Brendan May

Dec 012011

Here’s the regular round up of our founders’ latest thoughts on sustainability issues and trends. In this issue, Peter Ainsworth on the anti capitalist protests, Tony Juniper on the big new word for 2012 and Matt Prescott on an innovate blueprint for an alternative economic model. You can view the update here.

Sep 272011

We’ve just released the first of six (free!) annual updates from the Robertsbridge Group. In this edition, we explore the potential for a sustainable ICT sector, the proposed UK planning reforms, the ethics of choosing clients and the challenges facing the NGO movement. We also pay tribute to Ray Anderson and Wangari Maathai, two giants of the sustainability movement.

We know how annoying unsolicited emails can be, and we like to comply with the law, so if you’re interested in these bulletins, please do sign up for them! You can do that here and the bulletin itself can be viewed here

If there are sustainability topics you’d like to hear about from our founders in the future, please let us know and we’ll try to include them in future issues. 

Jul 042011
We’re at the halfway mark already! Here are your suggestions 41-50 of 100 things to do before you die. Thanks for the great response so far…

41. Learn to juggle
42. Experience the Aurora Borealis
43. Learn Italian
44. Take a belly dancing class
45. Write a novel
46. Sell your car
47. Watch all twelve episodes of Fawlty Towers
48. See the Kirov Ballet in St Petersburg
49. Visit Robben Island, South Africa
50. Learn a musical instrument

And, as usual – my tally. I’ve done two and a fifth of these (meaning I’ve written a couple of chapters of a novel…) Only another 50 go go! Keep them coming… 
Jul 042011
Here are the next group of suggestions from fellow Tweeters…

31.Visit the Pyramids of Giza
32. Join the Liverpool supporters singing You’ll Never Walk Alone at Anfield 
33. Swim with dolphins in the Galapagos Islands
34. Walk the Great Wall of China
35. Visit one of the world’s great waterfalls
36. Visit the salt flats in Bolivia
37. Live with an indigenous tribe in the Amazon 
38. Go to the opera in Sydney
39. See the Taj Mahal 
40. Have dinner with Daniel Barenboim 

Only done three of these – poor! 
Jul 032011
They’re coming in thick and fast. This latest batch takes us up to number 30… 

21. See tigers in the wild
22. Visit the Maldives before they go
23. See orangutans in Borneo (before they go too)
24. See polar bears in Manitoba (you’ve guessed it – before they go)
25. Drive across the United States
26. Visit Antarctica 
27. See stars in the Gobi Desert
28. Climb to 20,000 feet
29. Listen to Kind of Blue by Miles Davis 
30. See The Tempest in Stratford-on-Avon

I’ve done just two of these so far. Keep tweeting in your suggestions. 
Jul 012011
So, as promised, here are the next bundle of suggestions from people around the world (or around the Twitterverse at any rate):

11. Put your entire career on the line to expose corporate irresponsibility (not mine, but I very much sympathise..!) 

12. Learn to scuba dive

13. Encourage a child

14. Always remember to turn the lights off

15. Walk in an old forest alone big enough that you can’t hear the traffic and for you to walk all day without reaching the edge. Dare to go off the path

16. Spend three days living in a rainforest

17. Take one of the world’s great train journeys

18. Donate 10% of a year’s income to conservation charities

19. Go on a safari

20. Visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC

In this group, I’ve done seven so far, a better score than for the previous ten. Keep them coming – only 80 to go… 
Jun 302011
Yesterday I thought it would be fun to compile a list of 100 sustainability/culturally oriented things everyone should try and do or experience before they die. I sent a message to my trusty Twitter community and sure enough, the suggestions have started to roll in. I’ll compile ten every few days, time permitting and add some of my own sporadically. 

I’m not doing this for any reason other than I thought it would be good to inspire each other to experience the great things some people enjoy, as well as taking some collective actions that drive the green and ethical agenda forward. As you’ll see, there are a huge variety of things that give people pleasure. 

Here’s what people have sent in so far, in no order of preference. Please tweet your suggestions to me at @bmay or as comments below this post. Enjoy (and don’t forget to do some of them even if you have plenty of time left..)

  1. Learn to grow your favourite vegetables 
  2. Find the word in every human language there is or has ever been for ‘respect’
  3. Adopt a pet or two from a shelter (or pay to foster some in a shelter)
  4. Be your own boss
  5. Read Catch-22 (several times)
  6. See Petra at sunset
  7. Sleep in a tent in the pouring rain with someone you love
  8. Write 100 letters to supermarkets demanding they only sell responsible products and get your friends to do the same
  9. See whales in the wild
  10. Listen to Rachmaninov’s second symphony
Of these, I’ve only done five. Must do better.. 
Jun 212011

Sometimes I can barely keep up with the pace of the sustainability debate. After the great response to my open letter to Asia Pulp & Paper (see ), no sooner had I put the finishing touches to that blog post when news reached me that Sky is currently running adverts for APP, whilst promoting a ‘partnership’ with WWF to save rainforests. In turn this coincided with last night’s UK Channel 4 Dispatches programme, ‘Conservation’s Dirty Secret’, in which WWF and Conservation International (see ) were, to put it charitably, embarrassed, not helped by dismal media performances from their respective leaders. The upshot: when WWF’s UK CEO is not on national television saying turtles are amphibians, his organisation is taking money from a conservation partnership with a broadcaster taking advertising revenue from one of the greatest enemies of rainforest conservation in the world. This can’t go on. And an awful lot of people are saying so, at least in private. 

 Some people would use this perfect storm to turn on the conservation movement. They would hijack this PR misfortune as proof that the green movement is full of hot air and bad science. That is the wrong reaction. We must not abandon conservation, or the (good) organisations that promote it, but we must do a lot better. My colleague Charles Secrett offers a manifesto blueprint for change in the NGO movement in today’s Guardian. You can read Charles’s open letter to the green movement here 

Big NGOs risk becoming a total irrelevance if they do not take a long hard look at themselves. Not only are they jeopardising hard won victories through poor leadership, bad communication and a lack of ideological coherence. They are playing into the hands of those who would like the environment movement to disappear, allowing the world’s worst firms to carry on their exploitation of the planet’s dwindling resources unhindered. 

Today, I went to a stakeholder forum convened by L’Oreal in London. Their sustainability director, Francis Quinn, was infinitely more eloquent about global challenges and the conservation agenda than most NGO leaders and, needless to say, all politicians. It depressed me that it should take a cosmetics firm executive to reaffirm my commitment to sustainability at a time when its greatest public champions are letting down the cause so terribly badly.  I could have listened to Quinn for hours, whilst I found my finger on the off button for most of last night’s Channel 4 documentary. I only stayed with it in the way you stay with a dreadful reality show – you wait for the car crash moment to happen. It did last night, long before the programme ended, along with my respect for big NGOs who take the corporate shilling. 

 In the end, business will tackle these issues and resolve as many of them as possible, for their own self interest. And yes, they will do so in partnership with NGOs. But it will be the NGOs who are truly independent of vast corporate financial relationships, or those that deliver grassroots, ground level, measurable conservation improvement. I’ll be backing the kinds of groups in those two categories. Where that will leave the new NGO behemoths, I’m really not sure. 

Jun 062011

In my latest column for Ethical Corporation magazine, I look back at some of the lessons of their recent Responsible Business Summit, offer a change for next year’s agenda and explain why in my view we still have a big task ahead in bringing marketeers into the sustainable business world. The column is here