27 June 2017

How My Simple Purpose Statement Stays Fresh [Hint: It's Real]

My sons, Jasper & Walker, in Alaska, July 2008
“My goal is to catalyze innovation and investments that generate a new prosperity by improving our world, sustaining our environment, and generating profits.”

These words are posted at the very top of my LinkedIn profile and, come to think of it, these same words appear on the top of my resume as well. 

Yesterday, a new contact on the site noticed my words and commented on it, wanting to hear more. That got me thinking about its origins and relevance.

I remember writing this goal statement twenty years ago in a workshop led by one of my mentors, the consultant and philanthropy guru Simone Joyaux. I lived in Alaska, where I worked for The Nature Conservancy, and my first son had just been born. I sat on the board of a professional association there and we invited Simone to speak at our annual conference.

Envision the world you want to live in and the impact you want to have, Simone instructed us. Then think of your goal – in life, work or life and work – and how you might achieve that vision.

This is what I came up with, “to catalyze innovation and investments that generate a new prosperity by improving our world, sustaining our environment, and generating profits.”

I don’t remember editing it much after putting it to paper. Perhaps I tweaked it a little and smoothed out any rough edges, but it’s pretty much intact. And it stuck.

Every few years I revisit this goal statement, taking a fresh look. Should I rewrite it? Does it need updating? The goal is twenty years old. Does it still express who I want to be in the world?

Reviewing this purpose, however, I always end up recommitting to it. It’s still my goal, and has been on my journey since it was written -- from The Nature Conservancy to Ashoka to VerdeStrategy and, even at EY, where what I’ve done over the past five years touches several aspects of that goal.

Surprisingly, even at a big four accounting and advisory firm, I’ve been able to find work with purpose.

My work at EY over the past five years includes working with cleantech CEOs on their growth journey and developing a digital grid solution from a single smart metering engagement in South Africa to a partnership with Microsoft that will soon scale the solution around the globe and help utilities extend power to more people.

In the workshop Simone led, she also asked us to follow up our goal by stating how we get to the what; how we achieve our goal. Here’s how I put it:

“I do this by working with people committed to collaboration and breakthrough innovation, linking vision to action with people, and attracting and deploying capital to achieve results and lasting impact.”

Seems like a tall order, but when you break it down, it becomes clear:

1.) We’re better working together than at cross purposes, so finding others committed to collaboration and innovation is essential to move forward;

2.) Creating a vision is one thing, linking it to the action we will take ensures the vision has a chance to be realized; and finally,

3.) We can’t do anything without capital, so we better be able to attract it if we want to achieve results and lasting impact.

I’m proud of the fact that my goal statement – my purpose – hasn’t really changed in 20 years. It still represents the vision I have for the world and how I’ll show up in it. The vehicles I use and the people and organizations with whom I collaborate may change, but my purpose remains the same.

I’ll follow up this post with some real-world examples -- and thank my new contact for prompting me to think about my goal and purpose again all these years later.

03 June 2017

Top 5 Reasons US Pulling Out of Paris May Not Be a Bad Thing After All

Snowflakes were melting all over the Internet. The sky was falling and people forgot all about secret messages encoded in typos from the Tweeter-in-Chief.

On Thursday, US President Donald Trump did what everyone suspected he would, despite the advice of some of his closest advisers, corporate heads, and even a family member, he pulled out of the Paris Agreement.

Did President Trump Intend to Poke the Polar Bear?
I'm not convinced he really knows what he did or even what's actually in the Paris Agreement.

Like many of Trump's decisions, this one seemed knee-jerk, ill-informed, and spiteful.

He wants to renegotiate to get a better deal?

The agreement is non-binding, each country gets to set its own targets and decide how to get there, and almost every country is involved.

What more do you want?

Look, I'm not convinced these big global agreements do much good. I've long argued that there's more hot air and fewer teeth in these types of global pacts than a nonagenarian who's just eaten a bowl of chili. 

But with the Paris Accord, at least everyone was participating -- everyone, that is except Syria, which is too war-torn to commit to anything, and Nicaragua, which didn't think the agreement went far enough.

Renegotiate? Come one, Donny, even some of the best deal makers in the world could see this was a pretty sweet deal, considering how much polluting we've been able to get away with over the past 257 years since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Under the Paris Accord, developed countries will contribute towards the so-called Green Climate Fund, intended to be the main fund for financing global climate change projects in the context of mobilizing $100 billion by 2020. The fund is designed to help poorer countries reduce their emissions and address the impacts of climate change. 

The price tag for the US is a meager $3 billion -- $1 billion of which was already paid by the Obama administration.

Folks, that's less than $10 per person to help fund such projects as "development of irrigation and groundwater replenishment systems in northeastern India, where climate change has made monsoon rains less reliable; a hydropower plant in the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific to eliminate diesel generators; and restoration and protection of Ugandan wetlands that are used by subsistence farmers," according to the New York Times.

(To put this in perspective, Business Insider reported last year that people around the world spent over $10 billion on beverages at Starbucks in 2015. At Starbucks alone!) 

In any event, what's done is done. Well, there is that nasty business of the time it takes to actually withdraw from the agreement. By some estimates, the process won't be completed until the day after the next presidential election in 2020.

The reaction to this threatened withdrawal, however, has prompted some unintended consequences --perhaps Donny really is a genius and his decision was meant to encourage states, cities, companies, and individuals to act, and spur private investment to address climate change. 

Here are my top 5 reasons the US Pulling out of the Paris Agreement may not be a bad thing after all:

1.) Climate change "ratings" went way up. Okay, well, Google searches on "Paris Accord" hit an all-time high on Thursday around 3PM Eastern, and then quickly dropped back down to normal. However, "climate change" tracked along with it on the uptick and, arguably, got more attention in the media in any 24-hour news cycle since Superstorm Sandy hit.

2.) Rather than prompting countries to abandon the Paris Accord, Trump's withdrawal seems to have strengthened the resolve of many of other countries. Some, such as China, see the US withdrawal as an opportunity to increase their share of the pie when it comes to addressing the issue. As Reuters reported on Thursday, China and the EU pledged to come together to fill the leadership void created by the president's decision.

3.) US cities, States, and companies are stepping up their game in response to Trump's trashing of the agreement, as the Times reported Thursday.  

4.) Captains of the private sector, including leaders of Goldman Sachs, Disney, Tesla, and Apple have recommitted to tackling the issue. Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein even joined Twitter to voice his disappointment, and billionaire Michael Blomberg pledged $15 million to help tackle climate change.

5.) Trump's pulling out of Paris may have poked the polar bear. By doing so, he may have awakened a force to be reckoned with -- the many organizations and individuals already committed to finding solutions to the climate change issue, especially those who have been on the front lines of the environment, social justice, and renewable energy for decades. It may also serve as a wake-up call to many others to take action.

In the end, the decision to withdraw may be heralded as a catalyst to finally getting the world to rally around the climate in an unprecedented way. Perhaps not what the Donald intended with his reality-show build-up and reveal in the Rose Garden, but potentially a pretty good ending.

31 May 2017

Pulling Out of Paris Agreement is Bad for Business

Should we stay or should we go?

President Trump is following the advice of entrenched, vested old-economy interests that would turn our backs on a bright economic future. If his vision to make America great again requires further dependence upon fossil fuels like coal and oil, then we are headed back into the Dark Ages. 

The Paris Agreement isn't a lock on the bridge.
It is the bridge.

Explain to me how ceding the economic prosperity represented by energy innovation, and climate mitigation and adaptation to China and India makes us great? 

Leaving the Paris Agreement throws our climate and future economic success under a bus. In doing so, Trump ignores the pleas of his Secretary of State, his daughter, several conservative Republicans, and many of the most successful high-growth company leaders in the US. This isn't just sad, it's a bad decision.

Staying in the Paris Agreement is good for business, as CEOs of 30 companies with major operations in the United States, including Dow Chemical, Proctor & Gamble, Goldman Sachs, and Coca-Cola (not exactly greenies!) argued in a 10 May letter to the President. 

Why? Because, as an ad that ran in major U.S. newspapers, including the New York Times, New York Post, Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere, which was signed by technology giants like Apple, Facebook, Google, Gap, HP, along with energy and utility powerhouses National Grid, PG&E, and Schneider Electric, explained, the Paris Agreement spurs economic growth in the United States by strengthening competitiveness, creating jobs and markets, and reducing business risks.

When even ExxonMobil (and its former CEO, Rex Tillerson, now Secretary of State) supports the Paris Agreement and believes the oil company "has a constructive role to play in developing solutions," it's hard to understand what is motivating the President to pull out at this stage.

The Paris Agreement provides a level playing field for all countries -- except Nicaragua and Syria, which are the only two countries refusing to sign (great company, huh?), provides certainty for businesses and investors, which in turn allows for long-term planning and investment, and encourages market-based solutions and innovations that can benefit our economy, build a new manufacturing base, and create a future-focused industry.

Pulling out of the Paris Agreement is bad for business, bad for the planet, and a bad deal.