Friday, 29 August 2008

Wordle of Beyond the Blur

I like new ways of presenting complex things and Wordle is a fun tool that anyone can try. This for this blog. (Thanks Tom for helping me find this).

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Money is starting to move the right way in China and India - now we need acceleration

Few know that Chinese and India are moving very fast in the renewable sector and are in the lead in many fields when it comes to the move towards a resource efficient and low carbon society.

Latest news shows that more is likely to happen in China....

And already China and India are on the top 5 list globally... See this report from Ernst & Young

Next week Monday and Tuesday I will be in Copenhagen for the Copenmind meeting where a number of very interesting people will meet to explore the possibility for a low carbon city development index... This could evolve into a very interesting support for accelerated development towards a low carbon society. More will be posted during/after the event...

Sunday, 24 August 2008

The real Olympics: Taking the games into the 21st century

From Wikipedia: “In antiquity normally only young men could participate. The sportsmen usually competed nude. This was due in part to the weather and also because the festival was meant to be a celebration of the achievements of the human body.”

Today no one wins the Olympics without a lot of science going into the gear they wear, what they eat, how they train, etc. An Olympics in the 21st century could be more than people running around, or swimming around, in special outfits that shave times on the margin while the suspicion of doping.

The Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius”, which is Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger". The following is exploring what that this motto could mean in the 21st century.

The Broiler Olympic
Allow all medicines but only organic parts in the body

The Cyborg Olympic
Allow all implants that can be controlled from the brain and are permanently integrated in the body from the user (should have carried the implants at least a year before competition).

The Strap-on Olympic
Allow the competitors to strap on anything that allow them to increase the performance.

The Machine Olympic
Use machines to allow what humans have done. For those competitions that traditionally included the movement of a human body, like athletics and swimming, the machine should be able to carry a human (definition pending). Others like Archery and Shooting is done as before, but this time with a machine.

In order to get more interesting, and not so specialized participants, and in a celebration of the Olympic spirit this new Olympics will do something that today’s Olympic seem to have forgotten, they will be requested to be able to participate in all parts of the Olympics and the competitor with the best overall score is the true Olympic champion.

Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth” knocked the environmental movement backwards

The book "Act now" where the quote is from is not very good, but the quote below alone makes it worth reading. I'm waiting for the first journalist to attack the flood of "simple things to save the climate"-books. We need a journalists who dare to say the same thing about these books as Adam said about the last generation of "simple"-books

'Our environmental challenge requires more than awareness. While well-intentioned, the book “50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth” knocked the environmental movement backwards. Of course there are fifty simple things you can do to help the environment, but there are one hundred hard things, too. The book implies that the problem facing our world – loss of wilderness, unsafe tap water, ozone depletion – are the public’s fault, and if we just take shorter showers everything will be okay. That’s blaming the victim for the problem. We each have a role to play, but our challenge is to hold the big boys accountable. […] It’s important to take small steps in your own life, but not at the expense of the big ones that society must take as a whole.'

Act now: apologize later, by Adam Werbach, Page 9-10

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness, by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

This is another of these books that I think should be called “quick airport idea-book”. These books pick one (usually interesting) idea, tell a few personal stories around this and refer to a few studies. It feels as if these books are written to entertain a person with no time for deeper reflection and with a need to have a theme for a dinner conversation at the end of the flight. They are OK, but there are too many of these books out that don’t really challenge our thinking.

The book is not bad, I will return to the idea of “nudge”, but I think the most important contribution from this book is that it is part of a broader trend that tell us that the time for the neo-liberal free-market approach to the world is over (for this time). I’m fascinated that the way an idea that has dominated political thinking for about two decades dissolves is by a situation where the new ideas are closing the time-gap from both ends creating a situation where the “simple ego-economic” perspective never existed. It is as if this period of time did not have anything to contribute to human development. A lot of the book covers the social research from the 50s and 60s. Research that show that humans are not the simplistic economic abstractions that many economist have played around with the last decades. Using studies by people like Solomon Asch from the 50s it provides us with a theoretical base for “humans”. I think it is not good as the simplicity and immature argument of clowns like Ayn Rand posing like thinkers will attract a new generation unless the simplicity of the arguments in their “thinking” are discussed.

For anyone who has read social science, and especially social psychology, it is hard to know if the authors are ironic towards the neo-liberal economist, or if they actually think that they have something new to provide. I think they are honest and are not ironic when they suggest that we should use “Econs” and “Humans” to understand to different ways to understand people and I think they think they are thinking about something new.

What surprises me with their book from a historical perspective is that they seem to have forgotten the ground they walk on. Two leading thinkers from Chicago, in the field the authors of Nudge try to explore, where instrumental to the work of many of the theories and ideas they refer to from the 50s and 60s. The two are John Dewey and G.H. Mead, both moved to University of Chicago a little more than 100 years ago. Maybe their thinking is still too far head of the new economic front that is waking up to the fact that humans are not machines as they are exploring the very nature of the “self”.

For those interested where the economic front might move next, Mead and Dewey might be worth reading. I would like to add Simmel to the list as the current economic discourse still shy away from the idea that there might not be something that easily can be referred to as an “I”. Simmel approached the challenges from a macro perspective more than Mead and Dewey.

Returning to the concept “nudge” I want to congratulate the authors of introduce an idea that is easy for people educated in economic thinking to understand and to use this to introduce the most important contribution of the book, the concept “choice architect”. The fact that some people actually shape the very frames that people move within is a radical departure from traditional economic thinking. Unfortunately the book focus is on very marginal, but still important, issues. There is a choice architect providing information about fuel consumption on the windshields of cars that are on sale (that the authors use as an example). But there is also a choice architect behind the kind of cars coming out of the factories, and there are choice architects behind the infrastructure and possibilities to move from A to B without using a car.

Unfortunately the book is silent when it comes to more substantial choice architecture in society. Nowhere is this lack of will to acknowledge that there are broader structures, such as global equity, that must be considered more obvious than the discussions about climate change. In a book with many interesting ideas and good arguments it hurts to read a sentence that at best is naïve and must have been included due to a mistake unless the authors are without any global perspective.

When talking about economic incentives to reduce CO2 emissions with a global cap-and-trade system they write: “A central argument for such a system is that it would ensure that reductions would be made by those who could do so most cheaply – and that those with a real need [italic added] for emissions licenses would pay people, perhaps especially in poor nations, who would prefer to have the money”.

This is not a very clever statement. An American (like the authors) lives in a society that has been built by polluting the global environment, and they use more energy per person than almost anyone else on the planet (due to a political system that very often seems to ignore global public goods). Now the world needs reduced emissions. Without any equity in the equation or historic understanding the simple economic perspective is that we should buy and sell emission rights. To point at the desperate need of the poor for money as a way of allocates more rights to pollute for the rich is an argument that does not fit in a book that in an American context argues for transfer of resources to those less fortunate.

If the idea of a “choice architect” could be expanded to big institutions and include a historic perspective we might be able to use the concept in two ways. First as a way to identify situations where we are pushing people in one or another direction and discuss the different options that are available, second as a way to identify those who actually can influence the important decisions today.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Against the Machine: Being human in the age of the electronic mob, by Lee Siegel

It is a fresh wind in the commercial and superficial world on the web. But for many it is probably easy to dismiss Siegel as one who has not understood the new medium, someone who dislikes almost anything on the web that include more than a few highbrows. And yes he makes a lot of simplistic arguments and he writes of Wikipedia in a way that I think he will regret when he takes a deep breath and reflect, the way he say that we should reflect if we did not increase our speed to keep up with the net...

I also think it is strange to celebrate the corporate media the way Siegel does. Of course there is a lot of really stupid content on the web, but there are also voices that never had the chance to make themselves heard in mainstream media.

In a way it feels as he is so eager to quote all the right people and show that no one of the web 2.0 icons are outside his reach. But it does not matter because he has some very valid points and I really hope a lot of bloggers/web2.0ers/though leaders/etc will read this book.

For each transition to a new medium people have cried out for lost values, and with time they look outdated and afraid of the “new”. It is as we are afraid to admit that each change brings both good and bad. This time we are, if current trends continue, about to lose the very idea of being human according to Siegel. Not because of the internet, but because internet reflects and enhance the existing trends in society. Coming from someone that most likely is not totally mad, this is important enough to deserve serious reflection.

To a large extent I think Siegel’s valid point boils down to the fact that we create a world without reflections, a world where the person who shouts the loudest get most of the attention. This is not only resulting in a world where almost all of the “information” is of questionable value beyond the thrill of looking into someone’s private life.

The serious issue here is that our opportunities to find support to go beyond our direct instincts (sex, fame and money) are the worst even in human history. I’m not sure that this is the case, but I must admit that I feel that this actually is the case. People are looking for media coverage, short sound bites, and things to “sell”… Using an economic language that excludes the very idea of humans as reflective and with an urge to go beyond the trivial.

Siegel’s ideas are actually not too far from those that triggered my idea to launch a large “beyond the blur”-project. I have still not made up my mind if that battle should take place on the web or only outside.

The Independent had this article. I like Jon Stewart and I laugh at his jokes, but maybe I, together with many others, laugh while we lose something important (the ability to talk seriously about serious questions)?

Why not put a face on the future? Name those CEOs and heads of states that are killing the planet: Support the escape from the great carbon lock-in

With a strong agreement that we need dramatic CO2 reductions within 10 years to avoid dangerous climate change it frustrating to see that investments still take place that are locking us into a high carbon dependence.

One of the main challenges is that we don’t differentiate between investments that lock us into a high carbon society for decades and those that can be changes tomorrow. If we are to change direction we must be able to find instruments that can help us define what is important from what is less important. In media today it seems to be more discussions about light bulbs than about buildings. Light bulbs are important, but we can change these quite fast, but buildings will be with us for decades.

Selling a SUV is much more serious “crime” than selling a mobile phone with a charger that use a lot of energy. Not only will a SUV use a lot more energy and trigger investment in an unsustainable infrastructure it will be with us for decades, but the charger, not a very important part of the climate challenge, will also (hopefully) be recycled after a year or two in most cases.

In order to get serious about climate change, equity around the use of natural resources it would be valuable to start by tracking the performance of the top 20 CEOs on the Fortune global 500 list and the political leaders of G20.

A webpage with all the names and faces should be created and then each year their decisions would be assessed (by a group of expert and with wiki-opportunities to write up the assessment). The assessment would include three things on the negative side:
1. To what degree have they made decisions that lock us into a high-carbon society?
2. How much (money) have they invested in high-carbon lock-in?
3. How much goods and services have they put on the market that lock us into a high carbon society and for how long?

It should obviously also include the positive part
1. To what degree have they made decisions...
2. How much (money) they invested in solutions...
3. What have they put on the market...
... that help people move out of poverty in a sustainable way and allow rich people to live better lives with less use of natural resources?

If we can make the current destructive trend less anonymous and get a discussion with those who actually have power to make decisions that affect the future of us all. We could discuss why certain decisions are made and how we can move beyond incremental improvements a lot could improve and those taking decisions that can kill or save us all can answer why they do what they do.

Why not put a face on the future?

China now bigger CO2 emitter than US …, or? Getting the numbers right

It has been reported over and over again that China’s emissions is as large, or larger, than US emissions, about 6 billion tonnes CO2 each. We will see more of this so I thought I would put down my key points from presentations regarding this issue.

If China emit more than US or today, or if it will take an extra year or two is less important. The big question is if these numbers actually tells us anything meaningful that can help us guide our action, or if we need to add information to get something useful. Judge for yourself.

FACT 1: Numbers for Simple emissions

China: 6 billion tonnes
US: 6 billion tonnes

That is probably not too far off, however looking at the actual situation using some rough numbers, gives us a very different perspective.

First of all about 25% of the emissions in China are embedded in net export that mainly feed (over) consumption in OECD. So from Chinas emissions we can subtract about 1,5 Gigaton. For US the situation is reversed as it has outsourced a lot of polluting industries and have a net export of approximately 0,5 Gigaton each year.

UPDATE 25th Augusti: New numbers indicate that 30% of China's CO2 emissions are embedded in their export. That would take us to almost 2 Gigaton in the export... (That is about 50% of EUs total emissions so quite a significant number).

FACT 2: Numbers including embedded emissions in import and export

China: 4.5 billion tonnes (due to net export of 1.5 billion tonnes in products)
US: 6.5 billion tonnes (due to net import of 0.5 billion tonnes in products)

Then we should not forget that people are important, it is not countries that emit CO2 but people. So the question is how big the emissions are per capita. China’s population is about 1.3 billion people and US is 0.3 billion people.

FACT 3: Numbers based on per capita emissions from consumption

China: 3.46 tonnes/ person
US: 21.67 tonnes/ person

Another fact that is often forgotten by media in OECD is that it is not only the emissions today that matters. The infrastructure that US (and the rest of OECD countries) have built up exist thanks to massive use of fossil fuel. If we compare the cumulative emissions between 1850-2000 in order to capture the whole industrialization we can see that US have emitted about 30% of the world’s emissions during this time, compared to Chinas 7%. During this time Chinas population has grown from 400 millions to 1 300 and US from 25 millions to 300 millions. So China has been hosting a population between 10 and 4 times larger than US. So not only has US contributed 4 times more historically, per capita we can assume that it is at least 5 times more, resulting in 20 times greater emission through history. Talking about emission trading today without acknowledging the historic pollution from US/OECD is not very credible.

FACT 4: The proportional responsibility from a historic perspective

China: 1
US: 20

Steve Jobs: The icon of heartless entrepreneurs watching the world die?

Working with many really amazing entrepreneurs I’m fascinated that the business press often seems unwilling to put any filter beyond money on what constitutes a world leading entrepreneur. We have less than ten years to reverse the trend with increasing CO2 emissions, every third second a person dies unnecessary, we are wiping out the last untouched places on this planet, extinction rates are at least 100 to 1000 times higher than natural rates found in the fossil record. In short, there is no lack of challenges worthy an entrepreneur.

My question is not if it is a lack of empathy/heart that these people suffer from, or is it a lack of understanding of how serious the situation is (even if these are interesting questions)? A single individual is never very interesting. In all societies there is a Hitler somewhere, the question is why we at times we want them as leaders and celebrate them. Jobs is obviously not a Hitler, the point I’m trying to make is that he is a reflection of society and not interesting as a person, but as a phenomena.

Blind hunger for more and unwillingness to face the facts around us are major problems. Why are so many people celebrating a man who has probably done more than any other single living person to create a situation where the rich world is turning an ipod-deaf ear to the problem and staring at a 2.5” screen while reality is trying to knock on the door?

Don’t get me wrong, I love my mp3 player and my fascination for technology is not a big secret. I should also clarify that I don’t know Steve Jobs personally, he might be the best person on the planet, or the worst. What I see as a problem is the public persona that is celebrated, a person that is seen as one of the greatest, or even the greatest, entrepreneur of our time by many in media. A person that has given the world a funny little toy, nothing more and nothing less.

I wonder how it feels for those who celebrate Jobs as a word leading entrepreneur when they see the poor of the world, hear about climate change and know that we are in desperate need for new technology and new low carbon lifestyles?

I don’t think people are evil, but we live in a culture that celebrates "infantility" and Homo Ludens as role models. People that don’t ask about the consequences of their actions are not seen as immature, but rather seen as examples of how “far” it is possible to get if you focus and “innovate”. The direction and what you innovate seems to be less important.

Early this year in Davos I posed the question during a dinner conversation I moderated (all attending was from the field of high-tech) how they thought history will judge us and what kind of people future generations would admire in our generation. Will it be people selling small toys that we can listen to music on, or will it be people providing low carbon living for people and helping people out of poverty?

I think that a first step to improve the situation would be to rank the entrepreneurs in relation to how much they have increased long-term welfare on this planet? Getting people like Muhammad Yunus and Dipal C. Barua side by side with Steve Jobs and Lee Raymond would be interesting. Getting a discussion going in MBA educations around the world would also be a good start (I will do a tour later this year in Europe, Middle East and Africa and hope to have a few questions for them to answer, such as: “What legacy would you like to leave behind, micro-financing helping people out of poverty or a little machine that people can listen to music on?”…

Maybe the creation of a “Steve Jobs index” in societies that measures how many of the entrepreneurs that focuses on trivial things and how many that focuses on the great challenges of our time? Then also have a “Steve Jobs media index” that tracks the reporting in media related to the two different kinds of entrepreneurs.

Best of all would be if Steve himself could support and help develop the index… We need surprises and while Gates left his job to help the poor, maybe Steve also could begin to use Apple to save the planet and start an index (he don't even need to stop doing toys, we need them also)...

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Wikinomics by Don Tapscott & Anthony D. Williams

Wikinomics is a book about the new web, web 2.0, the social web where new things can happen. The book is not bad, but there are few interesting and inspiring examples of how the web is used today. It is more their thinking than their examples that make the book worth the time.

The fact that they must have looked for good examples makes the book depressing. A rough estimation after reading the book for actual web 2.0 applications:
- 90% of the examples are either trivial (mostly pretty harmless narcissistic stuff along the lines we are familiar with in Facebook) , stupid (how to print graphics on a potato chip [yes that is an example of wikinomics in the book, page 107]) or destructive (how to destroy and empty the planet on natural resources faster [It actually start with an example of how to extract more minirals out of a mine, page 7, how much further can you get from the needs in the 21st century]),
- 9% of the example relate to research
- 1% for initiative ways to use the net that might actually make a difference.

The fact that most of web 2.0 (so far) is either doing meaningless things or accelerating current unsustainable trends might not be surprising. The authors are however looking for something else. In the introduction they write:

“The movement to stop global warming is a good example of mass collaboration in action. We’re the early days of something unprecedented: Thanks to Web 2.0 the entire world is beginning to collaborate around a single idea for the first time ever – changing the weather. Climate change is quickly becoming a nonpartisan issue, and all citizens obviously have a stake in the outcome. So for the first time we have one global, multimedia, affordable, many-to-many communication system, and one issue on which there is growing consensus. Around the world there are hundreds, probably thousands, of collaborations occurring in which everyone from scientists to schoolchildren are mobilizing to do something about carbon emissions. The “Killer application” for mass collaboration may turn out to save the planet, literally.”

This sounds interesting and optimistic, or even naïve. Especially as the following is written a few pages later:

“This new participation [wikinomics] has reached a tipping point where new forms of mass collaboration are changing how goods and services are invented, produced, marketed and distributed on a global basis”.

As we need a transformative shift in order to ensure a resource efficient development that allow for the world’s poor to rise out of poverty without a war over natural resources and a climate catastrophe, we need to see changes in all of the above. The challenge is that we don’t need any change, we need a resource efficient, low carbon change. This is complex as the very basis of our infrastructure need to change, our economic system need to change, our legal system need to change, system solutions (with new collaborations) need to be implemented, etc. So far the wikinomics seem to have delivered more of the same, not any transformative change.

Maybe this complexity is why Anthony Williams is putting himself in the pessimist camp on his blog?

“I reluctantly put myself in the pessimist’s camp for now. While I think there will be many significant collaborations to stop climate change, I don’t see the equivalent of the human genome project emerging in this space. That being said, I am eager to see someone prove otherwise. It’s true that no issue has captivated the attention of a broad internal audience as much as climate change has in recent years. And, as noted by Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations, ‘For far too long, climate change has been seen as a problem of the future, one that only a limited range of ministries and institutions should manage. This must change now. Climate change requires broader engagement.’ Will the ‘killer application for mass collaboration’ turn out to be saving the planet? What do you think?”

For now I think that there is very little beside some climate research, that might come up with a few new ideas, that is really interesting and use web 2.0, but that can change.

Suzanne Pahlman and I have begun a project to explore the contribution of cutting edge IT solutions to a low carbon, resource efficient and equitable development and in this web 2.0 is included (together with things like cloud computing, petaflop computers, decentralized production, etc). In this we actually have a potential “killer application”, more about that later.

The examples in the book are not bad, but very boring. Actually surprisingly boring. I know of quite a few applications that are much more interesting than anything in the book. Maybe the reseach grant they got came from companies like P&G and IBM with little new in the field of web 2.0, but as they paid for the reseach they had to be included?

India’s first victory in the Olympics: India:5 Holland/UK:0

[The result is from the less known energy competition...;)]

As the Olympic game begun in China I left India for Europe and picked up a few magazines. While sport might be interesting to many these days, there is a constant battle over the future of the planet. Companies are investing in different technologies and solutions that will determine the future for us all. In the air between India and Europe I saw two ads that got me thinking.

UK/Holland represented by Shell and their fossil ad
Looking through the papers I was sad to see that Shell still run their ads about their investments in dirty technologies such as oil sand and CCS. A few years ago it looked as is Shell and BP was serious in changing towards sustainability, but these days it looks like they are moving in the wrong direction. Shell might be aiming for Exxon’s old role (things might slowly change in Exxon, see earlier blog) as the worst energy company in the world, in tight competition with Vattenfall. Their ad is such a desperate attempt to defend destructive and old technology that they are not even close to score a point the energy competition.

India represented by Suzlon and their future ad
Suzlon from India on the other hand had a very different add on the back cover of CNBC European Business. I can’t find it on the web but the text reads (the picture is a photo I took): “Where do we look when there are no fossil fuels to look for? As the world races on towards development, our finite conventional energy supplies continue to deplete. To power sustainable development, we need to look towards renewable, eco-friendly energy sources like the wind. At Suzlon, we serve your energy needs by providing dependable wind energy solutions backed by excellent customer response and a fully integrated and secure supply chain, which delivers customised solutions to ensure project performance globally. Come to us, so the wind can power the world’s future and yours.”

Suzlon is also a sponsor of CNNs “Eco solutions”.

Maybe media can start report more about sustainability now with the help of Indian and Chinese companies that are serious about sustainable energy solutions? As we all know media is about pleasing those who sponsor and place adds in the papers/on TV, so we need companies with sustainable solutions that pay for ads and sponsor media to get news about sustainable technology. I know it is sad, but we must stop pretending that media with such small resources can give anything close to a balanced picture (it is not a coincident that western media are in love with CCS, the big power companies are and therefore it does not matter that it is not a very important technology and that it most certainly will lock us into a high carbon infrastructure).

This is a clear winner and maybe to some a surprise. How come that India is home to the world’s 5th largest and fastest growing wind turbine manufacturer with all the talk about sustainability in Europe? The reason as I see it is that most companies in India that start to act in the area of sustainability don’t see this is a PR exercise, but an opportunity to make money while providing solutions that the world needs.

I can’t give less than one point, if that was possible Shell would get that… For Suzlon they get points for hope, concrete suggestions, actual delivery and investment in the future with an extra bonus for their contribution to CNN.

You will soon see more things from India.

UPDATE 14 August: Good news on Shell and its advertising:
From the Independent: "In an embarrassing rejection of Shell's "greenwash", the Advertising Standards Authority said the company should not have used the word "sustainable" for its controversial tar sands project and a second scheme to build North America's biggest oil refinery. Both projects would lead to the emission of more greenhouse gases, the ASA said, ruling the advert had breached rules on substantiation, truthfulness and environmental claims."

In Sweden and other countries due to weak laws Companies like Shell and Vattenfall can still get away with lies, hopefully this will change.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Wipro and WWF will work together to support a low carbon economy

Less than six months ago we sat down with Wipro to discuss the structure of a possible collaboration. And now the partnership agreement is signed (left picture show Azim Premji, Chairman of Wipro and Ravi Singh, CEO WWF India signing the partnership agreement). The two full days invested in joint strategy work was well invested (as well invested as time can be before the actual results have been delivered). We worked out the more detailed structure and explored different opportunities. It is always a pleasure to participate in processes where the challenge is that there is too many really good projects to work with.

Here is the press release sent out:

Wipro and WWF sign a Partnership Agreement for Sustainable Development

Bangalore, August 6, 2008: Wipro Limited, a leading IT solutions and services company, in partnership with WWF India, one of the largest conservation organization in the country, today unveiled an initiative exploring the use of Information Technology to drive sustainable development – directly dealing with issues of climate change, water & waste management and biodiversity conservation. It is an attempt to develop ideas and actions for sustainable growth based on relevant dimensions of environmental sustainability. The initiative was unveiled in the presence of Mr Azim Premji, Chairman, Wipro Limited and Mr Ravi Singh, Secretary General & CEO, WWF India, in Bangalore today.

The initiative intends to tap the synergy between Wipro’s IT Innovation, R&D deployment and systems approach and WWF’s deep expertise in areas of ecological sustainability, catalyzing relevant solutions and leadership in global advocacy.

The two organisations will collaborate in the areas of innovative IT and R&D applications for environmental sustainability. Some of the areas of joint work would be related to IT solutions as drivers for low carbon economy such as virtual meeting enablers, environment friendly ICT products, devices and systems that drive energy efficiency of a variety of economic assets and advocacy for ecologically sustainable standard practices in the IT industry. Other areas of joint work would include optimizing the ecological footprint of Wipro’s own operations and biodiversity conservation through pilots on Wipro’s campuses and WWF priority sites.

Mr.Azim Premji, Chairman, Wipro Limited said, “Innovative IT Applications, and relevant R&D Services will be key drivers for becoming a low-carbon economy. Information Technology must play a critical role in catalyzing ecological sustainability”

Mr. Ravi Singh, Secretary General & CEO of WWF India said “We are now in a phase where the unsustainable trend of increased CO2 emissions and overuse of natural resources is undermining the future of the planet. Progressive institutions must move outside their comfort zone and join hands to address this challenge. IT solutions can play an important role in reducing CO2 emissions and we are looking forward to the partnership with Wipro to set an example.“

Wipro has a leading position in Global IT and R&D Services, a significant presence in ultra-pure water equipment and green lighting solutions, and is also offering eco-energy solutions to its clients. Its initiative for communities, Wipro Cares, has taken up biodiversity conservation. Wipro continues to explore how it can play a pivotal role in ecological sustainability.

WWF is one of the leading conservation organizations in the world, working on key areas of environmental sustainability including biodiversity conservation and climate change. WWF believes that role of business and industry is rapidly gaining importance in the area of sustainable development and that it is important to develop partnerships between environmental organizations and B&I.

Wipro runs a corporation wide initiative - Eco Eye, which drives ecological sustainability. It is a comprehensive program that drives increasing ecological sustainability in all its operations, as also areas of its influence. The initiative attempts to engage with increasing levels of intensity with all stakeholders – Wipro’s own employees, partners, suppliers, customers and immediate communities. It will focus on areas such as how to become carbon positive (i.e. contribute more to emission reductions than the company emits), water balance, waste management and bio-diversity. WWF will be a key partner for Wipro in the Eco Eye program.

WWF India through its Climate and Energy Programme, aims to bring in a paradigm shift towards climate smart development. A core element of the programme is to look at resource smart solutions for ecological sustainability and low carbon economy. The programme will work in strategic partnership with Wipro to bring a transition towards low carbon development path.

This partnership is another sign of how fart things are moving and the kind of innovative approach some leading companies in the emerging economies have. I really look forward to this project. I actually started to work on a possible report on the plane back from India as I hope we will have results ready for the India Economic Summit and NASSCOM CEO Summit, more later.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Low Carb(on) food - Rating restaurants around the world

About 25% of the climate impact from an individual is due to our food habits. Compared with energy use from buildings and transportation [that require significant structural changes that an individual can do little/nothing about] this is an area that almost everyone in the OECD - and rich people in emerging economies like China and India - can do something about.

Skip meat (start with red meat) or at least reduce it drastically, is probably the easiest and most ethical you can do as an individual. (See Scientific American for example, a vegetarian in the US emits one and half tonnes less CO2 than a meat-eating American)

Changing habits is not easy and eating and the very idea of phasing out meat can feel close to impossible if you want to keep your quality of life and have been meat all your life. This brings me to the responsibility of the restaurants. They set trends and provide people with opportunities to try new things. They also have time to think about the food they serve as professionals. By supporting people’s opportunity to eat more ethical and low carbon food they have the opportunity to support the transportation towards a more sustainable and low carbon society.

One campaign that could highlight the situation around the world could be to measure the “climate friendliness” among restaurants in key metropolitan areas around the world. A simple six level rating system could be used where average numbers for different cities (or even parts of cities) could be compared. By looking at the menu (in many cases this can be done on the web, making this campaign pretty easy to realize)

The rating system for restaurants:
A. Climate footprint provided for all dishes, non veggie dishes are indicated on the menu instead of indicating the veggie dishes and handing out veggie recipes : 6 points
B. More than three veggie dishes: 3 points
C. At least two dishes and not more than one of the three below: 1 point
D. One veggie dish, not any of the three below: -1 point
E. Only one of these: Salad, Pasta, Risotto: -3 points
F. No main course: -6 points

In India right now and there would be very many B restaurants and the opportunities for A as the marking of “non veggie” dishes are almost standard.

Two other things I would like to explore:
1. Rate TV programs and web pages by leading chefs from a climate and ethical perspective. How much do you help people and the planet, and how much do you destroy, by following the recipes from Jamie Oliver compared to Martha Stewart?
2. Develop an electronic climate guide for buying food that can help compose low carbon dishes.

The most important is, and this must never be forgotten, what you do at work or together with other (too many politicians and business leaders duck their responsibility and think "individuals" or the "market" should move first. Stuck in a system that keep people depending on cars and living in energy consuming houses that is hard. Wired had an article about "the man" showing how much CO2 that is due to the infrastructure, can't find it but I think it was around 8.5 tonnes per person [here is the article].). Big changes require big coordinated actions. Changing governments and companies is what we need much more than change of light bulbs. If the planet depend on it governments should ban old light bulbs and responsible companies stop selling them, not asking people to chose between this and a million different things. But food is emotional so if people start thinking about food maybe things can start to happen?