Footdown helps launch the first World Peace Festival
Footdown helps launch the first World Peace Festival through Entrepreneurs with Conscience, kindly hosted at the RBS International Banking Centre, Bishopsgate, London on 12 November 2009.
“Peace comes from being able to contribute the best that we have, and all that we are, toward creating a world that supports everyone. But it is also securing the space for others to contribute the best that they have and all that they are.” – Hafsat Abiola, Nigerian human rights activist
Acclaimed German musician Tom Oliver joined a panel of experts including Dr Scilla Elworthy, founder of Peace Direct and chief advisor to The Elders, Jez Frampton, global CEO of branding network Interbrand, and Shaun Whatling, head of brand relationship consultancy Redmandarin, to showcase the opportunities available to forward-thinking UK companies at the inaugural World Peace Festival.
With names like Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama all being linked with the festival, to be held in August 2010. Tom and his team passionately expressed their views to the elite audience of around 40 business leaders on how a peace and commerce can – and must – co-exist to guarantee the future of a civilised world. The two-hour event was barely long enough to touch the surface of the ideas and ideologies the team have for creating a global movement towards peace, starting with commitment from individuals right through to corporate obligation and government action.
The three-day event will include art and photography exhibitions, live music concerts and a film festival, concluding on the third day with a conference on peace-building for the 21st Century, chaired by Desmond Tutu. It will be attended by delegates from around the world including Nobel Peace Prize winners, military leaders, celebrities and corporate entities, at which Footdown members and associates are invited to be involved.
While Dr Scilla Elworthy gave examples of how the awareness and funds raised will be used and actioned following the event in areas of the world that need it most, Jez Frampton focused on what peace actually means to the modern corporate world. He alluded to the misrepresentation of the peace ‘brand’ and how our views as a society have moved on from a vision of flower power to something more confused and perhaps even cynical. One of the aims of the World Peace Festival, he commented, is to bring the idea of peace up to date – to demonstrate to a modern world that it has a brand value of its own that needs not only to be respected, but supported by other internationally recognised brands.
One of the key messages of the event was that both individuals and businesses cannot afford to ignore the need for world peace. From supporting the event through corporate sponsorship and alignment, as outlined by Shaun Whatling in his address, through to committing to positive change which can be filtered down through an organisation, what is needed is a pledge to make a difference.
Footdown’s involvement with the World Peace Festival in these planning stages will enable members and associates to be involved in something truly inspiring. Whether in a sponsorship capacity, or by supporting the organisers in an advisory capacity in the spirit of the individual Fifteens, the relationship provides a one-off opportunity to make a real difference.
For more information on the World Peace Festival itself, please visit www.worldpeacefestival.org or to be put in contact with the organisers or any of the speakers at the Entrepreneurs With Conscience event please call Debbie Richardson on 01225 858884 or email email@example.com
Children lead the way on tackling climate change
As I helped myself to a drink at Wednesday’s Project Genie launch by The London Leaders, I was fortunate enough to encounter a number of the 10 and 11 year old children who had spoken so eloquently of their experience of the Project Genie programme (www.projectgenie.org.uk) earlier in the afternoon. When I asked how their parents reacted to the children’s efforts to interest them in reducing their carbon footprint, they were all keen to share their stories. “My mum said she was too busy but when I nagged she was able tick all the items on her list.” (The Project Genie pack includes action plans for parents and other adults, as well as the book and suggestions for children.) This tale of initial adult resistance, followed by rapid capitulation, is the key to Project Genie’s success in persuading a growing number of people, both children and adults, to help to save the planet by changing their behaviour.
As Project Genie’s founder, Professor Hugh Montgomery, so eloquently put it during his introduction to the programme, our planet is hurtling towards unimaginable environmental catastrophe and most people feel powerless to do anything to prevent it. Although it is the number one issue facing us, we, and the politicians who govern us, constantly allow ourselves to be distracted by such things as the credit crunch and now the impending flu pandemic.
Project Genie is designed to empower children to take the lead by first giving them the information that most grown ups feel they should protect them from, then giving them the tools to start to reduce their own carbon footprint, and finally issuing them with a mandate to encourage (read pester) their parents and wider family and friends into doing likewise.
Genie is based on the premise that only individuals can act quickly enough to reduce their own carbon footprint. At the same time this can empower governments to be bolder and to move beyond, what Jonathon Porritt calls, their inherent NIMPTOism (not in my term of office). It can also reward those businesses trying to do the right thing.
The primary vehicle for achieving this in the schools, such as Lauriston Primary in Hackney, , is a stunning book, written by Hugh and beautifully illustrated by Matt Murphy. Despite many adults’ concerns that the book is too gloomy in the way that it tells the story of environmental catastrophe, leading to the end of mankind on a planet very similar to ours, the children love it. I think because it appeals to their innate desire to be told the truth and not to be talked down to by the adults in their lives. Every one of the 10 or so children, who spoke to the 100 strong audience at London’s City Hall, told how much they appreciated first being given the facts about climate change by Hugh and then having the book to read, if they wanted to. Not being forced to read it as a homework assignment seemed to spark their interest and, without exception, they spoke of reading the book at home, sharing it with their siblings and parents and then forming a club in school to support them in their goal of reducing their carbon footprint. And this is where the next bit of the programme kicks in.
Unlike other schools programmes that seek to teach children about the environment, and their responsibility for protecting it, Project Genie focuses on the single biggest contributor to climate change, namely emissions from power generation. Each school participating in the programme is given an electricity meter which gives readings of energy consumption on a real-time basis, showing the amount of carbon dioxide being given out as well as the financial cost on a second-by-second basis. This in turn allows them to see at a glance the impact of changing their habits by switching off unnecessary lights, turning off computers when not in use and keeping the use of other energy hungry appliances to a minimum. The meter quickly proved its worth at Lauriston when the school managed to reduce its electricity consumption first by 50% and then by just over 70% (Remember that 80% is the Kyoto target for reducing carbon emissions by 2050.)
This has been maintained by Lauriston in the 2 years since it was first achieved and has been enhanced and strengthened by other initiatives to reduce heating costs, increase recycling, reduce waste and reuse waste materials wherever possible.
Having repeated the Project Genie experiment in more than 140 primary schools and turned down many requests from other schools because of lack of resources, Hugh and his Project Genie team are now formalizing their plans for rolling our the programme on first a national scale and then a global scale. They hope to work with National Grid’s new smart metering business, and other partners such as Microsoft, to develop a web-based support system providing both teaching materials and feedback on power consumption, both at an individual schools level and also at an aggregated level.
Wednesday’s London Leaders’ event launch was organized to raise the £300,000 the project needs to take it to the point where it can become self funding through a scheme of sharing the savings made by reducing resource usage. For example, Lauriston reduced their energy consumption by 70%, which in an average primary school would equate to savings of around £4,0004. (As a result of the Entrepreneurs with Conscience event in April 2007, Hugh gained support from several of the participants http://www.entrepreneurswithconscience.com/newspress2.html )
Also in the audience on Wednesday was another entrepreneur, Ashley Blackmore, who is developing a great scheme for encouraging school children to reduce their carbon footprint even further by changing the way they travel to school. Ashley, like Hugh, is an ardent believer in the power of children to change society and, as the initial Project Genie trials have shown, it doesn’t take long for children to persuade their parents to change their habits. FootPOWER is another engine for social change that takes the “walking bus group walk to school” idea and makes it easy to replicate and run throughout the country. As with Project Genie, the key to FootPOWER’s success will be its ability to encourage schoolchildren to become catalysts for changing our collective attitude towards walking as a means of transport.
Ashley, who is one of the newest Footdown members - he recently joined Mark Killgallon’s Ascot group - found enormous synergy between Project Genie and what he is trying to do and made many potentially useful connections during the event. Ashley said of the experience: “Listening to Hugh in the stunning venue in City Hall’s London Living Room would have made the event worthwhile for me, but the real joy came from the opportunity it gave me to meet so many people who share my passion for engaging children in the fight against of climate change.”
Hugh’s day job is Professor of Intensive Care Medicine at UCL from where he’s frequently called upon to advise the Government and Health Authorities on disease control. But his passion is helping people believe they can make a difference in the fight against climate change and in giving them the tools to reduce their carbon emissions drastically. He’s already proved at Lauriston and other primary schools that the programme delivers results. Let’s hope that those members of the audience on Wednesday, who are in a position to make a real difference to the success of the Project Genie, take up the challenge. If they don’t, the children of Lauriston and elsewhere may be asking in years to come why not?
1 May 2009
Second Entrepreneurs with Conscience event:
Green is the colour of money
Monday 16 March saw the second Entrepreneurs with Conscience event held at The Royal Society, London, co-hosted by Footdown and The Prince’s Trust. With a guest list boasting UK business leaders from a huge range of industries and sectors, including Eurostar, Greenpeace and The Soil Association, the group came together to discuss and debate issues critical to both the environmental and economic future.
An impromptu address from surprise guest Vince Cable, deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, started an evening set to inspire and ignite environmental action within the crowd. He commented on the distraction that the credit crunch has caused and argued that green issues cannot be ignored even in these difficult economic times. Cable also commented that change must not be dictated by government but must be the product of a determined business community, something that caused a running debate throughout the evening.
Lord Ron Oxburgh, former Chairman of Shell and current Chairman of renewable energy company 2OC, welcomed guests to the event by pointing out that the future will consist of business that are ‘doing well by doing good.’ He went on to say that future generations will look back on us with a degree of astonishment – we have finite resources and the science available to overcome this, but we are effectively doing nothing. He urged his audience to work together, in a similar spirit to that of the Footdown Fifteen, to use the power of the collective to make substantial changes within the UK business community.
Jonathan Porritt, founder of Forum for the Future and chair of the Government’s Sustainable Development Commission, then took the floor for what was set to be a rousing commentary on what must be done. He challenged Vince Cable’s view that government is powerless to implement change, arguing that when it sees fit, government has consistently legislated for the common good against the wishes of some, using the smoking ban or seat belt laws to illustrate his point. He accused the government of being full of rhetoric, using empty words that will never be fulfilled.
Despite the bleak picture he painted of our future, Jonathan proposed that there is a solution to the worsening environmental crisis: that both the government and entrepreneurs must adopt a programme of fit for purpose policy making. The suggestion of an imposed carbon tax with a guaranteed floor price for a tonne of CO2 would certainly help focus the minds of those who have used resources freely and perhaps thoughtlessly.
The idea of energy efficiency was also one that plays a huge part in Jonathan’s vision for a sustainable future, but is often something that is overlooked. Both businesses and government need to recognise it as a priority instead of a supplementary process. According to Jonathan, the only future we can realistically live in is one that is 100% renewable and we need to act now to make that future achievable.
Bringing the message home to the entrepreneurs and business leaders in the room, Jonathan’s final statement was one based in economic reasoning – current capitalism is based on carbon-rich wealth; the future must be founded on carbon-neutral prosperity.
In the following hour over dinner the room was abuzz with business minds expanding on what they had just heard, all of which was sharply pulled into focus by Footdown founder Andrew Mercer’s account of the origins of green energy businesses 2OC and Blue NG. Those familiar with Andrew will know that his words never fail to inspire, and he held the audience captive, putting emphasis on personal responsibility saying ‘when your children ask you what you did, you need to be able to tell them’. He left the audience in no doubt that there is plenty of money in renewable energy – around $800m in the US alone – but that it is up to entrepreneurs to drive the industry forward with new ideas.
The end of the evening saw John Sauven, Chief Executive of Greenpeace, join Lord Oxburgh, Jonathan Porritt and Andrew Mercer to answer questions from the audience. When asked about the forthcoming environmental conference in Copenhagen there was an expected amount of pessimism, but as Lord Oxburgh pointed out, ‘we need to have something to take the place of Kyoto’. The same companies that are destroying the planet are the ones who could save it, according to John Sauven – all that is needed is a critical mass between businesses to make it happen.
The idea of individuals as well as businesses making a difference was addressed, as was the need to engage young people, as they hold the key to our future. Jonathan proposed that the choices available to consumers needs to be edited, as unpopular as that may be in the beginning, combined with incentivising people to choose an environmentally-sound lifestyle.
Mike Roe, Chief Executive of Footdown, comments: “What the event has reiterated once again is that sustainability and profitability are in no way mutually exclusive – in fact they rely on each other totally. Businesses need to come together to not only generate realistic plans for the future but also to capitalise on the huge opportunities that we have before us. A greener future is the only future we can look forward to, and there will be money to be made on the journey.
“Andrew Mercer’s ingenunity in launching 2OC is a prime example, but he didn’t do it alone. Through Footdown, he met like-minded, determined leaders who worked together to create a true success, both environmentally and economically. How many more opportunities could there be if we share not only our ideas, but our passion for making these ideas a reality?”