Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Quantum of Sustainability

The man stroking the white Persian cat touched a button on the arm of his over-sized swivel chair and said coldly "Send in the new Number Two."

The door open and a woman appeared. Her sober business suit failed to hide a sleek and elegant figure. Raven-black hair that cascaded over her shoulders, but there was a fierce intelligence behind the black rimmed glasses.

Number One remembered the hideous features of the previous, and now sadly deceased, Number Two and wondered if there were any women in his organisation that just looked 'normal'? Were they all either angels or gargoyles?

The new Number Two took a seat in front of him, a thick ring binder file resting on her long legs.

"Welcome to SPEKTRA, Number Two," he said in an accent that started somewhere east of the old Iron Curtain.

"Please call me Mary," she replied politely. "I find the personal touch leads to more effective meetings. May I call you Ernie?"

"No you may not," he replied sternly. "You will call me Number One." He stroked the cat. " are probably wondering why the Special Executive for Kidnapping, Terrorism, Revenge and Assassination has chosen to employ a Director of Corporate Social Responsibility."

"I assume you think there is some room for improvement?" Mary replied.

Number One nodded. "It has come to my attention that recent failures have been the result of poor management, so I have decided to learn from the best modern business people. However I am still sceptical that an organisation such as our really needs to 'integrate social and environmental concerns into our business operations'".

"Well Number One, I disagree," said Mary. "I have looked at your business plan and frankly, this organisation is going nowhere.  I mean, what is the core business of SPEKTRA?"

"Assassination, kidnapping, torture..."

"Well exactly. This is a very crowded market. What's more, the state sector is heavily involved. They are not required to make a profit and enjoy considerable freedom from the legal restrictions on a corporation like SPEKTRA. It is very difficult for a private company to compete."

She paused and saw Number One looking rattled. His finger began to reach for one of the buttons on his chair. Quickly she continued. "However I believe that CSR can save this company. By promoting ourselves as sustainable we can develop a unique brand image that will allow us to compete in a challenging market."

Number One looked at her. "You believe SPEKTRA can become 'sustainable'?"

 "Oh yes," said Mary.

"Well, I have my doubts." The cat purred. "However you come highly recommended by your previous employer. I hope he is out of prison soon."

"If he'd listened to me he wouldn't be in jail," said Mary.

"That's what he said. However I must warn you, you may find SPEKTRA is very different from the motor industry."

"I have experience of a wide variety of corporate structures," Mary replied.

"I'm not sure you realise what sort of an organisation SPEKTRA is. We blackmail governments to get our way".

"The oil industry is very similar," Mary said. "However I was still able to help them improve their Human Rights record."

Number One looked at her. He continued "The people who work for me, I do not care if they live or if they die."

"The garment industry was the same".

Number One dispatched the cat with a wave of his hand. "I believe you have a report?"

Mary tapped the large file on her knee. "I have taken the time to study SPEKTRA and evaluate its performance against a range of criteria."

"And what have you found?" asked Number One.

"First I looked at the environmental impact of our operations. The clandestine nature of SPEKTRA's operations have resulted in a surprising small ecological impact whilst your pioneering use of nuclear power has reduced our carbon footprint." She paused. "Although there have been problems. The explosions that destroyed our Caribbean and Japanese operations has caused widespread radioactive fallout, although as these are being blamed on the actions of the British Government we have so far escaped any legal responsibility for this."

She continued. "On Human Rights our record is far from perfect, however for a large company it is relatively good. When I looked at Human Resources though it was a mixed picture. On the one hand we have a highly motivated and diverse workforce and employ people with disabilities in senior management roles. I note though that no employee leaving the organisation has ever filled out an exit questionnaire."

"That's because they are all dead," replied Number One.

"Well I think that means we are losing a valuable opportunity to learn from the people who know us best, our own staff. May I suggest we stop executing ex-employees and start interviewing them?"

"I will ... consider it. Do you have anything else?"

"Oh yes. It appears a large number of our staff die in work, mainly due to elementary failings in health and safety. Given the high cost of recruiting new staff, especially with the highly specialised skills we require, we really need to do better."

Number One nodded. "Is that all?"

"Oh no, not by a long way." She uncrossed her legs. "But let's move on to what we're going to do about making SPEKTRA sustainable."

"What do you suggest? Lead-free bullets? Biodegradable poisons?"

"Supply Chain Management." Number One raised an eyebrow. Mary continued. "At present SPEKTRA employs renegade assassins from government intelligence agencies and international terrorist groups on a 'no questions asked' basis." Number One nodded. Mary shook her head. "I'm sorry, but this won't do. This lax approach is do doubt responsible for the very high failure rate of our contractors, which results in serious damage to the SPEKTRA brand image. It is vitally important that all the agencies we deal with share our values and ideals."

Number One looked at her. "Anything else?"

"Corporate governance," said Mary. Number One raised his other eyebrow. "It's obvious that most of our recent failures are poor management in our local offices and project teams. It is essential that all regional franchises operate to same high standards."

"Is that all?" asked Number One.

"No, I have a dozen other recommendations."

"And I need to hear them?"

"Oh yes," Mary replied. "Believe me, this report could save SPEKTRA."

"Well I regret that it must wait for another day. You must excuse me Num...Mary, I need to make my latest demands to the United Nations. Igor will show you to your office."


An hour later Mary was sat at her new desk thinking about her report. She was sure there was something she'd forgotten.

A small window over the desk looked out onto the interior of the volcano that was the SPEKTRA base. She noted with interest the monorail efficiently carrying the armed guards to their stations, and the zero emissions electric vehicles ferrying the nuclear warheads about.

Was the job really worth it? Was there an easier way to earn a living, to change the world? Would an NGO suit her better, possibly an environmental one? No, CSR was what she'd chosen. Here she was at the heart of the machine with a chance to make it better. Even if she could only shift SPEKTRA the tiniest atomic distance towards sustainability, it would make a huge difference to thousands of people. She would carry on.

Besides, she was looking forward to meeting the assassins. She's always liked dangerous men, far better than those macho do-gooders from the Green groups who were only interested in...

Suddenly the window to her office exploded in a shower of glass. A figure swung in through the gap. Unfastening his climbing harness he turned and faced Mary. He was dressed for a rather more formal occasion than her.

"Good afternoon," he said, in an accent that came from several parts of the British Isles simultaneously. "I'm here to save the world." He looked Mary up and down. "But I think I have a few minutes to spare." He started to remove his bow tie.

Oh no, thought Mary. Not another one.

The man leaned in close.

She hit him over the head with her report.

Mary looked done at the body sprawled on the floor. Suddenly it came to her. She flicked open her laptop and started typing: new policy on sexual harassment in the workplace.