Four years on, I'm back in the Yorkshire holiday 'cottage' - actually a 3.5 bedroom stone house - where I beat my second book, The Green Executive, into shape. It's lovely to be back in such an important location to me, even though the leather recliner and ottoman upon which much of the work was done has sadly gone.
I write in a very non-linear style. Once I have a theme, I start by sketching a structure to lay out the overall framework. Then I copy and paste all my previous musings on each topic (from this blog and elsewhere) into that structure. Then I start on an epic cycle of filling in the big obvious gaps (some of that text can appear back on this blog!) and editing the recycled text so it is fresh, up to date and coherent with the new text.
This cycle continues until I get to the tipping point - the critical read-through and edit after which only superficial changes are required to ease the passage of the reader from introduction to conclusions, along with the odd minor fact sourcing. It was here in Croft House, Askrigg where I did that crucial edit for the Green Executive - it only took me two weeks of early morning sessions!
Anyway, the central theorem of The Green Executive is that Leadership is the difference between those who dabble in sustainability and those who really succeed. How does that argument stand up four years down the line?
Well, perhaps the most compelling piece of evidence was the survey of challenges faced by sustainability practitioners by the 2degrees network. The No1 challenge? (drum roll...)
Engaging senior management.
In other words, lack of leadership is what most practitioners think is the factor holding them back. Why is this important?
Because without proper leadership, no significant change will happen in the organisation. That's what leadership is for - to set the strategic direction in the business. So, yes, without buy-in you might persuade someone to specify a much more efficient boiler or trial electric vehicles in the fleet, but the really big stuff - exploiting business opportunities in the low carbon economy, deleting product lines which are intrinsically unsustainable and/or investing in a supply chain to provide recycled material at a competitive quality, quantity and price - all that just won't happen.
And all too often, in my experience, sustainability gets stuck at the middle management level because no-one at the leadership level wants to pick up the baton and run with it.
The Green Executive still sells moderately well (ie at all) for a specialised business book, but I await the day it shoots up the charts as maybe that will be the sign that the penny has finally dropped!