip societies apart. Once we realise we’re all in this together and we don’t have any choice but to work together, then I think we can adapt. We will just have to find a way to exist and live fairly in this rather challenging situation of having less for probably everybody, until we get to a point where through a sustainable population and balanced, equitable use of natural resources, there is once again abundance.”
“It should just be a matter of governments insisting that any other government repressing women is not fully a partner in international relations”
INVESTING FOR IMPACT Injecting talent and creativity into investments with a big social and environmental return, Kim Tan proves that you can make money by making a difference. Kim Tan, founder and Chairman of the biotech firm SpringHill Management, is a social entrepreneur who brings together a dizzying skillset that includes bioscience, medicine, fund management and private equity. He is not too sure about the term sustainability, though. “I think it’s been hijacked by the green agenda,” he says. “They use it only in terms of the environment. I take a broader view. I want commercial sustainability because without it you are not going to get environmental sustainability. Also, if you don’t tackle poverty, conservation will not succeed because the poor will kill your endangered animals for food and chop down trees for firewood.” Highly successful in ventures around the world, Tan thinks business must use its creativity, skills and energy to serve social needs. He’s more focused on what works, than how it’s labelled.
Make money making a difference
“Call it social venture capital investing or impact investing, or whatever. It is essentially a more holistic way of investing that offers a financial return with a social or environmental impact. Any business that doesn’t do that is ultimately not sustainable.” Tan, who runs SpringHill Management from his countryside farm in Surrey, England, says he started out in social investing as a “disillusioned philanthropist.” “Once I was on the ground (in the slums), I saw that nothing would change using the charitable approach. I began to ask what was needed to really shift the needle,” he says. “Enterprise has an amazing ability and creativity which we need if we are really going to tackle poverty,” he continues. As co-founder of the Transformational Business Network (TBN), he helps oversee ongoing projects worldwide, such as the Hagar social venture in Cambodia, which each year helps some 700 trafficked women and children reclaim their lives, gain skills and eventually get jobs. Another project Tan is particularly proud of is the Kuzuko Game Reserve, a safari park in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. It has plans to re-forest 14,000 acres with a local shrub called spekboom, which captures carbon, provides grazing for game and creates local conservation jobs. It is awaiting approval to trade carbon credits. “If these guys get good at planting spekboom, we’ll be able to go to our neighbours and do more reforestation,” he says. With his background in healthcare, Tan also points to an effective sanitation project he has invested in in the slums of Nairobi. “We have toilet cubicles which people pay to use. But this is low revenue and not commercially viable. Each day, however, the waste is removed to a biodigester, converting it to organic fertiliser to be sold. That is what makes it economically sustainable.”
But even with technical solutions and a business model, it’s a battle to get people to commit. “Part of our purpose is to try to arm-twist business people to come for a week with us to the slums. ‘Arm-twist’ because they actually have to go there – we say they need to ‘smell the poverty’. You can’t read about it. You can’t watch it on television. You have to be there to understand it.” “We show them business opportunities and hope they see that what is needed is not just money. What is needed is their talent and their time, then we marry that up. We now have about 1,600 people in the TBN network and 70 or 80 of these investments, all independently led.” His overall idea of a sustainable society is rooted in social justice. “If you have a society where there is no social justice, it’s not sustainable. It will never be safe or peaceful. There has to be an element of social cohesion too, so that everyone has a sense of belonging.” Poverty, he adds, leads to crime, wars, terrorism and economic malaise. “As a result,” he says, “there will be environmental destruction, because poor people destroy their environment to make ends meet. Conservationists are just realising that if you think in silos, just saving rhinos and elephants, it won’t work. People will shoot your elephants, or chop your trees down.”
Finding investors with guts
Outside investors will generally only join where they have an easy entry and exit and where there is political and economic stability – precisely what is missing from the places that need social investment. So Tan seeks a different breed of investor. “We have to inspire people. I give priority to universities and business schools. The next generation is more aware than we have been. I don’t try to reach out to the old generation because they don’t have that energy.” New technologies are leapfrogging old polluting and expensive systems, enabling the poor to do things they could not do before. “We should be able to make biodiesel from algae, and that algae is also nutritious. We can add it to bland food like cassava in Africa. You can do a whole bunch of things with the new technologies, but it all needs investment.” Tan says governments and corporations need to get involved. He thinks they would do better supporting social ventures than giving aid or spending on corporate social responsibility activities. “I always put the challenge to corporations to try and set up small factories or local businesses and start creating jobs instead. Hiring 100 people for a factory near a slum will have far more impact than most of their charitable CSR activities.”
“You need to ‘smell the poverty’. You can’t read about it or watch it on television. You have to be there to understand it” 30
LESSONS FROM BRAZIL Brazil is demonstrating that there need not be a contradiction between sustainability and social growth. Marina Grossi says the country’s fresh approach is all about balance. Marina Grossi is surprisingly mild-mannered for someone whose influence spans almost half of one of the world’s fastest-emerging economies. As President of the Brazilian branch of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development she represents more than 70 major business groups whose income is equivalent to 40 per cent of the country’s GDP.
Two different realities
“In Europe, a sustainability ‘crisis’ might mean that you have reached a certain level of consumption and comfort, but now you have to drop down a bit,” she says, explaining in her warm, friendly tone that sustainability poses different challenges for developing countries. “In Brazil, it means you won’t even reach that level of comfort. Therefore, the only way we can talk to each other is to set one pattern of consumption for rich and poor. The language must be ‘we’, otherwise poorer countries think, ‘Well, in that case – I’m out. It’s my turn to live well now.’” To Grossi, an inclusive, sustainable future must incorporate both sides of the story. “It cannot be defined just from a male point of view, which is very competitive, stressed and often narrowly focused. Women are more cooperative and more open to a lot of factors working together at the same time.”
Marrying social and sustainable
Brazil is often considered a leader when it comes to environmental concerns. Not only has it successfully managed to reduce deforestation rates while simultaneously lifting a large number of its population into the middle class, it also has an energy matrix strongly based on renewables. In 2011 they provided almost 46 per cent of the country’s energy – more than oil or gas. “The challenge is for the government to change this passive growth into a real competitive advantage in the international market,” Grossi argues. She revels in the fresh approach the nation can offer the world. “Brazil has some nice characteristics. We are not a homogenous people – there are people of many backgrounds here. Because it’s a young country, people are open to new ideas and very entrepreneurial. Not having a strong tradition can be good if you need to change rapidly.”
Brazil Business Council’s ‘Vision for 2050’ outlines a new action agenda for Brazilian companies to become leading green players. Grossi says while surveys show that Brazilians have a high level of awareness around environmental concerns, there’s still a way to go before it is truly internalised. “My passion lies in translating sustainability into more integrated well-being,” she says. “With a positive agenda ahead, people can dream. They won’t change based only on worst-scenario risks.”
Do it the Rio way
Grossi says the two main drivers for sustainable development observed in Brazil are big companies and cities, both of which share the benefit of being able to implement large-scale changes within their own domains. “Big companies should lead small and medium size firms, and use their supply chains to effect change,” she says. With city authorities implementing the right frameworks, progress can be achieved more rapidly than at the national and international level. “Cities often do much better than nations, because they can do more tangible work,” she continues. Rio de Janeiro, Grossi’s home city, has just taken over from New York as the head of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership group. “Cities should team up with big companies to maximise their efforts in creating clean, green urban spaces with higher living standards,” she urges.
New measures for new values
Grossi’s elegant advocacy is grounded in a deep understanding of business. That’s why she feels it is vital to price CO2 emissions. “The problem is that externalities like water and other things we depend on to produce and process, don’t have a value or price. It’s still fine to pollute because the price is zero or very cheap. If we have a price, that will change.” She also wants a new measure of sustainability, along the lines of the gross domestic happiness index pioneered in Bhutan, but for companies rather than nations. “It would measure things like sense of belonging, recognition at work and salary levels,” she muses.
As an emerging economy representative, she also knows the sustainability and development agendas are inseparable. “In developed countries, sustainability often tends to revolve around the environmental aspect, and of course that’s essential. But in developing countries, social aspects are just as important.”
Grossi likes the idea of making corporate sustainability reporting a ‘comply or explain’ opt-out – a move already in motion on Brazil’s Bovespa market. “If a company is made to explain why they don’t want to report their externalities or social impacts, the public will be there to hold it to account.”
“The sustainability agenda is still not properly talking to the development agenda,” she continues. “With one, we’re working to reach traditional goals and sell more. But sustainability means we have to sell less product and more services to meet society’s needs.”
Resolutely optimistic, she sees opportunity even in a looming crisis. “It is a great time to ask all the right questions, because in good times we’re not forced to think creatively about how to get out of it.” If we find the right balance, we can go a long way.
“Women are more cooperative and more open to a lot of factors working together at the same time”
â€œ The concept of markets is the best humanity has inventedâ€?
G E O R G
K E L L
A FORCE FOR GOOD Few people have done more to push sustainability across global business than Georg Kell. Protecting people and planet, he says, is simply good business sense. Georg Kell may very well be the world’s foremost advocate of sustainable business. As the architect and Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest voluntary initiative for corporate responsibility, he has spent 14 years working tirelessly to unite business purposes with the UN’s universal principles. Anything else would simply be bad for business.
A source of opportunities
“For-profit corporations must be better aligned with public policy and societal priorities,” he says. “That’s clearly the vision for the future. In practical terms, it means individual corporations must fully master the integration of environmental, social and governance issues, and have a long-term vision that articulates what sustainability means for their business model.” Kell is fuelled by his belief that shifting to a sustainable mindset offers an unprecedented opportunity for business to do better. “Rather than seeing environmental issues as a cost or liability, business needs to translate it into an opportunity,” he says. “It’s about seeing social inclusion and good treatment of workers not as compliance, but as an empowering concept. Look at diversity as a source of innovation, not something you have to ensure by law. Regard supply chain capacity building as a way to build long-term market presence and strengthen your own know-how.”
You can’t hide
Since the Global Compact’s founding in 2000, Kell has seen first hand how corporate responsibility has gone from the margins to the mainstream. Today, the initiative encompasses 8,000 corporate participants in 145 countries. Seeing CEOs all over the world backing the initiative has been truly exciting, he says, but the day-to-day reality is still far from rosy.
“Humanity has shown an enormous capacity to harm itself and we should be aware of that all the time. There are some worrisome trends around the world: nationalism, inward-orientation and extremism. Those are the biggest enemies not only of human survival but also of sound economic growth.” Market-led development, he says, can only flourish in an environment of openness, transparency and commitment to multilateralism. “Good solutions can only travel fast and wide in a world economy that is open and supports the spread of knowledge that is diffused as rapidly as possible.”
Put a price on it
In a future where more people share fewer resources, Kell is convinced certain market developments will prove inevitable. “In the long run, scarcity will drive up prices, so anything you can argue Mother Nature produces is bound to appreciate in value. Water stewardship and pricing air – these are global issues that will be crucial for all industries. It’s a safe bet.” Within this new reality, there will be no room for political hesitation. Leaders must stop being a bottleneck to sustainable development and start providing business with the right incentives. “We need to price negative externalities, because it’s the only way to transform market incentive structure so that green investment is motivated and crowds out dirty brown investment. Ultimately, we need to achieve a binding commitment for a carbon price by 2015. Kell recognises that it’s a long-term transformation, but argues that change can come fast with enough political determination. Countries like China, with a firm approach to policy-making, are making progress.
“It’s very tough to see 1.5 billion people still live in fear of violence. Almost a billion lack basics like water, and hunger is still a huge issue. As the World Bank rightly argues, corruption is still the single biggest roadblock to unlocking development. The root cause of most of the challenges is the lack of long-term commitment to good governance.”
“We had a Summit meeting in China recently,” he explains, “where the government actually asked all state and privately owned companies to embrace our Caring for Climate platform and be part of the solution to cut down both small-particle emissions and greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a huge bet.”
Kell believes fighting corruption is one of the most catalytic actions we can take to speed up the transition towards a more sustainable future.
In the meantime, Kell says there is only one way for business to accelerate progress. “Collaborate!” he urges. “Don’t just wait for perfect policies to settle in – collaborate with others, and make the case to policymakers. Some of the most exciting innovations – whether it’s on climate action, water management or social entrepreneurship – have come from cross-industry collaborations. No company can really transform the situation on its own, but working with like-minded people in business and civil society, there’s a good chance for high impact and real transformation.”
“Most companies suffer under corruption and if they had a choice, they would prefer to live without it,” he argues, adding that the long-term trend is clear: “If there’s one thing that is certain about the future, then it is that transparency will continuously be on the rise. Technological change is irreversible – personal empowerment is here to stay. You can no longer hide from it, so you better be proactive.”
Keeping the world open
Kell sees himself as a global citizen, mirroring his profound belief in the importance of multilateralism. Open borders, he argues, is a vital condition for peace, stability and economic development that make way for innovation.
Collaborate and innovate
As long as we don’t forget about our commitment to cooperation, he says his outlook for the future is optimistic. “I think the concept of markets is the best that humanity has invented, but we need clear incentive structures and rules to ensure entrepreneurship can play its full role.”
“ When do people most often turn to God? In times of crisis, right? This, to my mind, is a crisis”
B A W A
J A I N
MOVING THE MASSES “Imagine a dirty river running through a village, spreading diseases in a community. How do you get people to clean it up? Let the area’s religious leader explain it in simple terms: “This is our Mother, our source of life. We depend on her water. If we do not clean it, we will perish”. In August 2000, more than one 1,000 monks, imams, bishops, rabbis and other faith leaders from across the globe were brought together at the United Nations for the first time in history. The Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders would help build a much-needed interfaith alliance for peace, poverty eradication and environmental preservation, and Indian-born Bawa Jain was invited to serve as the Summit’s Secretary-General. But what, exactly, has religion got to do with it?
Unique untapped influence
“90 per cent of the world follows one religion or the other,” says Jain. He stops in a characteristically pensive manner, to allow the almost inconceivable figure to sink in. “To my mind that makes the religious sector the most influential sector in the world. So how do we engage religious and spiritual leaders to exert their influence and turn the sustainability dialogue into a moral imperative?” As an outcome of the Summit, Jain founded the World Council for Religious Leaders, an independent body committed to bringing religious leaders together to support the work of the United Nations. “On every major issue that the world is facing, we must have a religious voice. Not just the occasional panel – religious leaders need to be part of the dialogue on every issue.”
The God delusion
With the rise of atheism in large parts of the Western world, the so-called ‘God Delusion’, a theory put forth by biologist Richard Dawkins, which deems it irrational to believe in a personal deity, has gained ground. Such trends may help to explain the absence of the religious sector in international corridors of power. “Oftentimes, people in influential positions feel it is seen as a sign of weakness to acknowledge their religiosity. That needs to change. Praying for divine intervention is not unique to a few people – it’s the way of the masses. When do people most often turn to God? In times of crisis, right? This, to my mind, is a crisis.” Many international institutions do now recognise that religious entities play an often unappreciated role in promoting education. But while the concept of sustainability can be traced back to some ancient holy scriptures, there is little mention of modern-day environmental issues in the curriculums at Muslim madrasa or Catholic seminaries.
“We need what I call religious diplomacy,” says Jain. “It means establishing partnerships between private enterprise, governments and religious leaders, where corporations could work with faith leaders on both industry-specific and non-specific community programmes as part of their social responsibility.”
Jain stresses the potential environmental benefits this could have in poverty-stricken areas, where development often throttles itself by inflicting irreparable damage on local resources. “Imagine a dirty river running through a village, spreading diseases in a community. How do you get people to clean it up? Let the area’s religious leader explain it in simple terms: “This is our Mother, our source of life. We depend on her water. If we do not clean it, we will perish.” Jain thinks by backing up such momentum with sufficient resources, companies could help create jobs and renewed purpose, whilst spreading vital sustainability knowledge which women would in turn hand down to their children. “It is no overnight shift,” he admits, “but with governments onboard to enforce this agenda, I believe the entire geopolitical dynamic would shift.”
Jain says religion is too often abused as a tool for mobilising masses in conflicts fundamentally triggered by competition for resources and political instability. Looking back, he remembers the period after the Millennium Peace Summit in 2000 as an exciting time ripe for change. Then overnight, everything was turned on its head. “After 9/11, the whole dialogue shifted. Everybody’s attention focused on terrorism and religious conflict. The fact is that we lost track of the key social issues that are impacting our society because of this derailment.” “When you look at the root cause of most of today’s so-called religious conflicts, they rarely have much to do with theology. People in positions of influence may exploit and manipulate, but we cannot forget that there are misguided people in every faith. If you decide to ostracise an entire population of 1.5 billion as Islamic terrorists, then you are losing your own battle.” Rather than only preaching the past, Jain thinks religious and spiritual leaders must be reminded of their moral responsibility to also speak about our common future. “If you want to hold people accountable, you have to entrust them with some responsibility. Remember, religious leaders can speak very effectively. They know how to communicate in a language the masses will understand, but they must first be given the tools, and we have to equip them with that.” In the end, it all comes down to having a little faith in each other. “Making this a global movement is absolutely achievable. There is more that unites us than what divides us.”
READY FOR AN OIL CHANGE Working to reduce emissions from within the oil industry might sound like sailing against the wind, but Shell’s scenario team knows it is the only way forward. As a man whose job is to develop plausible scenarios to help one of the world’s biggest oil company explore the future, Jeremy Bentham does not require much time to articulate how a safe and sustainable one would look. “Sustainability is about continued thriving, including enabling those who don’t currently thrive to do so. Another element is the concept of resilience - knowing there are pressures and shocks set to hit us, some of which we can’t even think of now, but having the capacity to continue to thrive.”
The stress nexus
Shell has been creating future scenarios since the early 1970s. Bentham, who has been responsible for Shell’s Global Business Environment team and Head of Scenarios since 2006, sees his job as highlighting difficult truths and acknowledges that resistance is inevitable – until the idea finally becomes accepted. When it comes to tackling complex issues, his vision is rooted in pragmatism. “Because of the timescales of the industry, we look ahead decades and even a century. Across the breadth of outlooks we have, the capacity to prosper economically continues. But there are also pressures – financial and market pressures, social pressures and environmental pressures.” “Water, energy, and food security are all tightly connected,” Bentham says, explaining the ‘stress nexus’ – a term Shell was among the first to use. “Stresses in one area can accelerate stresses in another, and you can get acceleration. Things don’t move smoothly. They tend to get much worse quickly, or if well addressed, can turn around quickly.”
Setting the right price
“There are many factors to consider and we have chewed over most of them,” Bentham says. “The two biggest are associated with sustainable city development and global emissions. From 1950 to 2050 will be known as the century most of the world urbanised, and this has a big impact on resource efficiency, consumption and livability.” “The other very important factor highlighted again in the recent IPCC report is the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and what that means in terms of climate, ocean acidification and other factors. With all our outlooks, even if we’re trying to explore what seems like a really plausible boundary for reduced emissions, we find the world going beyond the level that is consistent with a two-degree outlook.” Bentham calls for reducing carbon intensity as rapidly as possible. Shell has applied an internal carbon price since the late 1990s. Its shift over the years from oil to gas firm has resulted in fewer pollutants, and its work on biofuels which don’t compete with food or water resources has raised industry standards.
Policymakers’ fierce debate around the options of a carbon price or a carbon tax to enforce reduced emissions continues, but Bentham favours an explicit carbon price. “The level would vary, but I think it may need to be of the order of USD80 a ton of CO2 to begin with. As technology improves and you get more mass production, the cost comes down.” The inability to act decisively on carbon reduction is clearly frustrating. ”We don’t see a mechanism that’s going to provide this in a top-down sense,” says Bentham. “We support and hope for international conferences like Copenhagen in 2009 and now Paris in 2015 to strengthen the multilateral approach, but recognise that herding nearly 200 countries into an agreement is hard. It’s actually really about a few countries.”
Short-term solutions for long-term change
On cutting carbon emissions, Bentham feels the most effective short-term solution is to move from carbon overshoot to recovery by using natural gas, supported by carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. “If I was to wish anything, it would be serious, early CCS… the biggest thing you can do fast is to have gas offset coal, and then back it up with big CCS projects.” Shell has been involved in two major CCS projects in Canada and Australia, and another is underway in the UK. “We’re committed to being part of that process in a constructive way and continuing to press for the CCS recognition within trading schemes.” It would not detract in any way from the growth of the renewable sector, he argues. “It’s not an either/or. It’s a both/and.” Ultimately alternative energy may meet up to 70 per cent of global demand, but limited scale remains problematic for alternatives like solar and wind, as does distribution. “New energy technologies will happen and are happening, but they take time to grow to global scale given the sheer size of the energy system.”
Together for resilience
He says sustainability goals demand new forms of transformative, cross-boundary collaboration. The best outcome is when business, government, and civil society act together, but Bentham acknowledges how hard that is to achieve, with no precedents and many constraints. Shell’s Resilience Action Initiative brings together chief executives of global corporates in exactly the kind of collaboration Bentham calls for. “It’s about recognising there are disappointments along the way but having the persistence to keep investing. Corporates speaking together can support those in government who want to see change happen.”
“Water, energy, and food security are all tightly connected. Stresses in one area can lead to stresses in another”
Getting different interests to pull together takes time. “A pressing issue can be important at some level to a number of different actors, but not the top priority of anyone,” he observes.
â€œChina is one of those places I have absolute faith in. They learn very fast and can promulgate their policies quicklyâ€?
J E A N N E
THINKING BIG, ACTING SLOW There’s no such thing as zero impact energy technology, says CLP Holdings’ Jeanne Ng. Few other industries require as balanced a mix of innovation and consideration as the electricity sector. The global energy sector is at the centre of the sustainability debate, but contrary to the more fast-paced and innovation-led industries it shares the spotlight with, utility companies are a far more risk-averse and slow-to-react brand of business. That’s according to Jeanne Ng, Group Environmental Affairs Director at Hong Kong-based electricity utility CLP Holdings, which delivers energy to myriad families and businesses across the Asia-Pacific region. Powering a market of such scale demands responsible application of new solutions. “We tend to be observers of the development of technologies. In my company we are technology users, not developers like Alstom or GE. Where we do innovate is in processes and operations, doing things efficiently, effectively and safely. It is intellectual capital gained from learning through experience.”
Delights and drawbacks of technology
Ng says the popular conception of technology is that it can do anything. “People think technology is going to save us. It can, but only when we plan properly.” Its role began by making processes more efficient, usually by cutting out labour. “Now we need more jobs for people to ensure social harmony. Technologies need to help fulfil that, not just deliver a service or a product,” she adds. She reminisces with delight about the wonders of state-of-the-art childhood gadgets such as the FX3600 calculator, and the rarity and expense of long distance phone calls to family in Canada when she was growing up. “Now everyone carries several devices, each many times more powerful and at a fraction of that cost.” But like new drugs, new technologies need constant testing and control, she warns. “You may think you have tested for impacts but you don’t really know until there is widespread use. We need to stay vigilant, to manage research and mitigate the side effects we had not planned on.” She cites wind power as a technology widely welcomed although concerns have developed over frequency levels and effects on bird populations. “We have to pro-actively monitor impacts. It’s a microcosm of a larger issue with sustainability; everything comes down to better planning and long-term missions.”
Appreciate pros while managing cons
She thinks the key to energy innovation is smaller-scale, decentralised power generation integrated with base load, which has to be there for stability. “Micro-renewable grids, for example, could be supported by the bigger grid. They would allow us to adapt or innovate quicker and give us resilience through diversification.” Fossil fuel sources will be around until at least 2030, she believes, and could be viewed in a more innovative way. “They are cheap and reliable and maybe we should have them just to make sure we’re not offline for too long during any crisis period – that we have the energy needed for recovery, which was a problem after Hurricane Sandy in New York, for example.”
It is an intriguing vision. She sees a future energy mix including renewables, storage technologies, smart grids and nuclear because she has no particular energy bias: “Every technology has its pros and cons. We just have to manage the cons so they do not affect human health or compromise the environment.” Each country will have to review its energy resources, risk appetite and energy security, although she thinks regional strategy is most effective. “It’s more efficient to share because it’s lower cost, but there may be a downside when it comes to adaptation and resilience. Being dependent makes you more vulnerable, but maybe it fosters more social harmony.”
Only governments do scale
As Ng knows from her experience in Hong Kong, policy and regulation are key drivers to development. “Especially in the energy infrastructure world, they can point us in the right direction and deter us from moving in the wrong direction. It affects how fast we can go.” Governments bring scale and investment which cannot be matched by others. “Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is an example where probably hundreds of billions of dollars is needed to get to commercialisation, but no one company or even country will be able to put up that kind of money. So it will be a multi-lateral consortium or collaboration.” With government backing however, changes can occur quickly. Ng points out the often-cited example of how Germany moved to change its nuclear energy policy post-Fukushima. China has decided on large-scale renewable strategies and is well on the way to deploying it. “China is one of those places I have absolute faith in,” she says. “They learn very fast and can promulgate their policies quickly.”
No such thing as zero impact
Ng feels that traditional measures of economic growth are no longer adequate, but in addition to the often-lamented shortcomings of GDP, she thinks it also includes global rating agencies. “If we are being more sustainable by trying to balance solutions, can we be rewarded with better ratings?” She also cites marketing as a failing area for the sustainability community. “For some reason we don’t have marketing experts active in the sustainability field. I’d like to see an amazing campaign so people decide, ‘You know what, I don’t need to go shopping.’ If mortgage-backed securities can be sold as a product, I can’t see why they can’t sell sustainability.” “Sustainability,” she concludes, “is about social and economic development, social harmony, but also environmental impacts. We all dream of zero environmental impact technologies, but especially in the energy sector, there are no such proven scalable ones today. So we have to make sure we look at plans very holistically.”
LEADERS MUST LEAD As President of one of the world’s most action-oriented business networks, Peter Bakker says good leadership today is all about speaking a new language of opportunities. “If you go back to the origins of the English language, the word ‘leadership’ means ‘pathfinder’,” says Peter Bakker, President and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. “That meaning is interesting because we all have images of what a sustainable world looks like, but nobody really knows about the holistic redesign of the system we need. To get there, we need leaders to go first.”
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development brings together the kind of leaders capable of spearheading such a journey. A CEO-led organisation “committed to galvanizing the global business community to create a better future for business, society and the environment”, it has functioned as a central discussion forum for sustainability-minded leaders since it was founded on the eve of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Bakker is hopeful, “There are business people who are beginning to stand up and not only talk the right talk, but also take the right actions. But it’s still the minority.”
“The triple bottom line is a bankrupt concept. Why do I say that? Not because I no longer believe in the idea. But we live in a world where the magnetism of the financial bottom line is so much stronger than the pull of the social and the ecological, that capital markets will always run away with the money – not with the balance.”
In a world still geared towards traditional economic growth, Bakker thinks we need a new narrative. “In the beginning, I was always making speeches about doom and gloom, and how business needed to be the saviour. I’m beginning to see that that is not how you get the masses to move. Instead, we need to turn it into the language of risk management and opportunities. Why would change be good for you?” He doubts a sustainability story couched in scientific jargon will ever stir business into action.
Dutch-born Bakker has quickly built a reputation as a progressive and outspoken voice in the realm of corporate responsibility. Not long after taking on the role two years ago, he raised eyebrows by hailing accountants as the ones who will save the world. “The first time I said that, people said I was crazy. Business would never accept it,” he laughs.
“A scientist can show me all his graphs to demonstrate that ocean acidity is increasing, but that tells me nothing about what I should do next. But if you tell a CEO of a Japanese car company that his or her assembly line has flooded two years in a row, and the insurance company has deemed the location uninsurable, you will get a reaction. He will have to consider whether to self-insure, to accept the cost or to move the plant to another location. That is language that makes business people understand how climate change actually affects their operations.”
“But at a senior level it has become a very much accepted thing that we need to think radically about the way we measure performance and define success. I’m optimistic about the growing consciousness around the need for us to act. The ground is fertile for scalable action.”
The story also needs a stronger dimension of urgency. “The threat is not imminent enough for you and me in the rich world to do something. And anyway, it would probably be too late to do something. So the threat is not going to drive change. We must make opportunity the driver.”
Even with renewed urgency, what are our odds of success? “Well,” he says with a sigh, “On a good day, I think there is a ten per cent chance that we will make it on time. On a bad day, I think our chances are one per cent. We are fighting an uphill battle, not because people are bad and want to destroy things, but because of the sheer scale of the system we need to transform.”
Bakker describes himself as an “action-oriented dreamer who refuses to live with the hand brake on”. As such, he takes a no-nonsense approach to sustainable development. “Governments alone can’t do it, business alone can’t do it, but business must take the lead and we must innovate like crazy to get there,” he says. “This is not about making our engines five per cent more efficient – it’s about rethinking the entire mobility system of the future.”
“But,” he adds and smiles: “many soccer games have been won by teams who started out with a one per cent chance of winning.”
“Scaling up is going to be achieved by innovation, by aggressively improving the business case for sustainability and by business truly learning how to collaborate. If we are able to organise this, then we have a chance.”
“This is not about making our engines five per cent more efficient – it’s about rethinking the entire mobility system of the future”
But for all his optimism, Bakker is far from an idealist. The private sector may seem ever more committed to corporate sustainability, but he knows full well that business has a lot to do before talk is no longer just talk. “Capital markets are still not fully on board. Unless we get them involved, we are not going to make the changes we need,” he argues.
A MAKE-OVER FOR ADVERTISING Pavan Sukhdev left his job as a banker to draw attention to the economic benefits of biodiversity. Now, he thinks advertising can do a far better job at communicating real values. After 15 years as an international banker, Pavan Sukhdev felt it was time to make a full time job of his hobby in environmental economics. In 2008, he left his senior position at Deutsche Bank to mastermind a number of United Nations-backed initiatives for a new green economy. The most prominent, ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity’ (TEEB) report, is a first-of-its kind attempt at putting a value on nature and studying the economic consequences of biodiversity loss. So if he doesn’t know what a sustainable economy looks like, then who on this ever-more fragile Earth does?
Through all his extensive research, Sukhdev has arrived at four “drivers of non-sustainability”, the removal of which he believes would greatly accelerate the transition to a more sustainable global economy. The first three address central principles for business and markets in general: accounting for externalities, taxing resources and limiting leverage to avoid some companies becoming “too big to fail.”
“We’ve talked about the goals of sustainable development as being about creating well-being and at the same time improving social equity and better distribution – thereby also improving environmental sustainability,” says Sukhdev. “So if we want to create an economic model that can achieve those goals, then the answer is a green economy, right?”
But he feels particularly passionate about the fourth, which concerns the pervasiveness of poor moral standards and lack of responsibility in the marketing and advertising industries.
Installing a green engine
With estimates suggesting that unchecked biodiversity loss will cost the world up to 18 per cent of economic output by 2050, one of TEEB’s main motivations was to establish a global standard for companies to account for their natural and human capital. But who, exactly, is going to deliver that vision? “Sure, there are some general ‘enabling conditions’ we need to take care of, like making certain changes to regulations, realigning incentives and removing the heavy subsidies for fossil fuels,” he explains. “But the engine of today’s economy is the corporation. Even if you fix every other condition, you still have to change the corporate engine.” Sukhdev is convinced the private sector will have to be the one to drive the delivery of a new, more environmentally sound economy. But, as he argues in his book Corporation 2020, the bad news is that today’s corporation still has more in common with that of 1920 than with the sustainable economic model we need almost 100 years later.
An antiquated business purpose
“Between the mid-1800s and up until around 1920, the corporation moved from being a vehicle of the state, to actually doing whatever it felt like for the purpose of profit,” Sukhdev explains. Put into perspective, that myopic motivation may help to explain the growing public sentiment that our current economic model is proving outdated. “Globally, the private sector makes up 60 per cent of GDP and 70 per cent of jobs. So whether you like it or not, there’s a massive chunk of the economy that is in its hands. You, Mr. Government, or you Mrs. United Nations, do not decide what they do. They decide what they do.”
Things we don’t need, with money we don’t have…
“If you look at our big problems at the macro level, one is that there is too much demand for more stuff, and what is driving that demand is advertising and marketing,” he says. “I really think this industry needs serious, urgent reform. In order to fix demand, we need to make advertising honest and informative, rather than persuasive.” Compared to its overwhelming power in shaping attitudes, values and trends across the globe, Sukhdev thinks regulation of this industry is far too lenient. “Advertising puts out a huge amount of lies and exaggeration. It preys on human insecurities, converts them into wants, wants into needs and needs into demands, in turn driving more production. It’s unfettered,” he says.
Holding advertisers to account
He argues that instead of pushing the ever-growing need to buy more stuff, agencies should advertise the lifetime of a product, communicate information about where and how it was made and how to recycle it in a sustainable way. Furthermore, Sukhdev condemns the industry’s reckless exploitation of images of women to sell products, saying it reveals “a disturbing corporate culture”. As the world’s leading non-governmental organisations unanimously agree that female empowerment is crucial to sustainable development, it is evident that the ubiquitous practice of reducing women to objects for sale, has profound, global consequences. “I think this is a point where it is really in the hands of the people,” says Sukhdev. “No government can tell an advertiser what to do. We need to get the advertising associations to establish tests of appropriateness which its member agencies will have to adhere to, unless they want to be hounded by the media and NGOs. Advertising really is one of the areas where a lot of work remains to be done, and to be honest, I don’t think anything is happening right now.”
“There is too much demand for more stuff, and what is driving that demand is advertising and marketing” 50
â€œ We need to have more intergenera tional conversations. It may happen at the international level, but it also starts by bringing people across generations together and at a very local levelâ€?
G R A C E
M W A U R A
NOURISHING YOUNG MINDS Despite bringing the largest-ever African youth delegation to a United Nations conference, Grace Mwaura prefers to think local. To her, education is the key to sustainable development. “For me, it’s about the people, and it’s about the planet. When everyone on this planet, across generational, socio-cultural and geographical diversities, can live peaceably and contented with what they have, utilising resources without taking away from generations to come.”
“It’s a bit like when parents send their child to school,” she muses. “Have you ever heard of a parent who has told their child, ‘you have to pay me for educating you, now that you’re the president of this country?’ Your parents invest in your education and it’s up you to grow out of that.”
Seeing is knowing
She says she has observed too many aid projects dwindle once support is withdrawn.
Mwaura speaks with a philosophical calm that belies her 27 years of age, but then again she has achieved a lot more in her time than most people do in an entire lifetime. While studying for her BSc in Environmental Sciences at the University of Kenyatta in 2006, Mwaura co-founded the Intervarsity Environment Network to connect the various youth groups working on environmental and sustainability issues across Kenyan campuses. The network grew rapidly, and Mwaura and her colleagues soon realised there was a need for a wider organisation to bridge engagement across the continent. The African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC) was born. “What I have seen with most of the young people I have worked with is that awareness around sustainability is very often driven by a need,” Mwaura says. “What happens when they observe something like deforestation is that they connect how little we have with how badly we need those resources. That’s when you see youth beginning to seek the knowledge they need to take action for the environment.”
Learning to live
Mwaura is a zealous advocate of education as a tool to raise awareness among young people. Along with her peers in AYICC, she fundraised to bring 50 African youths to the UN’s 15th Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen in 2009 – the largest delegation of its kind to ever attend an international climate change negotiation. “For me, the content of education and how the learner is experiencing it is crucial in moving people from one level of awareness to another,” she says. “It’s only when individuals and societies have been transformed that they’re able to change structures. That can only happen through education.” Currently studying for her DPhil at Oxford University on a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, Mwaura, who is one of DNV GL’s Future Sustainability Leaders, hopes to use her own education to devise effective and inspiring programmes to inspire the next generation of young Africans. Her mission is of huge importance to sustainable development. Under-25s constitute as much as 60 per cent of the African population, and as youth make up the highest percentage of the unemployed, giving them the necessary professional skills is crucial.
“All sustainability projects need to have a vision of becoming a life-long commitment. It’s up to every community to maximise on the investment by allocating the time and resources to keep it alive long after the aid workers leave.”
Making dreams come true
Mwaura knows that despite Africa’s reputation for poor governance, there is an abundance of people yearning for the chance to make a change. Before coming to Oxford, she was involved in an education for development programme funded by the Flemish Development Cooperation, working with the Kenyan government and an international research institute to provide development aid to primary schools in arid regions of the country. “That was the best time of my career so far,” she says. “Seeing where the money was going was very encouraging. We worked directly with the ministries of education and agriculture, and during a period of just a year and a half, I was amazed to see how much you can do with the help of government and international aid.” “But it was also clear how much the government needs support to put some of their vision into effect. I met some of the brightest, most passionate government employees, and the only thing that stopped them from doing their job was that they had too many tasks on their plate, and too little money to handle it.” Having a foot in both worlds has also taught Mwaura not to take local knowledge for granted. “I grew up on a farm in rural Kenya. When I go home, I am among the few who have a formal education but believe me, regardless of their illiteracy, older women in these communities are knowledgeable.” So how does Mwaura think we can start putting existing knowledge to work? “We need to have more intergenerational conversations. It may happen at the international level, but it also starts by bringing people across generations together at a very local level, and helping them form community groups in which to share their experiences. A lot of people dream of making changes, but they may not have anyone to motivate and support them in their community.”
Pay it forward
Not unlike good education, Mwaura argues that the primary purpose of development aid should be to provide the tools for autonomy.
CAPITALISM BY NATURE Epic challenges call for epic change. John Fullerton is proposing a bold new economic model inspired by the way our natural ecosystem sustains itself. What strikes you first about John Fullerton is the blend of youthfullooking features with a touch of grey hair. It’s a mix that hints at the combination of fresh-thinking and tough financial market experience that have helped garner support for his idea of a ‘Regenerative Economy.’
Yet Fullerton is optimistic that that spirit can again be unleashed, “The word ‘entrepreneur’ is rooted in Sanskrit and means to ‘create anew,’” he explains. “And it applies to all sectors of society, not just business. So it’s inherently in our DNA to tap into the vast unseen but real potential to innovate and regenerate.”
Getting the story right
“Part of a growing chorus of critics of our contemporary economics, my work is focused on trying to see how the human economy could become regenerative, similar to nature’s way,” he explains. “In natural systems, sustainability is an outcome, not an objective. Nature is sustainable only because it is regenerative.” Fullerton is the founder and president of Capital Institute – a non-profit collaborative working to transform finance to serve a Regenerative Economy. A regular public speaker and university lecturer, as well as a former Managing Director at JPMorgan and an active “impact investor,” he has become a highly respected New Economy thought leader. Regeneration, he says, is the “continuous process of becoming” that defines living beings and the evolutionary process itself. He explains, “Modelled on natural systems, a Regenerative Economy is a highly entrepreneurial economy, appropriately scaled and connected to place, which values wealth holistically, and is circular – not extractive and wasteful – by design.” “Just as natural system health is ensured through balance and healthy collaborative relationship among its parts,” he continues, “so too a healthy economy must rest on a foundation of collaborative relationships among connected parts – like the hospitals, universities or local business in a region, for example – and the proper balance of numerous vital qualities such as efficiency and resiliency, diversity and coherence.”
Our evolutionary destiny
It’s a task unlike any other of our time. As Fullerton puts it in his White Paper on Regenerative Capitalism: “It is our evolutionary destiny and the creative challenge of our age to usher in the era of Regenerative Capitalism, bringing our human economy into holistic balance with nature, and in harmony with the core beliefs of our many time-tested wisdom traditions.” Explaining the key elements of Regenerative Capitalism, Fullerton says, “The gist of it is that it starts with the right relationship between the human economy and the ecosphere and understands that humans are part of nature, not separate from it.” This emerging form of capitalism is driven, he maintains, by human’s innate entrepreneurial spirit, which is currently constrained by our capitalist system’s reductionist focus on “maximising shareholder value, rather than harmonising multiple kinds of capital including social and natural.”
Although Fullerton says the Regenerative Economy is already taking root in a number of promising projects on the ground, he is also beginning to realise that the fundamental barriers to implementing it are formidable. “It’s increasingly clear to me – certainly from an American perspective – that we can’t even have the right dialogue in our fractured political system. The left and the right in this country are fighting over all kinds of things, but they are united in their shared belief that we need to get the economy growing at a faster rate, with little regard to how it’s growing.” The problem, of course, is that at the core of the sustainability issue is the question of limits to growth in the material throughput of the economy. It’s a predicament that calls for new order of thinking. “To get the real issues on the agenda, we really need what people like Thomas Berry have called ‘a new story,’” Fullerton says. “I actually spend a lot of my time trying to help articulate a different story that is above politics and taps into some deeper meaning and purpose. Until we have a new, enticing and hopeful story of how the human economy can and must work, I fear all of the discussions about sustainability-related policy will continue to be bogged down in debates over free market versus regulation, left versus right and so forth.”
Fullerton argues there are two things we need to do with great urgency, “Obviously, we need to shift away from the fossil fuel energy system, and become radically less wasteful of energy in the process. That involves probably decades of work and trillions of dollars of capital investment. But secondly and less well recognised, we need to – with equally great urgency – restore the natural carbon sinks on the planet. The forests and in particular the grasslands collectively represent massive carbon sinks, that if restored (and they are regenerative), can buy us time and provide more space within which to make the transition to a Regenerative Economy possible.” The proportions of “this epic challenge” must not be underestimated. But like any great epic, the road ahead is both daunting and positively exhilarating. “The good news is that the emergence of this transformation in belief systems is already happening – as demonstrated by leading regenerative collaborations and thousands more that will become apparent to us if we have eyes to see them. This will require a shift in our belief systems to the regenerative paradigm.” “To quote Frances Moore Lappe: ‘Believing is seeing,’” Fullerton says. It is evident that he chooses to keep his eyes wide open: “What an amazing time to be alive!”
“Humans are part of nature, not separate from it” 56
â€œBillions of people around the world are looking for the key action to take. I believe what we lack is a strategy for changeâ€?
H U N T E R
LO V I N S
ACTION, FOLKS! L. Hunter Lovins is a professor, activist and award-winning green business icon, but all she really wants is to solve our sustainability problems so she can get back to the rodeo. With 14 books, hundreds of articles and countless speeches to forums like the United Nations and the US Congress under her belt, there are not many aspects of sustainability the outspoken Colorado-based lawyer, academic, rancher and entrepreneur L. Hunter Lovins has not discussed. Maybe that’s why she feels the time for talking is over.
Lives full of meaning
“We don’t know what a sustainable future will be because we’ve never been there,” says Lovins, beaming energetically from behind a webcam on her ranch in Longmont, Colorado. Her trademark black Western hat, long loose hair and folksy appearance belie a formidable intellect with an unrivalled global network of influencers. “What we know very well is what an unsustainable future would be, because that’s where we are.” A fierce defender of equality, Lovins does however know very well what she thinks a safe and sustainable future should be. “One in which all people have meaning in their lives. Where the economy is sustainable because it is regenerative of human and natural capital, delivering a higher quality of life for all people on the planet, in which your livelihood is taken care of either through meaningful work or through fair distribution of the wealth.” Referencing one of her close collaborators, Capital Institute founder John Fullerton, Lovins says capitalism has to become regenerative – a holistic system that serves people and the planet better. “We need to strive to achieve an economy in which the natural capital – the life support systems on the planet – is increasing in diversity, in integrity, in ecological health. Nature is sustainable because it’s regenerative.”
A sustainable plan B
On her hat, Lovins wears a tiny pin from Kyoto – a token of her attendance at the 1997 conference where the pivotal Protocol was finalised. Participating at numerous international talks has only confirmed her conviction that we have the necessary momentum. What we need now, she argues, is a real strategy. “Billions of people around the world are looking for the key action to take to achieve a regenerative future. I believe what we lack is a strategy for change. We have all the technologies we need to solve all the problems facing us.” Achieving the transformation will require a lot of work, she concedes, but it’s a straightforward mission. “It will involve transforming finance, shifting big flows of money into a regenerative economy, and ensuring business people and politicians around the world understand the business case for sustainability. Then setting out a strategy so everyone knows what they can do on both a personal and professional level.”
Even better business
At the heart of the sustainability movement is the belief that the conventional idea of economic growth starts from a false premise. Lovins agrees, “The question is: growth of what? You can have growth of artists, healers, people growing high quality food, culture and education. But an increase in the throughput of money and stuff? That has to go down.” A higher quality of life, she argues, must arise out of decreasing material consumption. But as a fully-fledged capitalist, Lovins is adamant that such a transformation does not have to happen at the expense of good business. “Ram Nidumolu, C.K. Prahalad and M-R. Rangaswami explained it perfectly in an article in the Harvard Business Review: Sustainability is not the burden on the bottom line it was thought to be. It is the touchstone of all of innovation and in the future, only companies that have sustainability as a goal will achieve competitive advantage.” She argues passionately that the business case for behaving more sustainably is stronger than ever. “Several studies from the likes of those wild-eyed environmentalists at Goldman Sachs,” she says with a wry smile, “show that the companies that are the leaders in environment, social and good governance policy have 25 per cent higher stock value. When Goldman is saying it, you know there’s a business case.”
All about the people
Nor does Lovins buy into the myth is that there is no money for the transition. “People are saying, ‘How are we going to fund it? Money is short.’ No. Money is not short. In fact, we have trillions of dollars looking to be put to good use.” We also have the research and tools, she argues. “Now we need a strategy and coherent understanding of where real leverage points are.” On the question of who will apply that leverage, Lovins points to powerful global institutional investors like pension funds – many of which are heavily invested in fossil fuel dependent companies. Those energy assets may have to stay in the ground – “stranded” – if carbon concentrations are to be held at a safe level. Stranded assets are worthless, slashing the value of the investments. “People are totally asleep,” she charges. “We could be looking at the greatest financial collapse yet.” However, if change is slow to start, it can accelerate fast. In 2008, Wall Street collapsed in one morning. Post-Fukushima, Germany turned its nuclear policy around very quickly. As sustainability advisor to such companies as Unilever, Lovins believes business is a pivotal lever to drive toward a more sustainable economy “in which people have a decent standard of living and meaningful work to do.” Because for all her love for animals, Lovins’ purpose is clear: “At the end of the day, this isn’t about polar bears. This is about people.”
POSITIVE MOMENTUM “The years ahead will be crucial in getting a major change in people’s perceptions. I would hope that most of our responses are rational, because anger can always lead to the risk of doing the wrong things. I hope that the leaders of business, politics and civil society really think calmly about where we are going, and what that implies for the future of humanity and all species that live on this planet. I urge them to think positively about all the things we can do that really are not all that difficult.
All around, I see remarkable examples of successful action at the grassroots level. Initiatives that are already helping to ad dress the gender problem, to give people access to good lighting and to enable children to do their homework. Not only can these be replicated to work on a large scale, they also provide an enormous amount of inspiration that we really can take our destiny in our own hands and do something about this situation. Yes, we certainly need vision and political will at the government and international level, but I think the strength of what we really achieve will come from grassroots efforts.
We need to emphasise the opportunities and the positive aspects of this challenge that we face. Look at mitigation – the benefits of that are widespread. Actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, can also lead to much higher global energy security and lower levels of air pollution, which has huge health benefits. It also creates jobs. All these enormous, over- lapping benefits give us a great opportunity to improve human well-being and welfare. This is what we need to focus on as we move forward, and I feel very encouraged to see a company like DNV GL making such a strong commitment to deliver a push for a safe and sustainable future.” RAJENDRA K. PACHAURI, CHAIRMAN, INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE
WHY WASTE YOUR WASTE? Tristram Stuart has fed 5,000 people using only garbage for ingredients. He sees his cause as a window onto more sustainable global food production. Clad in a traditional patterned wool jumper, with a mop of hair sitting messily on top of his tall frame, you would be forgiven for mistaking food waste activist Tristram Stuart for a descendant of some Scandinavian Viking. In fact, he hails from Sussex, where his experience breeding pigs as a teenager instilled a profound respect for animals and the food they provide us with. That’s why the thought of us wasting it makes his blood boil.
Truth on the table
“As a conservative estimate, we waste a third of the world’s food supply from plow to plate,” he says in a deep, confident voice that gives credence to claims that he may well be the world’s most knowledgeable man on the topic. Stuart first proposed the figure in his 2009 book Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, which not only held that Western countries discard a shocking amount of food, but also that tackling the problem is one of the simplest ways of reducing pressure on the environment and on global food supplies. “The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation arrived at pretty much the same figure through completely different statistical methods,” he continues. “Personally, I’m convinced the figures are even higher – especially in rich countries.” A consummate activist, Stuart refuses to skirt around the issue. And with the same UN Organisation estimating that around 12 per cent of the global population (or 842 million people) suffered from hunger and undernourishment in 2012, there is really no arguing the moral incentive. But his motivation is also pragmatic. “The reason I chose to campaign specifically on food waste, was not because it is in and of itself the biggest problem that we face,” he says. “But as an environmentalist I would argue it’s the issue with the easiest and most achievable quick-wins. It’s what we call a low-hanging fruit.”
A strategic cause
In this case the low-hanging fruit is very real. Stuart has been picking perfectly edible food out of supermarket bins since he was a teenager, and in 2009 he took the practice to new heights by serving 5,000 free meals in London’s Trafalgar Square, using only otherwise wasted ingredients – an idea since picked up by the EU and United Nations Environment Programme. “We really can make a very significant difference in alleviating our pressure on the environment and at the same time increasing global food supplies, simply by doing something which none of us
is particularly attached to,” he argues. But to Stuart, getting someone to stop throwing day-old bananas in the bin is more than just a tiny victory. “We regard food waste as a window onto the much wider issue of how we produce our food,” he explains with increasing fervour. “For instance, lifting the recent European law that banned farmers from using food waste to feed pigs and chickens would be a huge global opportunity to make food production more sustainable. It’s essentially just a piece of scientifically unjustified legal red tape – using waste for feed is something humans have been doing for centuries. The ban means farmers across Europe now pay colossal amounts of money for feedstuff on a volatile market, and actually compete with people on the other side of the world who want to buy that very same food to feed their children.” Last year the UN calculated the direct economic costs of food waste to be a staggering USD750 billion per year.
Feed them waste
Stuart also argues that making use of wonky carrots and flawed apples could help change consumption patterns because of its cost-saving potential. “The campaign against food waste is totally different from most others in that it actually saves you money. Unlike organic and freerange foods, ugly fruit and vegetables are usually cheaper than the other options, and as opposed to things like GM crops, it’s something anyone can understand – whether they’re a taxi driver in London or a factory worker in Delhi.” He believes we are seeing the beginnings of a shift in values, toward a society that deems it unacceptable to bin such grotesque amounts of resources. He points out that since 2009, the food waste movement has made significant headway, for instance in convincing retailers to loosen their cosmetic standards on fresh fruits and vegetables. The power to change systems is at our doorstep – or more specifically, at the local supermarket down the road. “Business is trashing the planet to bring us food and then wasting a third of what’s grown. No one wants to see that. We need to wake up to the responsibility we have to demand of the businesses providing our food that they either sell us the left-overs for cheap, or at the very least give it to a charity. If not, we’ll go somewhere else. That’s the kind of power that we have without overturning the entire system.”
“Food waste is the issue with the easiest and most achievable quick-wins. It’s a low-hanging fruit”
â€œThe developed world needs to start thinking of itself as the re-developing worldâ€?
R O B
C A M E R O N
MOVING TO A RE-DEVELOPING WORLD The developed world needs to start re-thinking its game, according to the Director of SustainAbility. He says working with your competitors is a great place to start. Rob Cameron’s fervent passion for sustainable business stretches all the way into his personal spare time. The energetic Brit runs his own boutique bed & breakfast in Cambridge. It is “a show piece in sustainability,” where only locally sourced and Fairtrade-certified products are used. Having focused on helping small-scale producers over four years as Chief Executive of Fairtrade International, he has now, as Director of think-tank SustainAbility, got his sights set on the world’s biggest trading giants. “There are around ten companies who more or less control the world’s vast majority agricultural trade, and they are not listed or publicly accountable,” he says. “They have started to show signs of change, but they need to accelerate it.”
Rethinking what we have
He is excited about the possibility for a new economy more oriented around proper distribution of what’s already there. “There’s USD3 trillion worth of unused resources in the developed world sitting around doing nothing,” he says. “The developed world needs to start thinking of itself as the re-developing world. We’re not going to want to give up doing all the fun stuff we’re doing, so we desperately need to join the developing world in rethinking our ways and finding new forms of peer-to-peer and business collaboration, so we can start making better use of what we have already.” Sharing and collaborating are fundamental facets of a truly safe and sustainable future, he says. “There can be no sustainability without peace. There can be no peace without security. Without prosperity, you’re very unlikely to have peace and security.”
Distributing the goods
Contrary to his less optimistic peers, Cameron believes there are ways for nine billion people to share the planet and live well – but not if things continue as they are. “The thing that troubles me most is the concept of equity, which is so polarising. All the numbers show there’s a concentration of power and wealth in the hands of few, with billions in the have-not camp. That disparity is not sustainable and it will lead to conflict over time.” He is mystified as to why governments can think long-term about pensions but not climate change. “There’s something going wrong at that level, there’s a narrative we’re not getting right.” The same communication challenges apply to business. “We have not been good at framing possibilities for businesses. We just keep telling them to stop, stop, stop. There are these doomster books suggesting we have no hope of addressing major issues. That is very, very negative. If you portray a hopeless case, what does that lead to? Complete inaction. “
Keeping friends close and competitors closer On a more positive note, Cameron thinks the business model of the future will foster companies designed to collaborate, not just to compete. “The really smart leaders are thinking, ‘I won’t have a business in 20 years time unless we change, and we cannot change on our own.’ We have to collaborate more. That’s the switch we’re really interested in.” He points to some unexpected and interesting collaborations such as Ford, Heinz, Procter & Gamble, Nike and Coca Cola all working together on how better to use more responsible, plant-based plastics. It is the seemingly capricious nature of truly pioneering collaborations that interests him. “It’s often messy and it usually hinges on personal relationships. A reason collaborations often fail is that they are typically designed in one place, but have to be executed in another by people who weren’t involved in the initial instance. In other words, the most interesting collaborations also require some imagination, which is what fascinated me about the bioplastic alliance.” Cameron also sees both pros and cons in the trend towards entrenched environmental standards. “Those standards are at risk of becoming a barrier rather than a proponent of change, and I speak as someone who has worked in that space for a long time. There is a real risk they inhibit innovation, because once you’ve got the standard, where do you go? There’s no real drive for improvement. I think the standards system too needs to consider pre-competitive collaboration.” In that spirit, Cameron says SustainAbility is currently working with dairy companies like Nestlé, Danone, FrieslandCampina and Fonterra on a new, potentially “game-changing” programme which takes the best attributes of a standard system and builds in innovation.
Cameron’s second important strategy is to target Chief Financial Officers and ‘externalities’ – the environmental and social impacts of business, which society currently picks up the cost of rather than the relevant companies. “That’s where we need to play the game more. It’s the CFO’s job to start thinking about if there was a price on externalities, what would our business look like? This is the most profound shift we’ve got to make: we absolutely have to start putting a price on externalities.” Ever the visionary re-thinker, he wants government to consider taxes on resource use, rather than jobs. “What if you scrapped (national insurance) and instead secured the money from that on resource extraction and carbon emissions. Net to the government, it’s the same tax take, but completely flips the way in which we think about the economy.”
COOKING UP CHANGE Serial social entrepreneur Sarah Collins turned her passion for female empowerment into a simple device that is changing the lives of hundreds of thousands of women. “Aid does not work,” says Sarah Collins, founder and CEO of Natural Balance, the South African company behind the Wonderbag. “Aid plays a vital role in times of emergencies, but it does not and cannot empower a generation to mobilise and alleviate themselves out of poverty. Empowerment is what the world needs.”
It is a view honed by years on the front line of sustainable development. Collins, a strong-minded and enthusiastic soul, spent the majority of her early career in the field of community-based ecotourism, founding several projects in Botswana. She later founded the NGO Take Back the Future, which trains young people to take ownership of their natural resources, game reserves and parks, and started Woman Forward, a political party in South Africa focused on rural development for women. “The world needs change if we are to give ourselves a fighting chance to tip the scales of poverty back in our favour,” she urges. In 2008, her drive to create change led her to come up with the Wonderbag, which has been her passion and focus ever since. Inspired by her grandmother, who used cushions for slow cooking, she experimented with heat retention and came up with a bag made from two compartments filled with expanded polystyrene balls that trap heat. The idea is that food just needs to be brought up to a high temperature and then placed inside to continue cooking. If used three times a week, it can significantly reduce a family’s fuel use.
Natural Balance monitored what happens when not just one family, but an entire community cooked with Wonderbags, and used statistics compiled by the UN to project the potential impact more Wonderbags could have across the world. They found that firewood or charcoal can last each household five to seven times longer – allowing for reforestation – and that water lasts longer as there is no evaporation in the Wonderbag. “We realised that the impact of the Wonderbag has a multiplier effect: money for charcoal lasts the whole month, families have more disposable income, the girls are back at school, the school needs more classrooms, builders are employed to expand the school, more teachers are employed and more school uniforms and books are sold,” says an impassioned Collins. She argues that having 100 million Wonderbags in use across the world would save 170 million trees, 15.6 billion litres of water, and could create as many as 100,000 new jobs and USD 3.6 billion in disposable income.
Tipping the scales
“We have the potential to save and improve the quality of millions of lives by providing them with a simple cooking device, yet we are still struggling to raise the corporate investments we need to help us change the world,” says Collins. “We have business models that work, pilot projects and Wonderbags in homes. But we need other corporate partners to join us to make a lasting impact, not only for our environment but more importantly our global family.”
Natural Balance, Sarah’s company, which makes the bag, initially targeted poor communities in Africa with low fuel supplies and health problems due to air pollution from fuel fires. More than 600,000 bags are already in use. Based in Durban, South Africa, the Wonderbag team is now developing a business model that can scale up for replication across Africa, Asia, India, South America, Europe and USA.
Collins argues that business has a central role in combating economic inequality. “Our global family is over 7 billion and growing. Over 50 per cent live on less than USD2.50 a day, with no real access to basic healthcare, education, or indeed nutrition. Simply put: where some are prospering, others are falling further and further behind and this gap between these two global communities of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ is widening at an alarming rate.”
Change is cooking
She continues, “You cannot have the development world and the business world. They’ve got to be integrated. Then you’ve got to integrate that with the very people that are being affected. So, you’ve got to look at adaptation projects and the needs of people on a grassroots level because it’s the vast majority of the population that are being affected.”
She believes the vicious cycle blighting so many communities is clear: humans depend on cooking, but long cooking times create energy poverty, which leads to environmental problems such as deforestation and water scarcity. This, in turn, leads to girls being taken out of school to forage further and further for wood and water – exposing them to violence. All because of inefficient cooking.
“Generation after generation will pay the price for our idleness. And where 50 per cent of the population live in extreme poverty now, it’s not difficult to see how this balance could be tipped,” she says, reiterating: “If we are to give ourselves a fighting chance to tip the scales of poverty back in our favour, the world needs change.”
“Ultimately the Wonderbag is about efficiency in cooking, which is a fundamental activity when you have a family,” Collins explains. “It ignites the connection between families in developing and developed communities: a basic need to provide nutritious meals and the unlocking of time, money and workforce.”
“We have the potential to save and improve the quality of millions of lives by providing them with a simple cooking device”
BUILDING CHILDREN A BETTER FUTURE IKEA changed the furniture world with its culture of flatpacks and self-assembly. Now, the CEO of IKEA’s philanthropic foundation wants to show how business can help charities have a longer-lasting impact. The giant blue and yellow IKEA warehouse is synonymous across the world with a quick-and-easy philosophy. Ironic then, that the central idea behind the work of the IKEA Foundation is that development projects can never work if applied as a quick fix – they must be designed with a long-term perspective from the get-go.
The roots of child labour
Like the business, the IKEA Foundation will not compromise its traditional philosophy: “The ability to take a long-term perspective is important if you want to drive change in the communities where we are working. From the outset, it has been very important for us to not be in the traditional aid business. I like to say we’re in the ‘sustainable change’ business.”
“IKEA is owned by a foundation that can only spend the money by either re-investing in the company, or on philanthropic causes,” says Per Heggenes, the Norwegian CEO of IKEA’s charitable foundation, which oversees the company’s global philanthropy. “It’s a very value-driven company with a strong and sustainable culture. The founder’s vision has always been about re-investing profits rather than paying out big dividends to shareholders.”
He worries that there is a tendency to separate humanitarian aid and development. “What many don’t seem to realise is that there is a correlation between family size and child mortality in all countries, which shows that families actually choose to have two children rather than seven if they know those children will survive. That’s the kind of dynamic we have to understand.”
The same prudent principles also live on in the IKEA Foundation. Originally founded in 1982 to invest in architecture and interior design projects, it expanded its charter in 2009 to make a bigger difference for children worldwide, hiring Heggenes as its very first employee.
A businessman at heart, Heggenes speaks of development in a language charged with opportunity and value creation – rather than just challenge and sacrifice.
“IKEA was already working hard to prevent child labour in their supply chain at that time,” he explains. “But there was a feeling that a lot more could be done, so we started to look at how we could address the root causes of child labour and help the families impacted by it. After all, no one would put their children to work if they didn’t feel that they had to. Children need an education as a platform to take care of their own future.”
Building the bare necessities
Since 2009, the Foundation’s donations have grown from €25 million to €100 million annually, all of which is put into carefully planned and far-sighted development strategies. Heggenes argues that aid can never work if applied as a quick fix. Instead – like the basic Allen key needed to put together a piece of IKEA furniture – giving someone a simple but durable tool to help themselves can make the whole difference. In southern Africa, for instance, the Foundation is helping the charity KickStart to scale up their distribution of income-boosting irrigation pumps to poor farmers. That programme meets at least one of what the Foundation identifies as the four fundamentals of a child’s life: a place to call home, a healthy start in life, a quality education and a sustainable family income. Heggenes says taking this holistic approach is the only way to create meaningful, lasting change. “You can’t just address one of the areas. You can provide education, but that won’t be much good if the child is so undernourished that it faints in school.”
Giving and receiving
“We really believe that taking a business approach to what we do will achieve better results. So, what we are doing is trying to see how it can be results-focused, in the same way IKEA is results-focused. Measuring the efficiency and success of our programmes is a huge part of what we do, so that if we see something is working, we can take that programme to the government and encourage them to scale it up.” He thinks more companies can step up their corporate social responsibility game, but also wishes civil society would accept some inspiration from business too. “We take risks in our projects because without taking risk, you can’t drive innovation, right? In business, it’s all about not accepting that things have to be the way they are. That’s often not the case in civil society where people tend to just look for more money to support more of the same programmes. I think business can work to instil in non-governmental organisations an ability to think outside the box, and help look at how to drive innovation and do things better and cheaper.” For example, he says the IKEA Foundation has built a strong relationship with the UN Refugee Agency in the last three years, not only in collaborating to help refugees help themselves, but also on how to improve the organisation’s own performance. “Like IKEA, they have a very sophisticated supply chain operation, so we linked the IKEA team with the UNHCR team to see if we could apply some of our best systems to help increase efficiency of the UNHCR operations. That might be worth more than the money we give to them every year, because they might be able to permanently improve their operations.”
“No one would put their children to work if they didn’t feel that they had to” 72
â€œ The real enemy is human short termism. It is the reason why most people are actually not willing to make a sacrifice todayâ€?
J Ø R G E N
R A N D E R S
THE LIMITS TO SHORT-TERMISM Jørgen Randers has been urging the world to make the right choices since 1972. But doom-mongering has not worked. Now, he thinks the answer is to find sustainable solutions that are attractive in the short-term. “I think the most important point in all work for sustainable development, is to understand what the real bottleneck is – who is the real enemy,” says Jørgen Randers, Professor of Climate Strategy at the Norwegian Business School and co-author of The Limits to Growth, a groundbreaking 1972 study of the future of our planet.
“We won’t have a resource crisis, but distributional inequity will keep increasing. The weather will be increasingly bad and there will be an ever more frequent sequence of devastating storms and droughts. The population will have peaked and will be declining by 2052, but on the climate side, we will be at plus 2°C – going quickly upwards.”
“The real enemy is human short-termism. It is the reason why most people are actually not willing to make a sacrifice today, in order to get an uncertain benefit for their children or grandchildren 30 to 60 years in the future. It explains the inaction in parliaments, in the market and at the individual level.”
Good solutions cost
The spark that never caught fire
After 40 years of working for sustainable development, Randers refuses to sugar-coat the situation. In the early 1970s, when he was still a bright-eyed young Physics student at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, he joined a project that embarked on a scenario analysis of the potential consequences of continued exponential economic growth on our finite planet. The result became The Limits to Growth, a report which helped spark the ongoing global debate about sustainability. But despite becoming a worldwide bestselling book, the spark didn’t quite catch fire. Of the many newspaper reviews, only one seemed to grasp the central question: “If we had 30 days to save the world, would we act before the 29th?” “Initially, when we started this whole thing I assumed that once we point out the unsustainability problem to people, they would immediately say: “Thank you for making us aware of the problem. What can we do?” Randers recalls. “But it turned out that simply highlighting the problem didn’t help at all.”
The next 40 years
Since then, Randers has worked tirelessly across academia, civil society and business to continue spreading the message. But at a youthful 66, he found himself tired of worrying about what the future holds, and set out to make a new global forecast to coincide with the 40th anniversary of The Limits To Growth. Published in 2012, his new book 2052 - A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years was more a result of curiosity than commemoration. “I wrote 2052 because I wanted to see what kind of future humanity is going to decide for itself, since it is apparently unwilling to make the necessary decisions.” “The short summary is that I see a world that is largely stagnant and less sustainable in 2052 than it was in 2012. It’s a future where the world economy and population will grow much more slowly than most people think. However, there will be enough growth – particularly in the emerging economies – to ensure that there is a certain expansion in the economy and also a fairly significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions.”
You might be inclined to call him a pessimist, but rather than dwelling on scare tactics and doom-laden predictions, Randers has always been most interested in discussing solutions. “One-child families to curb population growth; banning oil, coal and gas – first in the rich world, subsequently in the poor world – and redirecting all development aid into building renewable energy capacity in the third world,” he suggests, listing what he thinks would be effective actions. But things are rarely that straightforward. As Randers points out, decision-making today is based on cost minimisation. Therein lies the crux of the issue: “It is very difficult to find solutions that matter and have the benefit coming before the cost,” he points out. “The art is to find solutions that are attractive in the short-term, and incidentally have a positive effect in the long-term. A good example is electric cars: they lessen noise levels and air pollution in the short-term, while reducing emissions in the long-term.”
A radical solution: take a holiday
With that formula in mind, Randers is hard at work pondering alternative solutions. “I have two proposals. One is compulsory vacation in the rich world, which is something I think you could actually get through parliaments. People are short-term enough that they would be in favour of increased vacation as long as their income stays constant. In that way, you might gradually get the production growth rate in society down by increasing the number of vacation days per year – in turn reducing ecological footprints.” In turn, more free time will allow people to focus on family activities and unpaid social work, which Randers thinks is likely to increase well-being – bringing him to his second point. “We need to start measuring. Ask people whether their well-being has, and will continue to improve in five-year period, and then establish a new social goal of increasing the fraction of those who answer Yes.” Experience has made Randers doubtful of whether the world will heed his advice in time. Given his insatiable appetite for finding solutions, however, he is already working hard to prove his own forecast wrong.
As a result, Randers believes we will be faced with a climate crisis within the next 40 years. But rather than revealing itself as some sudden, cataclysmic beast, he thinks it will appear in a more slow and insidious manner.
ONE IN A CHINESE BILLION Resource depletion meets population growth – it’s a worrying predicament. Could the world learn something from China’s history of policy-making? Three years after Chairman Mao’s death in 1976, the Communist Party introduced its one-child policy to control China’s overwhelming population growth. The policy has been the subject of heated debates over morals, enforcement and long-term consequences ever since, but over a generation later, the big question remains: Was it successful in preventing a resource disaster?
“There is no denying that the one-child policy has been effective in curbing population growth in China,” says Fengshu Liu, Professor at the University of Oslo. At the turn of the millennium, Liu left her home at the foot of the mountainous plateau where North China borders Inner Mongolia, to move to a peripheral place called Norway. Fourteen years later she is still there, and has spent much time researching China’s ‘only-children’. “When I first started my PhD research, the first only-child generation was about to become young adults,” she explains. “I was interested in how their attitudes and cultures differed from previous generations and from contemporary youth in other societies.” In the last 15 years, the fertility rate in Chinese cities like Shanghai has been among the lowest in the world, at well below one child per woman. There is also evidence that the policy has changed the country’s demographic patterns. “Attitudes towards child-rearing have changed as a result of the mass educational campaigns that were rolled out to teach people to value fewer children, but better life quality,” she says. “Of all the young people I’ve talked to as part of my research, it’s very rare to find someone who wants more than two kids. The majority wants one, and some young women don’t even want that. Chinese youth value their freedom and independence, and some don’t want to be dragged down by having children.”
More for each child
Whether that has had a direct effect on consumption levels, however, is less straightforward. “In regard to population growth, it is likely that this has helped reduce resource consumption,” Liu says. “But raising one child in China is an increasingly expensive task. Many worry about the sky-high expenses of giving that child the best education and material goods.” It is a multi-faceted issue, but Liu says it is hard to separate the one-child policy from urban China’s consumer boom. “The average Chinese only-child consumes much more than a bunch of children did for instance in my generation. If you think about it that way, the concentration of resources and attention given to the one child in every family might suggest that curbing population growth in this way is not equivalent to reducing consumption levels.”
authorities are now loosening the policy. “One issue is the child’s psychological development” Liu says. “Many parents and educators are concerned about whether the only child – known as the ‘little emperor/princess’ – grows up to be too selfish and ill-prepared for life’s hardships.” The myth of the spoilt little emperor is much-disputed – especially because Chinese only-children adolescents seem to be higher academic achievers compared with those who have siblings, as well as adolescents in some Western societies, as reflected in the international PISA tests. A less ambiguous concern is the skewed ratio of men to women that has resulted from the traditional preference of having boys rather than girls. “Many young men struggle to find wives because of the imbalance between the sexes. This will push some women to upper echelons of society, while those who are on the margin of society suffer from it.” She explains that one thing the older generations have successfully bequeathed to today’s youth, is a loyalty towards traditional values. “An important tenet of traditional Confucian philosophy is filial piety – the belief that children, especially sons, should respect their ancestors and support their parents in their old age. It is considered your moral and economic duty.”
Have your cake and share it too
This creates difficulties for adults who have grown up without siblings: The taxpayer-to-pensioner ratio is expected to drop from today’s 5:1, to just over 2:1 by 2030. So while the 100-200 million births that demographers estimate the one-child policy has prevented since 1979 may have helped avert an early resource disaster, it certainly has not come without side effects. Liu thinks a safe and sustainable China, with its unparalleled global impact, will have to revolve around more equal distribution of resources. Chinese youth, she says, are eager to achieve the same affluent living standards they see in the Western world, which in China is only available to the fortunate few. “Seeing other people have much more than you creates strong resentment. In my home village, I remember people saying: ‘If our leaders don’t care, why should we? They’re driving cars and using fuel – why should we save the forest?’” “Young people are also critical of Western values, and many perceive the calls for lower consumption as quite hypocritical. How can you disagree? To eat until you’re full and then ask the hungry person to think about our common future is not just unfair, it’s unrealistic.”
“To eat until you’re full and then ask the hungry person to think about our common future is not just unfair, it’s unrealistic”
China’s little emperors
Over 30 years after the policy was implemented, other long-term social trends are also emerging, which might help explain why
â€œIf we can change, we will have crossed a threshold as great as any in human history, as great as the Enlightenmentâ€?
J O H N
A S T H O N
NO MORE HOLLOW PROMISES With a generation turning its back on politics, those who put themselves forward as leaders desperately need to rebuild trust. Go back to your values, listen to science and start doing what we know how to do, urges John Ashton. “The real disaster is that politics has treated climate change as a policy matter. It has failed to engage politically with it, and in consequence failed to build consensus for the transformational change that is needed.”
“But whether it likes it or not, science is now part of politics,” he adds. “It has to invest in its capacity to engage with politics. Turning its back is also a political act, which is an uncomfortable message for scientists.”
That is the view of independent commentator and former UK government envoy on climate change, John Ashton. From 2006 to 2012, he served as Special Representative for Climate Change for three successive UK Foreign Secretaries – a time during which the UK Foreign Office pioneered a diplomacy-led approach to climate change that came to be widely admired.
On or off?
Seeing the bigger picture
“Their conclusion then was it was off,” he sighs, “and that is where they still are, on the whole. Business will not be fooled by politicians’ promises. They want to know if government commitments are legally binding, or are they still talking around the easy stuff.”
Sitting in a small conservatory adjacent to his home near London’s Kew Gardens, Ashton, who has become well known for his role in climate diplomacy, explains why he felt a need to develop an independent voice. “There are some things that need to be said clearly at this confusing and disconcerting time,” he says. “We have not yet constructed the language we need to deal with the challenges we face.” “The Western world’s inability to see the bigger picture is woven through the entire climate change debate,” he argues. “It’s embedded in the way modern industrialised societies and institutions work. Our culture is to break things down to component parts. We think if we do that, we can understand the whole system. That’s wrong. I think it’s an Anglo Saxon thing, not a global thing.” He cites ideas by the psychologist Richard Nisbett that suggest Europeans and Americans have a reductionist view of problems, in contrast to the East Asian Confucian tradition, which thinks about balances within a system and its overall stability. “The transformation we need to accomplish would carry us across a threshold as great as any in human history,” Ashton says.
A generation turning its back
Ashton thinks any transition to a resilient, low-carbon economy will require “a re-forging of the political contract between generations, on which all healthy societies depend.” The bad news is the generation that will have to deal with the effects of climate change has disengaged from broken politics. “I find it hard to imagine a bigger disaster than an entire generation turning its back on mainstream politics and social institutions,” he observes. But he believes mobilising the voice of science could provide a positive force, noting a prevailing sense of frustration in the scientific community that politicians are not heeding its advice to take action to avoid a climate disaster. “Society has to take decisions. If they are informed by science, we might take the right decisions. If they’re not informed by science, we will certainly take the wrong decisions,” says Ashton.
He recalls attending the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009 and canvassing the many business delegates about climate change issues. “What they wanted to know from governments was: is this on or off? Will there be policy frameworks that will shift that flow of private capital or are they just going to tinker at the edges?”
Governments can move quickly, given the right drivers. Germany halted all nuclear energy plans following the damage to Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant during the tsunami of 2011. “Even a week before, you could not anticipate such a change. All the really interesting things in politics are considered impossible before they happen.”
The 4-plus-1 plan
He describes his strategy for moving to a sustainable future – a lowcarbon world which accommodates growth but is also resilient and efficient in its use of resources – as the ‘4-plus-1’ plan. Its advantages? “It is simple, and we know how to do it.” “One is carbon neutral electricity within a generation, which implies both carbon capture and storage (CCS), and developing renewables. Two concerns transport. We need to take oil-based fuels out of cars, trucks, trains, shipping, aviation.” “Three is heating,” he continues. “You can’t do CCS on millions of gas boilers, so we have to move to electric heating. Fourth concerns industrial processes like steel, aluminum or cement manufacture, where you can’t eliminate carbon. So all you can do is CCS. That’s the supply side. On the demand side – the plus 1 - energy efficiency needs to be improved.” The “win-win opportunities” are evident in places like Tyneside in northeast England, where Ashton was brought up. After devastating closure of shipping and mining industries, it is beginning to come back to life because of the arrival of low-carbon industries and their supply chains. “You don’t need to be an economic genius to see the opportunity. But the dominant perspective at the center of the debate is cost, not opportunity. Change never happens when it’s driven by a sense of cost. It always happens when it’s driven by opportunity.”
AFRICA: LEAPFROGGING TO HEALTH AND WEALTH Bright Simons spotted an opportunity to improve healthcare systems using mobile technology. It shows Africa’s potential as a test bed for sustainability innovation. For a long time, there was virtually no way of spotting the difference between an authentic malaria pill and a fake substitute in an African or South Asian drug store. In the past five years, however, a simple technology involving a scratch code and a text message has launched a movement that is quickly combatting counterfeit medicine.
Spotting the fakes
“Until we got involved, the counterfeit medicine crisis was primarily addressed in a top-down way,” says Ghanaian mobile health entrepreneur Bright Simons. In 2009 he founded mPedigree, a company that developed an SMS shortcode system for authenticating pharmaceuticals. Today, it has become the national standard in Ghana, Nigeria and India, and is underway to being rolled out in South Africa and the rest of Asia. “With this technology, the consumer is the one who picks up the product, sends a single SMS to the manufacturer and gets a message back that verifies the medication. No regulators with complex protocols,” he explains. It was a yearning to make more of a difference that spurred Simons’ decision to become a mobile technology entrepreneur. With little access to resources, he developed the SMS system as a free service funded by the pharmaceutical companies. This, shrewdly, has helped make it self-sustainable, as counterfeit medicine poses as much of a threat to pharmaceutical firms as it does to users. Besides polluting supply chains, many believe fake and sub-standard medicine kills up to 2,000 people every year.
A perfect sustainability test bed
To Simons, who last year landed a spot on MIT Tech Review’s prestigious Global Top Innovators Under-35 list, tackling counterfeit medicine was an opportunity to not only close a perilous social loophole, but also to break into the new mobile infrastructure emerging on the African continent. In the last decade, mobile providers took advantage of the lack of fixed-line telecom infrastructure to start an intense dispersion of cellular coverage, launching an explosion of mobile telephony across Africa. Today only Asia surpasses it in numbers of handsets.
waste management to energy utilities could provide the appetite – non-existent in the West – for genuinely transformative, future-friendly re-conceptualisation of the very notion of infrastructure.”
Testament to his past as a student activist, Simons speaks with passion about the potential of this new African infrastructure to rearrange power structures and propagate transparency. “The fundamental change technology makes is that it devolves power to the edges,” he enthuses. “Dealing with fake medicines no longer becomes just a regulatory matter – the regulator now has to share that information in real time with people affected by the problem. If it takes a month for him to resolve the issue, his incompetence is put on display for the world to see.” Furthermore, he says there are vast data capture opportunities attached to consumer-based systems of this scale. “That data could be accessible by anybody. These are new ways of not only speaking truth to power, but also measuring performance and engagement. It is a new, radical kind of transparency – an almost meritocratic way of looking at our biggest problems.”
Developing an African business culture
In the same way Africa has a unique opportunity to leapfrog to a sustainable physical infrastructure, Simons believes the continent can also be a beacon for a more responsible business culture. “In Africa, we did not unhinge the notion that the corporation is an organic part of the community,” he argues. Unlike Western corporations, he says Africa never had the chance to gear into relentless pursuit of profit in the 20th century. “To Africans, your business was traditionally an extension of how you were perceived in the community. It was something you were involved in for the sustenance of yourself and the people around you. I think African entrepreneurs still have a lot of developmental narrative. It’s not that we are inherently different – it’s just that the circumstances are.”
Simons says this development is evidence of Africa’s unique leapfrogging potential. Instead of adopting Western models which are proving harmful to both social and environmental eco-systems, he says, “Africa should be used as a test bed for the most innovative sustainability solutions.”
Having walked the long path of social entrepreneurism himself, he does however know that it is hardly paved with gold. “Eventually, African business will probably take the same route Western business did – unless someone steps in to remind them that actually, they don’t have to do that.”
As he put it in one of his Harvard Business Review blog posts from 2012, “In much the same way that Africa’s lack of significant telecom capacity was a boom rather than a hindrance to the emergence of mobile telephony, its lack of legacy infrastructure for everything ranging from
“What we should try to do is signal a better and superior way of organising entrepreneurship,” he urges. “Perhaps with the right visionaries and top leaders, entrepreneurship could take a different turn to that of Europe and America.”
“In Africa, we did not unhinge the notion that the corporation is an organic part of the community” 84
TURNING KNOWLEDGE INTO ACTION Not content just thinking about change, Harvard Professor Nathan Eagle decided to put his research to use. The result? A direct mobile connection to nearly half the world’s population. Nathan Eagle’s doctoral thesis on Reality Mining was named by the MIT Review as one of the “ten technologies most likely to change the way we live”. Now as co-founder of telecoms firm Jana, which in Sanskrit means ‘people’, Eagle is making that prediction a reality. “Jana is a company that provides consumers in emerging markets with what is equivalent to money. It is actually free mobile air time, money credited to their mobile phones in exchange for taking some sort of action like filling out a survey or pledging to wash hands” explains Eagle, speaking over Skype from his Boston office.
Turning small credit into big change
The combination of communications and credit is innovative but it is Jana’s reach - some 3.5 billion, nearly half the people in the world in 102 countries (out of 193) - which is truly astounding. Jana has forged agreements with 237 mobile phone operators globally to instantly compensate these consumers in denominations as low as ten cents. “It is the largest compensation platform in the world, pushing money to consumers in exchange for tangible output,” explains Eagle. Clients range from the World Bank and United Nations, to Unilever and Procter & Gamble. In developing countries many people who have mobile phones have no credit left on them because they pay phone operating companies up to ten per cent of their income to use the phone. If part of that is offset through credits to, say, five per cent, that gives a billion people five per cent more in their pocket to spend in a fast, direct and secure way.
You’ve got my attention
What does this have to do with sustainability? Eagle says his business is a powerful way to reach what was formerly a marginalised audience. “We want to know: what do you want to say to those people? Now you can compensate and incentivize them, what do you want them to do? It could be pledging to wash your hands, or watching an educational video, or telling friends about the benefits of recycling, or using less packaging.” Recently, he explains, the UN wanted to gauge opinion on environmental issues, which unearthed striking differences between rural and urban views, even within the same country. “It’s an unparalleled tool for spreading awareness,” says Eagle. “It takes the pulse of what consumers on the ground are thinking.”
was coming from Brazil, China, Latin America, India. They were trying to figure out ways to engage their next billion consumers. We were in the right place at the right time.” Despite his high academic standing, a lifetime of high achievement has never cut Eagle off from the real world. He jokes that his first appearance in published work was as a case study in a health journal after he had become the first person ever recorded with dengue fever in Nepal, in 2000.
A truly global conversation
Jana’s potential is still evolving. “We definitely don’t want to just be spamming people,” Eagle explains. “Jana is a way to start a conversation. We’ve tried blanket messaging in the past and spent obscene amounts of money, especially in the more developed markets. It doesn’t work.” Surveys always highlight the need for more communication. But in underserved, understudied markets individuals end up paying to have that dialogue. “Our technology offsets that cost, enabling people’s voices to be heard without cost. That’s really important.” With a global reach of 3.5 billion people, Eagle says further expansion is not an immediate priority. “The next step, is how many true one-on-one conversations we can establish between this group and the global brands trying to reach them.” Eagle wants producers to know they can now reach their audience of the future. “With the ubiquity of mobile phones, it’s possible to start thinking of them not just as a communication device between a consumer and their friends, but a mechanism that can infuse compensation into that person’s pocket in exchange for real dialogue on a very large scale.” “The opportunity is to be able to start raising awareness about sustainability, and then starting to create routines and habits,” Eagle explains. On issues like recycling, there are more consumers now in developing – not developed markets – and few are dismissive of the idea. “Consumers understand the importance of recycling just as much in rural Philippines as they do in Manhattan. The question is, how do you empower them to start changing their behavior to make a better impact?”
Eagle candidly attributes Jana’s rapid growth partly to luck. “Four years ago, mobile phones were becoming ubiquitous even in the poorest countries, plus global brands knew their future revenue
“Consumers understand the importance of recycling just as much in rural Philippines as they do in Manhattan”
â€œI dream of establishing an international court for crimes against the environmentâ€?
J O LY
YOU CAN’T CHEAT CLIMATE CHANGE Eva Joly has spent her whole life fighting corruption and injustice. She joined politics to make sure climate change does not become the greatest economic crime of all. “In the future I dream of, we all live in peace,” says Eva Joly, fabled corruption hunter and European Parliamentary politician for the French Greens. “I fear that if we don’t do something very soon, we will end up with conflict over resources.”
A journey fighting corruption
Radiant with passion as she discusses our common future, 70-year old Joly’s enthusiasm shows no sign of waning. At just 20, she braved cultural differences and moved from Oslo to Paris to become an au pair, beginning a remarkable social journey that would take her all the way to the French presidential elections in 2012. Her long and venerable career as an examining magistrate has seen her spend the best part of her life raging an unstoppable war against injustice, most famously exposing scandalous corruption at the French oil giant Elf in the 1990s. Throughout, her message has remained clear: economic crime is far more endemic and destructive than we imagine. Global warming may well be the symptom that proves her right once and for all. “Absolutely no one gains anything from climate change,” she stresses. “If we end up with hundreds of millions of climate refugees, it will soon become apparent that we are all very much in the same boat.”
Spreading hope, not despair
In 2009, Joly was elected into the European Parliament and today serves as Chair of the Committee of Development. As a politician, she continues to work for equal allocation of both resources and responsibilities. “It’s obviously just as legitimate for a Nigerian to want air conditioning in her house as it is for a Norwegian to want heating,” she argues. “But with the expected population increase there is only one solution, and that is for our consumption levels to go down. We need an international agreement that includes everyone, but is fair to the developing countries. That’s something we can do, but I think it’s a question of political will and as a politician, you cannot do something against the will of the majority.” However serious the challenge, Joly knows that doom-mongering and finger-pointing will never get everyone aboard. She feels the Greens must work harder to communicate a message of opportunity rather than sacrifice. “Reducing our consumption levels must not become something associated with tragedy or some kind of punishment. Seeing the Fukushima plant break down and cause devastating destruction, will not make people want to change the world.”
The great technology temptation
“Nuclear, because it is a low-carbon way of producing electricity, has been presented as ’the solution’ to the growing need of energy. A huge part of Japan’s richest fields are not fit for agricultural production for the next 30,000 years and the territory surrounding Fukushima is uninhabitable for as long. Even though the probability that disaster strikes is low, the consequences if it were to happen is something we cannot live with.” Technology, she warns, should never be counted on as a definitive solution in itself. “It’s what I call the great technology temptation,” she says. “Far too often I see highly educated leaders and individuals who, instead of acknowledging the severity of our future challenges, choose to blindly trust that technology will save the day. Humans will never master a technological solution for something like global warming. This is only an escape from reality.”
Justice for nature
While Joly is intent on raising the political will to act on climate change from within the system, she is becoming doubtful of democracy’s ability to facilitate the necessary scale of change alone. She thinks a desirable alternative must also ascend from local communities on the ground, inspiring people to vote for a better future in the longer term. “We’re already seeing examples of people getting together in small groups to share resources and produce energy locally,” she says eagerly, pointing to the growth of car-pooling as an example. She continues: “Localised energy production is a driving force for real democracy. In Bretagne, I met a local community that produces and sells their own methane gas – they are nearly energy independent.” Ultimately, she thinks smaller social ecosystems will also foster a different set of human values that will prove more desirable than today’s consumer-driven lifestyle. “It’s time we ask ourselves whether the standard of living we have acquired has really given us peace, happiness and a feeling of presence in our own lives. I don’t think so – I think it’s a state of mind much more present among Amazonian natives than rich Norwegians. The great change will come when people start getting together to live in ways that value compassion and cooperation.” With roots firmly embedded in the legal system, Joly dreams of establishing an international court system to protect communal world resources, with a separate section in the International Criminal Court for crimes committed indirectly against humanity via the environment. “It’s still a work in progress,” she says and smiles. With her track record and famously unyielding determination, it might not be long until the fantasy becomes reality.
Nonetheless, Joly thinks the Japanese nuclear disaster should serve as a timely reminder of the consequences we are up against if we resort to quick-fix solutions rather than investing in the future.
CASH IS NOT KING Tax evasion, fraud and illegal trade – is cash the currency for all things non-sustainable? MasterCard’s Ajay Banga thinks the world would be better off without it. It has been estimated that 1 per cent of global GDP is the annual investment it would take to avoid the worst effects of climate change. But while global leaders struggle to free up such funds, we spend around 1.5 per cent of world GDP every year on printing, distributing and guarding cash. Are we getting the right kind of value for our money?
More money, more problems
If you ask Ajay Banga, President and CEO of MasterCard, the answer is a resounding ‘no’. The Indian-born Chief Executive sees a safe and sustainable future that entails less cash and more financial inclusion. “85 per cent of the world’s retail transactions are currently still made in cash or cheque,” he says from his office in the appropriately-named town of Purchase, New York. “We want to reduce that number because it’s expensive and we think society can do better things with the money.” High levels of cash payments in developing countries that lack electronic infrastructure are perhaps not that surprising. But Banga says even in developed countries like Germany and Japan, people still make up to 78 per cent of purchases in physical currency. This, he says, is problematic not only because cash is costly to produce, but also because it is expensive to access – and more so the less of it you have. While a credit card and online banking gives instant access to private funds, the cash-based services used by a majority of low-income Americans tend to incur high add-on charges. A study by Tufts’ Fletcher School showed that the poorest individuals surveyed in the US spent an average of over three times more than the wealthy people on just getting their money. Furthermore, Banga points out that carrying cash is risky. “Who goes to a cheque casher? The poorest of the poor,” he says, emphasising that safety and sustainability go hand in hand. “The highest level of muggings in the US is in the area near cheque cashers.”
It pays to have an ID
The story is similar in the developing world, where access to financial services has traditionally been limited to the wealthier classes. “Including people in the financial mainstream is about giving people the feeling of belonging to a society,” he says. “There are 2.5 billion people around the world who have no access to financial services. People really take for granted what it means to have that.” He explains that a simple electronic payment card could double up as a tool for granting people a national identity. In Nigeria, the government has embarked on an ambitious journey to create a national ID program, involving the roll out of 13 million National Identity Smart Cards that double as MasterCard prepaid cards. The pilot will be the largest financial inclusion programme of its kind in Africa.
Less cash, greater transparency
A completely cash-free society is not the ultimate end goal, but Banga emphasises that reducing the amount of the stuff could help tackle issues such as tax evasion and organised illegal trade. MasterCard estimates that “up to USD16 trillion is spent in cash every year in black and informal economies – cash that is untaxed and untraceable.” “When guns with markings from other countries suddenly show up, do you think they got there via electronic payments or a wire transfer? All illegal activities happen with underhand means, because cash is anonymous and tangible,” he argues. Electronic payments, on the other hand, are traceable, thus making it easier to cut out dishonest middlemen and disentangle delivery chains. In the state of Chhattisgarh in Banga’s native India, a pre-paid card system has helped make the distribution of scholarships to students more transparent and efficient. “The Chhattisgarh government faced a number of challenges in reaching funds to the students through a manual process,” Banga explains. “For the students, there were delays in receiving the funds. The intermediaries were faced with complicated managing processes, and the cost of physical infrastructure to manage the process was high.” In partnership with the Central Bank of India, MasterCard conceptualised an electronic payment solution which first established the identity of the student, before handing them a pre-paid card onto which the scholarship amount could then be credited directly by the Bank, as advised by the government. “As a result of this programme, students now have easy, convenient, and secure access to funds at all times,” says Banga.” For the government, the programme delivered greater transparency, speed, accuracy and authentication – all the while cutting costs.”
Let’s talk money
Banga is not blind to the fact that his company makes money when people make purchases, but argues that in a time when we need to reduce our consumption to lessen our strain on the planet, there is much to be said for technologies that enable people to buy smarter. “In the US, e-commerce with free shipping is widespread,” he explains. “People buy five things and send four that don’t fit back, creating waste and unnecessary movement of goods. For instance through virtual technologies that let people try on clothing, retailers can help people make more informed and thoughtful choices.” We must all contribute where we can, he says. But first we need to start talking. “I believe if we start a real dialogue on the benefits of electronic commerce, it will create the momentum. The most important thing we need to do now is start a robust public-private dialogue, to make governments and private entities realize that it is within our power to change the 85 per cent number.”
“A study showed that the poorest individuals spent an average of over three times more than the wealthy people on just getting their money” 92
“It’s about the importance of understanding some thing not just in your head, but in your heart”
A N A
M A R Q U E S
CONSCIOUS LEADERSHIP With 20 years of business experience, Ana Marques is building on ground-breaking psychological research to uncover how leaders can learn to understand sustainability with both head and heart. One great mind can change the course of history. Leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa are few and far between, but researchers such as Brazilian Ana Marques are busy trying to understand what elevates them above the crowd – and how we might be able to produce more of them.
Our time has come
“We are in a special moment in history now, in that our mindsets can no longer sufficiently understand all the complexities in the world,” she says with a soft-spoken Portuguese accent. “Evolving mindsets is a natural process, but it is necessary to speed that process up because our environmental problems are becoming so big and imminent.” Marques is a chemical and environmental engineer by education, and has worked with sustainability in a range of Brazilian and international companies for over 20 years. Five years ago, around the same time she joined DNV GL as an external sustainability consultant and auditor, she began to feel that just working from a technical perspective was not enough. “To develop a conscious civilisation, we need conscious leaders. After assessing and interviewing hundreds of organisations and leaders, I realised it is not just about understanding sustainability rationally, but to really embody it,” she explains. “Of course, a company must make money to survive, but if it loses touch with its purpose it ultimately won’t make money in the long-term, because society is changing.”
Two worlds, one philosophy
Marques began looking for proof of this notion in two ostensibly very different arenas: science and ancestral cultures. She came across the work of Harvard University’s Robert Kegan, a developmental psychologist who defined the Constructive Developmental theory: five stages of consciousness that explain the mental complexity of adults. At the same time, Marques interviewed a number of southern Brazilian Indians, whose traditional worldview revolves around the interconnectedness of everything and humanity’s dependence on nature. “Both the natives and scientific literature said the same thing, just in different words,” Marques says and breaks into a smile. “They’re all talking about the importance of understanding something not just in your head, but in your heart.” The discovery led her to Radboud University in the Netherlands, where she began writing her PhD on development of conscious leadership for sustainability.
Mindfulness goes mainstream
This branch of research is helping to lift transcendentalism back into the mainstream. Spiritual transformation and mindfulness are increasingly popular concepts across the Western private sector. Google, for instance, offers in-house mindfulness classes to “help employees search inside themselves”, and has even enlisted Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hahn to help them understand how compassion and insight are connected with efficiency.
Marques says she has seen several Brazilian organisations flourish where leaders really understand that principle. One example is Natura Cosmetics, a USD10.5 billion company on Forbes’ Ten Most Innovative list. “Because they create their products using ingredients from the Amazon, their purpose is not just about selling, but also about teaching employees how to connect with people and give back to the Amazon. Their high staff satisfaction has put the company at the top of the list for Brazilian graduates.”
Climbing the mountain
Perhaps it all sounds vague and abstract, but Marques argues it is really logical thinking. “Imagine a mountain,” she says, drawing a hilltop on a board in front of her. “The self-sovereign leader is at the base of the mountain, he can’t see the beautiful landscape. A leader like this sees others as facilitators or obstacles to the realisation of his own desires. It’s essentially a teenager’s mindset, although some adults are like this too,” she laughs. “To them, responsibilities like corporate sustainability are a matter of just obeying the rules for fear of being caught.” Drawing several stick-men grouped together a bit higher up the mountainside, she continues, “This is the socialised mindset. Scientifically, 58 per cent of the adult population is at or below this level. A socialised leader sees his own group and a small part of the landscape. He likes to show others that he applies corporate sustainability and engages with philanthropy. But he struggles to see things from outside his group’s perspective.” In the middle of the mountain, she explains, are the self-authored, who are able to step outside and think critically about their own groups. They show higher levels of tolerance and acceptance, but are still a way off from the top of the mountain plateau. “Only one per cent of adults reach the self-transforming group – people like Gandhi, Mandela and Mother Teresa. From this vantage point, they are able to see everyone and truly understand how they are interconnected. A leader like this understands that corporate sustainability is about creating value for the whole society.”
Leading by example
Marques is not suggesting everyone can or should become Mother Teresa. What she wants to show is that leading by example has an inevitable, cumulative effect. “Consciousness development is sustainable in itself, because once you enter a new mindset it’s not possible to go back. Because 58 per cent of adults are at or below the level of self-authoring, they will do what others recognise as the right thing.” By combining her research with her practical managerial and technical skills, Marques hopes to find tools for helping business leaders to internalise sustainability – or, if you want, climbing the mountainside. “It’s not easy, but it’s possible,” she says. “After all, we’re all really talking about the same thing – it’s just different languages.”
â€œMoving beyond business as usual often requires a moment of clarity, where you realise that your power and ego mean far less than your responsibility to do the right thingâ€? 98
C O N F I N O
A MOMENT OF CLARITY The media are absolutely a part of the problem, says Jo Confino. He is determined to tell the stories that inspire individuals to do the right thing. As Editor of Guardian Sustainable Business, Jo Confino has interviewed dozens of CEOs, attended hundreds of conferences and heard countless speakers expound the same need for urgent action on sustainability. The one thing all sustainability experts seem to agree on, he says, is that we urgently need to change our ways. So why is it so difficult for each of us to, well – ‘just do it?’
A moment of clarity
“She found that in almost every one of the companies she studied, at least one person had gone through a personal epiphany,” he explains. “A moment of clarity, where they realised that their power and ego meant far less than their responsibility to do the right thing and not carry on with business as usual.”
“Most people find change difficult, and changing societies is especially difficult because there’s so much that holds it in place. We have developed power structures around particular ways of thinking, which have become so solidified that most of us just assume that’s the way society works. Even the Bank of England Governor, after the banking crisis in 2008, said ‘I don’t understand why people aren’t angry’.”
Having gone through one himself, it is no wonder Confino profoundly believes in the power of spiritual transformation. After 11 years covering Wall Street affairs for national newspapers, he decided it was time for a change.
“We’ve become habitual creatures,” he suggests. He thinks most people simply feel too disconnected from our complex, globalised world to confidently add ‘Save the planet’ to their already crammed to-do lists.
The nebulous, cognitive abyss between awareness and action is one that captivates psychologists and scientists alike. But until we understand why we allow ourselves to remain seated as we float towards the iceberg ahead, what can we do? Confino argues that real, meaningful change does not come in the form of a single event.
Many drops make an ocean
“The thing about change is that it’s made up of millions of different actions. Change happens when enough things come together for that to manifest. So the important thing is not to focus on one thing but rather on the multitude, which makes everyone important in creating a transformation. And then, it becomes a question of who will lead it?” Perhaps not surprisingly, having chosen business as his angle from which to write about sustainability, Confino thinks CEOs are our strongest candidates. “Business, by its nature, has to look ahead. If you’re a food company, you have to think about how you’re going to secure your food supply 15 years down the line. If you’re an IT manufacturer, where will you get your metals? Business is built around driving change. If they want, they are able to create change at the scale and speed we need now.” “The most courageous leaders are those who dare set targets ten years ahead, without really knowing how to get there. That unleashes creativity and new partnerships, because when you admit you don’t have the answer to everything, you have to reach out and collaborate.”
Confino believes great organisational transformation happens when an individual is woken up to a new reality. He refers to a study by Professor Lynda Gratton, a British organisational theorist who has conducted research into over 60 companies that have initiated sustainability programmes.
“I didn’t feel a personal, emotional connection to my job. I couldn’t understand why there was no purpose in business and finance beyond making money for money’s sake, no understanding of business place in the society. Moving into sustainability journalism for me was like coming home, because it allowed me to start answering all those questions.”
A good story
While Confino may have woken up to a new reality, the rest of his industry seems yet to follow suit. With its unparalleled influence on our perceptions, shouldn’t the global media cover far more stories about sustainable alternatives? “The media are absolutely part of the problem, not the solution,” he says bluntly. “It is itself caught in an old paradigm and hasn’t quite woken up itself to the scale of change it needs to go through. If you look at business coverage across most media organisations, they’re still concentrating on whether there was a 0.2 per cent rise in GDP last month – focusing on measures of success that are now increasingly being challenged. Even serious newspapers, such as The New York Times, are putting back their sustainability coverage. The Washington Post has one environmental correspondent.” Confino, however, is hoping to change the dynamic. “You know, the press tends to focus on those with power, when actually, we should be talking to the outsiders. The people who are not part of the establishment are the ones who are driving change, creating new thinking, looking at different solutions. I think we are bringing them into the mainstream.”
“The people who are not part of the establishment are the ones driving change and thinking creatively”
â€œ This time around, we must leave no-one behindâ€?
PA U L
P O L M A N
LEADING BY EXAMPLE A sustainable future requires action on a very large scale, and that requires the biggest beasts of the corporate world to grasp the nettle. Paul Polman and Unilever are leading the charge, but will others follow? As well as being CEO of one of the world’s biggest companies, Paul Polman is Chairman or Board member of organisations such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), UN Global Compact, Consumer Goods Forum and Conservation International. It’s a biography that suggests he likes to lead - in the most sustainable way possible. “We have to move beyond talking - and action our sustainable strategies and behavior,” he urges. “Governments are looking at regulation and red tape. But in my extensive conversations with other business leaders it’s clear there is an appetite amongst many to hold themselves to a higher standard.”
Boldly leading the way
It’s not unlikely that Polman has played an instrumental role in creating that appetite. During his time as CEO of Unilever he has implemented the much-acclaimed Sustainable Living Plan, which sets down goals like increasing the number of sustainably sourced products from ten to 50 per cent over five years, and ensuring that all palm oil bought by Unilever will be traceable to known sources by the end of 2014. In 2010, he made headlines when he announced Unilever would scrap quarterly reporting, which he believes helps perpetuate the short-term approach to decision-making. Bold initiatives such as these have led many to regard Polman as an inspiring leading light in responsible business. “At Unilever, we are seeking to run our business model in a different way – one that puts sustainability at its heart,” he says. “In order to be successful, we need an environment that has longer time horizons and moves away from the limitations of quarterly reporting.” As a former member of the United Nations’ Panel on redeveloping the Millennium Development Goals, he understands full well the challenges facing us. “We still live in a world where 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty and one billion go to bed hungry each night. Inequalities and energy demand are rising. If we are to make a dent in these huge challenges facing us, then action is needed at scale - on a very big scale.”
A costly status quo
Within such a potentially dire prospect, the time for denial has run out. “We can all see that the system is failing,” Polman says, arguing that business can play a major role in reversing the trajectory. “The private sector can apply business solutions to complex problems, innovating with new technologies and creating jobs and livelihoods. It can also increase scale by leveraging the full supply chain more effectively.”
Polman insists that while business as usual is no longer sufficient, sustainability does not have to amount to sacrifice. Rather the opposite. “In my opinion, prioritising sustainability makes business sense. If leaders make the strategic choice to put sustainability at the core of their business they can create space for innovation and growth, remain cost competitive by addressing resource scarcity and engage with employees who want to work for companies who they feel are ‘doing the right thing’.”
Finding a purpose
The missing element, according to Polman, is purpose. “The compliance and profitability which drive most boards and executive teams are necessary – but by no means sufficient. Only when an organisation states clearly what purpose it plays in serving the community in which it operates, and makes profit aligned with that purpose, can it contribute to societies in the long-term.” A key to Polman’s leadership philosophy is the need to replace “the lure of short-term gains” with “long-term benefits for planet, people and profit”. Easier said than done – however he thinks the signs of change can already be seen. “It’s encouraging to see a growing number of other businesses make commitments and believe in broader purpose other than maximising shareholder value, for example DNV GL committing to safeguarding life, property and the environment. Likewise, the WBCSD Action 2020 shows a high level of engagement from its members.”
Policy and partnership
Polman is passionate that business alone cannot achieve a sustainable future. He says: “I think other companies need stronger incentives to do the right thing. Governments must stop paying companies to do wrong things. It’s strange that taxes are raised on things that are valued by society, like jobs and profits – yet things society does not value, like polluting or overexploiting, are often cheap.” Ever progressive, Polman is looking at ways to develop the field of environmental profits and loss accounting and integrated reporting, as well as forging new and inventive partnerships between companies like Unilever, UPS and BMW to make sure the work gets done. It’s not an easy task, he admits, but holds that for every considerable challenge, there is an opportunity to be better. “It’s our joint responsibility to end poverty in all its forms, whilst living within the boundaries of planet Earth,” he says, adding that our next set of goals must finish the job started by the UN’s Millennium Goals. “This time around, we must leave no-one behind.”
He says the motivation for businesses to act is compelling. It’s a conviction that helps to explain his personal willingness to change Unilever’s course. “Increasingly, business leaders are realising that the cost of inaction is becoming higher than the cost of action,” he argues. “In 2013, the UN Secretary General estimated that economic losses from disasters since 2000 are in the range of USD2.5 trillion. For Unilever, the cost each year is in the region of €250 million-€300 million.”
“If leaders make the strategic choice to put sustainability at the core of their business, they can create space for innovation and growth” 104
BJØRN KJ. HAUGLAND
NEXT IS NOW The interviews in this book were conducted from September 2013 to January 2014. We were privileged to spend these months speaking with and learning from a wide range of shapers and thought leaders from all parts of the world. From the creative individuals who are thinking outside the box and developing new innovative solutions, to the business leaders, investors and politicians who are willing to step up and make unpopular choices. Our conversations were fresh, open and engaging - culminating in this collection of thoughts about what should come next. Here, we are happy to share some of the opportunities we saw emerging from our series of interviews; opportunities which we will take with us as we move forward with our vision of a global impact for a safe and sustainable future. AN OPPORTUNITY TO CREATE A NEW NARRATIVE Many of our interviewees, including Eva Joly and John Ashton, argued that the time has come to change the language in which we explain the concept and urgency of sustainability. Some made the case that a language of doom and gloom, costs and blame will never “move the masses.” Instead, sustainability advocates should focus on opportunities and benefits. As Peter Bakker succinctly noted: “Threat is not going to drive change. We must make opportunity the driver.” Jessica Cheam and Jo Confino pointed to the role of the media in this challenge. They said it was both part of the problem, (“Serious newspapers, such as… the Washington Post have only one environmental correspondent” Confino observed), and of the solution. Good storytelling has a unique ability to convey messages in an emotional, and not just rational way. And as Ana Marques put it, we need to understand sustainability “not just in our head, but in our heart.”
AN ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY A clear consensus formed around the urgent need to better align the activities of for-profit corporations with environmental and social priorities. However there was less agreement on exactly how to do it, with several alternative economic models beginning to emerge. Achim Steiner and Pavan Sukhdev both argued that adopting a green, circular economy - including the removal of subsidies for fossil fuels - will be pivotal in reaching environmental sustainability, while at the same time creating jobs and prosperity. As Steiner pointed out, we need “an economic model which doesn’t view planet Earth as some exploitable mine.” Hunter Lovins gave her full support to John Fullerton’s Regenerative Economy, a model which values wealth more holistically, and is circular –not extractive and wasteful – by design.
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOUNG PEOPLE “What the world is missing”, Alec Loorz pointed out, “is more involvement from young people.” He might be right. As HRH Crown Prince Haakon pointed out “half of the world’s population is under 27 years of age”, and ultimately it is their future at stake. The world’s youth should be involved in any transition to a resilient, low-carbon growth economy. As John Ashton observed: “I find it hard to imagine a bigger disaster than this crucial generation turning its back on mainstream politics and social institutions.” Grace Mwaura argued that the best way to ensure that young people have a voice in the political process is to invest in education. “Only
when individuals and societies have been transformed, are they able to change structures. That can only happen through education,” she said.
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR BUSINESS LEADERSHIP Many, though not all, of our interviewees saw business as having a crucial role in creating a more sustainable future. Peter Bakker reiterated his famous remark that “accountants will be the ones to save the world;” Jo Confino said only business can “create change at the scale and speed we need now,” and Pavan Sukhdev cut straight to the chase when he said “whether you like it or not, there’s a massive chunk of the economy that is in the hands of corporations.” All this is good news for companies, argued Hunter Lovins, referring to studies that show that strong sustainability policies can boost a company’s share price by as much as 25 per cent. While corporations need to learn to be more sustainable, Per Heggenes argued that nonprofit organisations can also take cues from business to make their operations more efficient – leaving more resources to be spent on those who need it the most.
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR POLITICAL LEADERSHIP John Ashton and Georg Kell were among several people who called on policy-makers to grasp the nettle and start doing the right thing. One of the most often-argued messages we heard was that leaders must stop being a bottleneck to sustainable development and start providing business with the right incentives. And science, as Ashton argued, has to inform decision-making. With enough political will and determination, many held that transformation can happen rapidly – and at scale. Jeanne Ng gave the example of how good policy and regulation drives informed, sustainable development in the Hong Kong energy sector. The need to put a price on carbon (around USD80 a ton of CO2 suggested Jeremy Bentham) and other negative externalities, was another frequently mentioned priority. As Marina Grossi put it: “It’s still fine to pollute because the price is zero or very cheap. If we have a price, that will change.” But there were also less common – and some more controversial suggestions, like one-child policies to control population or Jørgen Randers’ idea of mandatory public holiday to reduce productivity rates. Such initiatives require strong political will, but, as Eva Joly and others argued, may help the emergence of a new culture that recognises the value of time, compassion and cooperation.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO REDEFINE SUCCESS While we’re on the topic of values: A point expressed by nearly every one of our interviewees, was the sense that we need a fundamental shift in how we measure, and thus perceive, progress and success – be it economic or social. “Even traditional economists will admit that the gross domestic product indicator is an incredibly crude form of measuring progress,” commented Achim Steiner, pinpointing the barriers deriving from a culture in which economic ‘progress and prosperity’ have long been considered synonymous with exponential growth.
Empowering women in order to empower the earth was, rightly, a top priority for almost all our interviewees. Women make up half the world, so it should be needless to say that their efforts are imperative in achieving sustainability goals. Yet women continue to suffer under poverty, poor health and a lack of opportunities – both in the developing and the ‘developed’ world. Moreover, everyday discrimination against women is still widespread. Pavan Sukhdev importantly pointed out the need to hold industries such as advertising to account for perpetuating a culture in which women are objectified and manipulated to sell products. Stronger women mean stronger societies, without which we won’t get to a safe and sustainable future.
To allow us to see the bigger and more balanced picture, we need measures that take into account both the negative and positive externalities attached to productivity. Because, as Kevin Noone’s work shows, the way we measure things directly impacts how we perceive our situation. By devising a new dashboard of environmental indicators, we can begin to understand how urgently action is needed to avoid a full-blown climate disaster.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO THINK LOCAL
Furthermore, our skewed measures exclude factors like our emotional and social well-being. Jeanne Ng and Marina Grossi both called for new systems to supplement or even replace GDP, for instance a “gross domestic happiness index” (Grossi) for companies. As Jørgen Randers pointed out, if we start measuring new kinds of value, they, too, will eventually become linked with progress: “Ask people whether their well-being has, and will continue to improve in five-year period, and then establish a new social goal of increasing the fraction of those who answer Yes.”
Even for macro-level issues such as the future of the global energy industry, thinkers like Jeanne Ng suggested that the key to a solution is smaller scale decentralised power generation. “Micro renewable grids, for example, could be supported by the bigger grid. They would allow us to adapt or innovate quicker and give us resilience through diversification,” she explained.
A TECHNOLOGICAL OPPORTUNITY
AN OPPORTUNITY TO COLLABORATE
The vital role of technology and innovation in addressing many of our sustainability challenges was mentioned by several interviewees. This included support for big technological solutions such as investment in Carbon Capture Storage, use of the 3.5 billion-person reach of the Jana mobile network and Ajay Banga’s call for more electronic payment systems. It also included smaller-scale innovations such as mPedigree’s use of SMS messaging to help fight counterfeit medicine. As both Bright Simons and Georg Kell noted, technology also has huge potential to drive transparency. As Kell said: “Technological change is irreversible – people empowerment is here to stay.”
The need for new collaborative partnerships - between the public and private sectors, between competitors and across industries or social groups – was a recurring theme in many interviews. As Peter Bakker pointed out: “Government alone can’t do it, business alone can’t do it” – it is only when all parties come together that we get the “intense innovation needed to achieve scale.” Georg Kell, Rob Cameron and Jeremy Bentham all highlighted the importance and excitement of evolving new ways to collaborate.
But while new technology can catalyse real change, we must be careful not to think of it as a magical solution to all problems. Both Jeanne Ng and Eva Joly warned against “the technology temptation”, pointing out that it is still up to us humans to put the tools to work.
Sometimes it is the smaller things that have the biggest impacts on people’s everyday lives. Sarah Collins’ Wonderbag has lifted thousands out of energy poverty; Jessica Cheam has seen how “solar-powered pots and mobile chargers” are transforming lives, and H.R.H. Crown Prince Haakon has witnessed a young victim of AIDS start support groups that made an enormous impact.
Some of the answers to our enormous, globe-wide challenges, may prove to be small and local fixes.
But as Bawa Jain and Grace Mwaura poignantly reminded us, we must also work hard to enable the truly fruitful human collaborations, by making space for conversations between people of all backgrounds, religions and generations.
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR EQUALITY Robert Engelman put things into refreshing perspective for us, when he noted that achieving a sustainable population is really not all that difficult – it just comes down to ensuring the well-being of women. He wasn’t the only one, either. Per Heggenes pointed out that poor families tend to have many children as a security against towering infant mortality rates. If it every baby is more likely to grow up to have a healthy and prosperous life, mothers will in turn have fewer children.
The one truth we see emerging most clearly from this vast and multifaceted picture, is that however we decide to do it, we will all have to contribute to make sure the transformation to a safe and sustainable world comes next.
TEN BRIGHT IDEAS TO START WITH To succeed, good forces must play together – not tomorrow, but today – because time is rapidly becoming our most finite resource of all. ‘Next’ is NOW, and through our conversations with these inspiring opinion shapers and thought leaders, we have identified ten ideas that we believe have the potential to make a change today. These are ideas we believe to be as bold as they are powerful. As innovative as they are simple. As radical as they are achievable. Shifting some of the resources used for corporate social responsibility activities towards supporting social entrepreneurship projects. (Kim Tan) Embed environmental protection in global legal systems, for example by establishing an international court system to protect communal world resources. (Eva Joly) Replace a larger proportion of physical cash with digital payments to help tackle tax evasion, illegal trading and to free some resources. (Ajay Banga) Tackle food waste as one of the simplest ways to reduce pressure on the environment and on global food supplies. (Tristram Stuart) Set down a coherent strategy for change to inform billions of people of key actions they can take, both on a personal and professional level. (Hunter Lovins) Establish religious diplomacy: partnerships between private enterprise, governments and religious leaders, enabling corporations to work with faith leaders as part of their social responsibility. (Bawa Jain) Make tackling corruption the number one priority to unlock development. (Georg Kell) Reform the advertising industry to help reduce wasteful global consumer demand. (Pavan Sukhdev) Combine psychological research with managerial skills to discover new methods for developing conscious leadership. (Ana Marques) Implement compulsory vacations in the developed world, in order to slow production rates and emphasise well-being. (Jørgen Randers) BJØRN KJ. HAUGLAND EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT CHIEF SUSTAINABILITY OFFICER 109
GLOBAL IMPACT FOR A SAFE AND SUSTAINABLE
FUTURE DNV GL has a vision of “Global impact for a Safe and Sustainable Future”, and all the dialogues have enriched our understanding of what a safe and sustainable future can look like. Achieving this vision requires deep changes in the way we do things – as societies, as businesses and as individuals. When we can envision the society of tomorrow and choose to work together, we have the capital, capacity, knowledge and technology to overcome the obstacles ahead and create a world that is thriving, equitable, green, connected and collaborative. An old proverb in the shipping industry goes: “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable”. This is why we set out to describe DNV GL’s vision “Global Impact for a safe and sustainable future”. It is the port we have plotted our course to.
OUR VISION FOR THE ENVIRONMENT The world has avoided run-away climate change and restricted global temperature rises to below 2°C. Atmospheric CO2 concentration has fallen to around 350 parts per million through global emissions reductions of 50–80 per cent. We have reversed current rates of ecosystem degradation. There is no net loss of biodiversity, and species extinction rates have dropped ten-fold. We are carefully managing biodiversity, safeguarding aquatic ecosystems from overfishing and acidification. Sustainable forestry and land management practices have been realised, and zero net deforestation is helping to abate carbon emissions and encourage biodiversity. Widespread deployment of clean energy and energy efficiency measures provide for a low carbon society. Renewables make a major contribution to global energy supply and enhance energy security. Natural capital is appropriately valued and costs are internalised in markets, helping to maintain biodiversity and the integrity of ecosystems. The value of water is recognized and paid for. Global freshwater use is prudently managed and does not exceed 4,000 km3 per year, while withdrawal from river basins does not exceed 80 per cent of mean annual flows. An evolved agriculture sector feeds an additional 3 billion people while using less energy and water and avoiding land degradation. Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous are used a sustainable way – ensuring that no more than 35 million tonnes per year of nitrogen are extracted from the atmosphere, and no more than 10 million tonnes per year of phosphorous flow into the oceans. We have reduced levels of resource extraction, consumption and waste as part of a move towards a circular economy. Products are produced as part of closed loop systems, based on the principles of high longevity, low embodied energy and water, and low material content.
OUR VISION FOR THE SOCIETY The world population has stabilised at sustainable numbers as a result of access to family planning and healthcare, empowerment of women, and wider access to education and opportunity. Extreme poverty has been eliminated and there is opportunity for all communities to access the essential goods, services and information they need to survive and thrive. This includes wide access to affordable and clean energy. We have achieved long-term food security globally. No one is suffering from undernourishment. Food production has increased by 70 per cent and is based on sustainable systems of production, distribution and consumption.
50 All people have access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. No one has to be excluded from work or education in order to source water each day.
There is universal access to good quality healthcare services. The spread of preventable diseases such as malaria has been reversed. No child or mother is dying from unnecessary or preventable causes. Healthier lifestyles and new treatments have led to declining rates of non-communicable diseases. There is universal access to primary and secondary education. Every child is enrolled in primary school. Gender disparity has been eliminated in all levels of education. A thriving and inclusive economy provides all people with the chance for work, helping to reduce income and gender inequality. Focused efforts on creating sustainable and resilient livelihoods in low income countries, particularly in urban areas and for younger generations, have paid off and reduced poverty rates as well as crime rates, and social tension. There is no tolerance for child or forced labor and human rights risks are regularly assessed and reduced throughout business operations.
Cultural diversity is fostered and encouraged, with innovation, art and entrepreneurship valued. Collaboration and debate proves more effective than violence and conflict in settling disputes and creating vibrant societies. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals agreed on in 2015 have all been met.
OUR VISION FOR THE ECONOMY
Wealth and progress are no longer measured by GDP alone. Human well-being and development are taken into account and business is seen as part of the solution to tackling the big issues faced by society.
Financial markets intentionally seek to create social, environmental and economic value along with financial returns and actively measure and account for all these parameters when valuing assets. Company valuation is no longer based on short-term financial performance. Investors and business alike are taking a longer term horizon. Businesses factor in all their outputs including negative social and environmental impacts, which are no longer seen as ‘external’ to the balance sheet. Integrated reporting is the common practice. A circular economy has been established with materials used efficiently so that embedded resources are not lost. Products are designed and optimised for longer life cycles of disassembly and reuse. The energy needed to drive the circular economy comes from renewable sources. Durable products are leased, rented or shared whenever possible. Labour practices are sound with industries striving to provide healthy, safe, secure and fulfilling working conditions. Flexible working practices help enable fuller employment.
Economies are more decentralised, operating with greater focus on local production, local ownership and local markets – and therefore providing greater job and community stability. Competition has been joined by collaboration as the engine of innovation and growth.
Climate-smart policies are in place to stabilize global emissions, enhance development, reduce vulnerabilities and finance low-carbon growth. These are based on an equitable and effective global climate deal.
Sustainable performance is incentivized and perverse subsidies that led to environmental and social damage have been eliminated. Instead, companies and organisations that minimise pollution, maximise land use efficiency and promote more equitable resource distribution are rewarded.
INDEX John Ashton
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Current role: Independent commentator and adviser on the politics of climate change Education: University of Cambridge (UK). Briefly a research astronomer Career snapshot: Career diplomat, including role as Special Representative for Climate Change for three successive UK Foreign Secretaries from 2006-12. Co-founder and first Chief Executive of the thinktank E3G (2004-6); Trustee, UK Youth Climate Coalition; Academic roles including Imperial College, London and the London School of Economics; Career diplomat, with a particular focus on China (1978-2002)
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Current role: President & CEO, World Business Council for Sustainable Development Education: HTS Alkmaar (NED); Erasmus University Rotterdam (NED) Career snapshot: Former CEO of TNT NV, recipient of Clinton Global Citizen Award 2009 and 2010 SAM Sustainability Leadership Award. UN World Food Programme Ambassador against Hunger; Chairman, War Child Netherlands
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Current role: President and CEO, MasterCard and Member of the Board of Directors Education: University of Delhi (IN); Indian Institute of Management Career snapshot: Worked at Nestlé, PepsiCo and Citi before joining MasterCard. Serves on the Board of Overseers of Weill Cornell Medical College and on the Board of the American Red Cross. Chairs the U.S.-India Business Council and serves as a member of the Executive Committee of the Business Roundtable and chairs its Information and Technology Initiative. Serves on the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum.
Current role: Executive Director, SustainAbility Education: University of Leicester (UK) Career snapshot: Over 20 years at CSR agency Flag, became Chief Executive of Fairtrade International in 2007 and joined SustainAbility in 2012. Board member for AccountAbility, UK Prince of Wales’ Ambassador for Corporate Responsibility
Current role: Editor-in Chief, Eco-Business.com Education: University of Warwick (UK); University of London (UK) Career snapshot: Worked as political and environmental correspondent for The Straits Times in Singapore. Founded Eco-Business.com in 2009 - now the leading sustainability portal serving Asia Pacific. Author of Forging a greener tomorrow: Singapore’s journey from slum to eco-city
• Current role: Founder and CEO, Natural Balance, Wonderbag • Education: University of KZN, Pietermaritzburg • Career snapshot: Early career in community-based ecotourism. Founded NGO, Take Back the Future and Woman Forward, a political party in South Africa, before creating Wonderbag and Natural Balance in 2008
Current role: Vice-President Global Business Environment & Head of Scenarios, Royal Dutch Shell Education: University of Oxford (UK); California Institute of Technology (US); Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) Career snapshot: Joined Shell in 1980; leader at global commercial technology company Shell Global Solutions in 1999; CEO Shell Hydrogen in 2003, joined Shell’s Corporate Strategy leadership team in 2006
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Current role: Executive Editor, Guardian Sustainable Business and Adviser to Guardian Media Group Education: University of Bath (UK) Career snapshot: Over 25 years as a journalist with stint as Wall Street Correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, then Finance and Business News Editor at the Guardian
INDEX Nathan Eagle
H.R.H. Crown Prince Haakon
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Current role: Co-founder and CEO of Jana. Education: Stanford University (US); MIT Media Laboratory (US); Adjunct Professor at Harvard School of Public Health (US) Career snapshot: Co-founded Jana in 2009 and was inducted into the TR35, a group of top technology innovators under the age of 35. His work has appeared in Science, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal
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• Current role: President, Worldwatch Institute. • Education: Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (US); University of Chicago (US) • Career snapshot: Began career as a newspaper reporter. Vice President for Research at Population Action International; Author of More: Population, Nature and What Women Want ‘(2008)
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Current role: Crown Prince of Norway Education: University of California, Berkeley (US); London School of Economics (UK) Career snapshot: Heir to the Norwegian throne, completed an MSc in development studies in 2003. Is an active member of WEF Young Global Leaders, and a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme
• Current role: CEO, IKEA Foundation • Education: Universität Augsburg (DE) • Career snapshot: Over 20 years with BursonMarsteller PR agency holding different European and global leadership roles based in Oslo, London and New York; in 2006 became Head of Corporate Affairs at shipping and logistics firm Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics. Joined IKEA Foundation in 2009
Current role: Founder and President, Capital Institute Education: University of Michigan (US); Stern School of Business, New York University (US) Career snapshot: Spent 18 years with JPMorgan becoming Managing Director, then became Seed funder and CEO of Alerian Capital Management; Co-Founder/Director of Grasslands, and Director, New Economics Institute. Founded Level 3 Capital Advisors, LLC in 2004
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Current role: President, Brazil Business Council for Sustainable Development Education: Economist, University of Brasilia (BRA) Career snapshot: Negotiator of Brazil at the UN COP/UNFCC (1997-2001). Headed Promotional area, Ministry of Science and Technology, International Office of Educational Television and regional Director of Brazilian Tourism. Coordinator of Brazilian Forum of Climate Change (2001-03). Founded and chaired Sustainability consulting firm Fabrica Ethica
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Current role: Secretary-General, World Council of Religious Leaders Education: University of Delhi (IND) Career snapshot: CEO of diversified construction company; Secretary-General of the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders that opened at the UN in 2000. Founded the Gandhi-King Award
Current role: MEP for Europe Écologie (the Greens) and Chair of the Committee on Development, Sr. Anti-Corruption Expert, MEC, Afghanistan Education: University of Paris-Assas (FRA) Career snapshot: Led major corruption case against Elf Aquitaine. Sitting MEP and 2012 French Presidential candidate. Former Special advisor to NORAD. Advisor to the Icelandic government investigations during the bank meltdown. Author of several books; awarded European of the Year (2002), and Global Financial Integrity Award (2010)
INDEX Georg Kell
• Current role: Executive Director, UN Global Compact • Education: Advanced degrees in economics and engineering from Technical University Berlin (DE) • Career snapshot: Research fellow in engineering at the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technolo- gy and Innovation (DE); worked as a financial ana- lyst before joining the UN in 1987. Helped establish the UN Global Compact in 2000, and has led the initiative since. Oversaw the conception and launch of sister initiatives on investment (Principles for Responsible Investment) and education (Principles for Responsible Management and Education).
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• Current role: Professor at the University of Oslo (NOR) • Education: MA, Hebei Teachers’ University (CHI), M.Phil and Phd., University of Oslo (NOR) • Career snapshot: Over 10 years as university lecturer, associate professor and university department dean in China before moving to Norway. Author of a series of scientific articles and books including Urban Youth in China: Modernity, the Internet and the Self
Current role: Sustainability/Corporate Responsibility Consultant for DNV. Education: Universidade Federal do Paraná (Brazil), FGV (Brazil), Radboud University Nijmegen (Netherlands). Career snapshot: Has been working with sustainability in a range of Brazilian and international companies, universities and communities for about 20 years. PhD candidate in ‘Conscious Leadership for Sustainability’
• Current role: Co-Convener, Task Force on Intergenerational Partnerships for Sustainability, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) • Education: Kenyatta University (Kenya), University of Oxford (UK) • Career snapshot: Co-founded the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change - now active in 31 countries. Worked on education for development programmes with the Flemish Development Corporation (VVOB); Joined the IUCN Council as a youth representative. Awarded Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University
• Current role: Founder of iMatter, Kids vs Global Warming • Education: Left school by age 15 to self-school in Ventura, California. Current student at Quest University in British Columbia (US) • Career snapshot: Set up Kids vs Global Warming 12; filed a class action lawsuit against US authorities aged 16. Winner of Norway’s Sophie’s Legacy Award and DNV GL’s Future Sustainability Leaders Com- petition. Has been a public speaker on climate change since he was 13 and spoken to nearly a million people all over the world in over 400 keynotes, panels and presentations.
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• Current role: President, Natural Capitalism Solutions • Education: Pitzer College (US); Loyola Law School (US) • Career snapshot: Professor of Sustainable Management at Bard MBA, and Bainbridge Graduate institute, helped found Sustainable Management MBA, practicing attorney, named millennium “Hero of the Planet” by Time Magazine and “Green Business Icon” by Newsweek
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Current role: Director -Group Environmental Affairs, CLP Holdings Limited Education: University of Toronto (CAN); University of Hong Kong (CHI); Harvard Business School (US) Career snapshot: Joined CLP Holdings in 2003; Board member of International Emissions Trading Association (2010-2013) and Air & Waste Management Association (2010-2013); member of IIRC Working Group and Advisory Council of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board
Current roles: Executive Director at the Swedish Secretariat for Environmental Earth System Sciences at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences; Professor of Meteorology at the Department of Applied Environmental Science, Stockholm University Education: University of Washington (US) Career snapshot: Formerly Executive Director of IGBP (International Geosphere-biosphere Pro- gramme); worked with Stockholm Resilience Centre to co-author the ‘Planetary Boundaries’ framework. Former Chair of European Academies Science Advisory Council’s Environment Steering Panel
INDEX Rajendra K. Pachauri
• Current role: Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change • Education: La Martiniere College, Lucknow (IN), Indian Railways Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering (IN); North Carolina State University (US) • Career snapshot: Director-General of TERI (IN); Senior Adviser to Yale Climate and Energy Institute. In January 2008, he was awarded the second-highest civilian award in India, the Padma Vibhushan
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Current role: CEO, Unilever; Chairman, World Business Council of Sustainable Development Education: University of Groningen (NV); University of Cincinnati (US) Career snapshot: Former Executive at Nestlé and Procter & Gamble; joined Unilever in 2008. Board member, UN Global Compact and the Global Consumer Goods Forum. In 2012 he received the CK Prahalad Award for Global Sustainability Leadership
Current role: UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Education: University of Oxford (UK), University of London (UK), Harvard Business School (US) Career snapshot: Secretary General, World Commission on Dams; Director General, Interna tional Union for Conservation of Nature; re-elected for a second four-year term at UNEP in 2010
• Current role: Founder and leader of Gleaning Network UK and ‘Feeding the 5,000’ campaign • Education: University of Cambridge (UK) • Career snapshot: Author of critically acclaimed books The Bloodless Revolution (2006) and Waste: Uncovering a Global Food Scandal (2009); winner of the international environmental Sophie Prize in 2011 for his fight against food waste
Current role: Professor of Climate Strategy, BI Norwegian Business School (Norway) Education: University of Oslo (Norway), MIT Sloan School of Management (US) Career snapshot: Academic, Former President of BI, Former Deputy Director-General of World Wildlife Fund International (Switzerland). Led the Norwegian Commission on Low Emissions. Author of The Limits to Growth and 2052 - A Global Forecast for the Next 40 Years
• Current role: Founder-CEO, GIST Advisory; Author of Corporation 2020; UNEP Goodwill Ambassador • Education: University of Oxford (UK); McCluskey Fellow at Yale University (US) • Career snapshot: 25 years in markets (Deutsche Bank, ANZ Bank); Study Leader for UNEP’s ‘Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity’ report; Environmental Finance’s Personality of the Year in 2010 and awarded 2013 Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development
Current role: President, mPedigree Network Education: University of Durham (UK), Marie Curie Scholar, Berlin Institute for Comparative Social Research (DE) Career snapshot: Former Director of Research at IMANI Centre. Ashoka Fellow, TED Fellow, Salzburg Global Fellow, Tech Museum Laureate and member of UN Taskforce on Sustainable Business Models in Health. Awarded Archbishop Tutu Award in 2010
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Current role: Chairman of SpringHill Management and Inqo Investments Education: University of Surrey, Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine (UK) Career snapshot: Board member of several com panies in Malaysia, India, UK, South Africa and US; Co-founder Transformational Business Net- work. Board member of APEC Life Science Forum
Editor & writer Hanne Christiansen
Project manager Line Døhlen Fonahn
Main photographer Dag Thorenfeldt
H.R.H. Crown Prince Haakon / photographer / Sølve Sundsbø Contributing writers / ESG Communications and Stuart Brewer Concept & Design / Gress Oslo
Winston Churchill once noted that “the farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” Having existed for 150 years p...
Published on Apr 9, 2014
Winston Churchill once noted that “the farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” Having existed for 150 years p...