Mark Lee

Mark Lee is CEO of SustainAbility.

Has the corporate-responsibility movement lost sight of the big picture?

Just as people sailing full-tilt into an iceberg zone can get distracted rearranging deck chairs, those of us advocating corporate responsibility may be guilty of spending too much time fiddling with the nuances of the language that describes our work. We do this even as abrupt climate change, pandemics, and other mega-trends float, quiet but menacing, in our path. But as people like the Inuit have long known and acknowledged via their kayak-loads of words for ice and snow, language can powerfully shape thinking — and perhaps even influence our species’ chances of survival. What lies beneath? Photo: iStockphoto. Next …

Will cleantech turn mercenaries into missionaries?

Lately, politicians from Tony Blair to comrade-in-arms George Bush have raced to embrace green technology — at least on the surface. But is there substance behind their carefully crafted words? Venture capitalists are seeing green. Image: iStockphoto. Well, while government funds may be slow to swing around to so-called “cleantech,” venture capitalists are suddenly sniffing the air. We recently had the chance to take the pulse of the VC crowd, and it seems they’re ready for action in what is shaping up as a multibillion-dollar market. In San Francisco last month, the latest Cleantech Venture Forum — number IX for …

A little time in the lab could teach big business how to help the poor

Recent weeks have seen surprisingly effective demonstrations in support of animal testing in SustainAbility’s home city of London, under the catchy title of “Pro-Test.” Will support for the oft-reviled practice catch on? We aren’t sure, but it made us think. If we humans are animals, is there ever an argument for treating people as laboratory animals? And if we want to “Make Poverty History,” has the time come to put poor people under the microscope? Is big business seeing things in a new light? Photo: iStockphoto. Hold the outraged emails! We don’t mean literally. We are strong supporters of the …

What green looks like to the world’s emerging economies

Give a child a hammer, they say, and everything is seen as a nail — or at least in need of a good pounding. Likewise, give an environmentalist a brush loaded with green paint, and she or he may set to turning everything one verdant hue. Pretty, perhaps, but problems can arise when well-off painters try to “green” the people the communists once tried to “red”: the world’s huddled masses, the have-nots, the dispossessed, the poor. Backed up in Bangkok. Photo: Kelly Flock. While Grist‘s new series explores poverty and the environment in the U.S., we are wondering about a …

How the Olympics are becoming a sustainable business

This month, as the Olympic flame makes its torch-uous journey to Turin, Italy, most people’s eyes are fixed on the upcoming games. But our eyes are focused a little farther down the track. In our role as sustainability consultants, we’ve joined the field of those helping the London 2012 Olympics committee work out how to site, design, and host a green event. It’s a win-win. Environmental concerns weren’t uppermost in Greek minds back in 776 B.C. — though we assume those laurels were woven from organic olive leaves — nor did the games boast a green agenda when they were …

Is the world ready to waltz with nuclear again?

Most of us know what torture it is to be a wallflower, so it’s hard not to feel at least a slight frisson of sympathy for the nuclear industry. Once considered “most likely to succeed,” this promising power source found itself stumbling in the 1970s. It was bad enough after Three Mile Island in 1979 — particularly when Jane Fonda got to work in The China Syndrome. But this wallflower status was taken to an altogether different level in 1986, in the wake of an event whose ongoing repercussions will provide some of next year’s great news hooks. She’ll be …

The ebb and flow of corporate eco-consciousness

We remember a certain look businesspeople used to struggle to hide when confronted with their first real-life environmentalist. It was as if they had been presented with an alien life-form — a creature from some green lagoon. Some felt threatened, no doubt, but others were genuinely perplexed, curious, sympathetic even: “What made you one of those?” they would probe. In reply, they might hear about an experience or revelatory moment that suddenly made the world look very different, spurring action. Watch out now. Decades later, we are seeing accounts of similar experiences from the business side — even from the …

Ford’s green guru discusses cars, climate, and time-warp activism

Last month, Ford Motor Co. CEO Bill Ford laid out a new vision to turn his company into a leader in technological innovation and, just perhaps, an environmental performance champion as well. His announcement, including the promise to produce 250,000 hybrids annually by 2010, comes during a time of trouble for the industry, and we watched it with keen interest. You say more hybrids, I say more hijinks. Photo: Wieck Media. First, our own “full disclosure”: We work for SustainAbility, a think tank and consulting agency headquartered in London, and Ford Motor has been a client since the late 1990s. …

New E.U. environmental standards are changing the global marketplace

Europeans are a wee bit funny when it comes to incubation. During the Middle Ages, they obsessed about the threat from incubi, evil spirits rumored to descend upon women and have their way with them as they slept. Then (in the condensed version of history) came the New Economy, and incubating was all the rage, at least in the Silicon Valleys and Alleys across the Atlantic. Before long, most self-respecting European cities had jumped on board, boasting sparkling high-tech incubators too. Now the tables have turned entirely, and the European Union — far from its bod-fearing roots — has emerged …

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