I came to Rio with low expectations of what we would see from the government negotiations. And, half way through the week, the distinct lack of ambition from the collected governments means these look like being met.
Thankfully, at the parallel business conference, there has been a greater sense of energy and urgency, with lots of corporate leaders declaring that they wouldn’t wait for government and were going to get on with it on their own.
Paul Polman, boss of Unilever, and Jochen Zeitz, CEO of Puma, led the charge, calling for stronger commitments from government and bemoaning the watering down of the negotiating text. At the same time, they also pointed out that big chunks of the business community are still not doing nearly enough and that too many companies are still part of the problem, rather than the solution.
How can we use digital and communications technology to build a sustainable future? It’s a fascinating and important question we’re exploring in theory and practice at Forum. This blog is the first of three based on recent events and workshops we’ve run with people from the digital and sustainability worlds.
Ask anyone what their mental state is when presented with their energy bill, and I’m willing to bet that 99.9% of the answers will be along the lines of either “confusion”, “apathy”, “rage”, or even “terror”. It is currently a very unusual person indeed that will experience any positive feelings of joy or interest (much less admit to them). As for understanding them – well, our bills might as well be written in a long-lost language for all the sense they make to most of us. Which is why we ran a Network event – Power to the People – last week to explore how technology could be used to bridge that gap.
Guest blog by Martin Knight-Jones, European Marketing Manager at Kimberly-Clark
No one knows toilet paper like Andrex. So why did we need Forum for the Future to help shape a greener future? Everyday essentials like Andrex toilet paper are a big part of our household footprint.... as we all use it every day, and it consumes massive amounts of fibre, energy, transportation, packaging and water.
The traditional remit of a retailer - “to sell goods directly to consumers” - sounds simple enough. Buy and sell better than your peers and you’re likely to be successful. But 21st century retailers need to go beyond being better and, paradoxically perhaps, beyond being best.
M&S CEO, Marc Bolland with Founder Director of Forum for the Future, Jonathon Porritt
At Forum, we work with many of the world’s leading businesses - including a number of retailers - that are trying to push the boundaries of sustainable business. We’ve worked with Marks & Spencer for over 10 years. Recently they’ve signed up to become a Pioneer Partner of Forum, which means that the business wants to stretch itself, to explore new, more sustainable business models and to create the conditions required for sustainable business to flourish.
Picture this. You’re the Head of Sustainability at a leading confectionary company. You’ve spent six months working on a new plan which will help your sugar producers to use significantly less water, emit less carbon, be more productive and retain more staff by paying them a decent wage. Your plan is untested- it’s never been done before. But you’ve done your research. You know that it’ll be hard, and that it’ll take investment, but you’re confident that it will result in more reliable sugar supplies as well as happier farmers and better managed crops. The only thing you need to do is pitch it to your Financial Director.
What have Wilson Pickett, the Beatles, Queen and Adele got in common? Not only are they wise about life and love, but they’re also pretty wise when it comes to sustainability it seems.
At Forum for the Future we are tackling some of the biggest challenges our food system faces and dysfunctional supply chains are one of those. So over a year ago, we brought together people and organisations from right across the UK dairy supply chain to collaborate on a vision and framework for the future of the industry.
As you can imagine, facilitating over 40 organisations through a complex and sometimes tricky futures process is neither quick nor always easy. We’re made this short animation to show the process we used. It has a cow driving a rocket and girls in rollerskates – see what you think.
Asparagus and poached egg. Lamb kebabs. Cheese and tomato sandwich. Roast chicken, potatoes and parsnips. A few of the things I ate this bank holiday weekend. So what?
Let me put that another way. A romantic meal with my wife in an intimate restaurant in Soho, London. A barbeque between rain showers with friends. A sandwich amongst thousands of people enjoying the weekend festivities along the River Thames. A Sunday roast on a Tuesday – because you can, on a Bank holiday.
It’s not just about what you eat; it’s the culture of when, where and with whom you eat that’s important in sustainable food systems. Why? It’s all part of connecting with and therefore valuing our food.
Every summer staff from Forum for the Future’s offices come together for 2 days of fun, collaboration and teambuilding, while focusing on a specific work-related theme. This year we are returning to Denman College in Oxfordshire - home of the Women's Institute (WI) - where we’ll literally be putting our heads together and exploring System Innovation with an emphasis on learning by doing and experimentation.
In line with our System Innovation Lab objectives, we aim to learn lessons from how system innovation works in practice and pioneer new approaches to create change. We’ll be undertaking practical, experiential sessions to test some of the tools and techniques we use to innovate systems, such as:
Sadly I didn’t get to go to the Guardian Sustainable Business Awards on Tuesday night, mingle, schmooze and generally celebrate with everyone. But even sat here in the office, I’m feeling inspired and motivated reading about the winners and their achievements, and I’m particularly chuffed to see so many members of the Forum Network among the winners (half of the categories and both special awards!) and runners-up.
M&S and Veja collect their award (photo Anna Gordon/Guardian)
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