Greetings, blog-readers! I’m just back from vacation, in time for the launch of Guardian Sustainable Business US. Much as I enjoy my work, I confess that I enjoy my time away from work even more. I felt fortunate to be able to spend a week in the south of France, hiking and biking with my wife, two daughters and their spouses, enjoying the scenery, the food and the wine, and not necessarily in that order. I’m more of a beer guy than a wine drinker but the chilled rosé in Provence is a perfect complement to the warm summer days and nights. Nearly as good as our local Dogfish Head. But I digress.
My new part-time gig as editor-at-large of Guardian Sustainable Business is going great. It’s enormous fun to be part of what feels like a startup inside a media organization that is nearly 200 years old. Working with the Brits is a treat–they are a lively and irreverent bunch, none more so than Jo Confino, who is an executive editor of The Guardian and founder of the sustainable business site.
I’m now dividing my time between Fortune and The Guardian, which, I suppose, goes to show that the sustainability agenda can cross political, cultural and national boundaries. Or maybe it’s just evidence that biology is destiny. My father worked for Fortune back in the 1950s and 1960s, and I remember as a kid visiting him in the Time & Life Building. And we spent a summer or two back then in Manchester, England, my mom’s home town, where the local paper was The Guardian, then known as the Manchester Guardian. I would search the paper for baseball scores, and toss it aside when I couldn’t find them. Only recently has The Guardian begun to cover America’s pastime. You could look it up. But I digress, again.
The Guardian has hired Jennifer Kho, formerly of GreenBiz, to be the managing editor of the US site. Charlie Wilkie has moved to New York from London to lead the business side. Over the next few weeks and months, Jenn and I will be looking for contributors, as well as story ideas, so please feel free to be in touch.
Here’s how Jo explained our plans for the site in an introductory essay:
This is an exciting time, given the increasing recognition that the business of business is much more than just business.
How times have changed. When I was a Wall Street correspondent back in the heady days of the 1980s, there was little if any space to talk about the role of business in society.
But faced with climate change, resource scarcity, biodiversity loss and human rights abuses, US companies are beginning to understand that if they are to be successful in the future, they need to go beyond their shareholder-centric world view and engage more deeply with all key stakeholders.
While other media companies are reducing the resources they devote to key sustainability issues, we intend to broaden and deepen our coverage, with the support of a senior and respected US-based editorial team, including Marc Gunther and Jennifer Kho.
A dedicated US team will enable us to provide a much more indepth coverage of the American business sector, the trends, best practice and leading-edge thinking. For our global audience this will mean more round the clock comment and analysis on the most pressing sustainability issues.
The US team will be supported by a host of top experts including leaders from civil society and business.
The key reason we are expanding our coverage is because it offers one pathway to fulfilling the core purpose of the 192-year-old Guardian, which is to hold power to account and to help foster social justice.
We recognise that time is limited, and that while some companies are making incremental steps to change the way they do business, the problems we face are running away from us at breakneck speed with potentially disastrous consequences.
At the same time, there are signs we may be at a turning point, with the sustainability movement starting to shift from the fringes to the mainstream. We want to help foster this.
That’s because, quite simply, the time has passed when companies can continue to think of corporate responsibility as mere philanthropy. It is also vital they stop seeing sustainability from the standpoint of compliance, risk and efficiency, and recognise that it is a key driver of innovation and future profitability.
This is why we are happy to be working with launch partners, Nike, Procter & Gamble and the United Nations Global Compact, which all understand that fundamental change is necessary.
We will endeavour to engage you with commentary, blogging, in-depth analysis, open journalism, cutting-edge data visualisation, interactive technology, and also a large dose of quirkiness and fun.
Beyond digital content, we will be hosting regular events, beginning with our joint event with BSR on human rights and business in New York, as well as developing podcasts and expert roundtables.
We will not be focusing solely on large publicly-traded corporations but will also report on responsible family-owned businesses as well as emerging new business models that are based on the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit, such as B corporations. Only this month, Delaware became the 19th state to enact legislation enabling the formation of public benefit corporations.
This chimes very much with the Guardian, which is values-based and independent: the only reason it exists is to create excellent journalism. We are owned by the Scott Trust, with no proprietor or shareholders, and have over the past decade developed our own sustainability vision and strategy. This has led to the creation of our environment and global development sections, as well as Guardian Sustainable Business. We understand the idea of doing well by doing good.
Our ownership structure gives us enormous freedom to deliver and discuss stories in new ways. And because we are open, we are able to put the reader at the heart of what we do.
So we ask you to get involved and hope that we can play some small part in helping businesses across the US from taking the next step towards a more sustainable future.
As Gunther recently wrote: “The sustainable business agenda has never been more relevant. And the opportunities for companies that take an expansive view of their role in the world have never been greater.”