Corporations for Climate Stability

On Wednesday, I went to a meeting organized by ‘resurgence’ magazine entitled “Corporations for Climate Stability”. On the panel were:

· Jonathan Porritt – director, Forum for the Future, Commission for Sustainable Development (Sophisticated, Realistic and historical view of the world; emphasized the internalization of pollution costs)

· Alan Knight – Corporate Social Responsibility – has worked for 9 months at Virgin group. He emphasized the importance of scaling up good ideas.

· Tessa Tennant UK Social Investment Forum;- Spoke about socially responsible investment forum several trillion. What will be the big names in the future

· Nick Robins Hendersons International Investors: spoke about financial innovation

· Tony Jupiter (Chair), Executive Director of Friends of The Earth: Companies are Powerful Actors; How companies can make a difference; Education& Long termism.

Overall it was an interesting meeting; I was impressed by Porritt’s erudition and preparation: less so the other speakers, although there were good moments. I asked the speakers about using carbon taxes to offset other taxes and received a positive comment – this had been done in British Columbia. As soon as I had made my comment about carbon taxes, Jupiter, and Porritt made a number of points against nuclear. Nobody made any countervailing comments. So it was interesting meeting but I still felt the discussion was not covering the complete story.


Jonathan Porritt spoke first and highly eloquently too. He outlined five Propositions, that said he intended to defend.

1 – Business are part of civil society – contributors to civil well being.

2 – Businesses have an important role in building a more sustainable world. Can’t do it without them.

3 – Businesses do not have a mission to stop us going over the crack of doom. Only people who have this mandate is the elected and\or unelected government.

4 Good {business} leaders don’t wait for the regulation to come, they are ahead of the game.

5 The pace of change is inadequate. We are not driving this fast enough.

The most important thing to do is internalizing the cost of pollution. Taxes may mean paying more for some things (but they may mean paying less for other things).

Secondly, there is a $170bn investment needed in clean technology.

Thirdly, if we want intelligent governance, we have to elect intelligent politicians.

Need to do all of this in 10-15 years, according to the IPCC. Everything must be done in a dramatically efficient way. Fundamentally we need to have consistency from our government.


Alan Knight had worked for 9 months in the Virgin Group

Alan explained that we have to deal not only with carbon, but also with sustainable limits. He suggested that a population of the world adopted the Western way of life we would need ‘3 planets’. From this follows the sense of fair shares and the importance of well being. Do have some responsibility for future generations. He spoke of Richard Branson’s initiative involving ‘The Elders’.

What is the role of an aviation provider? He’s not sure, but he is certain how much personal relations matter.

In the past he had worked with B&Q, advising on sustainability. However, when he was told that, in regard to patio heaters, he wasn’t there to tell them which products they sold, only how these products were sourced – he couldn’t cross that line and moved promptly to a garden centre company. They immediately dropped out of garden centers. After this, there has been talk of the EU banning patio heaters.

Thus is an example of very rapid change – what were the tipping points? But he hasn’t yet seen how to make these small changes big.


Tessa Tennant spoke about socially responsible investment: in particular, ‘3 planet living’. She outlined the history of the development of ethical investing. She spoke about the 1987 Agenda for looking at financial institutions. Over the twenty years there has been a changing course in particular the role of capital markets in encouraging investment.

One of the beneficial outcomes of Kyoto was a set of robust accounting mechanisms. This work was done by UNEP, in collaboration with the World Resources Institute.

In 2000 Carbon Disclosure Project, which indicates the carbon friendliness of investment? The CDP now has $15trilion dollars of assets.

There is an extraordinary amount of money going into clean tech.

The big names in the future (and the composition of the corporate world) will be different in the future than in the past.

GORE HAS A 300MILION WAR CHEST TO RAISE AWARENESS ON CLIMATE CHANGE. But this will be wasted if it does not used for solutions rather than just awareness raising.


Nick – From HSBC Spoke very well. His main point was that finance was the bridge between the unsustainable present and the sustainable future.


So my summary would be the following

· Jonathan – Internalization

· Alan – Need to scale up

· Tessa – big names in business can change

· Nick – Finance is the bridge to the future


Questions and Comments

· Pro offsetting – bring investment into HSBC

· Porritt Fertility route – Family planning

· Calvert group; lively discussed. Relaxed

· Screen still on building nuclear power station in ethical investment.

· Crisis or Challenge? Porritt – Crisis.

· Nuclear – negative – proliferation; Too much money going into it. HSBC – Low priority

· At least $20\tonne CO2?

· Tax switch – positive

· British Columbia – have done this.

· Irreversibility?

· Population

· Logical – Don’t distort the case. If you want to prevent nuclear, don’t distort

· Transport

· Global Deal – critical

· Obama – Inspirational

· Environmental Audit

· Push for environmental reporting.

· Zero Carbon Towns

· Bottom up things place to be.

· Green week

· Make as big as splash as possible.


· Creative full time CSR, being useless

· Geoengineering

· Iron filing – lack of knowledge

· Stop playing around with new tech – just sort out reserve what we have.

· Virgin Trains. Railtrack; spend a lot of money on improving Virgin trains.

· Inspiring thing — FSE timber trade.

· Less Meat

· Melting permafrost, Glaciers, Sea Ice, Greenland Icecap, Antarctica

· Amazon is no longer a carbon sink.

· Need a lot more pain in the system now, to prevent impossible things later

· Need ‘Pearl Harbor’ moment: Within 1 year 85% of world economy was converted onto war footing

· We are doing the techno stuff really well.

· Tree and Sun.

· Algae research; CSP.

· Doddle – fossil politicians

· Second World War – Convergence of technology

· Public support, whole country rallying together

· Political Leadership – Churchill.

· World will change very quickly

· Galvanize the change in a quick way.

· Inspiration – big ask campaign. People writing to their MP.

· Change is the power of the individual. big

· Intl Aviation & Shipping.

· 17 Friends of the earth leadership we can show. Inspiring politicians elsewhere to do the same.

· Politics

· Collectively dealt with dilemma – Optimistic or Pessimistic

· Society cannot possibly change like that.

· Not enough.

· Like a car park. In corners of car park, weeds are growing up through the cracks. Patio heaters…No brainer – stop selling them.

· Don’t need to consume; more products will be withdrawn from sale, as awareness seeps into.

· Consume something – thumb through back copies. Free gift – book.

· Informal and social setting. Next ones in June. Reader’s tent end of July. Tented conference, meet in a beautiful farm. Details Worcester. Buses

Later, I went over to Steve Burak’s ‘One World’ Cafe. I found the place clean, white, with an internal wall gone, and a ‘to let’ sign up.