USA Notes 2014

6 September 2014

On my way from London to Detroit today to explore a transatlantic partnership on sustainability and CSR.

7 September 2014

Residence Inn Ann Arbor is home away from home for the next week. It’s near a Burger King & a shopping mall (Briarwood), so I’m all set ;-). Oh my ding-dong-doolally word! I discovered some bigger-than-my-face cookies at the mall (no salad on the side either). As it is, I’m feeling guilty about breakfast, not because of the waffle I had, but everything was throwaway – cups, plates, cutlery, milk.

I spent the day walking around the city, including Michigan University campus and the Museum of Art. There was even a touch of Cambridge about the Law Club building, so I really feel at home. But it got me thinking: Why do we create inspiring green park campuses for students, then send them to work in soulless grey towers?

Among the more interesting sights: American Apparel advertising that they are ‘Sweatshop Free’ in their shop window, and a pedestrian crossing sign that someone had added wings to, so that it looked like an Angel Crossing. Or perhaps it was Nike, which I just discovered is the Greek Winged Goddess of Victory.

12 September 2014

Meetings yesterday were with Tom Bruusema from NSF Sustainability and J. Scot Sharland from AIAG (Automotive Industry Action Group). Enjoyed dinner last night with the inspiring Pradeep Chowdhry – serial innovator, BOP (Bottom of the Pyramid) pioneer and sustainability professor. Today, I also had a good conversation with General Motors Director of Sustainability David Tulauskas. Expecting great things from the new GM.

13 September 2014

Detroit, MI – I have enjoyed my week in Michigan. Working with Chad Kymal from Omnex has given me a rare opportunity to come full circle with my professional journey, connecting back to the kind of business transformation consulting I did at Cap Gemini 20 years ago, but this time applied to my area of interest, i.e. corporate responsibility and sustainability.

The process of co-creating services for Omnex led to an intellectual breakthrough of my own, namely to coin Creating Integrated Value (CIV) as the successor to CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), CSV (Creating Shared Value) and Corporate Sustainability. This is about integrating across issues – which we’ve called S2QE3LCH2, standing for safety, social, quality, economic, environment, ethics, labour, carbon, health and human rights – as well as across management systems and the value chain. Besides designing the CIV approach and services in some detail, the outcome is that Omnex wants me to head up (part time) their CR & sustainability services globally.

Apart from working, I had a chance today to visit the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, where I drove in a Model T Ford and saw a replica of Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory complex. It was good to see an acknowledgement – in their review of the 20th century – of the historical impact of the environmental movement after Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and more recent pioneers like Seventh Generation. I was struck by how far our technology has come in the past 100 years, but paradoxically how we have failed to reimagine the car in all that time.

Displays like the Weinermobile made me think that innovation without a meaningful goal – like creating a better world – is a waste of imagination. By contrast, Edison’s inventions have all gone through countless waves of creative destruction and reinvention. Of the two figures, I found myself impressed by Ford and inspired by Edison. I also visited the Detroit Institute of the Arts before heading to the airport (and passing the World’s Largest Tyre along the highway).

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