Sunday, November 23, 2014

Six great productivity tips from Daniel Pink

More of this sort of thing is here. This below is from his occasional eNewsletter. Worth signing up to.

1. Honor the 2-Minute rule.
This one comes from the great David Allen, whose Getting Things Done methodology I’ve used for 15 years. In short, if you’ve got something to do that takes less than two minutes, do it right now. 

2. Don’t waste your most productive hours.
A growing stack of research shows that each day, we reach our peak productivity a few hours after waking.  Don’t devote that window of time to checking email or playing around on social media. Use it to do your most important work.

3. When in doubt, resort to the Pomodoro Technique.
I’m never proud when I pull out this trick, but I’m always glad I did. Pomodoro is a method for breaking large tasks into small chunks. Set a timer for 25 minutes and work nonstop without doing anything else. Then take 5 minutes to do whatever you want. Then do another 25-5 cycle. Lather, rinse, repeat.

4. Take a systems approach to email.
We could spend all day answering email — but we shouldn’t. So instead of being drip-tortured by your inbox, find a way to deal with all at once — in large batches during non-productive hours. I also use AwayFind.

5. Mark your progress.
Teresa Amabile’s research has shown that the single largest day-to-day motivator is making progress in meaningful work. But sometimes it’s tough to see the progress we’re making. That’s why I use the brilliant tool, IDoneThis. (Disclosure: This tool was so valuable to me that I invested in the company).

6. To make a good decision, ask the right question.
The Heath Brothers taught me this technique. If I’m faced with a decision, and I’m not sure what to do, I ask myself, “What would you tell your best friend to do in this situation?” Usually, the answer is clear. 

What 300 stakeholders think are the ten most critical issues for 2015

Guest post by Tara Holmes, communications manager, Future 500

Each year, Future 500 releases a report of what we predict will be the Top 10 most critical issues driving stakeholder engagement in the coming year.

The report is a breakdown and summary of these issues based on our own internal research as well as feedback from approximately 300 stakeholders within our network, including funders, activists, companies, and policy makers.

Tara Holmes, Future 500
As in previous year’s, this year’s report echoes existing and developing shifts in the marketplace and highlights noteworthy and influencing trends in the private sector, in politics, and on the ground, that are driving change.

The report also consists of recommendations for engagement based upon our on-going stakeholder research and outreach.

While some of this year’s issues remain a constant on our annual list – human rights, fossil fuels, and utilities, for example – this year, we’re noticing a marked shift towards the sharing economy, a growing economy that’s putting power and access back into the local community.

The popular apartment sharing service, Airbnb, for example, is worth $10 billion alone.

We’re also witnessing a growing trend calling for brands to “take a stand” on social and environmental issues through precompetitive collaboration. This movement is shifting towards a new norm of regulatory action—not regulation by law, but regulation by retailers.

In addition, this year we’ve seen significant and monumental movement in the push for zero-deforestation across the supply chain.

In the wake of zero-deforestation commitments made by Asia Pulp & Paper, Wilmar, and Golden Agri Resources, brand after brand and suppliers like Cargill, have adopted policies to rid their supply chains of deforestation and are becoming a model for others to follow.

Marine debris and ocean acidification also made our list this year as our oceans continue to be a battleground for energy production, food production and waste.

The atmospheric rise in C02 caused by climate change also threatens our global seas and the issue therefore continues to gain increased attention and funding across both industry and activist groups.

Future 500’s Top 10 Stakeholder Issues Report connects a wide range of stakeholders from across a myriad of backgrounds and sectors to highlight pressing sustainability challenges in the year ahead.

As we move into 2015, we anticipate these issues will develop even further across sectors and amongst stakeholders.

To get a more detailed breakdown, and to read the full Top 10 Report, please click here.

Here's a two minute video about the report. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

If you know anyone looking for a dynamic job in sustainable business / corporate responsibility...

...then this role below may be of interest.

At Innovation Forum, we're hiring a conference producer. But we don't really like to call it that.

The role involves a lot more. We want to hire a cool colleague, who helps us grow our company.

The job, at first, involves researching event agendas, recruiting speakers, shaping agendas around them and their company, and adding a little edge and bite to keep all attendees on their toes.

Then the job involves marketing the event, whilst organising another one.

The events are all high level, international sustainability and innovation forums.

We hold them in London, New York, DC, Singapore and anywhere else we feel there is a market for them.

The job is really one of end to end project management, it needs research skills, sales and people skills, marketing skills and logistics common sense.

It's a lot of fun. And the money is highly competitive. We offer uncapped earnings, which is unusual in the events industry.

The job is ideal for someone who can really multi-task and is looking for skills and experience development whilst learning huge amounts about sustainable business and literally helping set the agenda.

About us: Innovation Forum is a young start up with decades of experience. Based in hipsterville Shoreditch in London, the right person will join a team of five, including me, which is expanding rapidly. A new website is due shortly, but our old one shows some of what we do, here.

 If you know anyone, please ask them to contact with a short note saying why the role would interest you and a CV and also take a look here and below.

Thanks for reading, and perhaps passing this on.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sustainability: How improved trade rules can encourage better business behaviour

Keynote speech delivered by Lord Mandelson, Chairman, Global Counsel, at the Innovation Forum conference,"How business can tackle deforestation", 28th-29th October, 2014, London

From Birmingham to New York

Lord Mandelson
"As Brendan May said, you might ask what I am doing here with you this morning.  The last time I spoke at an event similar to this, a low-carbon energy summit, I had the privilege of being covered by green custard before I had even entered the venue.  Some of you may recall the incident, indeed some of you might have known more about it…

But, I have never shied away from controversy, and it indeed has never shied away from me.  But today is an important event because it shows, in another part of the climate change forest that collaboration between business, government and NGOs can make real progress in tackling the causes of climate change.

My thoughts today are informed by the work which my colleagues and I have been doing with Brendan and his team in Indonesia.  As some of you may know we have been supporting Asia Pulp & Paper fundamentally change their business model to meet the changing needs of their customers, satisfy new regulatory criteria and respond to NGO pressure.  You’ll hear more from Aida Greenbury tomorrow morning more of APP’s remarkable story.

I don’t need to tell you about the impact deforestation in Indonesia, Brazil and West Africa.  Equally, in your own different ways you also know about the progress that has been made in tackling it.  The most recent milestone agreed in New York last month.

The events in New York illustrated three broad trends in the global campaign to support the zero deforestation movement.

The first is a geographic shift of momentum in the debate around climate change, from the north to the south. It is striking that when I meet with politicians be they in Beijing, Singapore or Dar es Salaam they often have a clear sense of the need for credible sustainability policy. Not to satisfy the demands of Western politicians but to meet the expectations of their local populations, especially in managing the impact of growth on the lived environment of their citizens.

They may be suspicious or skeptical of multilateral processes like Kyoto / Copenhagen. But they are not dismissive of the fundamental need to control the impact of their industrialization and globalization on the environment – for the Chinese Communist Party this may actually become an issue of political survival.

The second is the fact that whereas previously politicians set the terms of the debate and tried to drag business screaming and kicking behind them, we are now seeing the opposite. I remember the 1998 Birmingham G8 summit, which set a lot of the current anti-illegal logging debate in motion. A lot of the work that was done after Birmingham was done in the teeth of resistance from business and ‘business friendly’ governments.

The Anti-illegal logging agenda had to advance in the face of accusations of trade protectionism – and sometimes there was a grain of truth in this. But most of the time it was just a belief that globalization and the race to arbitrage labour and input costs meant that all bets were off – ‘competitiveness’ must trump all other arguments.

Well, not any more. The New York Declaration on Forests last month was not led by governments, but by businesses. It is now the policymakers who are watching Paul Polman and his colleagues move ahead of legality frameworks and set their own terms of trade for sustainability. And the key thing is that this is not presentational. It is fundamental – it is based on auditing and retooling supply chains right down to the level of the last square mile. And doing that because the short-termist alternatives are commercially untenable in anything but the shortest term.

Finally, the third is a change within the business community which has begun to appear. For many years customers and buyers have been the ones to talk about standards and to complain that their suppliers were not keeping up. This now too has changed, and today we see the major producers of commodities leading the debate in determining how the industry as a whole can meet higher standards of sustainability.

Why? Well, in part because they know that they have no choice but to stay ahead of the debate in their markets on sustainability – because to fall behind here can often mean exclusion. Emerging world suppliers know they are dealing with prejudice and skepticism – how could they not? – and the smartest among them are proactively campaigning to show that the emerging world does not have to be a poor sibling to the developed on sustainability.

So what has happened, and how are policymakers responding? That’s what I want to talk about today, taking our work in Indonesia as a starting point.

The moment

When we look for that moment when companies started picking up from policymakers in driving this agenda I think a couple of things strike us.

The first is trade itself. After about 2000, imports of timber and timber-derived goods into the EU boomed – doubling in about six years. For procurers and environmentally-conscious retailers this was both a boon and a nagging worry. Volumes were high, unit prices were low, and suppliers were keen - but the evidence of deforestation was mounting up and certification systems like PEFC and FSC were only part of the solution as they were not actually present in many of these markets of origin.

If companies weren’t willing to audit their supply chains, then NGOs will do it for them. In a world where you can watch a rainforest being cleared in real time by satellite from a desktop in London, there is no over the horizon anymore. And the market has in many respects started policing itself. Risk-averse companies under NGO pressure have abandoned suppliers who can’t provide the required guarantees in that total transparency world.

In both the US and the EU policymakers have seen themselves as playing catchup with these increasingly demanding consumers. Both the EU Timber Regulation of 2010 and the revised Lacey Act of 2008 criminalised the import and sale of illegally-harvested timber in slightly different ways. But the point is that they were a response to that need to audit global supply chains

Yes, they imposed a due diligence burden on importers. But they were essentially an insurance policy – against reputational risk. And if anyone thinks that that is the kind of black swan you can ignore, or the kind of irritant that it is not worth losing you no claims bonus over – well, they haven’t meant the kind of campaigning machinery that a modern global NGO can deploy when they are minded too. As some companies in both the developed and developing worlds have learned the hard way.

What was interesting about the EU is that it took this process a step further. The EU was sensitive to the charge that its rules were de facto green protectionism. It is, after all, much easier to do due diligence on a Finnish pine forest than an Indonesian of Ghanaian forestry plantation.

So the EU agreed that for states that could establish timber governance frameworks that met a set of pre-determined standards, the EUTR due diligence requirements would effectively be waived.  This recognition would be codified in what is called a Voluntary Partnership Agreement.

As a piece of international public policy the VPA process enters interesting and potentially very difficult territory.  It subjects the governance systems of one sovereign state to explicit scrutiny by outside parties, and ties trade privileges in a third country market to the result of that scrutiny.

It places the onus on policymakers, assisted by NGOs and civil society to make big – and diplomatically sensitive – judgements about the conduct of third countries.

And it is, for the developing or emerging economies that aim to participate in such a system, a significant governance challenge in its own right.

These markets are problematic for illegal timber precisely because their governance capacity is weak, as anyone who has ever flown over an Indonesian rainforest, as I have, and seen the evidence of opportunistic and slash and burn clearance by illegal palm oil farmers knows.

But fifteen countries have either signed or are aiming to sign VPAs – including Indonesia.

And what has been most impressive about this whole process is how it has energised Jakarta. Over the last three years I have seen a remarkable shift in the attitude and energy with which the Indonesian system has embraced the challenge.

Jakarta has come to see the VPA not as a burden or as an attempt to discriminate – which was the tone of a lot of its early reluctant engagement - but as an impetus for domestic reform of its forestry governance, for external pressure on standards.

Indonesia has embraced the VPA model. The SVLK – the Indonesian domestic legality licensing system – whilst still far from perfect - has come a long way from where we were three years ago. There is now a website where you can track the volumes of timber which are receiving SVLK certification in real time.

Looking ahead

Over the next decade it seems to me that the challenge is two fold. First, we need to keep giving momentum to the public policy process. To succeed a model like a VPA needs a deep level of trust between authorities and a very frank dialogue. The VPA process brings NGOs and civil society inside the audit process for the first time and I think that is a very good and necessary thing. We need to keep defending initiatives like FLEGT and the VPAs from glib charges of protectionism.

Second, we need to be ready to move beyond these legality frameworks. To turn them into the baseline for innovative and ambitious suppliers and procurers to build on. Since the mid-2000s we have seen large retailers in Europe and North America showing their willingness to proactively start discriminating on behalf of their customers – often under pressure from increasingly sophisticated NGOs. Plenty of suppliers over the last decade have found their European and American buyers becoming more and more picky and more risk averse.

Over the last decade we have seen consumer-facing businesses increasingly understanding how striving to meet higher standards can give them an edge over their competitors. This trend is now so far advanced as to become a norm, with supermarkets here in the UK routinely competing aggressively and substantively on their green credentials.

The cynic says, well, you know, the end customer doesn’t really care. Give ‘em horsemeat in their burger. What the hell. Well, maybe. Maybe once or twice. But maybe the point is that the customer does often rely on and expect big intermediaries to make these judgements for them. Exercising sustainability judgements on behalf of customers is not patronising, it is duty and a trust.

Finally, commitments from companies like APP, GAR and Wilmar show us that it is the suppliers now who are leading the charge in many respects. What was remarkable to me about the New York Declaration is the prominent role played by not just the buyers but the producers of commodities who are now calling for change. And they are walking the talk.

I think there are some sceptics in the industry. Companies who are pursuing business as usual practices, who do not see any pressing incentive to change their practices which ultimately have been making them good money for many years. Why should they change, why should they take the risk?

For me, I think this is a short-termist attitude. We know which way the wind is blowing. In my engagement with large companies in Indonesia I have seen businesses that ultimately decide to radically change their business models, and to build new ones based on a more sophisticated understanding of resource stewardship. They do this not only because they care about forests (and of this I have no doubt) but because ultimately they understand the larger global trends that will define the timber, palm and other forest related industries over the next decade and beyond.

Does it matter that these companies are – at least for now – contemplating going further than the law requires? Far from it. In fact, I would argue that it is a sign of how far we have come."

© Global Counsel W:

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Are activist and campaigner documentaries improving?

The answer has to be yes. I used to review some of them for obscure television channels a few years ago and most were interesting, but supremely one sided and obviously ideological.

Today, the quality is improving rapidly. This is happening as groups such as Global Witness, which used to be just a campaign group but now blurs the boundaries of modern journalism (in a good way), become more high profile and recognised for their important work.

Documentary makers related to the environmental movement side too, are raising their game. They are gaining more awards, making better movies and generally showing the complexities of globalised business and governance challenges in a way you didn't see so much a few years ago.

Virunga, about mining in a nature reserve in the DRC in Africa is a good example.

It's a multiple award winner and is just out on Netflix, it's well worth a look

National CSR policy development process, a few thoughts

A few years ago I was involved in a policy development process to CSR (as it was then) in the UK.

Last week I went to Riga, Latvia, to share a few thoughts with government folks, companies and NGOs on the experience.

They, like quite a few other countries, are working on a national CSR framework.

I tried to figure out what we'd learned from the process, and how it was - or wasn't - implemented properly subsequently.

Here's the link to the slide deck I put together and the it's embedded below.

I also gave a short presentation on supply chain issues, which you can find here, and below.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Some thoughts after our recent deforestation conference

As some readers will recall, we held a conference on deforestation last week in London.

Here's a few thoughts that came out of it as a result. Thanks to Richard Donovan from the Rainforest Alliance for nuancing some of this. 
  1.  An incredible amount of progress has been made since 2010.
  2. There are three kinds of companies in the space: Those who have yet to do anything beyond the law, those who belong to RSPO only, and a third, much smaller group who are going way beyond RSPO and other standards to drive innovation.
  3. Some companies are rushing out announcement with no idea of how they will achieve them or how to handle transparency, how they will actually meet commitments, etc.
  4. Others have developed in-depth partnerships with NGOs, but are not finding implementation at all easy.  The leaders are going into it knowing it won’t be.
  5. Conservative companies struggle with this due to the age old attitude of "we only talk about what we know how to do".
  6. Social issues are becoming far more obvious barriers to change than in the past.
  7. Governance and accountability, along with social issues, is now top of the agenda.  
  8. Industry groups, such as the Consumer Goods Forum and the World Economic Forum, are starting to push for more B2B collaboration beyond just RSPO-style compliance.
  9. Increasingly, it's not just about confusing terminology such as HCV and HCS, but about "landscape management" and "smallholder engagement".
  10. The Tropical Forest Alliance represents a significant opportunity for companies to engage governments and NGOs on better governance issues. The TFA 2020 initiative has company, NGO & government partners. 
  11. The "China and India will buy all the bad wood products/palm oil" argument is disputed by some working with the suppliers at source. But others see it as a key problem yet to be substantively addressed.  
  12. Certification, whilst limited in its ability to drive systemic change, is part of the mix, but by no means the whole story.  
  13. Legal enforcement of recently enacted laws in the EU and USA have a very long way to go. 
  14. Enforcement is extremely complicated given the difficulty of proving product provenance.
  15. The dynamics around procurement policies and deforestation have engendered both dialogue and action in ways we could not have predicted. This has sharpened the focus on deforestation as a part of sustainable or responsible purchasing programs, but the challenges for such efforts are how to ensure systemic platforms that ensure continuity, and how to handle transparency. 

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Some good supply chain communications from Unilever (infographic)

(Click to enlarge)

Useful event coming up next week:

Business and Human Rights

How to get beyond policy, manage risk and build relationships

This global event is a meeting place for corporate practitioners tasked with the responsibility of putting human rights principles into practice. Going beyond the usual theory and into the practical implications and real-world challenges of implementing the human rights guiding principles across the business.
  • Human rights and business performance A look beyond the typical academic lens and into the practical implications that human rights can have on your business and the bottom line
  • Go beyond just policy: A look at progression since the implementation of the human rights guiding principles. Discuss how framework has advanced – and what remains to be done
  • The legal and enforcement risks Understand what you must be doing, and where you can, and should, draw the line
  • What makes policy that works on the ground? Find out how to integrate human rights principles into your sustainability, and business, framework
Speakers include
  • Benet Northcote, head of CSR, John Lewis Partnership
  • Ron Popper, head of corporate responsibility, ABB
  • John Morrison, executive director, Institute for Human Rights and Business
  • Camilla Goldbeck-Lowe, CR expert sustainability and corporate responsibility, Ericsson
  • Charmaine Nuguid, team head global, PUMA.SAFE Humanity, PUMA
  • Daniel Franklin, Executive Editor, The Economist
  • Marcia Balisciano, director, corporate responsibility, Reed Elsevier
  • Will Oulton,
 global head of responsible investment, First State Investments
  • Richard Howitt MEP, Labour MEP, foreign affairs spokesperson, rapporteur corporate responsibility
Key Topics Covered
  • Big finance and human rights Discover how financial institutions view the business and human rights agenda – and how this is quantified
  • Case studies and challenges The power of experience. Discuss with the experts how to get started and what to avoid
  • Bring suppliers on board How to engage and support suppliers as they progress towards ethical practices
  • Pre-Competitive Collaboration: Buzzword or reality? Hear from companies who have undergone successful collaboration and seen the positive results

Monday, November 03, 2014

Useful shortish briefing on ethanol/biofuels

This article from Yale Environment 360 is fascinating.

Titled: "For Cellulosic Ethanol Makers, The Road Ahead Is Still Uphill"

The article has sober analysis of where we are on cellulosic ethanol as a sustainable fuel.

This would be of interest to most readers, I would guess. A few choice quotes below:

"While it has environmental advantages over other forms of ethanol, cellulosic ethanol has proven difficult to produce at commercial scale. Even as new production facilities come online in the U.S., a variety of economic and market realities suggest the new fuel still has big challenges to overcome."

"Despite U.S. government mandates requiring that some ethanol be blended into the nation’s fuel supply, the market remains constrained by the design of most modern car engines, which are generally unable to tolerate more than small percentages of the cleaner-burning fuel that cellulosic ethanol provides. Complicating matters, federal officials are now considering a reduction in those very blending mandates — a move that cellulosic fuel supporters say would stymie the industry before it ever gets off the ground.

"...three plants are slated to produce 80 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually — a substantial uptick for such fuels, but still far less than 1 percent of the 135 billion gallons of gasoline used in the U.S. last year. And that’s just a fraction of the 1.75 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol that federal guidelines currently call for blending into the nation’s fuel supply.

The U.S. quickly became the global leader in ethanol production, followed by Brazil. But scientists soon began taking a harder look at this “green” fuel. A number of studies suggested that when the entire production cycle was considered, the emissions profile of ethanol derived from food crops such as corn was only marginally better — and sometimes even worse — than that of petroleum-based fuel. And as agricultural acres were converted to grow these fuel crops, scientists began to worry about additional emissions associated with land-use changes, increased pollution from fertilizer runoff, and additional consumption of limited water for irrigation and processing.

A spike in corn prices in 2008 also sparked concern — rightly or wrongly — that ethanol production was driving up global food prices."

More here.