simon zadek

Now for something (not so) different…

Hardly had I pressed the button on my recent ‘Thank you, Harvard’ blog that I received a cascade of emails asking me what i was planning to do ‘next’. Normally I would not use my blog to detail my (presumed) place in the world, but to fill apparently an information vacuum this blog will be a (hopefully rare) exception. Those with no interest or having already over-indulged in such enquiry need read no further.

My preoccupation in my last two years at AccountAbility was three-fold: the responsible competitiveness, new forms of collaborative governance , and that small matter of climate change. On the first, the challenge was to push the business and sustainability to the next level in making it a competitive matter for nations, not just companies. On the second, the puzzle was that new forms of public-private partnerships could only scale up their impacts if they become structurally more significant, but this in turn created systemic governance and accountability challenges. And on the third, my work with Project Catalyst had brought me into a whole new sphere of inter-governmental work focused on climate but by implication driving questions forward on both responsible competitiveness and collaborative governance.

Eighteen months on (now), I can with confidence report that I have remained focused, for better or worse, on these three core topics. My work for the South African Government as team leader of the South African Renewables Initiative is focused on the challenges of scaling up renewables to a critical mass that catalyzes domestic green growth opportunities through the development of an international partnership to bring down the incremental financing costs in effect a blend of all three topics. There is much hope that this initiative can be brought to the point of launch in the run up to COP17, and so also illuminate for others just how ambitious we can and must be.

My newly-established role as Senior Fellow with the Korean-based Global Green Growth Institute is to develop its work on the next generation of public-private platforms advancing green growth, especially those inter-connected with inter-governmental relations. A key aspect of this is my current work with the Danish Government in establishing the Global Green Growth Forum, which will include an annual event showcasing the brightest and the best of these initiatives globally.

And my even newer role as Senior Fellow of the Centre for International Governance Innovation, linked to its alliance with the Institute of New Economic thinking, will be focused on the critically important issue of financial market reform and sustainability. As part of this work, I am working Jim Balsillie and David Runnalls in supporting the ‘markets’ component of the work of the UN High Level Panel on Global Sustainability.

Since early 2010, I have also had the good fortune to work as an advisor to the World Economic Forum on its sustainability initiatives. Core in the first year was its Critical Mass initiative, focused on the challenges of taking large scale renewables and energy efficiency initiatives to scale as part of a green growth alternative/supplement to an effective climate deal. This year the work has continued under the rubric of the Forum’s Sustainable Consumption initiative, with a specific focus on how businesses work with governments in advancing the policy innovations needed to advance profitable green growth opportunities. in addition this year i will be with the Forum, working together with the Global Green Growth Institute, be supporting the UK Government’s Capital Market Climate Initiative.

My work in China has progressed rather well since early 2010. Apart from the work on China and Africa, I have been drawn into being a member of the Task Force on Trade, Investment and Environment of the China Council for International Co-operation on Environment and Development, focused of course on the sustainability aspects of China’s competitive positioning, and the place of Chinese public policy in advancing such an alignment. This work has been very helpful in framing some of the work in South Africa, where over time the role of Chinese ‘green investment’ in Africa will be all important. Alongside this work has been my work on how accelerated diffusion of ICT in China can assist it in realising its new carbon intensity targets.

Alongside this work has been a small portfolio of work with corporate clients advancing their alignment of sustainability to their underlying strategies and value creation processes. For many years, this work has included at its core my engagement with General Electric, a company that has successfully transitioned from being at best outside of the sustainability community to one of its leading business voices and actors. Also in my current portfolio of corporate clients is AngloGold Ashanti, and until recently Nike and the Chilean copper extractive, Codelco.

And last but not least are some of the most fascinating moments spent in various board and advisory board roles. Three are of most note: my Board memberships of the Employers’ Forum on Disability led by Susan Scott-Parker and the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, headed by Ricardo Melendez-Ortiz, along with my membership of the Advisory Board of Al Gore and David Blood-led Generation Investment Management. Each of these has served to build my knowledge in their respective specialist areas, and offered me continued reminders of how tough it is to make purposeful institutions succeed in today’s world.

So its been a busy time. My work has leveraged my earlier experience, but taken it more deeply into practice, working with governments, international agencies and companies on how to get stuff done. Responsible competitiveness and collaborative governance have in this sense come of age, and are at the nexus of much of what challenges us today, and hopefully also is one peice of how best to meet these challenges. Needless to say, effectively handling such an extensive portfolio of work has required the love, care and hard work of many other people. At core has been Maya Forstater, Kelly Yu, Fernanda Polacow and Tania Gobena, four stalwart associates who have made so much of the above happen in practice. Then are the folks across all of the institutions with which i have been associated, Jane Nelson and John Ruggie from Harvard, of course, but also Dominic Waughray and others from the World Economic Forum, Jeremy Oppenheim from McKinsey, Rick Samans now Executive Director of the Global Green Growth Institute, David Runnalls now at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, Mark Halle at the International Institute of Sustainable Development, Edwin Ritchken from the South African Government and Saliem Fakir from the World Wide Fund for Nature in South Africa, and many, many others, most notably my life-long partner and guide, Mira Merme. To all who have brought me to this place, many thanks.

For those who wanted to know how I am spending my days, there it is, and for those who did not, apologies for time wasted. My luck and privilege has over the years been to work at some of the most interesting junction points of change, and i feel such a place continues to be reserved by someone, somewhere, for me given my current work. Lets hope it stays like that…

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