Sunday, September 12, 2010

Jo's Gems - Confino in action!

Today, I had the most wonderful of days hosting Jo Confino of the Guardian. Jo was interviewed by a leading daily business newspaper in Israel, The Marker, spent an hour talking to about 20 editors and journalists of The Marker in an open discussion about sustainability and the media, and  further two hours or so talking to a large group of CSR and sustainability professionals from the Israeli market. All in all, a fascinating day loaded with insights from the inspiring, multi-faceted, values-led and sustainability-minded Jo. Before I summarize the key insights, here are the fotos (especially for those who would scroll to the bottom first in any case):

Jo being interviewed for a front -page story in The Marker

Jo in full flight

Part of the audience enjoying Jo's insights

Ok, that's the easy bit over with. Now for some of Jo's Gems. Jo's talk was a fascinating mix of philospophy, the expression of values, the business case for sustainability, the difference sustainability can make to the Guardian and vice versa, and some practical tips and advice for companies. Below are just a few of the insights Jo shared.  

On Life and Zen
Everyone has to have meaning. Even someone who buys paperclips can have as much meaning as journalists.

A Zen Buddhist Master told me that "we are eating our children" (but neglected to say whether this is after they have been seasoned with organic herbs) (sorry, couldn't resist that last comment).

On values
Integrity is not just a physical thing. You must also have integrity on the indside.
There is a point at which you can hide from truth and change, and a point at which you cannot.
You have to have a sense of purpose.  

On Web 2.0 and a new approach to journalism
We are opening ourselves up, allowing others to see what we are doing and get involved. Once, a newspaper printed an article and put it out there, and that was that. Now, putting the story on the website is just the beginning. It's like saying: Here's the article, now let's have a conversation.

The web is about sharing and becoming a hub, and not being proprietorial.

On Sustainability Strategy
It all depends on how you frame things. Once we started thinking in terms of "How can sustainability help ensure the long term success of the Guardian?", a whole new world of possibilities opened up. This was a positive framing of the issue, rather than the negative framing we usually hear (stop doing this, don't do that, reduce this, change that etc.)

Businesses can now see that they can make money from sustainability and that it can be a core business benefit. 

CSR is like the American Cavalry Bugle for businesses. Years ago, the only thing that  businesses knew what to talk about was money, there just wasn't a vocabulary of sustainability.

It is hard to envision exactly what the future will be. We can't see beyond the current system. But you have to set goals, even if you dont know how you are going to achieve them.

On Sustainable Consumption
We are on a runaway train to hell .
We are using 5 planets.
Sustainable consumption may invite a lot of cynicsm, but all the major companies are now talking about this.

On Sustainability Reporting
Good reporting should be a force for change.
It is important to have an independent verifier. For the Guardian, this was critical because of the Guardian's independent voice in the media and the desire not to compromise that.

On the role of the media
Companies are very fearful of the media, but if you are open and honest, you gain more respect.

On the future of the printed press
We have to accept that eventually, the printed newspaper will become a niche product. The only thing that will keep newspapers going is the lack of technology to provide adequate alternatives.

On the Guardian's Prokect in Katine
We wanted to tell the real story about the way community development took place in a local community.. not just tell the good news .. but tell the truth. We wanted to focus on one project and "get under the skin" of what's happening and leverage this in a transparent way. The success of the project wasn't the success of the project. It was how successfully we managed to bring out the true story, day by day. Our commitment was demonstrated by having two Ugandan journalists, one actually living in Katine, covering the progress and events on a regualr basis.  

On Leadership:
The biggest Agent of Change is the leadership. The leaders have to "get it".
It is important to get the leaders on board, but then you have to create structures to make things happen.
One of the core challenges at the Guardian has been to ensure Directors set their own measurable targets in the areas they manage.

THANK YOU to Jo for giving of his time and thoughts so generously. Thanks to the local CSR organization, Maala, for working so hard to organize this event with us. Thanks to the local office of BBDO (Gitam) for hosting the event with Jo. Thanks to The Marker newspaper for their interest in what Jo has to say and for, we expect, great coverage of his visit in the local press. And thanks to all those who attended Jo's talk.

This was a great event and Jo was an inspiration to all, despite the fact that he didn't mention Chunky Monkey even ONCE in all the time he talked.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Contact me via   on Twitter or via my business website  (BeyondBusiness, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

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