Harold Forbes




Author of "How to be a Humankind Superhero, a manifesto for individuals to reclaim a safe climate". Published April 2010, available now on amazon.co.uk, tesco.com and hksuperh.com Paperless version now available on Kindle. Try before you buy! You can download the first chapter for free here. The book provides a practical guide to twelve impactful action for individuals to engage in that will quicken the pace of change to a low carbon economy. It has its origins in an accumulation of events that I attend during 2009. First there was a conference at the Ecobuild show where I listened to a succession of high profile commentators and politicians tell me how big a problem climate change was but somehow there didn't seem much will to solve it. Then I attended the world premier of 'Age of Stupid' the Franny Armstrong movie that has Pete Postlethwaite as a man living alone in the devastated world of 2055, looking at old footage from 2008 and asking: why didn't we stop climate change when we had the chance? Funnily enough, the eerie silence of the audience at the end suggested that while they could relate to the question, there was no obvious answer. Shortly after seeing the movie, I noticed a newspaper article celebrating the success of the anti-plastic bag campaign. In under 2 years the efforts of the campaign had reduced usage of disposable bags by 50%, meaning 5 billion fewer bags were going to landfill. According to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs this was, in carbon terms, equivalent to taking 41,000 cars off the road! This seemed like a big number but I found myself asking, 'Is it?' Unfortunately it is not. 41,000 cars is less than 0.1% of the UK's transport fleet, which in turn is responsible for only about a quarter of our greenhouse gas emissions. A lot of people had been involved for not much reward. But if plastic bags weren't the issue, what was? When I started to looking into the issue in more detail, it quickly became apparent that as a society we are faced with two seemingly irreconcilable facts. Our daily use of fossil fuels is causing such serious damage to our environment that the threat of it collapsing, within the lifetime of people on the planet today, is now 50/50. On the other hand, the energy these fossil fuels release is critical to what the world understands as, and aspires to, as a 'normal' life. What's more, they are still remarkably cheap; the world spends only about 10% of its income on them. Work on the book began in summer 2009 and optimism for Copenhagen was running quite high: was I wasting my time? I wondered. In the end I decided that even if an agreement came out of Copenhagen then it would still only represent a plan: accomplishments require action. And the book is intended to make it as easy as possible for people to understand the most impactful actions they can take. Despite the weak 'Accord' that came from Copenhagen and the largely hostile media position, I believe it is possible to turn this situation around. It will require a different way of thinking but during the research, I identified three simple though radical policies that would make it possible. It is up to individuals to bring about the political will to implement them. That is why I have sub-titled the book as a manifesto: by undertaking the actions suggested, you will bring about that will. Problems are seldom as intractable as they first appear unless they involve other people. Problem solving and trying to understand the human condition has been a unifying theme in my career. In addition to the book, I presently have other development projects on the go; I have realised during my career that a lot needs to come together for something new to get off the ground and the best way to have a great success is to suffer enough small failures along the way. The projects are;

  • helping SunReports, US-based startup that will allows owners of solar thermal or PV systems to measure what these things are actually doing up there. Without measurement, investment in small scale solar is faith based and we have a very low cost measuring unit that monitors performance and reports results using the internet
  • Carbon Conversations. Carbon Conversations is an inspiring, practical 6-session course on low-carbon living. It was recently featured in the Guardian as one of the 20 best climate change solutions. I am a trained facilitator in the methodology and am happy to work with groups of 6 to 12 people either in a work or social situation.
  • My previous project was an Innovation Centre to be based in Croydon, South London. I was part of a consortium of partners that set up Kingston Innovation Centre, supporting entrepreneurs get their businesses up and running and consulting to them for equity rather than cash. It was a hugely successful venture and a goldmine of learning but a poor cash generator. At the end of 2005, we tendered to the LDA to roll the model out across South London and were able to start the project in October 2006. We were charged with finding and helping potentially high growth innovative and creative industry businesses to succeed. We did this by mentoring, coaching and connecting the business to the best resources, in the sequence it needs, to maximise the chance of success and quicken results. Some of the people I worked with are truly brilliant businesses and a couple of my favourites are listed here. I'm still in touch with each and be happy to effect an introduction. "Wideaware", which provides an exciting, e-learning service for disability equality training. This lets people who are providing service directly to customers to get to understand and develop ways of dealing with the issues and barriers faced by disabled people. They market it under the banner of "inclusive customer service" and the amazing feature is how similar inclusive customer service is to good customer service. We are presently looking for contacts into large service organisations and any help you can provide would be very welcome. Nqual are rapidly shaping the way that market research is done in this country and are at the forefront of online qualitative research that can deliver richer results, faster, and at a better value, than anyone else. The Sound Agency has a really innovative approach to the commercial environment and more specifically the noises you hear within it. Julian Treasure, who set it up, has even spoken at TED. FPSS (Financial and Professional Support Service), can offer a complete service that makes it cheaper and easier to manage the critical essentials of finance and associate regulatory compliance. The service is tailored to suit your needs and can encompass everything from a book-keeping service up to a full financial and business management service. There is a guaranteed 30-50% saving for UK businesses against your current financial management costs so please get in touch if you would like to have a discussion about it. The service is best suited to more established companies (3/4 employees and more) to help them really get to grips with managing the financial side of the business. If you would like to know a little more about me as a person, please read on because ten years ago, Charles Handy wrote "It is unwise to trust people whom you do not know well, whom you have not observed in action over time, and who are not committed to the same goals". In lieu of being able to observe me in action over time, the rest of this profile will let you understand a little about "where I am coming from". Born the youngest of five children to a hard working family in Callander, rural Scotland, the world has always seemed a big and fascinating place. My father travelled the country as a long distance lorry driver; I read stories of Magellan, de Gama and the great explorers. The prospect of one day making my own great discovery was deeply seeded. The Scottish educational system is often trumpeted as being the best in the world and I certainly enjoyed the opportunity it offered to keep balance and variety. An equal balance of science and arts subjects at secondary school was followed by a degree at Strathclyde University on Technology & Business Studies, specialising in Marketing & Textile Technology. This was an innovative course at the time intent on producing engineers that understood business or businessmen that could understand how things were made. I graduated into the teeth of the 1981 recession at a time when how to do business and whether to make things were undergoing serious reconsideration. In the end I joined the whisky industry, taking a job in the IT department with the brief of getting the tech heads and business functions to understand each other. I'm still not sure anyone, anywhere, has managed that! Glasgow was an exciting place in the early Eighties as it set about transforming itself to the new world, but its size seemed like it was always going to limit opportunities. An opportunity to move to London and get into market planning was irresistible. Not long after the move first Argyll then Guinness made take over bids for DCL, the company I was working with. Being the researcher for the defence team was a fascinating insight into the value of really understanding how your own business works. One offer document described 20 reasons why DCL should be taken over. When asked to refute the claims, we found it contained 20 items that were accurate to within one decimal place! And each was news to the existing senior managers! The fall out from the takeover was pretty severe but also threw up opportunities, one of which I was able to grab and so spent the next few years running firstly the marketing information service for the company then the consumer planning function for Latin America & Africa. During this time I got a pretty good insight into how advertising works, how consumer attitudes don't necessarily help to predict behaviour (or even help you to know what do) and how critical good brand positioning is to market success. On the latter point, I also discovered just how hard they are to develop. It was l worthwhile, though, as the company success rocketed and profits nearly trebled in five years. Even better, I had met Karin who I married in 1991 and still enjoy a thriving marriage with. Buoyed by the success and kudos these positions were bringing, I started pushing for a move into marketing "proper" and eventually landed the post of Marketing Director for Latin American countries, based in Miami. This was pretty much a dream position. Easier travelling with fewer time zones and all the glory of being based in the capital of Latin America. Unfortunately it didn't last. Six months in and a new reorganisation to get the company "closer to the consumer" sent us further south to Santiago Chile. One of the challenges I had always wanted was to live in a non-English speaking culture but Chile held quite a lot of trepidation in view of its fascist past. Something that was only too clearly signalled when the in-flight movie during the relocation flight was "Death and the Maiden", the story of a victim who subsequently confronts her torturer. Chile turned out to be a great place to live. The business was a success with profits doubling over the three years we were there and the five year plan delivered two years ahead of schedule. We worked 9am to 5pm in the office then 11pm to 2am on promotional work. This allowed me always to get home to spend some time with my boys and get them ready for bed: a privilege I would probably not have had in London. The weather was great as well, allowing us to have an outdoor lifestyle and lots of play in the garden. A very happy time in their crucial early years. At the end of our stint, though we decided to return to the UK rather move on to another country and also to get out of the drinks industry. Rather than working in another major corporation I wanted to work in smaller companies where personal impact could be more clearly seen. I also wanted to work in the service sector where the challenge of delivering through people rather than things seemed much more interesting. Those decisions were the ones that started me off on the journey to founding my own business. I setup my own business, Forbes SRP with the objective of helping people shape the future for their enhanced profitability. in 2003. The principles of operation are to first help understand the world from a customer's point of view. Using this understanding and melding it with the goals of the business, options for future action can be generated, evaluated and chosen. Ideas and plans however are not accomplishments. So I also help develop and implement the best strategy to deliver results. The same thinking was behind the way I have structured the book. If you have stuck with me this far, I'd like to thank you. My own great discovery, when it came, turned out not to be something new at all but rather a realisation that you can always achieve more by working in positive harmony with others than you can by working alone or in competition. Averting catastophic climate change will need the world to come to a similar conclusion. create your own visited country map or check our Venice travel guide


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