You know those really annoying, self-congratulatory round robin letters you get at this time of year? Well, this is my unashamedly boastful version as it has been another good year here at Terra Infirma Towers. Highlights include:
We brought some brilliant new clients coming on board (eg Viridor, Innovia Films, Grayling, Cynergy)...;
...while continuing to work with some of the country's foremost organisations (BAE Systems, Johnson Matthey, the NHS);
My Green Jujitsu ebook on smart culture change for sustainability was published by Do Sustainability;
We set up the Corporate Sustainability Mastermind Group (CoSM) and have had a couple of incredibly productive meetings;
I delivered keynote speeches and workshops at some really good events, probably enjoying the Energy & Environmental Industries Forum the most as I got away with using the phrase 'subsidy junkies' about parts of the industry;
My first book, The Three Secrets of Green Business, was published in Japanese, so I can finally say I'm Big In Japan.
That's not to say it has been an easy year. Client budgets are tight, yes, and the purse strings are tighter still! We've had to commit a lot of time and effort to build up enough trust to overcome this problem. But worst of all has been the loss of so many valued contacts through redundancy. It is very telling that the readership of The Low Carbon Agenda has flatlined - predominantly through e-mail addresses going dead - although our regular readers still give us great feedback.
It goes without saying personal highlight of the year was the birth of my third son, Charlie Darwin, in September. He's doing really great and it's fantastic to see my older boys growing so fond of him despite the fact he demands so much of his Mum's attention.
Looking in the crystal ball, I believe 2013 is going to be one of consolidation for Terra Infirma - between Green Academy, the Mastermind Group, our coaching programme and bespoke client projects, we now have a good range of ways of helping our clients navigate the road to sustainability. So in the absence of eureka moments, we'll be focussing on expanding and improving these rather than launching anything radically different.
So that's pretty much it for this year. I do hope you'll join us again in the New Year, but in the meantime, it just leaves me to thank all our clients, partners, suppliers, friends and readers for another great year and wish you all a very Merry Christmas!
Six years. Blimey. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday that I invested the grand sum of £300.00 in some self-designed stationery and a (self-designed) website and declared the company open for business - other times it feels like another age.
And the last year has been another great one for the company despite the constant backdrop of economic doom-mongering. We are now firmly planted in the FTSE100 zone, continuing to work with clients like Johnson Matthey plc and BAE Systems plc, another two new FTSE100 clients in the project start-up phase, and other big names like the BBC and the NHS. The vast bulk of this work has related to culture change for sustainability.
Our on-line Green Academy continues and now has its own webpages and we continue to get a wide range of participants from micro-businesses up to corporate giants.
One innovation this year has been the Corporate Sustainability Mastermind (CoSM) Group - a small group of senior sustainability practitioners from top companies getting together every quarter for a facilitated exploration of the challenges that they face. I've not been making a big song and dance about CoSM as we are deliberately trying to keep the numbers low, but you can see my notes from the inaugural May meeting here.
And, while I'm not publishing a book this year, my first short e-book is due out in the Autumn. Its provisional title is "Green Jujitsu: The Smart Way to Embed Sustainability into Your Organisation". Needless to say you'll hear plenty about it when it's released.
So, it just leaves me to thank all our clients, partners, friends, followers, subscribers and workshop participants for another great year. I'm looking forward to meeting more of you (online or offline), so don't ever be afraid to come and say hello!
I've found it weird reading the inevitable deluge of "that was 2011, what will 2012 have in store" articles in the press. The consensus of opinion is that the year just gone was one of the most turbulent in recent times and what will happen in the year to come is likewise extremely hard to predict. The weirdness comes from the disconnect between what I read and what I experienced - 2011 was a brilliant year for myself and Terra Infirma. Here's just a few of the highlights:
Launching and delivering the Green Academy on-line training system;
Bringing on board a roster of fabulous new clients including BAE Systems plc, Johnson Matthey plc and the BBC;
Maintaining our working relationships with long term clients like Business to Business Ltd and the National Industrial Symbiosis Programme (North East);
Delivering guest lectures at Universities of Newcastle, Durham and Northumbria;
Through all this, interacting with somewhere in the region of 1500 great individuals from across the UK and indeed around the world. This is the highlight for me as I learn as much from them as they learn from me.
Again unlike the predictions for the world economy, the future of the Eurozone or the Middle East, the year ahead for Terra Infirma seems remarkably stable:
A number of our projects are continuing into the New Year and we are currently negotiating extensions to them and others - most involve engaging staff in sustainability;
Kicking off the Green Academy cycle again - note there's a free introductory session on 25 January - details here;
I'll be doing a webinar for my friends at BusinessGreen.com on 16 Jan - details here;
You'll get the usual programme of blog posts here and, of course the monthly Low Carbon Agenda Newsletter which you can subscribe to on the right.
So, I hope you'll come with us in 2012 and together we will leave the world in 2013 a more sustainable place than we found it in 2011!
It is five years to the day that I cast off the chains of an institutional career and set up Terra Infirma. I still remember my outline plan - spend August building a dry stone wall in the garden, start marketing myself in September and hopefully get the first project going in October. In the event the wall took another 18 months to build - half way through the first week the phone rang and I had to put down the stone I was holding, go shower off the dirt and get my suit on for what turned out to be my first client meeting. Exciting times.
The last year hasn't been any less exciting. My second book, the Green Executive has been published, we've launched the Green Academy set of green business webinars and we've landed our first two FTSE 100 clients, which means our strategy of shifting from our early reliance on public funding to large private sector clients is starting to bear real fruit.
Looking forward, we will soon be launching a better registration system for Green Academy, starting to turn the webinar sessions into stand alone learning modules and starting a range of e-books. We are also in negotiation with a number of big name prospective clients. All our other services including this blog and The Low Carbon Agenda monthly bulletin will continue.
So, it just leaves me to thank all our clients, partners, friends, followers, subscribers and workshop participants for another great year. I'm looking forward to meeting more of you (online or offline), so don't be afraid to come and say hello!
By the time you read this, I'll be on one of four trains to Seville in Spain before heading by car to Ronda in Andalucia. So Terra Infirma Towers will be closing for a couple of weeks while the family and I get used to the fact I'm four decades young over many bottles of Rioja.
Blogging here will be on holiday frequency - once or twice a week depending on whether the villa's wi-fi works. Full service will re-commence on 11 April.
So the Christmas decorations are coming down, the cards heading for the recycling bins and life starts returning to normal. I hope you all had a great festive holiday and that Santa Claus brought you what you wanted. For the first year ever, I really did want, and got, new socks. I also managed to be fast asleep by 23:55 on New Year's Eve - what a lightweight I have become!
But I'm extremely excited about 2011. Last year was challenging for me personally with the new baby and two elections (local and general) requiring a lot of my energy, but it was all a lot of fun and the business did pretty well regardless.
Here are some of the reasons why I'm looking forward to 2011:
My second book, The Green Executive, will be out on 20 May (part of the reason I'm working today - a bank holiday in the UK - is to review and approve the copy editor's work). The book covers the strategic and leadership requirements of a green business and features 18 interviews with leading corporate sustainability experts.
We're launching our Green Business Webinar series on 2 Feb. These 10 sessions will provide a cost-effective, time-efficient and low carbon way to develop your skills. More details next week.
We're developing a diagnostic tool for medium/large businesses and expect to be trialling it in Feb/Mar for launch thereafter.
There is a whole raft of client projects in the offing including developing industrial ecology/symbiosis links in the forestry/wood/pulp industries and lots of training courses.
So, I hope you will come with us into this thrilling period - by subscribing to these blog posts (hit the big orange button) and/or The Low Carbon Agenda. By the way, the first edition of the latter will feature a planning process for 2011 and the answers to the fiendishly difficult low carbon quiz (nobody got all six questions right). Keep it green!
Terra Infirma will be on holiday from tomorrow until the New Year - I'm really looking forward to 2011, more excited than my kids are about Christmas. We're launching a set of webinars (details tbc), we'll be trialling then launching our new diagnostic process and I've got the publication of The Green Executive in May.
So all that remains for 2010 is wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.
1st of December is traditionally the day that I stop grousing about it being too early to even mention the C-word. Instead I ritually put on the Phil Spector Christmas Album, kick back, and start into the Christmas cake, mince pies and port. Actually that might have to wait to the 2nd as, weather permitting (see above), I've got a really busy day scheduled today with environmental policy workshops.
Going back to the festive season, to thank my friends, followers, subscribers, clients and everyone else, I'm working on a Xmas special Low Carbon Agenda with unique free downloads, a low carbon prize quiz and a special offer. You can subscribe to the Low Carbon Agenda using the box on the right hand side (check out the past issues if you don't know what it's all about).
Phew! Last Thursday I finally submitted the manuscript for The Green Executive after the most intense week I've had since my final exams at Uni. Every spare minute was taken up checking, changing and tweaking the text. Getting the 220 references into shape took over 17 hours alone. And it's done - but it will be 11 May before it hits the bookshelves, so you'll have to do with a sneak preview of the cover in the meantime(right).
On Friday I took myself off to Wensleydale for some walking and to attend a friend's wedding in a castle - alcohol, silly helmets and archery make a much better mix than you would think. Hence the lack of Friday blogging - I was busy slogging through a bog in the fog. And now I've got a tonne of slightly delayed end of month admin to do.
Looking forward I will be out and about a lot over the next few months with speaking/facilitating appearances in Newcastle, Southampton, Harrogate, Cambridge and Teesside already in the diary. As these are firmed up I'll be publicising them here and in The Low Carbon Agenda.
Also, I've starting writing pieces on a more regular basis for Management Issues and the Sustainability Forum. The former focuses on Leadership/HR/Organisational issues, on the latter I write about sustainability outside the green business line I stick to on this blog.
I've become a bit addicted to Twitter - I find it very useful for keeping up to date with news and views from a very wide range of sources and it has become the glue that holds my various social networking profiles together.
Just like this blog, I also use Twitter to disseminate the green business message. The 140 character limit is a brilliant anvil against which to beat these ideas down to their fundamental message. The nature of Twitter is ephemeral, so I thought I'd trawl my back catalogue of tweets for my favourite 10.
Going green will help a good business but not save a bad one.
"Go green and save money" is for amateurs.
No business ever went green by ISO14001 alone.
Sustainability needs to be embedded into the DNA of each organisation - need green equivalent of the TQM revolution.
When I find organisations trying and failing to go green, the prognosis is usually lack of leadership.
One of the toughest tests of CSR is to kill off products and activities incompatible with sustainability.
Beware: middle management is where green projects go to die.
Green business leaders must show commitment, not just in what they say, but in what they do... and in what they spend.
Life's too short for Life Cycle Assessment! Avoid paralysis by analysis and learn CSR by doing.
Key question for any green product/service: can it compete on performance, quality and price as well as green?
I try to write one of these every day, so if you want more you can follow me on @GarethKane.
It's been about 4 months since I signed up to Twitter, but it's only been the last two that I've really got my head around it. I find it fantastic for keeping up with a range of news sources, thought leaders and my broader network of clients and associates. On the broadcast side, most if not all of my blog posts now go out on Twitter, along with one line pieces of advice and comments on news stories.
Some things I've learnt:
1. For every two followers who follow me, one is genuine but the other is trying to get an automatic follow back from me - and will evaporate in a couple of days. I find this annoying, pointless and cynical, so I don't play that game.
2. Some people are obsessive retweeters. If I look at my Twitter feed and there's two dozen retweets from the same person, they get unfollowed. Flagging up interesting tweets is one thing, creating noise is quite another.
3. Overall, it's all very well mannered and there's a huge amount of good value information, despite old media's lazy stereotyping of it as a swirl of self-obsessed introspection.
As of 1st of August, Terra Infirma is four years old!
The last year has been an exciting ride - the publication of The Three Secrets of Green Business, the rebranding, the launch of our YouTube channel, our first venture onto Twitter and getting praised by a Government Minister. That's not to mention working with some great new clients like Aker Solutions, the National Health Service and East Coast Main Line, and some old friends like NISP North East, Business to Business Ltd and the Low Carbon Best Practice Exchange. It hasn't always been easy, given the recession, but it is clear that sustainability isn't going away.
So what's the next year got in store? We're already limbering up for some events including some webinars in August and the Low Carbon Best Practice exchange in Harrogate in November, the first draft manuscript of the Green Executive has gone to the publishers - estimated publication date April 2011, and we've got some new product developments going on in the background. Of course you'll get all the usual support from this blog, The Low Carbon Agenda, YouTube and Twitter.
... I'm off on my holidays tomorrow. We're spending a fortnight in Askrigg in the Yorkshire Dales - same house as last year as we enjoyed it so much. If the weather's as good as last year we'll be laughing, as the walking, cycling, scenery and lazing about is fantastic - I hope the bakery is still serving freshly baked croissants at 7am.
It's not a complete break, though. I've just printed off the complete manuscript for The Green Executive for the first time ever having slotted the interviews into place. This needs to be finished by the end of July, so I'll be putting in a couple of hours work every day.
Through the wonders of technology, I'll still be posting on Twitter, you might get a few posts here as well, and of course it's my day on the virtual working summit next Tuesday.
It has been a busy and eventful week here at Terra Infirma Towers. Here are some of the highlights:
1. We are able to offer two days FREE waste consultancy to one (and one only) small/medium sized business (height restrictions apply). If you want to know more, get in touch asap as we are contacting a number of likely candidates directly.
2. I'm doing two FREE workshops on 21/22 July on behalf of Business Link - more details next week.
3. Don't forget the FREE Virtual Working Summit 28 June - 9 July. My slot on virtual working and sustainability will be on 6 July.
4. I'm probably doing two on-line events in August on aspects of a low carbon business. More details when I have them, but there will probably be a small charge.
5. I've been offered a book contract by the award winning environmental specialists Earthscan for my second book, The Green Executive. I'm flat out editing and tweaking - I've got about 70,000 words, I just need to get them into the right order. I'm doing the last of the 18 interviews for the book on Monday. Estimated publication date: April 2011.
I had a fantastic week cycling around the Inner Hebridean Isle of Mull. I love the West Coast of Scotland - rough, tough and beautiful landscapes and wildlife combined with a really arty culture - I had my first sighting of a real iPad in a cafe in Tobemory as well as seeing a Sea Eagle taking a fish back to its nest. The weather was, um, variable - heavy rain when you're living in the world's smallest tent is not fun! (see pic right)
On the other hand, pedalling up through a beautiful glen in the sunshine with eagles overhead can't be beaten. And it was great to practice some camp craft after (too) many years of creature comfort - although I'm still no Ray Mears it has to be said.