I’ve never found Russell Brand remotely funny. But not because he pushes the boundaries of taste. Were that the reason, I wouldn’t love Peter Cook, Little Britain, or Steve Coogan. I can’t even print the lyrics of a song I saw him perform live in Oxford a couple of weeks ago, but it was very, very funny. I quite like Jonathan Ross, and it’s for a simple reason.A few years ago my friend John Lloyd, a comedy producer, took me along as part of a team he had organised for a quiz night for ad men, hacks and comedians that the late Jeremy Beadle used to host at the Atlantic Bar and Grill. Most of the comedians there were either manic depressively distant, rude, breathtakingly grand and showy, or so out of it they couldn’t speak, let alone answer questions. When I was introduced to Ross, he was none of those things. He was sincere, charming, witty, and as down to earth as you can be when you have all that fame and fortune. He was very easy to talk to, and lacking any self-importance. I think he was even tee total. His wife was there. A decent family guy on an evening out. Ross’s brand of entertainment isn’t quite to my taste – if anything it’s a bit mild. Watch some old Monty Python or listen to Derek and Clive and it’s hard to be too offended by a dig at a member of a troupe called ‘Satanic Sluts’.Should Brand and Ross have phoned Andrew Sachs in the way they did? Probably not. Was it appropriate for Radio 2? No. Was it a nice thing to target a sweet and civilised 78 year old acting legend in the way they did? No. Is Ross a bit overpaid? Maybe, but a lot less so than Katie Jordan or whatever she’s called. Would it have been funny if the target had been Paul Burrell, Nick Griffin, or Jonathan King? Yes.There’s an easy way for the BBC to avoid this kind of embarrassing slip up again. It’s called ‘editing’. Two blokes having a laugh and getting carried away happens all the time, every day, in every town. It takes a particularly dim person to record it, listen to it, and then play it to millions of people on radio 2 without cutting out the offensive material. Ross may well not survive, but surely a production head needs to roll first.I’m off on holiday, and will return to a new US President-elect. Let’s hope it’s the right one. It’s a bit more serious than a couple of prank calls, frankly.
To a very special charity performance of ‘Rain Man’ at the Apollo Theatre on Thursday evening, celebrating the launch of a new charity, Care Trade. This is the brainchild of my friend Katharine Doré, the theatre producer. Many years ago Katharine realised there was no appropriate educational provision for her autistic son, Toby. So she and a group of friends set up their own school, the Tree House. I visited it some years ago – it’s a beacon of what can be done in special needs education. Eleven years on, now Katharine has realised that despite the security and opportunity children with autism can achieve in school, the job market, like the education system, provides little or no hope. So now Katharine intends to wow, bully and then mobilise her impressive address book all over again, creating this new venture, effectively a certification mark of excellence for companies that help disenfranchised people such as those with autism, by helping them enter the job market and lead fulfilling professional lives. To prove it can be done, she’s even set up her own olive oil company. Eleven years ago, most people thought the Tree House would be an impossible venture. Katharine and her friends proved them wrong. Some people may find the idea of companies integrating people with autism into their recruitment a challenge too far. My money’s on Katharine. Oh and the play was brilliant, although it’s a bad idea to take your girlfriend to anything with Josh Hartnett in it, obviously.
Jonathon Porritt has a good crack at CSR on his blog today.. I’ve just posted this response on his site:“A typically robust and highly readable post. I agree with much of it, particularly your accurate account of the hollowness of ethical positioning in the banking sector. It’s very likely, at least in Western economies, that the term ‘CSR’ may not be long for this world. But your hyperbole on its imminent demise is unhelpful. Although we would probably agree on the immense gulf between shallow ‘CSR programmes’ and the proper corporate embedding of sustainability in its broadest sense, it is surprising to see you coming out so strongly against what to many is still a desirable business objective. Not least because you yourself did so very much to create a business appetite for it in the first place, for which the world owes you a lot. We certainly don’t look to banks for real leadership on these issues – but we didn’t when they were rich either. Whatever people call it, the quest for responsibility must go on. I would have thought the present crisis makes a stronger case for corporate responsibility than ever before. Implying that the concept is dead plays into the hands of the many companies who still think ‘business as usual’ is an acceptable option. When you came out in favour of BP’s Target Neutral programme, did you think everything about that company was responsible? I hope not! But you were right to praise them. Please don’t lose all faith in CSR. What it’s called doesn’t really matter in my view. The best companies in the world, like Innocent Drinks, don’t even need a name for it. They just do it.”
If, as I am, you’re depressed about the Italian and Polish governments’ attempt to dilute the ambitious but entirely necessary climate change proposals at the EU Leaders Summit in Brussels. I highly recommend this clip of John Cleese talking about Sarah Palin. It certainly cheered me up. I may not find it quite so funny on the morning of November 5th, should the ultimate nightmare scenario unfold. At least I’ll be on holiday in the middle of nowhere that week. I’ll advise at the time if I plan to return.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMyNk8J1c8g]
Good clip here of my cocktail partner and fellow Rainforest Alliance champion Richard Reed on BBC 2’s Working Lunch talking about the Innocent Drinks business model, ethics, and what the downturn (or should I say meltdown) means for his company and the responsibility agenda in general. Who would you rather listen to – a bland corporate executive in a tie, or Rich? The reason Innocent works is that its products, communications strategy and founders have an even better ingredient than fruit – authenticity. Sadly, authenticity isn’t something you can learn or buy, which really shows when people who aren’t real try to look as if they are. This is well worth watching next time you’re planning a new product plug (for that’s at the end of the day what this is, Innocent having just launched their new veg pots). Most broadcasters rightly turn down these blatant plugs, because they’re so boring. This one isn’t. Take a look.
I have no excuse other than time pressures for the severe lack of blogging in the past few months! Countless times I was on the verge of writing an entry, only to be distracted by a more urgent task, or the realisation that I would do either myself or a client no favours in broadcasting the details of some pretty interesting stuff I’ve been involved with of late. As John Ashton, the UK’s Special Representative for Climate Change told me when I started this blog, the challenge would be to find ‘meaning’. I’m not convinced that blogging is the best avenue in that quest (and I suspect John isn’t either) – to be frank I’m worried what I put up here will either be bland and uninteresting, or get me into a lot of trouble for broadcasting pretty fascinating client and NGO engagements which should remain private. Partly because sensitive issues are best dealt with behind the scenes, and partly because of the need to secure my future employment in this unstable world.So, what can I say? Well, let me start by welcoming the arrival of a superb new colleague to the Planet 2050 team, Helen Ireland. Helen has years of experience in the CSR and sustainability world, including 5 years at the Soil Association and 3 as head of corporate affairs for Café Direct the UK’s leading fair trade drinks brand. Helen joined a few weeks ago and is already impressing clients, making us laugh and giving our busy team a much needed capacity boost. In fact, without Helen I’m not sure I’d have the time to write this. We’re delighted to have her on board.I’ve also had a slight professional readjustment – after 4 years of advising the Rainforest Alliance and helping them build their profile in the UK, they’ve asked me to join their Board of Directors. It’s an incredible honour and I hope I can live up to it! I’m very much looking forward to it. Especially now that my friend Charlie Watson is off to Guatemala, to work for the Rainforest Alliance as a communications associate – his first full time job since graduating last year. I am so excited for him. Apart from being an all round ecofriendly good guy, Charlie is also a very talented environmental photographer. He’s got a very nice new website, which can be found here Enjoy browsing photos from his travels around Latin America. He says the site is still under development, but it looks pretty good to me.Our client Fujitsu Siemens Computers has a great new project – transporting computers from China to Europe. Yes, that’s not new. Difference is, they’re doing it by train. Track the journey and read more about it here.Lastly, we’re pleased to be sponsoring the Green Awards again this year. Check out the nominees here I mustn’t over exert myself on my first blog post in 4 months. But I’ll be back soon. Honest