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5 things this week including hope, help, crypto, sheep and swans

1. Transformation or tokenism?

It’s been tough this week to avoid the sense that Cop26 hasn’t delivered what we hoped it would. Even Alok Sharma, President for Cop26, appeared to choke as he closed the conference, disappointed by last minute shenanigans on coal ("phasing out" became "phasing down"). Unlike the planet, he recovered quickly, and was soon alongside the UK prime minister hailing a “game-changing” agreement. It's not a widely shared view, and isn’t how Clover Hogan, another impressive young activist, who founded Force of Nature when she was 19, saw it. Hogan was scathing of politicians making long-term pledges that require no immediate action. “If it’s not transformational, it’s tokenism. And there is nothing hopeful about tokenism,” she said. Supper Club member Paul Lewis, CEO of Seismic, drew attention to the significance of 1.5 degrees. He quoted the Maldives’s minister for environment, climate change and technology, Aminath Shauna, who was blunt: “The difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees is a death sentence for us.” There was cheerier news for fellow Supper Club member and founder of House of Baukjen, Geoff van Sonsbeeck, who picked up an award at Cop26. His acceptance speech contains a powerful revelation that, as a result of reducing emissions by almost 50%, profits have leapt more than five times. It makes sense for profit, people and the planet.

2. Those pesky second jobbers

There’s also been plenty spoken and written this week on the rights and wrongs of people having second jobs, mainly UK politicians. But having a sneaky side hustle seemed to become de rigueur during the pandemic, as working from home allowed more employees to offer the same hours to more than one employer. It’s unlikely even the most hypocritical UK politicians would ever have the chutzpah to legislate against it. But in Portugal, law makers have gone the other way, introducing new laws to protect remote workers. In particular, they have forbidden employers from contacting remote workers outside of office hours, except in an emergency. Penalties and fines will be issued to firms ignoring the new rule. And while we've all noticed the creep of work life into home hours, a poll of Supper Club members suggests it’s not a rule that will sit well with UK employers, with 80% agreeing it was an example of state overreach.

3. Back to the playground for crypto

For many, the ultimate second job is investing in the latest crytpocraze. The ups and downs of cryptocurrencies, and the ever-present question of whether any one of the endless carousel of new coins are a smart investment, or whether it is all a big gambling bubble (and, whisper it, potentially a bit of a con), is one Supper Club members are always keen to discuss. It’s one we will inevitably be addressing again in 2022. For now, if you want to be shaken by a slightly different take on the saga, read this excellent piece by FT columnist-turned teacher Lucy Kellaway, on the staggering rise of cryptocurrencies not on the markets, but in our school playgrounds. Children learning about investment and finance seems a good idea, but exposure to this kind of unbalanced risk and reward is less welcome.

4. Will ewe be my leader?

Far away from the high-tech world of cryptocurrencies, a highlight for me this week was coming across the excellent Naughty Sheep. It’s a masterclass in what might be called “accidental entrepreneurship”. A couple who had moved to a large property in Scotland and started renting rooms on Airbnb, next adopted some rescue sheep. The guests and the sheep started to mingle and “an Airbnb experience” was born. Very much in tune with post-lockdown Britain and the great staycation summer. Next came the addition of some online meditation and mindfulness classes (with the sheep) and then, then finally the logical conclusion of all of this, as Naughty Sheep launched a full website, complete with courses on “Leader-Sheep skills”. Ewe can add your own sheep pun here.

5. Book of the week

And so, from learning from sheep to what swans can teach us. You’ll be familiar with the concept of “black swan” events and Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book of the same name, which highlighted the impact of the probable but still unexpected events that lead towards systemic breakdowns. In Green Swans: The Coming Boom in Regenerative Capitalism, sustainability veteran (and father of the triple bottom line) John Elkington has a more optimistic message of possibility (if not quite full-blown hope), with the idea of “Green Swans”; solutions that lead us to positive breakthroughs. The focus is on what Elkington has dubbed “regenerative capitalism” and “a manifesto for system change designed to serve people, planet and prosperity”. The shift Elkington outlines has to happen within the next decade, which he dubs “the exponential decade”, and takes business from a focus on corporate responsibility, through resilience and onto regeneration. The way this will happen is that some currently unlikely corporate ugly ducklings will grow up to be green swans.