This week, I begin work as editor-at-large of Guardian Sustainable Business US. I’m excited. My introductory column is here.
I’ve been writing for Guardian Sustainable Business in the UK for about six months, on such topics as urban greenhouses, salmon aquaculture, Amazon’s corporate irresponsibility and self-imposed carbon taxes at Disney, Shell and Microsoft. As a result, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Jo Confino, an executive editor of the Guardian and chair of Guardian Sustainable Business, Caroline Holtum, head of content for the site and Charlie Wilkie who leads the commercial operation.
When they asked me to take on the role of editor-at-large of a new, soon-to-be-launched US site, I readily accepted. I’ll be writing a weekly column for the site, and helping guide coverage of sustainable business in the US. (It’s not a full-time job. I will continue to contribute to FORTUNE and lead the magazine’s annual conference on business and the environment, Brainstorm Green.) The Guardian will soon hire a New York-based editor to run the editorial side, and Charlie has moved from London to New York to run the business side.
Guardian Sustainable Business US is essentially a startup inside a big, successful media company. The Guardian has been growing rapidly in the US for a couple of years now and, as you surely know, the newspaper just last week broke the mega-story about the unprecedented breadth and depth of US government surveillance. The Guardian has a lively and aggressive anti-establishment bent which reminds me of why I got into journalism way back when. It’s also done a fantastic job of adapting to the new digital media environment.
Here’s the mission of Guardian Sustainable Business US, as the company describes it:
There is increasing recognition among leading US businesses that they need to transform their business models to address the sustainability challenges of our age. As the Guardian continues to grow, sustainable business is a natural vertical for us to focus on in the United States. Guardian Sustainable Business plans to play an important role in challenging the corporate community to step up its engagement with civil society to develop innovative ways of addressing issues ranging from climate change and resource depletion to poverty and biodiversity loss.
Put simply, we’re going to do our part, as best we can, to help change US business for the better.
In my introductory column, I outline a few of the issues that we’ll cover. Here’s how it begins:
400. 1,127. 354.
Those three numbers made news this spring. They point to the frustrations – and failures – of those of us inside and outside of corporate America who would like business to become more sustainable.
400: Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 passed the symbolic threshold of 400 parts per million. Big companies talk a good game on climate change, but global emissions keep rising. Climate remains the defining issue of our time; if business can’t find a way to bring down its emissions, and ours, we’re all in trouble.
1,127: The death toll in the collapse of the garment factory outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, making it the deadliest disaster in the industry’s history. Years of extensive and expensive supply-chain monitoring by the biggest US clothing brands, including Nike, Gap and Walmart, however well-intentioned, have brought only modest improvements to labour standards in the world’s poorest countries.
354: Last year, chief executives of the companies that make up the S&P500 Index received, on average $12.3m in total compensation, according to the AFL-CIO. By contrast, rank-and-file workers averaged $34,645. That means CEOs made 354 times more than their employees. This exacerbates inequality, undermines trust in business, and leads ordinary people across the political spectrum to believe that the system is tilted in favour of the rich and powerful, and against them. You know what? They’re right.
You can read the rest here.
Feedback, as always, is most welcome.