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I’ve been pondering this post for some months now. As a co-parent of a three year old boy and a nine month old girl, it’s been pretty humbling and demanding last few years. So what can handling pregnancy, (I got the easy side of that) and being a parent teach us about how we work? Here’s a few thoughts, in no particular order:
Humility: Particularly as a father, you go from being 50% of the relationship, to the least important person in the room, most of the time. I mean this in the sense that children and their mother of course come first, particularly in those early months and years. I went from being the boss at work, to being the sleepless gopher running to the shop before it shuts, desperately hoping they stock the right nappy size. Business lesson: As the founder of my company, this has helped me think more about my team, and their well-being. My first investor once said to me “the problem with you, is your business is all about you, and not about them. Make it more about them, than about you, if you want to keep good people”. I’m not sure I’ve totally got there with that, but fatherhood I think, has definitely helped.
Patience: I’ve never had much of this. I’ve been forced to learn it. For example, the patience to know that eventually the baby or the toddler WILL sleep, you just need to wait for that, (often much delayed gratification of rest) and it will come. Business lesson: Learning to tackle the “more haste, less speed” problem. Get the basics right, focus on the product, the people and the customer, and success will come.
Resilience: This is a big one. Kids teach resilience by example, but then you learn it as a parent, given you are what lies between the children and the wider world. You just have to keep coming back to the challenge of say, getting their trousers on in the morning, no matter how long it takes. Business lesson: Find the strength to keep going as if you have absolutely no choice (like caring for a sick child, for example), and that perseverance pays off in the end.
Strength you never knew you had. There are themes and overlaps developing here, I realise that. Strength you never knew you had, can come from carrying a wriggling screaming toddler 1-2kms home, after a long day at work, with no sleep the night before. Or putting them back to sleep for the 10th time in four hours. There are many examples. Business lesson: You can always do more than you think, even when exhausted. Think Shackleton’s example.
Humour: Changing the mood, or not letting the mood go bleak, tense or angry, using humour is so important. After 30 minutes asking my son to put on his socks this morning, I did it in ten seconds by pretending one of his socks was having a conversation with the other about going swimming later. Ten seconds after that socks and shoes were on, and we were headed out the door. I can’t stress enough how important it is to change that mood when things aren’t going well, business-wise or with kids, and how easy it is to forget to do it, in the heat of the moment. Business lesson: I’m not suggesting puppet shows in negotiating meetings, or difficult employee reviews, but keeping the mood light and changing atmospheres in a well chosen way is so vitally important, particularly in small groups doing complex tasks on deadline.
Persuasion: A compelling word that’s much harder to put into action than it seems. You can cajole and bribe toddlers, even threaten (no toys for you) but persuasion is the king. If your idea suddenly seems like their idea, it becomes a good one, even a great one. This is where I often just try and use enthusiasm instead, and it’s not the same thing. A work in progress. Business lesson: Lay the breadcrumb trail, as the saying goes, and if they can buy in using that, and other methods, you’ve done well.
Carrot over stick but…Incentives are simple, blunt instruments if materially based. Have a cookie, go to the beach, watch Paw Patrol tomorrow, these are simple cliches most parents use. But they don’t last long and become addictive for kids, and a way for them to manipulate situations. Business lesson: Very much the same. Think hard about incentives, and what unforeseen consequences they may have if purely financially or status/materially based. Persuasion for better motivation that drives a progressive culture, is far more effective long term, in my view.
Stick when it’s needed (actually boundaries) Ah discipline. With kids, (and what do I know, I’ve only been doing it just over three years), setting boundaries and enforcing them is vital. Where you set them, on the other hand, ain’t so simple. Business lesson: In management, particularly people management in knowledge/service businesses like mine, clear boundaries, better put as expectations, helps define culture, and we all know how much that matters.
But praise matters so much more. My toddler son responds so well to praise. Shouting “I did it, I did it” and getting praise for simple achievements, which are huge to him, I’ve realised is incredibly important. Business lesson: Praise more than you think you should, just don’t go too far and become insincere. But you have to go much further than you might think to do that. Tone and language are obviously crucial.
Empathy. Showing you feel their frustration and want to help fix it, I’ve discovered, counts for a huge amount. A bit like praise, you should show more than you might think. Business lesson: Leadership theory today mainly says showing you care and having them believe you are sincere, (and being so!) is really the most important element of leadership. Linked to the above lesson I got from my first investor, caring is everything (“sharing is caring” for my toddler son, which he now repeats solemnly whilst handing a toy to another child, bringing a lump of pride to the parental throat).
Appreciate fun (at unexpected times) You can be at your lowest physical and mental ebb, with little sleep for days, whilst everyone has cold, and you’ve run out of tissues, again. Then a child does or says something hilarious and you celebrate that moment. A recent example was my son, in the midst of a tantrum, breaking wind accidentally in the middle of it, then immediately laughing, pointing at me and saying “Daddy, that was you, you did it”. That killed the tantrum straight away. Business lesson: Not whoopee cushions at work, but looking for the humour (as above) and making competition fun, encouraging creative banter and finding challenges slightly amusing, are all part of that essential mix you need leading and motivating a team.
Spot problems early. I call it the snowball at the top of the mountain. Catch it early, it’s just a snowball, let it slip and it can be an avalanche. With little kids, it’s easier (is it tiredness, hunger, or frustration?). Business lesson: Drive an open, honest, culture, look for niggles your team might have and ironing them out early, which stops frustration and tension building. They of course, need to know that you want to know, and trust in communication is the key here.
Learn to apologise, and do it fast. I screwed up my son’s bedtime today. I got annoyed with his endless attempts to stay up by asking me for things, or asking questions. Tantrum and mild hysterics followed when I got frustrated and told him just to go to sleep for god’s sake. I took five, and then apologised to him for not handling it well. I got a hug and he was asleep inside ten minutes, whilst we’d battled it out for an hour before that. Business lesson: If you have a slight feeling you should apologise to a team member for even a mild over-reaction or lack of patience, then do so. Your instinct is likely right. It’s not weakness, it’s great strength. Just don’t do it every five minutes! (if you have to, you’ve got bigger issues to deal with)
Take them seriously, always. I got this wrong with my kids (I mention my son a lot here as my daughter is only nine months old) by totally underestimating how much is understood at a very early age. Talking to a two year old like an adult sounds like a silly idea. It’s really not. It’s proper parenting. Thank god I read a book that suggested it, and it’s transformed my parenting (by no means perfect but better). Business lesson: Your 22 year old newest team member may have zero experience, but she’s probably got ideas you’d never think of in a million years. Take the time to explain the plan, the challenges and listen. I’m not good enough at this, luckily I have a colleague who is far better. I’m still learning to shut up.
There’s no point arguing If you are arguing with a child, you lost ten minutes ago. All the other above factors count for so much more. It’s an obvious point, but an easy trap, particularly when you last slept in 2016. Business lesson: If you listen properly, and talk it all through, adding your experience to the conversation (not a monologue!) with proper humility, you can usually reach the right compromise, and move things forward respectfully, and constructively.
I could go on with this list, but there’s already much overlap between by above points, and no little repetition. So I shall stop here, dear reader. After all, the baby clothes haven’t been folded yet, those milk bottles don’t wash themselves, and the sock goblin may well make my boy end up at kindergarten on Monday with odd socks, once again, unless I get busy. Oh, and I’ve got inboxes to empty, and a business plan to write…
Over the last few years I’ve occasionally posted something on here from my sustainable wine blog, which probably was a bit niche for some of you.
It’s been a fun journey learning about how sustainability has changed the wine sector over the last few years and hearing some of the leading winemakers speculate on what may lie ahead.
So now I’ve decided to turn it into a business.
Together with my friend Agatha Pereira (the best blind taster in wine you’ll meet), I’ve started Sustainable Wine Ltd, and we’re holding our first event in London on November 4th.
I’m redeveloping the blog into sustainablewine.co.uk where there will be a weekly newsletter and, I hope, regular events. The business model will be, as usual with my businesses, conferences combined with free publishing of articles, podcasts and maybe even some video.
I hope some of you can join us there. Prices are not unreasonable to attend, but space is limited.
The Future of Wine Forum: How sustainability will transform the industry
A focused one-day business conference for winemakers, retailers, distributors and the wine value chain. To be held on Nov 4 2019 in London.
Our objective is prioritising debates and discussions, clarifying some of the confusion around what sustainability means and how you put it into practice in the wine industry.
When: 4th November 2019
Where: The Conduit Club, Mayfair, London
Register here: https://bit.ly/2XAXebl or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s a SlideShare link to the short document about the event so far. We are still looking for speakers if you have anyone to suggest, and sponsors are always welcome!
Here’s a few choice excerpts which include some helpful framing numbers:
“Approximately 70 percent of deforestation is connected to agricultural commodity production, and deforestation alone accounts for approximately 15 percent of global emissions
“All IPCC pathways to limit global warming to under 1.5 degrees require a global halt to deforestation. Forests are a natural carbon sink that sequesters carbon, removing 10-15 billion tonnes annually from the atmosphere. Some estimates suggest that forests’ ability to sequester carbon could account for 23 percent of global climate change mitigation by 2030.”
Onto investors, the note summarised progress thus far as such:
“Notable investors that have incorporated “detailed, time-bound” policies to curb deforestation risks include HSBC (USD 442 billion AUM), Rabobank (USD 669 billion AUM), and Credit Suisse (USD 374 billion AUM). Meanwhile, the largest pension fund in the United States, CalPERS, has included deforestation in its investment policies. ESG investing has risen sharply in recent years and is mainstream. Globally, sustainable investing totals USD 31 trillion, about 10 percent of global wealth, with Europe in the lead”
“Despite the growing awareness, attention to deforestation-related risks among investors has been limited. As a whole, financial institutions lag behind companies in developing zero-deforestation policies. The top 10 asset managers in the world, which have approximately USD 25 trillion of assets under management, have not incorporated detailed zero-deforestation commitments with timelines.”
So there we have it: Some activity, but deforestation is not yet specifically on the list for the biggest asset managers, particularly passive types such as Blackrock.
The two day conference will attract 350+ business leaders to debate and showcase real world solutions to the most pressing challenges in commodity supply chains. We’ll look at what’s driving value chain change and how business is working to deliver on increasingly difficult sustainability targets.
Sessions will be centred around four key themes of Land, Forests, Farmers, Livelihoods. Agenda highlights include:
2020 targets and beyond: What’s been achieved and what’s next for business objectives around deforestation?
The landscape approach to sustainable commodities: Is this the most effective way to drive resilient rural communities?
Sustainable land management: How business can enable better water management, tackle the soil crisis, engage in climate smart agriculture and embed sustainable agriculture techniques
The decade of ecosystem restoration: The possibilities and what it means for climate change, offsets and re-invigorating nature
Social and economic outcomes: How business can embed sustainable practices, boost livelihoods and drive resilience amongst smallholder farmers and local communities
Reframing the narrative: Should business move from enforcing zero-deforestation to incentivising sustainable development when engaging producer countries?
Business and biodiversity: How to effectively monitor, protect and promote biodiversity throughout operations and supply chains
Landscapes 101: In-depth practical workshops into the fundamentals of the landscape approach and how business can get started
Cross commodity learning: In-depth case studies into leading initiatives, programs and partnerships across a range of commodity supply chains
So far we’ve confirmed senior participants from organisations such as Mondelez International, Nestlé, Greenpeace, L’Oréal, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Dole Food Company, ICMM, Louis Dreyfus Company, The Nature Conservancy, APRIL, NYU Stern, Reckitt Benckiser, Soil Association, GAR, Sime Darby, The World Bank, Consumer Goods Forum, Cargill, Global Agribusiness Alliance, TFA2020, World Agroforestry, Ethical Tea Partnership, ASR Group, WaterAid, Send a Cow, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Earthworm Foundation, UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soy, Hilton Food Group and many more..
Please let us know if you would like a sample list of last year’s attendees and we would be happy to send that over.
We strongly encourage delegates to join as a team to ensure you don’t miss anything across the four tracks. Please get in touch for details on group discounts and feel free to share this with any interested colleagues.
Tanya Richard | Project Director
Innovation Forum: events and insights for sustainability
Plastics and their impacts are everywhere in the news these days. Most recently alarming news about rocky coastlines on islands covered in plastic, what’s being called “plasticrust”. Scary stuff. But as we know solving the problem is not all about just business. It’s about much more than that, including infrastructure, incentives, and much much more. We’re trying to do our bit by bringing together business to discuss how companies across the value chain can make important contributions to solving the challenges. More on that below.
In short, our research on plastics says these are some of the most salient issues today, when it comes to business:
Sustainable plastics and the next generation: What are the expectations, and how do we get there in reality
Circular economy: Fundamental steps we need to take to reach a closed loop industry
The role of government: How can government help and enable business in the fight against plastic pollution, and where does their responsibility end?
Finance and funding: How do we create sustainable funding models for innovation?
Consumer expectations vs consumer reactions: What we know so far about the response to sustainable plastic alternatives
Investor criteria: What investors want to see from your plastic policies
Product design and R&D: How to increase recycled content without compromising the integrity of your product
Defining extended producer responsibility: How far will it go?
Technology and partnerships: What are the disruptive innovations and technologies that could implement a sustainable plastics economy
Engaging marketing: How to work with and engage marketing departments to influence consumer behaviour around plastics
This is research we’ve done (desk, telephone research) for Innovation Forum’s upcoming conference: The Future of Plastics (30th-31st October, Amsterdam).
And here’s some recent interviews and discussions we’ve convened on plastics and sustainability, that might be of interest:
With plastics hysteria growing, the upcoming conference on Oct 30-31 will focus on practical, scalable and attainable solutions to the challenges surrounding plastics. Over the two days, we will equip business delegates with the guidance to develop and implement strategies for reducing plastic footprints, and making the right plastics sustainable.
You can view the full agenda here.
So far, we already have speakers confirmed from Coca-Cola European Partners, Ocado, Plastics Europe, Unilever, M&G Investments, Nestle, BVRio (3R Initiative), Walgreen’s Boots Alliance, Tarkett, Reckitt Benckiser, Braskem, Ball Corporation, Werner & Mertz and more.
If interested in being involved, contact:
Narni Brooke-Adil | Project Director
Innovation Forum: Events and Insights for Sustainability
“Malaysia, which has become the dumping ground for the world’s plastic waste, will send back non-recyclable plastic scrap to the developed countries that sent it there, its environment minister said on Tuesday.”
And also that: “some of the plastic scrap sent to Malaysia was in violation of the Basel Convention, a U.N. treaty on the trade of plastic waste and its disposal.”
And that: “Malaysia’s imports of plastic waste from its 10 biggest source-countries jumped to 456,000 tonnes between January and July 2018, versus 316,600 tonnes purchased in all of 2017 and 168,500 tonnes in 2016. More recent data is not available.”
This is also noteworthy: “Around 180 countries reached a deal on Friday to amend the Basel Convention to make global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated, while also ensuring that its management is safer for human health and the environment.”
So, could this now mean that:
1) The political environment for waste and how countries are now responding is suddenly rapidly changing. What will it mean for brands and their waste chains? Will there be emerging legal / lawsuit liabilities (not always exactly the same thing) for waste sent aboard with brand names on it?
2) Will companies simply HAVE to chip in and collaborate to build recycling facilities (what about collection? That costs even more) in the West as well as in Asia. The WBCSD fund has $1billion in pledges already for Asian nations from Western businesses)
The second point was made to me last week, unprompted, by the waste team of a large company I was meeting with in Chicago. I was pretty astounded but they seemed convinced it may be inevitable now the US recycling rate is down to just 34%.
We held it last year, entitled “How business can tackle plastic pollution” and most of the conversation was about consumers, reputation and targets/policies. In 2019 it may also be about legal issues, the politics of waste, and most importantly, the serious collaborations now needed, across the world on tackling waste. Big companies will be asked to play a leading role. The question is, how far will that go?
We’ve shifted over to our new website at Innovation Forum. It’s much easier to find your way around now. Check it out here.
Now, you can browse and listen/read by a number of categories. For example:
If you want to delve into some business innovation analysis, go here.
But if its brand and other expert insight into how business can, and is, tackling plastic pollution, then go here. This includes the conversation about how to make socks (more) sustainable. Check that out here.
Finally, a more general look at supply chain strategy, covering myriad issues, including the use of technology, you could do a lot worse than clicking here, and reading and listening away to your heart’s content.
Oh, and it’s all gratis, with no login, no annoying registration, and we don’t track you or do weird stuff like big tech does. We’re not that good at tech, and it’s weird, so we don’t do it.
This I hope makes up for the conference ads you see from me. We have to pay for the all the insight we publish somehow, and the conferences are pretty good, so try one, and come and meet us. Details at: https://innovationforum.co.uk
Upcoming events include those on the future of food, defining purpose and measuring performance, whether biofuels can ever actually be sustainable, tackling plastic pollution, a Detroit conference on measurement/purpose, and our big landscapes and sustainable commodities forum, which will be in November. More details on some of these soon.
Hope you are having/had a lovely weekend. I took my kids to the beach and got covered in sand. Summer is on the way!
The recent Sainsbury’s funded report, on the future of food, quoted in the Guardian, claims that: “Jellyfish suppers washed down with algae milk and bread made from insect protein may eventually become the norm, while shoppers will be able to pick up “lab-grown” meat kits from dedicated supermarket aisles – or get them delivered by drone.”
But let’s suppose the market for technology driven (lab meat) and innovation driven foods (vegetable protein, crickets, etc) moves more like renewable energy has (globally) than the revolution some say is coming.
In that case, we’d better get on with a common understanding of what we mean by sustainable intensification of existing agriculture. It’s a scary term (who likes the idea of super-dairy mass milk farms?) but one we may have to come to terms with, and fast.
Of course intensification doesn’t have to mean extra negative impacts. For example, can you use the term when describing how to improve the yields smallholder farmers get, with fewer chemical inputs per acre? I would suggest so.
These are some of the conversations I’ll be having with attendees at our future of food conferences (discussion and debate only, no PPT!) in Chicago next week and then in London on June 4-5. In total we have executives from hundreds of companies coming. I’ll am to ask for views on this important term, sustainable intensification, and will report back on the blog.
A sustainability expert I know, who is a farmer, replied to my question about his views on the term, thus:
“Intensification has become the mot du choix of those who want to excuse industrialisation of ag – ie. chemicals, GMOs, etc. All we need to do is farm differently, and be clever about the deployment of technology (hence the algae, jellyfish, bugs etc). We can grow all we need on the land we have and make it better land. We do not yet have an artificial alternative for pollination though, so unless we change the land, we’re f**ked whatever we grow”.
Interested to hear your views, readers.
In the meantime, try these: (one click access no annoying log-in nonsense)
More on our London event, given it may be too late for you to come to Chicago’s event, this year:
200 company execs and other experts will join us June 4-5 for the Future of Food Europe. Focusing on trends, traceability, transparency, trust and technology. Amazing attendee list. Still a few passes left but will sell out: https://innovationforum.co.uk/confer
Last year we held a conference called “How business can tackle plastic pollution”. It was very popular, in the end. Some attendees objected to the title, which was deliberately provocative. I had to point out to them, that when we originally launched the event, it was called “Why plastics are essential, and how to make them sustainable” and no-one signed up. Once we made it edgy, they did.
In the end it was a packed audience of brands all trying to work out how to respond to stakeholder and media fuelled demands on one side, to boards and investors on the other.
We’re putting together the 2019 version of the conference. And I’d really like to know what readers think of these below, as a list of key issues that have come up in our research.
What would you add to this list? Or take out…Thanks in advance for any thoughts. I am at email@example.com for responses. (replying to the blog email may not work alas)
Here’s the list of issues we’ve come up with, so far:
The five year plastic plan: What’s expected from business?
Making plastic valuable: Government’s role in changing the throw away culture
Circular economy: Fundamental steps we need to take to reach a closed loop industry
Collaboration: Case studies of partnerships that make a difference, and could be scaled
Consumer expectations vs consumer reactions to sustainable plastic alternatives
Engaging marketing: How to use your marketing teams to change consumer behaviour around plastic
How can brands and activists better partner to educate consumers around plastic
Reduce, reuse, recycle:
Product design: How to increase the amount of recycled plastic in your products
How is the global recycling infrastructure changing and what is the end goal?
How to simplify labels and packaging to make recycling second nature for consumers
New materials and innovations:
Funding is fundamental: Who pays for the R&D into more sustainable plastics?
The lifecycle of bioplastics
Creating new materials from heavy industry emissions
Market dynamics: ensuring ideal price margins and profits are achievable with alternative materials
Investor criteria: What do investors want to see from your plastic policies?
New plastic practices: successful pilots
Extended producer responsibility, how far will it go?
The future of the retail environment, what will it look like?
Look forward to your thoughts and ideas. Thanks in advance for taking a minute to consider.