Greece 2010 Notes

12 June 2010

This has been a crazy leg of the trip, but worthwhile. I delivered the keynote address at an inaugural conference on CSR 2.0, hosted by CEO & CSR Money Conference 2010 and sponsored by EuroCharity.

It was nice to be in Athens again. The first time I visited, in the late 1990s, I was in transit with 10 hours to spare, so I rushed around the city, visiting the Acropolis and other historic sites. It was hot, crowded and I wasn’t terribly impressed. One of my most vivid memories was of all the half-starving stray cats in the parks. Of course, I could hardly do the city or country any justice in 10 hours!

The second time I came to Greece, it was for a meeting of the ICCA (the organisation that sponsored The A to Z of CSR book). I was whisked out of Athens to some luxurious coastal part and remember having a bath in my hotel room with a view over the bay. Luxury indeed!

This time is different again, although no less luxurious – I stayed (if arriving at 2 am and checking out the same morning qualifies as ‘stays’) at the 5-star Olympic hotel, which overlooks the historic heart of the city, with views of the Acropolis as well. It is strange to think that Plato or Aristotle could have been in that very place thousands of years ago.

As my colleague, John Elkington, who shared the platform with me at the conference, said to our hosts: ‘Thanks for civilization!’ The conference was in one of the historical buildings right in the centre of Athens’ green lung. Apart from the wonderful cool marble floors and walls, the towering pillars and patterned ceilings were beautiful. Terrible acoustics for a talk (lots of echoes) but a welcome change from the usual plush hotel conference rooms.

Being in Athens again really made me thing about how things have changed in the past 10 years or so. When I came the first time, it was in the lead up to the 2004 Olympics and I remember a conversation with a taxi driver, who was optimistic about the future for Greece. Now, their economy is in tatters and their national pride is severely damaged. They have unwittingly become the ‘canary in the mine’, a warning for the rest of Europe and the world about the consequences of corruption and greed (or are they just a victim of shareholder-driven capitalism?).

How the world turns!

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