This is the first of what will be a series of articles that spring from discussions and topics shared from the “GreenMondays” circle that was launched in Tokyo about a year ago. The circle was originally founded by Laurence Smith, who has unfortunately left us for new business opportunities in Seoul earlier in this year. The torch has been passed to me as co-chair, and the GreenMondays Japan tradition continues with the support of a dynamic organizing committee and a growing group of followers.
GreenMondays developed out of some discussions around another group that could probably be referred to as the “first CSR Committee”. The original “Lunar Society” was founded by a circle of friends whom we now know as the “fathers of the Industrial Revolution.” The members included: Matthew Boulton, Erasmus Darwin, Samuel Galton Junior, James Keir, Joseph Priestley, Josiah Wedgwood, James Watt, John Whitehurst and William Withering, Sir Richard Arkwright, John Baskerville, Thomas Beddoes, Thomas Day, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Anna Seward, William Small, John Smeaton, William Strutt, Thomas Wedgwood, John Wilkinson, Joseph Wright, James Wyatt, Samuel Wyatt, and Staffordshire member of parliament and investor John Levett. They met under a full moon to allow them to prolong their monthly dinner conversation a bit longer, and the gatherings were mostly social. During those meetings however, the members discussed areas of mutual concern and devised plans to make the world a better place. They were behind initiatives to: alleviate child labour issues which were a spin-off of social change caused by industrial activities; abolish slavery; and implement safety regulations in factories. Wedgewood actually devised a ceramic coin as a statement of opposition to slavery that can be likened to Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” They were capitalists certainly, but even then, they saw the negative impact of their commercial activities on their communities and on the planet and knew they had a responsibility toward Society.
Adam Smith wrote "Society is ...
the mirror in which one catches sight of oneself, morally speaking."
His Theory of Moral Sentiments emphasizes sympathy for others while The Wealth of Nations famously emphasizes the role of self-interest. He wrote at great length of the need for moral principles: Boards are like rudderless ships on the ocean and Board members are like PIRATES who don’t stop looting until there is no wealth left to be had…"
Behind capitalism has always been this nagging concern that we are not really doing right by the world. There have emerged great philanthropists like Mr. Carnegie and many other leaders who have tried to give back and put things right. Today we have Bill Gates, who advised us in a TIME magazine article recently to “be very successful, and then give it all back”.
The “Lunar Society” concept, was re-invented in Boston a few years ago, and Laurence Smith participated in some of their sessions. When he came to Tokyo, he shared some of the background above with me, and we had some long discussions about whether or not this model might fit in Japan. We talked about if there was indeed a need to focus the energy of commercial leaders on social and environmental issues. As a result, a fledgling “Lunar Society of Japan” was born with the aid of the United Nations University Global Headquarters. The 11 Charter members include ambassadors, diplomats, law-makers, scientists, corporate leaders and academics. The focus was to be on how leaders can give back, and on how “Thought Leadership in Sustainability” can be inspired and embedded in society.
But something was still missing. The thought leadership group wasn’t filling the need of a growing number of professionals who want to make sustainability part of their everyday operations. Laurence decided to launch GreenMondays in conjunction, as an on-line network to share ideas using “ning” as a platform. The last Monday of each month was decided as the target meeting date and Fujimama’s Restaurant agreed to host. That is how GreenMondays was born!!
Now, a year later, there are over 400 members on-line and we gather roughly 50 people to our monthly sessions. We share ideas ranging from walking the length of Japan on stilts to raise money for environmental causes, to advanced vertical farming and bio-char technologies. Our members represent a diverse group of nationalities, age range and interests. Professionals involved in building, services, product development and manufacturing all coming together to learn about the impact of our behavior on the environment, and to share global standards of best practice through the resources of our own professional community. What we all have in common is a passion for the environment and a commitment to embedding sustainable practices into our lives and business activities. I will write more about the topics that we cover in the weeks ahead.
To learn more about GreenMondays upcoming activities click here: www.greenmondays.ning.com
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