The answer to financial chaos lies on an island in Sweden

The financial crisis is actually a monetary crisis, and you can do something about it now.

On an island next to Stockholm, leaders in systemic solutions to financial chaos are gathering at a sustainability festival. Join them at the Future Perfect festival in Stockholm on 23-26 August, and hear a panel on monetary reforms and innovations for sustainability, and a workshop for executives who want to start, scale or participate in alternative means of exchange.

Panel: “Currencies of Transition: monetary reforms and innovations for sustainability.”

Chair: Professor Jem Bendell (Lifeworth Consulting, Community Forge and Griffith Business School)

Ben Dyson, director of Positive Money, which campaigns for a systemic solution to monetary crises, by full reserve banking.

Josh Ryan Collins, New Economics Foundation, the Brixton Pound and co-author of “Where does money come from?”

Lynnea Bylund, Board Member, Ormita, the international business barter network.

Matthew Slater, Board Member, Community Forge, a leading provider of open source software for community currencies, and editor of Community Currency magazine.

The panel will address the questions: Is a fair and sustainable economy possible with our debt-driven money system? If not, what needs to change? What is being done already? What can we do to get involved, personally and professionally? How can we make this a movement? What mistakes can we avoid?

Workshop: “How alternative exchange systems work and how to get started”

Trainers: Professor Jem Bendell and Matthew Slater

The trainers work with Community Forge, which provides free open source software for community currencies. This video explains why, what and how Community Forge operates.

You will be able to interact with these experts and others attracted to the topic, at a world class music festival! To book your tickets to the festival, visit

The workshop will also be offered in Greece in the second week of October. Contact the European Sustainability Academy for more information.

Collaborative Consumption and Beyond

Do you have a car pool at work? Car-sharing revenues in North America have been predicted to reach US$3.3 billion by 2016. There are many start-ups in this field, including Zipcar, which floated last year for US $174M. Enabling the more efficient exchange and sharing of products and services, in order to increase human well-being while reducing the consumption of natural resources, is a key dimension to the sustainability transition. The increasing penetration of the internet means new systems of exchanging and sharing products and services, are growing, in many areas. Facebook’s CEO has even emphasised the potential for developing new sharing enterprises as key to its future financial success, after floatation.

These developments in “collaborative consumption” bring a new dimension to the existing forms of alternative exchange systems, such as business barter networks or countertrade agreements, and community currency systems that help connect underused assets with unmet needs. Countertrade accounts for around 20% of world trade, while one national barter network now involves 1 in 5 small or medium sized companies in Switzerland, amounting to over US$1.5 billion a year. The new sphere of peer-to-peer financial-lending has taken off, and predicted to reach US$5 billion next year. It appears to be a time of disruptive innovation through new forms of sharing, exchanging, renting and co-owning.

Some of these activities are important to sustainable development, and, therefore, to the broad field of responsible enterprise (whether we label our work corporate social responsibility, sustainable business, social enterprise, shared value, responsible or impact investment, or some other term). For business executives to contribute to a positive sustainability outcome from these developments requires enhanced understanding of how to explore ways to become involved, including by adapting their own business models.

Which means there is an educational need, for those of us interested in enabling the sustainability transition. Lifeworth Consulting is conducting research on these developments, for presentation in July at the EABIS colloquium at IMD (in Lausanne), and in September at the Necessary Transition conference at GBS (in Brisbane). So, if you are currently employed, and would like to receive the results of this research, please participate in our 5 minute survey, it would really help:

Please, click that link!

Thanks, Jem Bendell

Lifeworth founder and Adjunct Professor @ GBS

Teaming Up for Massive Change in 2012: notes on my work with Lifeworth

Everywhere we turn, we hear people asking “how long can it go on?” Whether it is financial crisis in the West, environmental pollution in the East, or increasing prices and natural disasters everywhere, there’s a growing sense of dystopia, and of the need for more fundamental reform of our economic and political systems. Mass protests can remove leaders, but what creates a lasting positive shift in society? And what are YOU doing about it? Rather than ask “how long can it go on”, it’s time to ask “how can we move on with essential changes?”

As I read leading commentators on business responsibility and sustainability sharing their insights on trends for 2012, I saw a new boldness. People are recognising the need for ambitious goals that address root causes, including economic governance failures. At Lifeworth we have been seeking to contribute to a sustainable economic transformation and published a variety of works on that theme over the past ten years. In that time I’ve seen the more critical analyses initially ignored by leaders in favour of less challenging narratives. Yet this year I think we will see more opportunity for ‘radical’ suggestions for change to be discussed and trialled. In that sense, despite the fears, it’s the year we have been waiting for. But rather than adding to the many predictions, I’ll summarise Lifeworth’s efforts that could be of relevance if you seek to team up to strive for far greater positive change than you might have before.

The first area for transformative action in which we are engaged is policy innovations for scaling responsible enterprise and finance. Rightly or wrongly, government budgets cuts are happening in many countries. The implications for them to regulate businesses for social and environmental objectives are beginning to be felt. How then can we promote and reward better business practice, without increasing the costs to government? Leveraging private standards of social or environmental performance is one option. In work for the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), we looked at public policy innovations to scale the number of firms adhering to voluntary standards like the Forest Stewardship Council. This appeared in the World Investment Report, with the full academic study published elsewhere. The idea that these forms of ‘collaborative economic governance’ are a pragmatic response to the twin challenges of sustainable development and government efficiencies, was fed into the policy discussions leading to Rio+20, happening this June. The need now is to create systems for collecting innovative public policies for scaling responsible business, analysing which work well in what contents, and disseminating this to government officials worldwide. If you can help on this project, do get in touch.

Yet we must go further than coping mechanisms in a world of irresponsible enterprise and governance failures. The second area for transformative action, therefore, is redesigning financial systems for more fair and sustainable outcomes. Although commitments to responsible investment have existed for some years, the translation into investment practice and the realities of corporate leaders has far to go. The limitations of current environmental, social and governance (ESG) practice in empowering investors to act is one of the stumbling blocks which we analysed in 2011, sparking lively debate. Our interest in ESG is because of the potential for progressive investor influence, which is a historically novel situation. In 2012 I hope we see the emergence of a progressive voice from investors on matters of public concern. Aside from investor-business relations, the public voice of the progressive investor has been slow to emerge. The Carbon Disclosure Project has shown that on climate change investors can sound a new tune on public policy. In 2012 and beyond, we could see other forums, particularly the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI), providing opportunities for progressive investors to promote policy debates that better include social and environmental priorities. Whether they will be able to counter-balance the more regressive investor resistance to financial re-regulation will be interesting to watch.

In 2012 we will continue to participate in fora that discuss the need for transformation of economic systems for sustainable development, including the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, The Finance Innovation Lab in the UK, and the Griffith University conference on transition, in Australia. As I explained in an interview for Griffith, the key stumbling block to progress on tough issues is our limiting assumptions and oversights about the real causes of our crises. During the next months I’ll be asking world leaders what they think are the key activities to drive massive positive change that weren’t possible before now, and who they need to work with to make that happen. Identifying such pressure points for massive positive change will inform our philanthropy advisory during 2012, and beyond.

One area where I think there is currently a woefully lack of attention, funding and action is in “sustainable currencies”. Current monetary systems are incompatible with the goal of a fair and sustainable economy, and thus we need greater efforts at reform, as well as at developing secure, scalable and community-owned alternative currencies and barter systems. It is, no doubt, a difficult area for many to grasp; as I experienced myself. Yet in 2011 there were strides towards greater understanding by sustainable development professionals, through the work of New Economics foundation (nef), among others. My TEDx talk on the topic reached over 12,000 views in a couple of months. As austerity bites and unemployment persists, new ways of getting people working for each other without putting governments further into debt will inevitably rise up political agendas. In 2012 we will help through collaboration with Community Forge and The Finance Innovation Lab, amongst others, and promote the uptake of ‘sustainable currencies’ as an innovative social development mechanism, through fora such as the Geneva Forum on Social Change.

What does this renewed emphasis on systemic change mean for specific industry sectors? I think the main implication is to be more ambitious in attempting to mainstream change for sustainable development. That is a third area for seeking transformative action. That has been our approach in the work we do in the luxury and mining sectors. With the organisation Fair Jewelry Action we researched and published “Uplifting the Earth: the ethical performance of high jewellery brands.” In this report we mapped out a transformative agenda for responsible jewellery, where the industry can contribute to sustainable development. From this basis, we aided De Beers’ stakeholder consultations, and worked with the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) on their training for the jewellery industry, which will be rolled out from Antwerp this year. The Spanish version of the report was launched at the world’s first Sustainable Luxury Awards, in Buenos Aires, co-organised with CSSL and the Authentic Luxury Network. The aim of these awards is to encourage sustainable innovation in the luxury sector; this year’s awards are scheduled for November. The insights from our work on transformative corporate responsibility in the luxury sector were refined for the launch of the world’s first MBA module on ‘Sustainable Luxury and Design’, which I teach at IE Business School, in Madrid. Students learn how sustainability is the smartest and most elegant paradigm within which to design anything. At the other end of the value chain, in 2012 we are working with Channel Research and the German development agency Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to encourage disclosure on the social, environmental and economic impacts and contributions of mining companies in the Congo. There are few more challenging locations for mining to align better with the goals of peace, human rights and development.

A fourth area for transformative action in 2012 is enhancing the way UN agencies and civil society organisations engage companies. There are now many cross-sectoral partnerships, and the relationships they established hold the potential for greater changes. Largescale change goals need to be connected back to practical steps that can deliver benefits in the near term for various partner organisations. That’s the thinking behind a spate of new resources on more transformative partnering that were released in 2011, including reports from the UN Global Compact, and my own book, “Evolving Partnerships: engaging business for greater social change.” During 2011 we applied our approach to developing transformative alliances in our support for the International Labour Organisation’s fight against forced labour. In 2012 we aim to help the development of their Global Business Alliance against Forced Labour.

Despite the shocking persistence of slavery today, and the general dystopian tone we hear from thoughtful people in international fora, or indeed, because of such darkness, we need a bright vision for life on Earth. That is why we are helping the Future Perfect Festival in Sweden in August. It will celebrate the brilliance and fun of sustainable lifestyles, sustainable businesses and sustainable communities. It will shine rays of light on a better way of life, beyond the dark mountains of outmoded and destructive ways of thinking, working and living. Our ability to understand values, and articulate them in professional contexts, is important when working towards a positive vision. My colleague Ian Doyle has therefore been teaching ‘voicing your values’ class at Grenoble Graduate School of Business, and we will be integrating this into various lines of work in 2012. In our forthcoming book, Healing Capitalism, Ian and I will seek to integrate both the personal and systemic levels of analysis, to aid transformative action.

In summary, we hope our 2012 will involve the following arenas of transformative action:
1) Policy innovations for scaling responsible enterprise and finance;
2) Redesigning financial and monetary systems for more fair and sustainable outcomes;
3) Mainstreaming contributions to sustainable development within specific industry sectors (including luxury, mining etc);
4) More ambitious collaborations between UN agencies, civil society organisations and companies;
5) Visions of sustainable ways of living, pathways to achieve them, and values competence to walk that path.

To better develop our work, this year we become a Swiss non-profit association. We will remain a network of independent associates, and will continue to deliver in partnership with other service providers, for a limited number of clients who seek to create meaningful change. If you can help us have an impact in these areas, I’d love to hear from you.

Professor Jem Bendell
Founder and Director, and Lifeworth Consulting
Adjunct Professor, Asia Pacific Centre for Sustainable Enterprise, Griffith Business School
Distinguished Visiting Professor, IE Business School

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Fashionably Hated: on social change, media and the self

I thought my mum and dad, and my colleagues’ family and friends, might be proud. It would be the 2nd time a report I co-wrote appeared in the Financial Times. The last one was Deeper Luxury, which 3 years ago helped kick off more engagement in CSR by some luxury brands. The new report is on jewellery, and the result of 18 months work, mostly pro bono by myself and my dedicated and inspirational colleague Ian Doyle. But I haven’t sent my relatives the FT link. The article patronised us, with arguments that our co-publishers Fair Jewelry Action have debunked point by point. Fortunately the report has been well-received in the industry press, with doing a succinct overview.

When I read the FT article I was surprised. Surprised at how much I laughed! I thought I cared about being respected. We all do a bit, don’t we? But reading it seemed cathartic. For some years now, with my colleagues at Lifeworth Consulting, we have been trying to persuade some in the industry to be more ambitious in their responsible enterprise goals. We have got somewhere with some brands, but mostly its the start ups who get it and they don’t have funds to pay for our help. Managers from the big brands, however, often depress me with their fancy lunches, seminars and excuses. We offered this study for free to help those in larger firms who really want to lead, and we got trashed.

I recall the enlightened perspective of Chris Marsden when he worked at BP in the 1990s: “if Greenpeace didn’t exist Id have to invent it.” Not that we are Greenpeace – our report is far too boring, as its for industry and focuses on giving specific advice on business strategy. I suppose for every Chris Marsden there are a thousand corporate cogs. There are many proud cowards in luxury brand management.

A lesson I see for myself and anyone who works in social change within a professional context is to never confuse being respectful with being respected. To respect others and hear them out, understand their situation, is key, but to worry about being respected is imprisoning. We need more people in social change who don’t give a xxxx about being disliked and will risk their own situations to seek and then live by their unfolding truths. Its this sense of liberation that made we want to share experience here. Its important because there are now so many events of the eco-chattering classes about how to achieve systemic change, from Tallberg to Davos and beyond. By giving the mic to those with status they perpetuate the idea that those having a high status role have an insight rather than an affliction, and that calling for bigger changes is a means of change rather a way to let off steam by blaming others and situations before returning to normal life. Instead, we have to risk our acceptability, our respectability, our livelihoods, and the expectations of our families, in our daily lives at work, if we are to really explore how we can create systemic change.

But the FT article also made me realise something about journalism today. Real investigative journalism is disappearing from the mainstream press. I don’t mean the kind of illegal snooping on people to get gossip to print in tabloids, that has caused a lot of trouble in the UK just recently. I mean proper investigative journalism where issues of public importance are looked at in detail. Nick Davies did that at the Guardian to expose the phone hacking scandal, so it still exists, but is rare. The system of mainstream journalism, where owners want profits, desire happy (luxury brand) advertisers, and journalists need access to brands, and to pump out stories quickly to develop their online traffic for new ad revenue, means that the time and resources for investigative reporting have been crushed. Research has even found that many (mostly freelance) fashion journalists are also on the payrolls of PR firms and individual brands.

In that context its tough for a fashion journalist like Vanessa Friedman to write about our 58 page study one minute, and speculate on the Duchess of Cambridge’s dresses the next. The absence of investigative journalism is so accepted now that journalists can even complain about others not investigating enough, such as Vanessa complaining we didnt investigate further about Burmese rubies, without spotting the irony. Why don’t the journalists look into it?

INSEAD Professor Mark Lee Hunter told me the other day that investigative journalism is so undermined by the economics of media right now that non-traditional journalists, from bloggers and NGOs, will have to develop the skills of investigative reporting if we are to maintain some effective public discourse. He has produced a handbook with UNESCO to help. Perhaps hybrid models of media, where mainstream publications work with investigative bloggers, helping to guide and ensure their approach and credibility, will be one way of coping. What Jo Confino and colleagues are doing at Guardian Sustainable Business could be one indicator of such a situation. Other publishers may prefer to pretend they have it all under control and can produce credible articles without resources. Such pride will eventually turn them into PR agents’ megaphones.

These changes are bigger than any one person. Some may get all self-righteous about individuals at News of the World. But rather than single out individuals, we need to push for reforms in media ownership rules, so that there is diversity of owners as well as organisational types, with not-for-profit and community media having important roles to play.

We all get influenced by our colleagues and the day to day work. For instance, at Lifeworth Consulting, our desire to be helpful to people leading change in the industry may have blinded us somewhat. Rather than further investigating the issue of Burmese rubies, which was not our aim, or within our capability, when we found evidence that the EU embargo might be being broken, we should have referred this particular matter to law enforcement. Therefore I have started making the relevant enquiries about which parts of law enforcement should be informed.

So on reflection it is good that Vanessa Friedman paid the report some attention, despite the flaws we see in her article. I’m told the key thing in fashion journalism is you must not be ignored. In the rough and tumble of somewhat gossipy and cutting reporting: what doesn’t kill you… makes you more fashionable. So my real regret is that Vanessa didn’t speculate on what suit I might be wearing at my next speech.

If you are in the industry, or write about it, please read our report ‘Uplifting The Earth: The Ethical Performance of Luxury Jewellery Brands’

How an NGO report inspired a business woman to reinvent luxury

Can an NGO report inspire a new enterprise? An enterprise which after just 3 years is booming and winning business awards for turning waste into luxury accessories? The WWF report Deeper Luxury helped Kresse Wesling identify a market niche, turning waste firehose into high-end design. You can hear Kresse explain how she sees creative opportunities where others see trash, in her TED talk. Her success with Elvis & Kresse demonstrates how a shift in perception uncovers new opportunities. Given how the big brands mostly grumbled about the Deeper Luxury report when we launched it at the end of 2007, its gratifying to see how such ideas can be generative in the right hands.

With Fair Jewelry Action we recently followed up the report with “Uplifting the Earth” which maps out a progressive agenda for the jewellery industry. Once again, we heard grumbles from incumbent brands about our analysis, and it is the newer, smaller brands who are leading the way with innovations in responsible sourcing.

So let incumbent executives can grumble… the future is for people like Kresse. Indeed, it’s time for more “disruptive luxury”. Which is the name of my talk at the launch of the world’s first sustainable luxury awards, in Buenos Aires this coming November.

Reflections on a year promoting responsible enterprise

Lifeworth Consulting is a social enterprise that promotes sustainable development through influencing enterprise and investment. We also run, the jobs portal for responsible enterprise. Reflecting on our year, in each of our specialist areas during 2010 we sensed people realising the need for far greater change than they currently seek in their own organisations, and some confusion about how to deal with that gap between awareness and action. We’ve been seeking to help.

We analyse, educate and advise on global changes in business-society relations and how to influence and respond to these changes in helpful ways (Enterprise Trends). Our activities and outputs in 2010 responded to this growing desire for transformation, working with the UN, GTZ as well as CSR networks in Asia to contextualise the key challenges for CSR and responsible investment in the coming years. We also analyse, educate, and advise on the specific practice of cross-sector relations, including partnerships between business and public interest organisations like the UN and NGOs (Engaging Change). We find that the desire to attempt transformational change counters some of the negative effects of growing demands for numerical scores on project effectiveness in challenging funding environment. Social change can be tough, and requires new ways to assess progress, although not ones that see a partnership’s existence itself as the goal. We brought that perspective to our work with UN agencies and NGOs during the year, as well as through the teaching of courses and publishing of papers.

Our third work programme is the focus of our corporate strategy advisory work, where we help high-end brands to develop their approach to achieving social and environmental excellence (Authentic Luxury). It is topic we were busy with in 2010, but mostly with research, lectures and media. The companies in this sector are not moving as rapidly as we had imagined they might, given the strong business case for prestige brands to out perform on social and environmental issues. We worked with a couple of companies on their CSR strategies, but are yet to see wider demand for support to develop and execute ambitious and creative approaches.

Below we summarise some of the activities, and more importantly, the resources we have produced as a result, most of which are freely downloadable via the links. In addition we highlight what’s coming next, and how it relates to the key responsible enterprise and responsible finance challenges of 2011.

Enterprise Trends

The contemporary incarnations of CSR and Responsible Investment have been around for some time. So what is its extent, worldwide? And what does it mean for the actual social, environmental and governance performance of companies and investors? It is time for some global analysis on these questions. So we worked with the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to co-edit their first global overview of the state of CSR and RI communications. The main conclusion was that as commitments to CSR and RI are now so widespread yet communications on impacts so diverse and unclear, it is time to see more standardisation, with public interests in mind. I shared some insights from that at a session on the future of CSR communications at the CSR Singapore conference. During the year we conducted a study on the performance of environmental, social and governance (ESG) analysts and raters, speaking to leaders and stakeholders in this sector from around the world. My interview with UNPRI Executive Director, Dr James Gifford was recorded. In February we will publish the study, which identifies 9 flaws in current mainstream ESG practice, and makes recommendations for how to fix them, including the development of a multi-stakeholder code of conduct for ESG analysts and raters. The study will be serialised and open for discussion on the ESG Investing discussion group. In 2011 we will also continue our work with UNCTAD to map the progress of private standards for CSR and RI, and what the public policy implications may be.

2010 saw growing interest in the role of business in development. Our interest in development does not arise from companies and investors beginning to engage in this issue, but from a long standing interest in in cultural exchange, how societies progress or not, and shared global challenges. From that perspective we see potential, but also some gross assumptions from people coming at development from the business world. We released our study on this area, outlining the need for a new management system for pro-development business. That followed up a keynote at the launch of the first MDG Scan report by National Committee for International Cooperation and Sustainable Development (NCDO). We also published a major study on a key issue for social progress that has been almost entirely overlooked by CSR and RI until now – economic inequality. Given government spending cuts in many parts of the world, rising prices for basic needs, while banker salaries and bonuses remain high, matters of economic inequality are likely to gain more attention in 2011, and demand more attention from the private sector. In addition to this research work, we were pleased to help the UN, GTZ and ArcelorMittal in Liberia. My colleague Emma Irwin designed and facilitated a workshop to help executives to understand the financial and moral imperatives of integrating Human Rights into their management systems, as well as how to begin that process.

Aside from the rising interest in development, the six CSR trends I identified in my last book, The Corporate Responsibility Movement, appeared to strengthen during 2010. I presented these trends of standardising, mainstreaming, integrating, levelling, enterprising and yoyoing to special events hosted by CSR Singapore and CSR Geneva. The growing desire for transformational change inspired more people to explore ‘design thinking’ as a mechanism for developing products and business models that can help create fair and sustainable societies. My colleague Ian Doyle led an exploration of what ‘design thinking’ can offer CSR and sustainability professions, which we published in the Journal of Corporate Citizenship. I shared some of these ideas in a keynote at a workshop for youth on design thinking for social change, run by Syinc in Singapore. I reflected on how there is no magic bullet for social change, and that an ability to struggle with forces of inertia is key to our effectiveness.

If we seek transformation then we seek to understand the root causes of the problems we experience, and a vision of the kind of system we wish to bring into being. In looking back at 2009 we sensed that more people in the CSR and RI fields were having such discussions: and therefore capitalism was being debated. Our annual review of CSR was called “Capitalism in Question” and in it we offered a concept of economic system that integrates principles of capital and democracy. In 2011 we will share this further by an article in Singapore Management University’s Social Space, and in the book Healing Capitalism, to be published by Greenleaf in September, co-edited by my colleague Ian Doyle.

Engaging Change

Sensing what is needed is different from knowing how to bring it into being. A core theme of our work for decades has been the potential and pitfalls of cross-sectoral collaboration as one method for generating social change. Given the growth in cross-sectoral partnerships over the last decade since my last book on the topic, Terms for Endearment, I had decided to research the latest thinking and practice and share analysis on how to take partnering to the next level. Some outputs from this included a special issue of the leading journal ‘Business Strategy and the Environment’. Contributors to the special issue look at experiences of partnership from across the Asia-Pacific, and bring new insights into what really drives partnerships and what the future holds. With my co-editors Eva Collins and Juliet Roper, we identified a new ideology that partnership is always useful in creating change, and that struggle and conflict are unhelpful – something we termed ‘partnerism’. 2010 was also the 10th anniversary of the UN Global Compact, a cross-sectoral collaboration between business and the UN, and something I have followed since discussions with Georg Kell in 1998 about the initial idea of it. To coincide with the anniversary, the Journal of Corporate Citizenship published my reflections on how it must now address economic governance issues, which I then developed further into a series of proposals, after attending their Global Leaders Summit in New York.

How should public interest organisations attempt to have more systemic impact through their partnering with private sector? That is the subject of my next book, Evolving Partnerships, which is published by Greenleaf in April 2011. It provides tools for strategic review and planning so that UN agencies, NGOs and others can upgrade their partnering for greater social change. It should be available for ordering next month. I will continue to integrate these insights and approaches into my teaching and training on stakeholder relations and partnerships, including at the University of Geneva and Griffith University.

We are also applying our approaches to our training and strategic advisory for UN agencies. My colleague Ian Doyle led a seminar on private sector engagement for staff of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR). As global value chains have become longer and more complex while natural disasters are increasing, so business continuity is becoming more important, and we believe there can be a convergence with reducing community exposure to natural hazards and increasing their resilience. We have also begun advising the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on its strategy for engaging the private sector in innovative ways. In particular we are looked at what can be done to encourage and support voluntary action against forced labour, a form of enslavement for over 12 million people today. Hopefully we will see some outcomes from this work during 2011.

The network Lifeworth Consulting co-founded, CSR Geneva, continued to bring together people from different sectors to discuss the role of business in addressing global challenges, with over 700 participants. Last year my colleague Janna Greve produced its first directory of members. In the coming year we will organise some events to help the international community better understand how to engage business, so sign up now to be informed.

Another collaborative network initiative that I helped to conceive, while at WWF-UK, gained momentum during 2010. The Finance Innovation Lab is promising because it provides a multi-stakeholder space to explore the systemic flaws and fixes of our financial system. In my advisory capacity to both the Lab the community currency charity CommunityForge, I helped CommunityForge engage the Lab, and create a new working group on the need for innovation in community currencies to promote a sustainability transition. The head of CommunityForge, Matthew Slater also happens to also be my web developer, and co-leader our innovation centre in Auroville (India) during the first part of 2010. In the coming year we will be publishing our study on why and how larger corporations can support and start using community currencies. I also hope to advise the Finance Innovation Lab on an effective approach to internationalising, given the global nature of the financial system.

Clearly we still believe in the power of partnerships, but in 2010 we were reminded of the pitfalls of attachment, where people’s sense of esteem becomes attached to the existence of a project, and the manner of its organising, rather than seeing it merely as a tool, and one that needs testing for the job at hand. No matter what tools, topics and resources are deployed, personal character is key to transformative action.

Authentic Luxury

High-end brands play a major role in the world, signalling what constitutes success and respectability, for many, across cultures. Asia continued to be the boom market for luxury brands during 2010, and thus grew their potential to shape awareness of sustainability challenges in a key part of the world. We have worked on CSR in the luxury sector since conceiving a project on this topic for WWF-UK in 2007 that led to the publication of Deeper Luxury, which stimulated a lot of media interest, including a TV documentary. In 2010 we saw the interest in this area grow steadily. Having introduced colleagues at Eco Chic Fashions and the UN with the idea for the UN’s first professional fashion show at its European headquarters, it was great the idea come together at the beginning of the year, profiling many ethical designers from around the world. I then joined the UN’s Biodiversity Platform, which is encouraging companies in the luxury sector to promote biodiversity conservation.

I was pleased to judge the Walpole British luxury association’s CSR awards, which were won by Six Senses Resorts, and give a keynote on sustainable wellness at the Wellness Summit in Singapore, which reflects how sustainability considerations are growing in the spa and wellness industries. A video of that talk is embedded below. The interest in these topics is global, as reflected by the world’s first Centre for Studies on Sustainable Luxury, in Buenos Aires, which I helped to launch. We will be working with them next year to offer courses on sustainable luxury in Latin America, launching the world’s first sustainable luxury awards, and co-developing the online professional Authentic Luxury Network.

I spoke about the future of fashion in Brisbane, at the Asia Pacific Centre for Sustainable Enterprise (APCSE), which I helped to found the year before, and they recorded it. As part of the research for a book due out in October, that I have been writing with APCSE on sustainable luxury, I worked with a fashion designer and sustainable materials producer in Southern India, to create a prototype of a form of high-end global sustainable luxury. The organic, hand woven, natural dyed denim sherwani we created appeared in Vogue and Marie Claire, by way of some great photos by award winning photographer Paulo Pellegrin, modelled by yours truly (no, not a career move). I wore the sherwani to the centenary fashion show of men’s luxury fashion house Ermengildo Zegna, and after Anna Zegna introduced me to the work of artist Michaelangelo Pistoletto, then ran a workshop on sustainable fashion for textile companies and designers in at his foundation in the northern Italian town of Biella. The sheer fun of working in Italy means I really hope their efforts to encourage CSR in high-end fashion take off in 2011 and that we are able to help further.

One of our strategy clients in 2010 was a high jewellery brand based in London. That helped us to deepen our understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the jewellery sector, which I discussed on the radio. My colleague Ian Doyle presented his insights from our research on jewellery at the Paris 1.618 sustainable luxury fair, the Atelier for Sustainable Luxury (now the Sustainable Luxury Forum), and at De Beers’ stakeholder consultation. After interviewing dozens of experts about key issues, benchmarking 10 high jewellery brands on their CSR, and identifying leading innovations, we will publish a report responsible jewellery in March.

Also in March we begin teaching the world’s first MBA module on sustainable luxury, at the leading IE Business School, in Madrid. I hope the large luxury brands will be ready to hire the students to transform their companies. However, the luxury industry is not the most innovative and efficient sector that I’ve experienced, and the current commitment from large incumbent brands has been inconsistent. Perhaps the students would do well to establish or join the kind of niche luxury brands that are in the Authentic Luxury Network – the one’s that emerge from the Zeitgeist, rather than repackage the old.

In addition to our consulting business we maintain a CSR jobs and events portal. We’ve designed it in a way that means its full of jobs and events, a useful free one stop shop. But we haven’t designed it in a way where it makes money. So in 2011 we will need to reflect on where next for the portal, after 10 years of providing CSR jobs info to the emerging CSR movement and profession. In 2011 we will open a Geneva office again, based at the new Geneva Hub. We will remain a boutique consulting outfit, only seeking a few clients in the year, working where we can plant seeds that may have a lasting positive impact. We will likely continue to do pro bono work where we get excited about the change potential. We have been doing that by staying small and limiting both overheads and financial expectations. In such a company, what is key is the creative dedication of people who believe their work should be about more than money, status or fun. Therefore I’m grateful to my colleagues who see life that way. Thanks to Ian Doyle for his consistent focus and adaptability, to Janna Greve for her positivity, Hanniah Tariq for her insights, Emma Irwin for her professionalism, Nicky Black (now with De Beers) for her voluntary support, Anne Ellersiek for her phenomenal brain and Matthew Slater for his reliability and moral inspiration.

Each year for the past nine, we have published an annual review of CSR. Not any more – the developments with web2.0 mean that we will provide commentary on an ongoing basis with our RSS feed. In addition, our next book, Healing Capitalism, will review the last few years in CSR and RI.

I believe that this year we will see many more questions raised about economic fairness, about the ethics of the use of power, and we will see increasing cynicism about how business behaves, and a growing spirit of critique. Consequently, there will be more calls for corporate accountability, and a clearer understanding that a responsible business is one that seeks more systematic transparency and accountability from business as a whole. We will also see ISO26000 becoming referenced as the definition of CSR, for good or ill. The implications of Web2.0 for business-society relations will unfold further, with particular implications for fashion brands. We will begin to realise that these new communications tools mean that everything in commerce has an alternative. Even the currencies we use.

Thanks for your interest in our work, and I hope you have success in making waves with your own. You can follow me during 2011 on twitter @jembendell.

Jem Bendell, Director, Lifeworth Consulting.

Here is that keynote on sustainable wellness:

Getting Ambitious About Partnerships

Cross-sector partnering for sustainable development has been around a while now.. its 13 years since the first book on this came out, that I co-wrote with David Murphy, and 10 years since the first edited collection on the topic, which I rather artistically but confusingly titled “Terms for Endearment”.

To mark the 10 years, but also to kick start some reflection, I asked some of the contributors to Terms to provide reflections 10 years on. They all talk about how partnering became a key part of the landscape of civil society, of corporate responsibility and of sustainable development policy, but how its not achieving enough, and not as much as what we felt it could when we got excited enough to focus our time on it, as either practitioners or analysts.

That’s not to knock cross-sector partnering and the work we have done in the past or what partnerships are achieving today.. for instance, helping create the Marine Stewardship Council remains one of my career achievements, even though it was still my first year after Uni (not sure what that says about the subsequent years!) The MSC, a sustainable fishery accreditation council, is doing well, but it wont save the world’s fisheries, and so we have to reflect on what these partnerships can achieve in future to meet the scale and urgency of the challenges we face. We will be hampered in those reflections if we fall into a trap of what I call “partnerism” in a special issue of “Business Strategy and the Environment”. By “partnerism” I mean a belief, a mood even, that partnering with others is good in and of itself, so people favour being convivial and forever hopeful to keep the partnership going, rather than critically reflecting on whether it is delivering sufficient change on the ground (or in the water).

To help with that, and call for more ambitious partnering, later this year my 3rd book on the cross-sector partnering topic comes out. It seemed about time, 10 years after the last, as teaming up on the world’s problems still seems to make sense to me, and many other people, but now we really have to team up to change the rules of the game, and level the playing field…. excuse the metaphors… I borrow them from one chapter in Terms for Endearment, by Uwe Schneidewind. Back then he was writing about the need for partnerships to create coalitions for re-structuring economy and society, rather than seeing these are entirely voluntary initiatives that wouldnt impact on regulations.

Uwe is now President of the Wuppertal Institute. Indeed, the contents of Terms for Endeaarment reads like a Who’s Who of innovative thinkers in the sustainable business space, with Georg Kell now Head of the UN Global Compact, Kumi Naidoo now head of Greenpeace International, and Professors Crane, Newell and Ali all leading analysts in their field. These 3 academics, along with the world’s leading advisor on social change networks, Steve Waddell, have all provided reflections on partnering to mark the anniversary. You can read them on my consulting site:
Critical thinking on partnership: Free chapters mark ten years and
Reflections on 10 years of cross sector partnership/

You can also get a copy of the book for half price until the end of the year, as well as accessing a number of the chapters for free.

Unfortunately the first book on the topic is now something of a collectors item, if the prices on Amazon are anything to go by… Ill see if I can put in online by the end of the year.

My new book wont go over old ground, so read up on this older stuff first! Sean Ansett, who was CSR boss at Gap at the time and now has gone upmarket, with a British Luxury brand, thinks that Terms is still very relevant today…

“Ten years after Terms for Endearment was published it continues to be groundbreaking, as it provides a more nuanced analysis of cross-sectoral partnering than many studies on the subject, and maps out an agenda for corporate citizenship that continues to inspire us today. A decade ago Terms for Endearment was critical in helping me to realize the power of partnerships and that in order for sustainable development to be effective collaboration by stakeholders from distinct sectors sharing their respective experience, expertise and resources was the only way forward and that we could no longer go it alone. The partnership examples where invaluable to formulating our approach.”
– Sean Ansett

The Future of the UN Global Compact – New York Inspirations

Empire State of Mind
Empire State of Mind, sung at UNGC summit

The UN Global Compact is a UN initiative that invites companies to sign up to voluntarily being more socially and environmentally responsible, and making a positive contribution to sustainable development. As Ive worked in corporate responsibility and partnerships for 15 years and with the UN on and off for about 13 years, this initiative is something Ive followed from the start. Recently I went to their Leaders Summit in New York. My highlight was the Alicia Keys number at the end of the conference, sung by a woman from a Harlem group that performs to raise funds for social work. That made me realise maybe Im a bit “conferenced out” and need to go to some more concerts! For 4 days, going back and forth to Times Square I couldnt stop singing “Concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you cant do, now your in New York….. etc… lets hear it for New York, New York”, so it was a fine finale.

I did a video message at the conference. Shame they didnt edit the chat in the middle about whether I had said things in the way they wanted!

The Empire State of Mind song also got me thinking about we might do do with this initiative if we thought anything possible, so I reflected and wrote up some ideas on the future of the UN Global Compact, available at:

Alica’s great tune..

Photo: UN Global Compact/Michael Dames

Crowd-sourcing philosophy on Facebook

The power of crowd-sourcing information and ideas is proven by the power of wikipedia. New innovations in crowd sourcing include crowd funding, for instance for the movie Age of Stupid.

I decided to have a crack at this for something quite abstract, yet very important.

I have increasingly realised how easy it is for people to assume that one “thing” is “good” and become attached to that assumption in ways that lead to bad judgement. It happens a lot in the worlds of organisational and policy development. Examples in my field include cross-sector partnerships being seen as always good, or U process facilitation as always key, or government subsidy or regulation related to climate change as always good. Im a fan of each of these, but I’ve seen how assuming such things to always be good without understand context or intention, is a real problem. I realised this is something related to very deep themes around systems thinking and non-attachment. So, I thought I’d put the question out to my pals on facebook, to see how they could help me clarity these insights, so I could then communicate them more clearly in my advisory and writing.

Here are the preliminary results. If you can, please add in comments on this post, and Ill continue to crowd-source philosophy through wordpress!

The thread:

May 17th Facebook status: Jem is looking 4 egs or quotes 2 illustrate a problem of mistakenly thinking a practice or thing is itself “good”, rather than seeing it as good at a particular time due to its context-dependent effect & people’s intention behind it, so that no “thing” is good, except an intention & an ability to understand effects in cont…ext. The same thing in different contexts & with different intentions is not the same thing. Ideas?

Jerri Husch
read some of the early work in anthropology, ie. Clifford Geertz who talks about meaning creation. Or read some of Peter Berger and Luckmann’s stuff from the ’70’s who talk about action and the “social context of meaning creation”. They were the early ones to talk about how the “norms” of what is “good” and what is “bad” are based on the social context of the actors and objects….. 30+ years later they are still the best—-good luck with the work and would love to see what you come up with.
May 17 at 1:08am ·

Jem Bendell
thx. im not wanting to study it, simply to communicate this principle as simply as possible, and mention any classics e.g. from antiquity, that make the same point. any ideas?
May 17 at 1:24am ·

Jerri Husch
maybe check this out…..a good overview and maybe some quotes?
May 17 at 1:32am ·

Trineesh Biswas
more neo-classical than classical, but economic governance in the uk and the us for most of the last thirty years has been marked by the notion that privatisation, deregulation, and market forces were always good and efficient, with insufficient case-by-case analysis.
May 17 at 9:45am ·

Linda Popova
A tip from a Classicist, though not necessarily easy to communicate…Read Derrida’s essay “Plato’s Pharmacy”, which, among other things, discusses the “betterness” of the spoken word over the written. It is essentially a discussion of Plato’s dialogue Phaedrus and the relationship between memory and writing. It is centered on the use of the word… See More ‘pharmakon’, which in ancient Greek means both remedy and poison. Socrates’ death by drinking the hemlock is hence said to be ambiguous: is it damnation or salvation? The Phaedrus itself makes use of two further myths – the myth of the cicadas and the myth of Theuth – to illustrate that point…Also of interest, on the ambiguity of mental concepts (metaphors) dependent on context, Lakoff’s and Johnson’s book Metaphors We Live By is a good primer, with less linguistic jargon than my first recommendation. Good luck. Fascinating subject. Would be curious to see your take on it. Best, L
May 17 at 9:46am ·

Linda Popova
p.s. And then, of course, there’s Kant’s take on the subject and my musings on the Patriot act (with which I am sure you will disagree), but nonetheless, you could use this as an example of divergent vs convergent thinking. Since science should be based on divergent mental models, i.e. competing hypotheses rather than scholarly dogma (convergent politics), I am happy to be in disagreement:-)
May 17 at 10:05am ·

Kate Tench
To raise the tone somewhat and spin netgative to positive – “Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day” Withnail & I (I believe it was “I”).
May 17 at 11:10am ·

Tiago Pinto-Pereira
“Knowledge is neither good nor bad, but man’s use of
it can be either good or bad.” Paraphrases a sentence i remember in my theory of knowledge course in high school. Not sure of the origin of this epistemological sentence.
May 17 at 1:01pm ·

Vicente Garcia-Delgado
The problem arises because we keep under the illusion that things are “things” when they are really “processes”. For example rather than saying “I am” we ought be saying “I become.” (try that for size…)
May 17 at 3:33pm ·

Jerri Husch
what a great conversation!! Thanks Jem et. al.!!!
May 17 at 4:24pm ·

John Manoochehri
Those are too complicated as examples.

Start with the original myth: the Midas touch. King Midas wanted gold, because it was his hearts desire, and was granted the wish that all he touched would become gold. He touched a tree and rejoiced at the golden tree. He touched his daughter – and then was distraught at the golden daughter. “The same thing… See More in different contexts & with different intentions is not the same thing.”

This story has at least two resonances: the problem of proxy-indicators of welfare, and the problem of the changed context.

One reason Midas liked gold, and the reason we like money, and consumer goods, is that they are ‘vehicles’ or welfare, they ‘carry’ welfare, but they are not in fact happiness or value themselves.

What happens all too often is that these vehicles of welfare, in particular when we get used to ‘storing’ them, as a way of holding over welfare into the future for example (e.g. by hoarding gold to buy more things in the future, banking money, etc), become ‘proxies’ of welfare, i.e. we see them as stand-ins for the welfare itself, and thereby, equivalent to the welfare itself, in the mind. The need to translate the proxy into the actual welfare recedes, and we become obsessed with money and object ownership, even while being unhappy!

Thus we are reminded “only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned, and the last fish has been caught, will we realise that we cannot eat money”. The child that has a hoop and a stick is happy, and the man with a house full of goods is sad, even if the house holds his old hoop and stick. “The same thing in different contexts & with different intentions is not the same thing.”

The other resonance is problem of changed context, where, not particularly because one’s concept of, or intention for, an object or action has changed (e.g. from an object as a vehicle of welfare, to an object as a proxy of welfare), but because the situation has changed, and thereby the welfare effect of the object or action has changed.

The hopeful boyfriend who brings a beautiful rose to his second date, shining with expectation that the girl will fall for his charms, but forgetting his girlfriend is allergic to roses; the father trembling down the stairs towards a disturbing noise, with a baseball bat clutched for protection, discovering it is just his child watching TV; the mythical king mistakenly turning to gold what he valued more than gold, more than anything – all of these are examples of an initial intended welfare effect of an object or action having quite the opposite effect (rose > love; rose > sickness; baseball bat > protection; baseball bat > threatening act; golden touch > more lovely gold things; golden touch > one less lovely daughter).

Or, as you put it. “The same thing in different contexts & with different intentions is not the same thing.”
May 17 at 11:05pm ·

Jem Bendell
im beginning to find a wonderful new use for facebook because of u guys! Hey, its funny how people think that someone having a midas touch is a good thing. Many people speak of a designer or ceo having a midas touch for a brand.. and yet.. the midas touch is a tragic story of greed and ignorance.
May 18 at 12:27am ·

Jem Bendell
ps: this has been such an interesting use of fb ill blog about it, so anyone else wanna chime in this week? all tips welcome.
May 18 at 12:28am ·

Vicente Garcia-Delgado
go ahead! “I am becoming” game!
May 18 at 12:31am ·

CSR Jobs Portal

For those of you who didnt know, in 2001 I set up a corporate responsibility jobs site. Last year we revamped it to become the world’s most comprehensive source of CSR jobs info. It uses fancy open source technology to amalgamate jobs info from around the world, and send it out to users on the basis of their expressed preferences. There are over a 1000 opportunities on the site at any one time. A copy of the bulletin going out today follows below, so u can see the way it looks (although without the links). The portal is at so check there if you want to follow up on one of the job opportunities!

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: Lifeworth Monthly Bulletin
Date: Thu, 13 May 2010 12:27:31 +0100
To: jem

Welcome to the Lifeworth Monthly Bulletin of jobs and events in responsible enterprise. It includes an editorial from Lifeworth, featured events, top jobs, other events, the top topics on our site, and this month’s expert insights. Your user name is jem. For information on how to retrieve your password or unsubscribe, see the bottom of the email.


We should never be too busy to look at the horizon. But many of us are so busy with the here and now of our jobs. Therefore we don’t have time to see what opportunities are out there for us to make a greater impact in the world. But now there is a solution….

Read more from Lifeworth’s Jem Bendell


Don’t Miss Deadline for Jobs at the Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI)

The Principles for Responsible Investment is an investor initiative in partnership with UNEP Finance Initiative and the UN Global Compact.
28 May 2010


Knowledge Manager, Edelman, USA
Director of Implementation Support, UNPRI, United Kingdom
Director of Communications and Marketing, UNPRI, United Kingdom
Clearinghouse Manager, Social Issues, UNPRI, United Kingdom
Community & Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Nestle, United Kingdom
Consultant, WWF-UK, United Kingdom
Supply Chain Manager, BCI, China
Associate – Budget & Financial Analyst, Room to Read, USA
Director of Value Chain Social Responsibility, Cisco, USA
CSR/Labor Rights Program Associate , Verité, USA
Contract ESG Research Analyst, RiskMetrics Group, USA
Communications Specialist, Shakti Foundation, India
Corporate Social Responsibility ( CSR ) Specialist, Al-Majal For Environmental & Technical Services, Oman


Don’t Miss Deadline for Jobs at the Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI), UNPRI
Ouverture Inscriptions DAS Management durable, HAUTE ECOLE DE GESTION GENEVE & UNIVERSITE DE GENEVE, Switzerland
International EFMD – FDC Conference “Strategic Movements in Business Education”, FDC, Brazil
Launch of the 2010 Corporate Responsibility Salary Survey Results, Acre Resources
Local money design webinar series 2, Value for People, Germany
2nd International Worldly Leadership Summit ‘Leading with Responsibility and Conviction’, United Kingdom
1st International Conference in Responsible Leadership in Africa., South Africa
BASELondon 2010, Siemens, United Kingdom
ERSCP-EMSU 2010 Conference, Netherlands
2010 Asian Business & Management Conference, Japan
Asia Pacific Academy for Business In Society (APABIS) Annual Conference, Japan
CSR and International Development Executive Summer Course – Switzerland – July 4-11, 2010., University Geneva & MHC International Ltd, Switzerland


Innovative Financing for Global Networks Steve Waddell begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting on Networks
Marketing and Military Metaphors Ryan Jones
Video Blog: Steve Puckett on CSR in Singapore and the Energy Sector Wayne Visser
CSRI News Digest (Week 1, May 2010) Wayne Visser
McDonald’s Announces “Global Best Practices” in Sustainability Supply and Green Initiatives Wayne Visser
Sustainable Packaging Delivers Lighter Weight, Higher Recycled Material Content Wayne Visser
Cow Manure Project to Produce 38,000 mWh of Power Annually Wayne Visser
EPA Helps States, Utilities Reap Greater Energy Savings Wayne Visser
Canadian Lawmakers Pass Climate Change Act Wayne Visser
Chemical Supply Chain Embraces Wal-Mart’s Sustainability Goals Wayne Visser
Spain’s Leading PLC’s Take Close Look at Suppliers’ CSR Credentials Wayne Visser
Does Type of Ownership Matter for CSR? Wayne Visser
Slides: CSR 2.0: The Future of Corporate Social Responsibility Wayne Visser
Course: Introduction to CR (London, 13 Jul 2010) Wayne Visser
Course: Measuring Socio-Political Risk (Calgary & Edmonton, 14 & 17 May 2010) Wayne Visser
Online course: Sustainability Reporting (21 Jun-1 Aug 2010) Wayne Visser
CSR 2.0: From the Age of Greed to the Age of Responsibility Wayne Visser
BP: morally confused? Adrian Henriques
A New Approach to Network Leadership Steve Waddell on Networks
Oil spills and externalities Crane and Matten


1. General Environment (446)
2. Education or Culture (266)
3. Consumer Affairs (157)
4. Capacity Building (125)
5. Social Development (116)
6. Social Enterprise (107)
7. Human Rights and Security (98)
8. Diversity and Non-Discrimination (98)
9. Sustainable Resource Use (88)
10. Community and Philanthropy (77)
11. Climate Change (76)
12. Public Health (74)
13. Clean Technology (45)
14. Governance and Risk (28)
15. Pollution Prevention (27)
16. Health or Safety at Work (19)
17. Intellectual Property and Tech Transfer (16)
18. Responsible Investment (11)
19. Sustainability Reporting (9)
20. Personal Development (8)
21. Stakeholder Dialogue (8)
22. Anti-Corruption (8)
23. Employee Ethics (4)
24. Labour Practices (4)
25. Fair Marketing (3)
26. Fair Competition (3)
27. Fair Supplier Relations (3)
28. Fair Taxation (3)
29. Social Dialogue (3)
30. Employment Creation (3)
31. Political Involvement (1)


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