ESG Anarchy: A Catalyst For Corporate Change, Or Is It? (Podcast)
44 min

ESG Anarchy: A Catalyst For Corporate Change, Or Is It? (Podcast)

Posted by Picture of Paul Holland Paul Holland

For episode 3 of our Sense of Identity Podcast, I discussed the role of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) in driving corporate change with friends and experts in sustainability, politics, and business.

You can subscribe to our Sense Of Identity podcast series on your podcasting platform of choice using the links on our Anchor page.

Our guests for this episode were Andy Middleton, Simon Biltcliffe, and Graham Hooper who are all passionately working towards positive change in their own areas of expertise and in their businesses.

Simon Biltcliffe:

Simon Biltcliffe is an award winning CEO, international public speaker and business expert; widely acclaimed for his talks on his Marxist- capitalist business model, as well as talks on employee motivation and running a thriving organisation in the 21st century.

Andy Middleton:

Andy Middleton is an innovator and strategist for scaled-up sustainability change. He connects leaders to weave cross-sector projects that reconnect nature, enterprise and wellbeing with bold ambition to match the scale of challenge ahead.

Graham Hooper:

Graham Hooper is Business Development Director at Beyond Encryption with a diverse background in the financial services industry. He has over 30 years of experience in corporate governance, regulatory change, mergers and acquisitions, and distribution, and is a trustee of the Truro School Foundation and the Wave Project.

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Paul: It's the first time we've done an online podcast with a group but in fairness I couldn't think of a better group to do it with because every time we've got together this has been fascinating for me.

So I figured it's only right and proper that we should share it with others.

So welcome Simon Andy and Graham.

Oh and by the way my Christmas calendar I hope you've all got yours ready for the 1st of December we're nearly there.

The title we gave to this session Was actually ESG Anarchy a catalyst for corporate change or is it?

And so I'll explain exactly why this particular group I think is pertinent to that that title but to sort of give some synergy in terms of who's on screen for you at the moment.

What I would say is that there is a clear connection certainly as far as I can see between Simon Graham and Andy around the environmental their social you know attitudes and aspirations.

And I would say also political you know Andy I know and Graham have worked in an advisory capacity politically in the past And I know Graham also has done some work with the BBC from an educational perspective as well I would say.

And I know Simon particularly has been keen to seek influence politically for all the right reasons.

So I suspect this also has a synergies around those topics but I guess the piece for me that I was quite keen to see if we could solicit from the group was this whole subject of ecology sustainability and a subject I know that you guys are very passionate about alongside for Graham, Cornwall, lived down in Cornwall all his life with his family.

So he's very passionate about the region he lives in Wales for Andy and Yorkshire for Simon so all very absolutely I live down south so slightly different.

But proud - wherever you're from, proud is the main thing.

When we've met previously, leaping straight into things, I think the one thing we've all agreed about is that there's an awful lot of lip service being paid around this subject of sustainability.

And some of the stories and war wounds and things is what I'm hoping will come out through these sessions because they're for me their always fascinating.

Now I know when we chatted very briefly before you know there were some real real staunch opinions around what we're doing wrong in that context because I particularly know Simon in your TedX sessions which I'd highly suggest people go and have a look at you talk about they sort of capitalist, the Marxist aspects to your life.

Capitalist- making sure the business does the right things for profit Marxist in terms of the social aspect of ensuring that people gain out of the profits that are derived from the very successful business in sort of marketing and output and all sorts of things these days from what I can gather.

Andy you know you've spent a lot of time on the circuit talking about sustainability and with YTF group you described yourself as being someone that I think is very cognisant of risk you know taking people hundreds of thousands of people out to do what would look like dangerous things in a safe way. So risk is in your in your mind's eye all the time more than that part of your life every day.

And Graham obviously having been a a prominent spokesperson player innovator in financial services, working with Beyond Encryption you know you're also involved with things like the Wave project which is you know got that bigger social aspect as to how it can influence people's lives.

So starting off in terms of that when we looked at the topics for today talk is cheap communications invaluable.

But I wonder whether it would be interesting first of all Andy when we chatted some time ago you know we talked about the fact that everyone's trying to get on the bandwagon to a certain extent about this green theme, claiming they're going to be doing carbon credits and planting trees and all that stuff I wonder would you mind sharing that kind of war stories around that side of things to get us kicked off in this conversation?

Because you talked about some of the statistics around that and the fact that it you know share more share more.

Andy: So before before I dove into the numbers I want to tell a couple of quick stories that that show I guess where this stuff starts to go wrong and the first story is thinking about Snow White and the Magic Mirror.

And the magic mirror used to tell people that they look beautiful when they didn't.

And what ESG has done is create this illusion that businesses are doing better than they are.

And what they forget is that behind the magic mirror is a window and it's a window that if you look out on the world tells the truth And that's the window that businesses do not want to look at when it comes to knowing about what the impact of their work is on climate and biodiversity.

And a second story beyond the fairy stories but still in childhood I was talking a few weeks ago with our head of inspection for schools asking him, saying so am I right in thinking that outstanding is the best grade that a school can have.

He said yeah that's right, this is the best that a parent could hope for for their kids.

Am I right in thinking I asked him that every child then leaving an outstanding school would be fully prepared for the world of climate and nature emergencies coming their way.

And he said after a pause he said well that's not really how it works I said Well you'd be a bit disappointed if you found that out wouldn't you that the very best standard you can hope for is completely inadequate for the world ahead.

And whether that's the governance of our school frameworks or the governance of our business frameworks I believe we are completely inadequate in terms of the way we're framing risk and response when it comes to that.

And that there is kind of right now as we're recording this we've got the World Cup going on and Gianni Infantino has promised that this will be a completely carbon neutral World Cup and they're buying carbon offsets that don't even take carbon out of the atmosphere and only quoting a third of the carbon that they've been produced, according to Mike Berners-Lee the UK carbon expert and Kevin Anderson climate expert at Manchester University Tyndall Center, talks about it being dangerous and deeply misleading what they're doing.

And to put that into scale all of the stuff that we're hearing about carbon offsets is fairy tales like the Snow White story about things that can't happen but they make it sound good and allow us to improve things.

So to put that in context In a higher consumption economy than ours in the US it would take around about something between 640 to 700 trees per person to soak up the emissions per year In the US alone that would mean planting an additional 200 billion trees.

So we've got to get rid of the magic mirror look behind it and look at the real data about the scale of change that we got to make to actually allow our future generations to create space and thrive So it's time to stop the bullshit start the decent true and honest conversations.

Paul: I know that that's something that Simon and Graham have been talking about a lot in their work. Yeah that sense of realism when - we chatted about this earlier didn't we it just seems to be missing you know and the urgency and the school piece actually that's that's quite profound isn't it to think that your own kids are not necessarily being armed?

Just on that subject it was something else that was said in the past I can't remember Simon or or Andy said it that some of the largest areas of influence business leaders are being guided by are when they go home and the kids are saying Mum dad what are you doing about this stuff?

And yet you know it's a very emotional subject and like you say we're just not prepared and not really taking the action we should I mean you chatted about this earlier Simon didn't you?

Simon: Yeah I mean that's one of the things it's fascinating if you look at the really important things that mattered in the world we don't we don't teach them at school We just don't go anywhere near them.

So if you look at democracy and I think we kind of take that for granted we don't teach kids the importance of voting.

Our superpower is our vote It's free not just to but nobody has to pay for it As long as you qualify for a vote you've got it and nobody we don't talk about why democracy is important.

And obviously democracies have a rule set in there which are more enlightened than the alternatives we've seen.

You know I've got unfortunately I've got three Ukrainian guests and we see I can see firsthand the kind of trauma that that's causing when we don't value democracy and we don't have that.

You look at in business in organisations not for profit or profit we all know that to work effectively as a team you have to look at any issue any opportunity in the round as a project based thing.

And yet we don't teach (that to) children.

With the exception of a few schools like XP Academy in Doncaster which is an exceptional exemplar of how you can teach in a project based and or expeditions as they call it because we have to look at things in the round.

We look at things from a social point of view.

You look at from an environmental point of view from an economic point of view as a project everybody nobody ever says I'll tell you what today I'm going to work and I'm going to look at the geographical aspect of what we do you know you don't you know we don't teach them that.

And then you look as you know Andy's just said you look at all of the macroeconomic kind of challenges the environmental challenges the biodiversity challenges If there's a little bit in there then we're lucky/

So these are three key key areas and if you look at the titans of industry how so-called we're all measuring the wrong things.

Success is in some kind of in a postwar American kind of frame of having more getting more everything's about more you know the more money you get the happier you are the more you stuff you get the happier you are we really need to redefine that.

And one of the things that Andy and I was lucky enough to go to Eden Project a couple of weeks ago.

And I met somebody there I've never heard of to be honest, a lady called Jane Davidson and she has in Wales got now this future generation law passed that every investment decision every plan that they have to do with the Welsh devolved government has to enhance the future generations' ability to thrive.

And I was so impressed with it.

I bought the book there you go just brilliant.

It's that kind of future facing thing and every leader in whatever form should be held to account on that basis from their own children from the future - are you enhancing the future future generations rather than the present?

Are you are you feathering your own nest now?

And that gives you you know an opportunity to redefine what success being a successful person is.

There's a link there's a really important link between the point that Simon writes about the wellbeing act and the work that you're doing Graham.

So the wellbeing act has its thing and it is a duty to maximise contribution to the goals.

So to maximise contribution you've got to know what's possible and I know the work that you guys have been doing through Beyond Encryption around paper use and so on.

You're starting to get a sense about what's possible and there are huge gaps from what I understand between what the best people do and what the worst are doing.

Paul: So how do we close those gaps?

That's leading into a question I've got for Graham actually.

So we chatted and said there was a comment that we declared this climate emergency and I think Andy you made the point but there's no consideration to the macro level of what may actually be done to get there to make a difference I mean Graham on the pension and wealth side of things there's been a lot of focus around the assets that people hold.

And I think Simon pointed out that that that can have the most demonstrable impact on all our carbon footprints or you know on our sustainability position.

You know as you say Andy we're trying to help in our own way with that But it's been quite amazing that in this economic cycle the economics of removing print are probably higher on the agenda than the ESG impact.

But what's your experience graham In terms of what's going on in the background on the investment side is that are they actually walking the walk?

Graham: I think the honest answer is some are aren't I mean it's interesting with pensions they have the one advantage linking back to Simon's points about short-termism.

They have one advantage of investing for the very very long term.

And you can make very very long term decisions for the better I think the average life expectancy in post of a UK CEO is something like five years.

Well coming back to you know self-interest well it's that's the time you've got to in post.

You're going to maximise your share options maximise the profit of the business because you know you're going to be out of a job.

So it's a bit like the political thing - you talk about democracy - well you know political parties are not here to get reelected in the next four or five years.

They're not here for for the long term benefit of individuals And I think you know you have to take a longer term view to make the better decisions. Some pension funds are doing that.

It's difficult for them though you know.

I mean when your short-termism is there to deliver scrutiny on performance, for example fund performance.

You know if you don't get that right you're out.

So you might have the best intentions in the long term but you get no breathing space.

There are examples of fund managers who have done really really well over the longer term.

Two quarters of underperformance, it's all over the press.

People start taking their money out.

It's a really it's a difficult conundrum, we are getting there.

We are seeing smaller companies, I mean you could reel them off now you know first wealth EQ investors, Eden Tree, Gresham House, Impact you know they are all changing their philosophy not just from an environmental and ecological point of view but for impact investment as well.

But they're small.

And to be honest it's easier for them to change their model than it is a company like BlackRock or somebody else who've got trillions you know fidelity've got trillions, just to morph over time is really difficult for them and there's.

Andy: There's a really good stat on this from a campaign called Make My Money Matter which you can put in the notes to the podcast and they show that shifting your pension to one of the ones that Graham mentioned to like a deep green ethical investment makes 21 times the difference in terms of carbon impact than going veggie and switching your energy provider.

And stopping flying - put together 21 times more impact than that because of course the scale of money that goes in there with an average UK investment per person of like 25 grand is enormous compared to the day to day shopping decisions we make.

Graham: That's a really good point Andy that thing is where can you go back up the food chains to have the most impact?

So you I'm sure you'll recycle and I guess everybody does these days and every bloomin' fortnight I do it I see this amount of plastic thinking oh god.

We try not to buy this stuff and it's still it's still there I mean that was the business to be in 20 years ago if you wanted to make money but I think you know that that that change is happening over a period of time and it's happening at the top level.

But if you're a printer that's always been a printer it takes you time to morph into being more digital world because people you can only move people so quickly - you know some people haven't got computers still you know they but from a regulatory point of view they have to give you this piece of paper that says you know this is how much this cost this is what it's going to do here's your valuation and all that sort of stuff.

Now we're seeing moves to change that but it's not happening quickly enough.

Is it catching up I mean so it's fair to say that you're all ahead of the curve on you're thinking I mean as a topic.

Paul: Simon you've been involved in this for a long time I know some you referred to yourself in one of our conversations you know people viewed you as a bearded weirdie because you were a hippie.

And thinking about the topic way earlier than other people it feels to me like it's gone full circle now though because actually it's trendy to talk about it but are they actually taking action about it?

Simon: I'm not entirely convinced. The plastic camp thing Graham is is a classic.

You know we all did that because I thought what a great idea.

And then what you find out is that even if you sort your plastic the amount of that still that goes into landfill or isn't actually recycled having just told you that you can try and recycle it it comes down to local authorities.

You know at a local authority level they're either acting or they're not So you know it's not been led is it.

And I think there's plenty of case studies out there how you can use behavioural economics and economics more sensibly to drive the change Capitalism is a very blunt tool It's a very mature tool.

When we look at it from the existential crisis that we are going through things like they call them rather euphemistically externalities you know the fact that they don't count in a conventional capitalist you know company or economy but they can easily be counted.

And you know you look at a carbon tax carbon tax would make all the difference because it brings in the cost of whatever you're doing to the actual sell price.

So that drives investment because then there's an opportunity cost of not producing that and all.

So you know things like recycling you look at places like Scandinavia where they've got 97% recycling of meaningful recycling not burning them like we do and because they've got deposits on bottles and cans and things like that.

Yeah these are you know these are things that we've done before Why do we want this common sense easy stuff to do?

Why why don't we bring them in?

You know this is not difficult It does take political will though and this is where politics is important and if you look at you know investments you can have objective greenness rankings of these things you know so you you define it a bit like you know wasn't that long ago.

We didn't have you know EPCs on houses.

We didn't have the energy kind of stickers on the side of white appliances.

You put it in there then all of a sudden it drives the right behaviours because then it matters It counts.

And that's what we need to do And you know you look at inequality.

You know places like Sweden have made people's tax returns available for all to see for over 100 years.

Well and they've got one of the most equitable societies in the world because people know that they're going to be seen.

And if you've got a standard of living which doesn't equate to the tax burden that you're doing it gives them an opportunity for people to go whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa.

Let's have a look so transparency on all of these things.

And that's all we're looking at.

The cost of this bottle to the environment is actually bring it in as a deposit.

This you know going on to what Andy's saying about the pensions this pension will give you a reasonable return but really does assist the change that we need to make.

Well then that actually means that you're more likely to be successful get transparency in to most things in the world and it solves an awful lot the problems and you know so you can go through in each case how you could how you could change the world for better really easily very little cost.

You know these aren't huge investments but it seems a bit like judo Judo you're not going like this.

You wait for somebody to do it and then you use their power against them to do it so let's use capitalism.

You know it's a great way of creating wealth but let's change it so that it delivers the type of changing the world that we need to do for future generations and sustainability.

Graham: You can change by behaviour which is a real catalyst.

There's a relatively small drinks company called Dash Water and it's carbonated water but it's there's no additives no preservatives no sugar no calories entirely recycled through the whole sort of value chain.

And they're gobbling up It's not cheap but they're gobbling up market share all over the place because consumers are choosing to buy this rather than the sugar and alternatives which are obviously bad for you.

There's another company Dun Agro based out of Holland they're going to import through a company called Hemp Alliance into the UK building products and they're building products i didn't realise this until i looked into it, you know they're really toxic not just from a carbon in point of view but from that from a toxicity point of view as well.

And the reason why it'll work is because it's cheap.

They put up a four bedroom house in the north of Holland I think it was six people working on it over seven days and one crane for €48000.

You know as a first fix sort of thing Well think of the social housing benefit You could do that Think of the concrete you could replace over that sort of thing These things are coming It's just not quick enough I don't know how we scale these things up.

That's the my frustration really I suppose.

Andy: Just to come I think to build on to bridge kind of some of those points and yours though Graham I think you know we need not only as well as teaching democracy and transparency in schools and our business schools.

The problem with business for me I think with businesses like Dash Water which may be a great business when you have statements like here at dash water we create delicious fruit infused water with simple ethical ingredients but they still put water in a can and sell it to people and that has got no place in a civilised society.

You cannot justify doing that kind of stuff when you can be carbonated at home if that's what you want.

But the logic in a limited world of bottling water and aluminium cans regardless of how many times it's recycled is nonsense.

But we accept in an ethical business when it's a business that shouldn't exist.

And until we have the conversations that have got enough courage and transparency and data behind them you never get to a point at which we can imagine getting to a an end point that's actually worth arriving at.

Graham: And I guess it's a journey isn't it I mean you know at least when I've seen those cans of water at least there isn't a material that is heading in the right direction.

Paul: I agree with you and I think you know overall there's not enough movement but the problem is as a as a business I mean I think this topic matters to people.

It really matters to my kids talk to me about it you know and as I think you gave me a- they're a big driving force for change.

But the question is is the B Corp structure for instance we've been going through the process of trying to get ourselves accredited because it matters to the team here that we're doing the right things.

Is that is that the only way companies can outwardly demonstrate their commitment to this stuff? Because that's the trouble isn't it? Is You know you've got to be commercial.

Simon: The truth I mean we are a B Corp and it's for us you know as one of the originators of b corps you say you were a b corp before b corps existed because a lot of it codifies it which gives people a kind of a map to go towards doing doing the right things and an externally demonstrate double standard if you like.

So that that's good. But that's playing at it.

You know there's a thousand now in the UK which is good It's probably two or three times what it was two years ago but a thousand I mean there's probably a thousand businesses starting per day in the UK you know just to put it in some kind of context

And this is where politics matters.

You know you take out the we play by the rules that politicians make and the more transparency that we have the more likely you're going to get compliance.

But you need to set the right rules you need to set what success equals which is why I want you know personally I'm moving my time from business into politics not because I want to be a politician.

The very last thing I'd want to be in life is a politician.

But if you want to change things at scale you've got to get involved with the political process.

To drive that to get the nudge into law.

And then as soon as it's mandated people comply.

Yes there'll be some people that are trying to work around it but the vast majority of people comply.

And this is where I was really excited by what Jane Davidson did with the Welsh government because they've got it into law and now these are driving changes that make a more sustainable country because you have to you know you have this acid test before you you bring something in.

Does it deliver an enhanced future for the generations of Welsh?

And if it doesn't it doesn't get passed it's a you know these are kind of things the approach that we need on a much wider scale.

Andy: And I guess against building on that again Simon I think the you know so as you'd expect in a small country and everyone who is involved in sustainability in Wales was part of the process of developing that legislation but it is only government that it applies to and it should affect the supply chain and so on.

But where for me the only way we bring that we really catalyse really large scale change is by bringing the best of what you're describing Simon together with the best of project you know third sector environmental projects projects like the wave Graham that you're involved with and government into the room and work out where are we trying to get to you know what does it look like to live in a one planet country that's using only one planets resources and at the minute to give a global sense of scale.

The world's 350 biggest food companies employ to 8 million people between them half of them haven't got a carbon target today and you're kind of going this is just like it's completely unacceptable.

I think the point that Simon makes about politics is that yes the vote we make is important but we need to teach in our schools from primary that politics is about how you live how you engage with your community not about a vote you put in a box once every two or three four or five years.

Paul: What about everyone's feelings towards the sort of you know you hear people talk about this topic and talk about the inequality of the geographical you know emissions piece with China contributing in the sort of levels they do and and the fact is some countries just simply don't seem to be toeing the line or even you know looking like they're going to bother.

You know it's tough in it when you're trying to you're trying to make people change.

But they cite examples of of those that just simply seem unwilling to do it.

Andy: You know so one of the one of the great things about carbon accounting is that is that the UK doesn't count the cost of its shiny technology in its carbon accounts because it's made in China so all of China's carbon footprint takes into account the products it's making for Western economies and we don't count it on our books.

Simon: It's the same as drax You know there's a recent Panorama program about drax doing bio you know with it's biomass boiler up here in Yorkshire and it's cutting down trees in Canada because it's not here it's coming as carbon neutral I mean it's it's it's madness and it's shipping it one side of the world to the other to burn it here.

Paul: But it almost feels like a repeat of the everyone should get diesel because diesel I've remember them talking about emissions being better associated with diesel and then they they realise was that data was then being used in the conurbations and therefore the the the carbon footprint in cities was worse and now they've they seem to shifted it to electric which you know electric vehicles which are you know far from sustainable as far as I can gather.

Andy: And I guess I think there's an interesting piece that Simon and I you know Simon Graham and I will be acutely aware of living in effect around the edges of the UK is that I was talking to a local authority chief exec a couple of days ago who was saying that the difference in absolute life expectancy between the richest and the poorest wards in his county was about 15 years so so where your born determines how you eat how you drink whether you smoke or not how you live your peer group and the 15 years of absolute life expectancy is acceptable within our economic model as being something that's successful.

Graham: Well I think that that's you know there's one postcode in Glasgow I think where the average life expectancy for a a male is 49 years as opposed to 70 odd years is 70 or 80 years or things.

So but but it comes back to education I think from from one sort of perspective.

But equally I think you know you've got to incentivise the people to do it as well as the political side.

So so until this stuff becomes cheaper and more acceptable you know people are just going to take the easy option for the vast majority of time.

And whilst the education's sort of moving that way and we're seeing people people moving there it's still slow.

So you know if you took the percentage of people investing in impact investment and environmental investment you know through these companies that actually have it at their core Simon's point as opposed to just a bit of it you know it's relatively small.

I mean it's really teeny weeny you know in terms of it would be a few billion verses trillions globally.

So I mean it's the point Simon's making. You've got to make it law haven't you you've got to you've got to enforce it.

Well that I'm sorry then you've got so let's pretend everybody disinvests in Shell and then you've got you know you've got other issues around that sort of an environmental point of view.

And Shell is trying to move but it's just really difficult for a company like them - I'm not waving the flag.

Simon: But it's not it's not difficult.

It's lack of will Of course they can.

They can do it - and you know if they if they need to do it they do it.

So this is where carbon tax comes in.

And you know you get the levers right?

It it won't take long for them to do it if they if there is a commercial incentive to do it.

And this is where perhaps bonuses chief exec bonuses and senior management bonuses are based on their future earning potential and their impact on society.

And you know this is like you know boiling the ocean.

These at least the things that you can do but you need to do it at that individual level to drive the change.

Graham: We are seeing, if you look at corporate voting on companies and pay pay and conditions there is definitely a move.

The shareholder and investor rights now are coming in as they've never done before because what happened in the past was when you invested in funds you sort of gave away your rights to somebody else not you know 90% of the time to vote on your behalf.

Simon: But people are activating you know at the grassroots level and they are making change.

They are voting against people that are sort of you know taking too much money out of companies doing the wrong thing from an environmental point of view from a social point of view it's not quick enough.

Andy: But you know it's a movement that's really gathering pace really quickly and it's enabling the individuals to use the power they've got coming back to your democracy point Simon about you know you have a vote you know just because you're investing in something it's not it's not some abstract thing out there that you're just investing in something get the return.

People are more interested in that.

And the demographic the younger the demographic the more they're doing it which is it's it's a big step forward It's a small step forward.

So two quick things to throw in I think I accept your point to an extent Paul saying it's a journey but we have not long you know unlike the 15 degree target is not a target but it's a threshold after which safety gets worse.

And we've got around about 3000 working days to take 78% of the carbon out of the UK economy.

And if if everyone delivers on all of their promises at the moment we hit 27 degrees and nobody's planning for that even though that's all a commitment.

So for me I think we've got to this is back to the governance point that Simon raised earlier.

We've got to radically rethink this.

And I had a walk last week with a creative director called Simeon Rose from Faith in Nature Shampoo and Soap Company and they've just put nature on the board of their business.

They're the first business in the UK to do that.

And if every business or every the top 50% of businesses put a seat on their board on an advisory or governance basis one for nature and one for future generations and listened to them.

So the governance structure was dialled.

So they have to listen to their voices alongside things like carbon tax that could shift business really quickly.

Yeah that's that that feels like a really good.

Paul: I was just about to ask the question what would you say to a CEO to to ensure that the ESG phase of the air is is the primary business objective I mean yeah I think you just cited you know a great example of that.

And I know you know again it feels a bit like lip service that the larger companies you know the COP26-27 outputs you know and what voice they have I don't know But reporting on your ESG policy and your impact as part of your own your accounts what what other advice would you give to a CEO that wants to make sure that this is a primary business objective.

Andy: Talk to their children.

Talk to their children and sense check what they are advising on their day job outside of of in the world just to ask their kids what they think.

Simon: You know it's it's not difficult It's not difficult.

We have this abstracted view it doesn't help by the media have this perception of business you know.

The Apprentice and the you know these kind of assholes oh you know and Dragons Den and oh you know it's not like that in business.

It can be human and it can be really thoughtful and kind you know.

And a lot of businesses are nowhere near most businesses are nowhere near The Apprentice or Dragons Den in that kind of approach this egotistical nonsense and most people as soon as they step outside of their workplace and the kind of KPIs their numbers that they have to hit they're really nice people that go quite often in the work environment.

And I guess building and I guess building on that there's a lovely there's a lovely example from Ella's Kitchen one of our fellow b corps and they did this piece of research that showed that 67% of business leaders with kids had upgraded their sustainability policy at work as a consequence of conversations around the dining table.

Andy: So I think definitely ask kids but I think my advice would be to like is to recognise that the safety the ESG creates is a bit like the safety of running over a line of crocodile backs to get yards of a swamp ESG is a really dangerous practice that will never guarantee the thriving future that our species needs because it's because it's based on bullshit.

And spin because it's not an absolute measure of whether or not we're living on one planet's resources.

So ESG can at best be a temporary stopgap until we work out what the measures look like to demonstrate that all of our businesses are regenerative which means that they are restoring stability to climate and nature in a way that is net positive in terms of putting more back than we're taking out.

And at the minute ESG has no framework for doing that kind of work.

Paul: No it almost feels that because of this using the R word recession You know everyone's now starting to focus on other things to the loss of you know probably the most important topic in our lifetimes.

Really you know and certainly when you look at the cyclical nature in one of the other podcasts we did recently with Chris Read actually at Dunstan Thomas he said look you know the markets are very cyclical.

We go in and out recessions and you can almost predict the periods and the conditions and the effects of recession create this sort of Whack-A-Mole syndrome.

You know people make cuts they remove people from businesses they reduce therefore reduce service and therefore people get a worse deal etc etc.

It just feels like there's so much distraction around commerciality and business as usual that it's you know this has been lost.

It's still being lost as a topic which is just gobsmacking I think Graham you said the other day that there was a stat you gave it to me.

But you know again in terms of outputs in our small way that the amount of paper that these you know some of these companies still generate is there was I can't remember that stat but you said it was kilometres high in in terms of output.

Graham: And so yeah there's a UK company and they know they've got an issue.

They're going to do something about it Fidelity where if they said they if they stacked all the A4 paper they print out at the moment it goes like nearly a kilometre high sort of thing you know they don't want it they are looking for technological solutions.

And you know my question would be how quickly you looking at it you know because those solutions are out there now you know.

Simon: And again you know going back to what Andy was saying about these these wonderful things that we have here the carbon footprint of them ain't zero and the servers and the this that and the others.

So let's get a good balanced approach to these things.

And I do think you know a bit like with the Ukraine more we're seeing if we harness that again in the judo analogy harness that kind of punch that we've had and say well let's double down on renewables let's double down on that in a recession.

Let's let's think lean let's think frugal you know you know we can't we can't in future have more let's reuse things more effectively.

Let's use things more effectively than we have.

We need less than we think we possibly do to have a good quality of life and have more time to go out into nature to go out into you know spend time with each other which is you know we've tried to do at Webmart with the Webmart oxygen farm which is a you know a retreat that we've got for the business and you know we've used cash off the balance sheet to create a rewilding environment for everybody to spend time with.

And you can do that you know just saying this you know 166 acre beautiful place up in Coldingham where we can we can spend time.

Well how do you do that well I said it's easy you take cash off your balance sheet you turn it into an asset and everybody enjoys themselves more because intellectually emotionally and financially delivers value for the organisation.

You know it's just you've got you realise you've got more choice than you think is possible and sharing these examples you know the kind of examples that we've all been citing here.

There is no central repository here where we can draw on you know XP Academy as a secondary school which doesn't teach subjects it teaches projects but as a consequence things are still outstanding.

They still go GCSE they have to do all of the stuff that we know but they enrich.

The kids that come out of there are just so much more attuned to the life that they need to be going going forward.

So that was a creative example of a secondary school a state secondary school nonselective where it delivers a much better outcome and at a better cost effectiveness as well.

You know it blows your mind.

Andy: But so I think the whole question and then building on that Simon as well is that you know I can't imagine any any recruiter or owner in any business who would prefer to pick kids who've just gone through an outstanding school that ticks the boxes and gets the grades over kids who've been through an experience like XR because every employer wants curious confident problem solvers who can ask questions and stand their ground.

And that's not what we're teaching.

So I think for me in the heart the biggest thing on my list but my kind of my to do list is equipping I don't know 20% of the UK population so 10 million people say cutting out the very old and the very young with the functional skills to be able to spot the dots that connect food and fertiliser and health and air and health and all of these other bits together so that they can start to have different conversations about the future that they want to live in.

Because right now people don't know what the most people are concerned but they have no idea how serious the risks are that heading our way.

They have very little idea because it's never shared on the media about the cool stuff that's happening that they could start having in their community right now.

And and because of that climate anxiety is kind of weighing heavily on kid's shoulders rather than the kind of enterprise skills we want about shifting our economy to being one that grows health and nature and climate stability at the same time.

Simon: Which any good business should be delivering I think the time is the issue andy as you say you know so i'm so involved with BBC children in need you know chairman of the school foundation the wave project you you know the the environment for a civilized society that we're bringing our children up in is is pretty appalling when you just look at you know I think it's over 6 million kids now you know defined as living in poverty.

And that's not a great place to be in.

So I mean the scale of it is just massive But I think your point about education both of you make it you know if you start today you give me the chance because you know you've got to start kids in the right start in starting line of life as it were really.

And at the moment we're getting nowhere near it from a from just a survivability point of view let alone from an environment environment a point of view.

But there are examples exemplars of doing it.

And this is the thing you know we're not trying to split atoms or do nuclear fusion that we haven't managed for years.

These are opportunities out there and this is where I think you know we need to have practical examples of real world delivered outcomes that are better that we can copy.

And there's nowhere at the moment, yes laws are massive in terms of that to scale change you need laws.

But in the meantime if you show people how we can do that and it's not difficult some of these things but if you've you we have this perception that you can't do an awful lot these things.

And I think you know I've always railed against the professional classes because they have a you know to become a professional an accountant a lawyer a banker you have to go through these professional exams which they channel any creativity they had into.

There is only one way of doing this to pass your exams whatever you And so the only advice that nascent young entrepreneurs of is yeah you can't do anything outside of that.

But in reality there's huge amount you can do.

You can use all of the creativity the innovation there and still be a compliant business.

So this is one of the things that I want to try and do I've got a website and I've not done anything on it for years it's called free business dot com that I need to do free ideas for businesses that you can go and just either no cost or low cost ways of running a better business try and get you know harvest all of the great stuff that's going on in the world into one place where you can do it.

And you know we you know we in our chats before we've had these we all know different people and different things when we thought we if we could just put it in one spot and say how you know signposting how you can do it if you want to do this you want to do that.

There's loads of stuff out there. We just need to bring it together as a you know not for profit just you know not for any commercial advantage.

Just harness all of the great ideas and then signpost people to them - if you want to do something like that this is how you do it.

Paul: I always ask this question because I think and it maybe in the context of the ESG the sustainability thing that if you could give your younger self a piece of advice one piece of advice if you can relatively short and never run time but what would it be? Start with you Andy.

Andy: I think my young my advice to my younger self would be be far more radical and bolder younger because you never know you never know what you're capable of doing and you don't need to wait to get age on your shoulders before you can do that.

Graham: Stay in contact with your environment sooner I mean andy and I joke about he's a surfer bum from Wales and I'm a surfer bum from Cornwall.

And when I went to London I got caught up in the London thing work in the city and all that sort of stuff and I'm embarrassed by it now but it took meeting Andy to actually change you know 20 odd years ago my view of the world it was always in there and implicit in there and it was what I really wanted to do.

So yes tap into your environment quickly get used to it understand it and live your life according to it.

Simon: To be honest I don't know really I've got just you've got the two brains you know one pair the rational and the gut go with your gut more you know you gut feeling you know what's right.

You know what I mean?

And we don't we don't kind of somehow we overthink things and want to you know what's the right thing to do.

Just spend time doing it.

The good thing about it is in this world that we're in at the moment is wherever you are you can do it.

You don't have to move I have to move down.

You know when I left you know that miner's strike and I had to move down south.

There was no jobs up here and it took me 32 years to get back to Yorkshire and it killed me you know being away from it now we can do it here.

There's a load of opportunity here trust people you know I'm lucky I'm from Yorkshire.

We start trusting people from day one You don't have to build up a rapport you know just trust people and be open with people and you tend to find 99% of people are great and they don't try and do you over and stuff like that.

So trust people and share ideas with people and stuff and you you tend to be able to move so much faster if you if you trust people and you enjoy it more you know you're not trying to be over get it over complex just crack on and enjoy things.

Andy: And what is the advice that you're your younger you'd give your younger self Paul?

Paul: It's really struggle to find something that would come anywhere near those brilliant ones I think can certainly win my my boys it's be ambitious and thinking with you gut has been a phrase i've used with my boys since they were they were kids but and don't and don't focus on the the formality of a qualification is you know which which you which you touched on before the most brilliant people I've ever met you know their skill is not in the fact they got a piece of paper saying they got a degree.

And the subject is the fact that they empathise with people.

They communicate you know and they have a good understanding.

They're good human beings you know and I suspect that that will serve them in greater stead than having gone to university or anything else is the truth of it.

Andy: If I if I could be cheeky and have a bonus my bonus piece would be something around you know learn how to ask questions to stop people in their tracks.

Because at the Anthropy event that Simon and I were at there were quite a few young people which is great and some of them are saying oh you know we need to have a seat at the table and you go Great You got a see to the table what do you want to say Oh I want a seat at the table You know it's beyond that.

Whereas I've met some young people you know 22, 23, 24 years old you have an ability to ask like razor sharp questions that are said with love and compassion that would stop you thinking as you did I think so for young people to learn that is - it shortens the interface between what they're thinking is and what our behaviour their parents is and and these short circuit a generation of change.

When you get those questions in the right place.

I have a suspicion as well that they're said with a less fear of compliance that's the other one isn't that everyone everyone wants to be you know toe the line do the right things but they're doing is challenging challenging the norm which is what basically we're saying to people now isn't it - do things differently.

Paul: Listen that's been really brilliant I suspect we can go on for hours and hope we'll do this separately from a podcast again.

Thanks for your time, appreciate it.

Andy: Pleasure indeed

Simon: Yeah pleasure

Graham: Thanks Paul


Originally posted on 09 12 22
Last updated on May 19, 2023

Posted by: Paul Holland

CEO and Founder of Beyond Encryption, Paul is an expert on digital identity, fintech, cyber security, and business. As a key driver behind the development of Webline, one of the UK’s most well-known comparison engines, Paul has vast experience in developing digital technologies and bringing them to market. Through Beyond Encryption’s Mailock, nigel and AssureScore solutions, he aims to make a positive impact by helping regulated businesses engage with customers while keeping their data secure.

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