In winter 2017 I recorded a couple of conversations with Simon Bryceson, long-standing Public Affairs lobbyist, Liberal political activist, and one time employee of Friends of the Earth. We mainly spoke about the interaction between campaign groups, corporates and politics. What follows is a reconfigured and lightly edited version of the transcripts. Simon was then recovering from cancer operations. He died earlier this year at his home in Slovenia, aged 65.
At one time or another Simon consulted for many of the world’s most controversial corporations, mostly at CEO or Board level. He had his own guiding philosophy of making money while, as he puts it here, arguing for them to adopt ‘the most progressive position which seems to be consistent with that company’s commercial viability’.
While some in NGOs knew of him simply as a suspect cardboard-cut-out corporate operator, others in the corporate world saw him as a dangerous subversive maverick radical. His personal frankness and commitment to a democratically regulated market economy led to him being fired by a number of more neocon corporate clients, particularly Americans.
Bryceson saw himself as a ‘pirate diplomat’, moving between worlds and sometimes managing to explain one to another (and I think perhaps explaining himself to himself). He played a key role in the establishment of the Marine Stewardship Council.
Whatever you think of that, if you are interested in how the corporate-NGO-political triangle works or fails to work, you might find some of Bryceson’s insights useful. (See also Bryceson’s Political Checklist). A minority of people working in ‘Public Affairs’ share Simon Bryceson’s combination of NGO, political, and corporate world credentials but not many of them have spent so much time worrying about and trying to bridge the gaps between the three domains.
A Grand Bargain?
Though I never heard him use the clichéd term ‘win-win’, Bryceson often spoke about realising the potential for corporates to achieve progress on ‘progressive’ causes – or as he called them in these conversations, the “diamonds lying around”.
In the last decade of his life Bryceson was trying to catalyse what he referred to as a ‘grand bargain’ (between civil society, his agrochemical clients and regulators) to achieve more sustainable agriculture. In this he saw the political desire to be seen to have farmers onside, and the political culture of US ‘multinationals’, as obstacles to be negotiated around.
At the time of our talk (2017) Bryceson singled out what he saw as illegal but common practices in corporates about withholding information on increasing risks as an opportunity for activist lawyers on climate change.
Bryceson was brought up in Sussex, England and went to, in his words, ‘a fairly traditional working class Roman Catholic school uninterested in abstract ideas’. ‘By the time I got to 14, my relationship with them was very bad. A friend and I stowed away on a plane to Iceland on the way to New York, and we were arrested in Reykjavik. When we got back we made it to the national TV, the 6 o’clock news and all the rest of it … we just pretended to be Icelandic on a plane which was going to New York via Iceland and it all worked out rather well really’.
Constantly in trouble and by his own admission ‘a pain in the arse’, he precipitated being thrown out of school for writing ‘a four page essay in support of the rioting students in the London School of Economics’.
CR (me Chris Rose): Who was that with?
SB: A guy called Mark Colivet , who I remember very well. He unfortunately died years ago. He was murdered in the end. He was thrown from a building in Chicago, following an unfortunate argument with his drug dealer. But he was a fine fellow.
Bryceson was adopted, along with a younger brother. ‘Both of us have discovered our natural families in the last couple of years. It is highly likely that our families would have known each other at the relevant time’.
CR: So, you might even be related.
SB: Yes, and Mark who I was trying to get to America with, his great uncle was the Sinn Fein in Limerick, and some of my family’s people were the IRA people in Tipperary, so they certainly would know each other. My father and Mark’s father was a lorry driver for the most of his life and both of them drove in Ireland and both of them drank heavily. They must have known each other. It’s a weird set of circumstances.
CR: Do you think that being adopted and, or being Irish have any impact on you doing what you’ve done in campaigning, public affairs?
SB: it ‘tapped into a general feeling that what I was and where I was was somehow more constructed than everybody else is. So the physical thing is, I’m much more anxious than most people are, so I am much more driven. If I decide to do something, I do it. I cannot possibly bear the idea of failing. I mean, those who work with me will see that sometimes if it looks like we are failing, I move to the most extraordinary mania. But sometimes it works, that’s the fear of failure thing.
So if Theresa May says, these are the people of nowhere, I think, yes that’s me, I’m a person of nowhere, absolutely’.
CR: I asked you about when you had to describe what you do to people, or they have ideas about it, what do they tend to think and how does it compare to reality. You said “I am a pirate diplomat”.
SB: Yes, I like the phrase.
CR: I could tell you like the phrase, is being a pirate diplomat because of you feeling being an outsider as opposed to the normal diplomat or line operator or official?
SB: Yes, exactly. A normal diplomat would be a diplomat on behalf of a given place. I have no given place. Therefore, since I enjoy – I’m using diplomacy in its loosest sense obviously – but the wheeler dealing
CR: Being a fixer?
SB: Yes, definitely. Going back to your question about the Irish background, my father did not become what his father and his father had been before him, which was horse auctioneers and horse dealers, because he was considered too much of a wild drunkard to be left in charge of the horse auctioneering. What can I say?
CR: How would you describe what you have done, what you’ve been working for, in a commercial public relations / public affairs business, if somebody, your neighbour or somebody in a pub asks you, how do you actually explain to them what you do?
SB: It’s called public affairs. I did it in the normal way for the most of my life. It was only in the latter part that I got into a position where I could choose what I want to do really. Most big companies in those days and still today in my view, don’t have much by way of political sophistication in-house, because the resources are only needed occasionally. That’s why it’s done by agencies
‘if you look there, they are all over the place, like diamonds all over on the ground. Just people won’t look for them. They all are reading the f***ing science’
I’ve done the three big tobacco companies, nuclear power, pesticides, herbicides, the plastics industry, the coal industry, the lot. Because I was never in the business of being an ethical consultant. I was in the business of doing the best job I could, if they pay me. The only difference between me and everybody else is that I have a personal interest in a number of areas which is slightly more political to do with the environment, therefore I was looking out for the opportunities and most people don’t bother. But if you look there, they are all over the place, like diamonds all over on the ground. Just people won’t look for them. They all are reading the f***ing science.
CR: Would you, given the choice of what to do, try to choose what you call ethical consultancies?
SB: No, what I did was, I took on the interesting work. It was much more interesting for me to lobby for Leyland Daf, for them to get the military contract for 4×4 lorries which I did for a couple of years, than sitting around in seminars on what would a sustainable company look like. And it pays more. But the better you get at ‘we’ll take a box at the opera because that’s where the deputy permanent secretary will be on Thursday night’ the more you use you are, the more likely you are to be talking to people, when you say, we can fix this. They will go, yeah.
If you want to do politics in a country, you can do it being a pacifist, but it would be a hell lot of easier if you’ve been in the armed forces, so when you turn out and say, vote for me.
If you say, I did the job defending the neonics, I did the job defending the plastics division and all the rest of it, and now this is what we should do. They’ll take you seriously. If you turn up and say, prove to me you are acting ethically, and I’ll work with you. You are very unlikely to see the diamonds on the floor.
The reason you get to choose is, the better you get at it, which is largely a factor of practice and experience, the more valuable you are. If you want to get a broader choice, just lower your price. People are surprised by how much I get paid. I’ll tell you. I am paid a lot less than the equivalent people from the big agencies because that’s what gives me the choice. That’s how I do it.
The Interesting Stuff
SB: The main reason I get to do the interesting stuff, is that various people in various companies have worked with me, and when their chums in other companies are saying, we are getting nowhere, what can we do to change the management? That’s when I get the call.
CR: why is it interesting?
SB: Either it would be interesting because the project is intrinsically interesting, or because the objective is intrinsically desirable. But I would distinguish between the two, ideally one wants both. But sometimes I do stuff just because it is not terribly professionally interesting, but it looks worthwhile. I’ve done lots of it with you, including spending time with NGOs. It doesn’t make any money, and frankly they’ve never listened to a word I have said so it doesn’t make much difference. But I never mind doing because I’ve enjoyed it, and I get bragging rights out of it which can sometimes be very useful.
SB: The other reason why it would be interesting is if it actually it did something.
CR: In what sense?
SB: I enjoyed working in the team with moving BP to a coherent position on climate change, because I thought it was important to do it. The fact I am not interested in advertising myself as an ethical consultant, does not mean I am devoid of ethics. It just means I don’t feel the need to parade up and down the street, describing them and telling people how I won’t work with them because they’re beneath my contempt. I will work with anybody. But once I’m there, everybody knows what I argue for. That’s fine.
‘The most progressive position which seems to be consistent with that company’s commercial viability’
CR: So you argue for what?
SB: The most progressive position which seems to be consistent with that company’s commercial viability.
CR: I’m just thinking about the point of view, [of] campaigners, NGOs, organisations, who might be very interested in the sort of things you do, but they wonder about what really drives you. “What would I do it I was in his position, could I be in his position, how does this work?”
SB: I think that touches on one other thing going back to early life experience. If you look at the great fuss around spies in the 50s and 60s, a huge proportion of them were gay. I’m gay. One of the things you learn, and it sort of emphasises the ‘who am I and what’s my location’ from the adoption which is magnified a hundred times when you spend your adolescence pretending to be something you’re not. That gives you what in gay parlance what would be called the ability to pass. You can just walk through life pretending to be what anybody wants you to be. I can adjust to whatever circumstances are.
That’s what I think a really good diplomat should be able to do. And I repeat it’s not because I think I am a diplomat in a plumed hat, it’s the function, of trying to move between two groups that are sat in blank incomprehension of each other, and explaining to each group how each other are operating and thinking.
CR: About things which you think are interesting because you think they are useful, what would the useful sort of things be? You said about BP shifting outcomes on climate change.
Business and Sustainability
SB: I’m a liberal. I’m in favour of market economy. As a part of that, I’m aware that you can’t run market economy without strong and effective regulation. If you think public policy issues can be resolved by permitting more market activity, there is nothing further I can do in conversing with you. There has to be strong regulation and market. I’m not interested in socialism.
‘If you think public policy issues can be resolved by permitting more market activity, there is nothing further I can do in conversing with you’.
The problem that many of my friends in the business world have is they take regulation as a given. But the given has become wholly inadequate, because of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, because of the issue with the commons and the issue of developing GDP and all of the things we are both familiar with.
But individual business people do not, in my experience, generally experience that as a personal responsibility. By working in the corporation, you subsume your individual responsibility into the process of the corporation. When I got an opportunity to speak to the European Commission years ago – this is the only speech of mine that’s still available – what I said to the Stagiaires who were finishing, [was] “what you have to ask to yourself is what’s it for”.
SB: I was at a trade association meeting, of the political individuals i.e. the public affairs officers, of the pesticides industry. There were 48 people in the room. I said how many people in the room have a science degree? Two-thirds of them immediately put up their hands, with that slight swagger of the shoulders that tells you “this is the question I love answering”.
“How many people in the room have ever stood for democratically elected office?” Complete silence, not a single person in the room. I said, “that’s what the problem is. What we got here, is a lot of hammers, and everything therefore is a nail. The reason we keep banging on about the science, is we keep giving the job of public affairs officers to people who don’t know anything about politics and love talking about science, and that is exactly what the other side want”. But they don’t listen.
‘you have to be there at the right time and make all the different things that could be lined up, line up. But rational persuasion plays virtually no part in that at all’
CR: So would you say you spent a life not being listened to?
SB: I don’t think you can persuade people to do things. I don’t think most people are rational. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been able to achieve things. It just means you have to be there at the right time and make all the different things that could be lined up, line up. But rational persuasion plays virtually no part in that at all.
The Repulsive Fascination of Power
SB: Running [an] organisation or being involved in it would do nothing for me because this is a process job and I am just not a process person. Not because I am a revolutionary figure, it’s simply that I’m fascinated and repelled by the power. I have been always fascinated by trying to work out how it works, and I love to trying to pull the little bit of the handle that I can get my fingers on at any time to see if I can make something happen. That’s much more about it than saving the whale or whatever, which, you know, I’m in favour of, but the motivation is the joy of doing it, I think, rather than doing anything else.
CR: That’s what gets you out of bed in the morning.
SB: Yes, it is.
Unilever, Corporate Decision-Making and the Marine Stewardship Council
Before the great collapse in Newfoundland cod stocks
SB: Unilever led the charge on marine conservation because the marketing manager of Bird’s Eye Walls was from Canada, and her family had lost their jobs when the cod stocks had collapsed.
CR: From Newfoundland. Who was that?
SB: Caroline Whitfield. That’s the sort of thing that makes things happen.
CR: How did that happen? How did you first get involved in that?
SB: My position was across a whole range of things, marketing, public affairs, straight forward PR, city relations investor relations, the whole shebang. So, you got what was called cross-divisional work. The Marketing Division [Unilever] got in touch with me and said Bird’s Eye are very worried because Greenpeace is picketing supermarkets in Germany, saying don’t buy Birds’ Eye Walls’ frozen fish products. Will you come and talk to their European frozen fish marketing manager, we think you’ll like her.
I went to talk to her. She spent an hour telling me about how fish farming was going to save the world. I said absolutely nothing at all. When she finished, I said nobody is interested in that. It’s an environmental devastation. What you’ve got to do is to understand you’ve got something to do seriously about sustainability, but you’ll be surprised by how big the opportunity is here.
Richard Cox was in the room, who now runs Saltman and Lowe the marketing agency, very successful. Richard told me afterwards that he never seen anything like it. He said “no other consultant would sit saying nothing for an hour but then tells the client you’re absolutely wrong about everything”. But she loved it and it went very well from there on.
The same project, I ended up in a meeting in Unilever where all of the hostile people were around the table. It was chaired by then member of the board, one of the Vandenburg family. In the end of it, he looked around the table, and he said, very Dutch, “whether you agree with him or not, He knows how to draw a line in the sand!” I was very pleased with that.
CR: Basically your engagement with Unilever on fish led to the establishment of the Marine Stewardship Council. That was that the beginning of it then was it, going to talk to this woman?
SB: Yes it was. Because what I said was, I think that to trying to solve this through fish farming is just wholly implausible. I don’t know anything about this area but it only takes ten minutes to find people who do because in those days I knew everybody on the circuit. Let’s find out what the real score is.
I was then put in touch with Mike Sutton who was running the marine conservation side of WWF. He and I met for a drink at a pub in Guildford. We were together for no more than an hour and at the end of that we’d agreed that the Forest Stewardship Council could be improved upon and we were going to do it with the Marine Stewardship Council. We had already called it that in that pub that night. He was great to work with. He actually was the right person at the right time because he can put on a suit and appeared very corporate.
SB: A big problem here is that a lot of the NGOs employed brilliant people who would be able to cut like a knife through butter if they just dress properly when they came into the meeting. It is just not part of the thing to do.
I have to say to my clients. Look, look, I know you are going to think that you have to put a jumper, okay, and all this stuff. You don’t have to do that, and then they turn up in a jumper.
CR: Your clients being the corporate part?
SB: Yeah, they think they have to dress down because they are talking to the environmentalists, and I can see why they are doing that, but I also see it’s a psychological thing about “I don’t need the defensive equipment. I’m with the dippies”, and of course dippies turned up looking like dippies. It’s a bit frustrating sometimes. Not always, but sometimes it’s very funny.
CR: So, Michael Sutton was working with WWF. You were working for?
SB: Unilever. I was working for Burson’s on behalf of Unilever. There was a lot of resistance internally.
CR: But the conventional story is that Unilever were worried because it was prompted by the threat of campaigning. But did they become worried about fish stocks or was that actually just what the environmentalists were worried about?
SB: That’s what the environmentalists were worried about. They [Unilever] were worried about brand damage.
CR: Bird’s Eye?
SB: Yes, Caroline Whitfield personally, and this is the bridging point, had both. She was a brand manager and she wanted to do something about fish stocks sustainability. So that’s one of the diamonds laying around, you know.
CR: Why was she worried about fish stocks?
SB: She was brought up on the east coast of Canada. Some of her relatives had been involved in the fishing industry and the cod fisheries had collapsed and all of those people have gone out of business. It had been, I believe, in her teenage years and she had remembered it. She wasn’t overly romantic about it by the way. But what it did do was inoculate her against the industry bullshit – that was the key point.
So, when they turned up and said everything we do is sustainable, she would say “why are there no f***ing fish in the sea then?” It really was like that, and she could be very tough too. She was impressive – and difficult.
SB: I had a phone call from the then Head of Sustainability of Unilever, very nice woman I got along well with her years later. I was on a train, it came through on my phone, and she was shouting at me. “Marine conservation is not one of our issues this year!”
CR: Was this Christine Drury?
SB: Yes, and she was furious. The initiative was being taken that wasn’t on the grid, it’s not our issue for this year! Later on, when she saw what we were doing, she swung 101% behind it and which was excellent. But to my point, people who were used to the process find any kind of opportunity-driven thing, terrifying! We should predict it! That’s why we should grab it. They are fixated on predictability. When will this happen? I don’t know when this will happen. I’m just telling you this will happen. But if you don’t know when, it does not matter to us.
Motivating Factors for Unilever
CR: A quite well known official story was that the Unilever saw the light about sustainability. They were the world’s largest frozen fish buyer and supplier. It was in their interests to ensure more sustainable supply chain, and the government in action was inadequate. Therefore, they invented a certification system.
SB: That is a perfectly reasonable explanation for the action. It just does not happen to have been the motivation. That explanation would be [have been] true for years.
So the question would be, what made them suddenly change? The personal commitment of the people involved, the fact that I was making sure that everybody who had not been noticed were noticed, “oh whoops the inspectors have turned up here”, and normally that report would be buried somewhere and I’m going “if that comes out in the public we are all deep in the shit”, and all the rest of it. You’ve got all those levers, and most times nobody does. That’s what I think made the difference.
This does not invalidate this as such, because I was asked virtually the same questions at an environmental science thing I did a few weeks ago. He said “I worked for Unilever, but what you just told me bears no relation to what they’ve told me”. I said you don’t have to choose between those two stories because they are both true.
What I’m telling you is about what happened at the time and what motivated it. What they are telling you is how they’ve incorporated it into their narrative. When you say to me, they are not telling the truth, I don’t say to you, yes, they are lying, because they are not. They are telling the truth, and their narrative is very helpful now. Why would I need to criticise it? They’ve always been great on the environment. Their next decision even looks better than the last. Who’d want to say no?
CR: One motivating factor was the lady from Newfoundland. She was inoculated against the bullshit by her personal experiences. That was one thing.
CR: Cristine Drury, the sustainability expert, or her job, she came around and saw the potential in whatever terms matter, from that point of view, making Unilever a more sustainable company.
CR: What other motivations were at play in terms of decision-making by the corporation, people in the corporation that were important that actually leading them to do it?
SB: They’d become very sensitised to public opinion at that time because it was wrapped up in a number of other sensitive issues including GMO. There were others too, you know, food contamination scandals and all sort of bits and bobs, which was not Unilever’s fault but it was an atmosphere thing. So, people had become a lot more sensitised to it.
“aren’t they just doing this for the money?”. I said “I certainly I hope so because I’ve spent years trying to persuade these companies that there’s money in doing the right thing and I hope they make a lot of it”
There was a very good marketing man for the fats and oils division, which is where all the margarine is, which is a lot of money, who was a really hard-nosed character, Bill something or other I’ll find his name. He had no interest in the environment at all. He just said to me one day he thought there was a lot of money in it so is he incorporating it into his branding. I was doing an interview for BBC television when I was defending some petro company and the first question the interviewer put was “aren’t they just doing this for the money?”. I said “I certainly I hope so because I’ve spent years trying to persuade these companies that there’s money in doing the right thing and I hope they make a lot of it”.
Afterwards the producer said me, “we had nowhere to go after that answer”. I was pleased by that.
The Unilever people did climb on board. It was much more “you buggered up our process” than we don’t want to support sustainability. They wanted to support sustainability. But if you have an organisation where everybody could go off and do things, you would never have an organisation. So there has to be grids and stuff.
Changing The Power System
SB: When we were putting together the Marine Stewardship Council – and Richard Cox tells a quite funny story about this – it very quickly grew to the stage at which there was somebody from the finance and legal department of Unilever, several people from WWF and all sorts of people, somebody observer from something else.
It was clear to me that this was going absolutely nowhere. I remember going into the room. There was a table much like this, a board room style, there’s nobody in the end chair so I went and sat on it, called the meeting to order and ran it for the entire afternoon and drove it to all the conclusions I wanted.
There had never been an election or any discussion of who the chairman was but if I hadn’t done it no one else would have done and I’m pretty sure that if we hadn’t done that the bloody thing would not happened.
Because what you get is as soon as it looks like something is going to happen, every expert you’ve ever heard [of] in your life turns up and kills it stone dead. This isn’t about knowledge. It’s about moving the power system and most ENGOs don’t get that. They want to win the arguments.
CEOs, Leadership and Internal Power
SB: All of the people who end up with that kind of thing [the Unilever fish case], they are either CEO or they are difficult.
CEOs don’t need to be difficult because you just tell everyone this is what we are going to do. That’s the John Browne [one time CEO of BP] model.
Somebody said to Browne in one of the meetings that “a lot of people in the company do not support this, we need more time to get everybody lined up”. He said “there is not enough time on any subject, what I have to do is to kick the ball ahead of the field and make them run for it. I must describe what the policy is to the outside world and they’ll believe internally and act on it”. He was absolutely right.
‘what they have got is the ability to make things happen internally, and that is a very interesting power. If people internally believe the CEO wants this, you don’t need any process, it’ll happen’
SB: … I tried to work with the CEO, because that’s how you get things done. It’s not because I’m fixated with power. Besides anything else, believe me, I know how little power CEOs had in the outside world. I don’t buy any of this global conspiracy shit – most of these guys can hardly fart without having a load of inspectors up their arse, but what they have got is the ability to make things happen internally, and that is a very interesting power. If people internally believe the CEO wants this, you don’t need any process, it’ll happen.
CR: Would you say that if you are trying to influence a corporation … anyone trying from the outside like an environmental organisation or other voluntary organisation, should try and engage the CEO?
SB: Corporate decision making is 99% personal commitment and 1% rational argument, is my answer to that. The person who can most effectively use the 99% is the CEO.
If the CEO says, “our brand character must evolve over the next 6 months, so that we are the most progressive company in our sector as perceived by European Commission officials”, you can make sure, it will happen.
But it doesn’t come from the CEO normally, it comes from the Sustainability Officer who thinks how good it would be if the politicians loved us, why don’t we get more sustainable, everyone will say yes and there will be absolutely no budget for it whatsoever and everything will carry on as normal.
… you either have the big leadership thing with the CEO or you find somebody in the organisation with the personal commitment to work with you to pull the handles. That has been the two ways of doing it
Getting to Understand the Internal Decision Process – Past Employees and Academics
CR: How easy is it to find out about the actual internal decision-making process, and culture that goes along with that? If you are a complete outsider like a voluntary organisation, like a campaign group, as opposed to somebody who they actually paid to be there, and they then have to explain or expose it to?
SB: I’m always surprised by how poorly the NGOs do this stuff because it seems to me relatively straight forward.
CR: But is it ? Because if the campaign against fish and chips shops in Sussex was to turn up to the doorstep of Unilever’s HQ, or whatever, bang on the door and asked to be let in they would they be shown to the most junior person in the sustainability department who’s not even aware of these things.
SB: Indeed, they would.
CR: Whereas you are invited in, you are talking to board directors at the very least.
SB: Yes sometimes, but it wasn’t what I meant. It wasn’t about the access. It’s about not understanding human resentments.
‘Every company is terrified that the people it sacked are going to spill the beans’
Every company is terrified that the people it sacked are going to spill the beans. Every company that’s had senior people who have retired, those retired people are invited back for four times a year to the garden party to keep their mouths shut. I am amused that people have just not gone there.
You just need to look through the retirement files. Send them a note: “I’m conducting an interview on ethical corporate decision-making. You have a superb record. Would you join me for a lunch for an hour in your local pub? Do bring your wife” Brag? Yes, they all would. I know. I’ve spent time stopping them doing it.
‘They are terrified of being criticised by the academics’
Academics are another great way into companies. They are terrified of being criticised by the academics. They don’t mean environmental scientists needless to say. But if you say a Business School has put a graduate student on doing the basic research because this may be a case study. You’ll get the budget. Don’t worry about that. What you’ve got to find some student and say “here’s a tenner son, just turn up for ten minutes”. I’ve done it.
CR: How would you say that corporate decision-making, differs from decision-making in government departments, institutions, agencies of government? In some ways, there are some things that are very similar.
CR: Like somebody who’s got a limited room for manoeuvre, they’re in the middle of the chain. In other ways this is quite different. Do you think that outsiders like the voluntary organisations really understand the difference between the two?
SB: I don’t. But then to be honest I don’t think many insiders do either actually. If you talk to people about corporate decision-making who were there at the time, you won’t actually get much by way of useful information. Because what you’ll get is, “what I did next”, which bears no relation to the reality at all. A narrative thread from their perspective, but it won’t be much cop on the analysis front. Because most of them struggle to understand O-level politics.
I’m being serious. If you started to talk about the difference between representative democracy, delegated democracy, plebiscitary democracy, very important questions for how corporations react at the moment, I know virtually nobody at the senior level of the commercial world who would even understand the distinction you were making.
CR: Is that true across all nationalities and cultures? if you met a bunch of Swiss, a bunch of senior executives, would they all tend to be very process driven, like chemical engineers in chemical companies for example, therefore politically naïve in that sense?
SB: No, first of all, I would say all those groups would be politically naive, but it would be in different ways. National culture plays out in my view much more in corporate decision-making than most people realise.
Religion and Culture
SB: I know when I’m working for a German company or a Spanish company or a Chinese company and all the rest of it, you can tell immediately, the culture is completely different. I used to have great fun working for a Finnish company, in South America, trying to explain to Protestant Finns, why the Hispanic and native Catholics thought they were wankers. It was a really enjoyable project. Completely different worlds.
So that would be an example of how I’m very interested in the difference between Protestant and Catholic culture of the last 500 years, because it plays out all the time, and you see it everywhere. So, when we talk about the way Germans think, what we are really talking about is Northern Germans, Protestant Germany, with the exception of Cologne. Or if we are talking about France, what we are really talking about is a centralised Catholic culture. Nobody in the commercial world [considers this], with the possible exception of Christine Drury, oddly enough, since she came up earlier.
She commissioned a university in Netherlands to do some work on this, and they came up with an extraordinary piece of work, which would be great to get hold of, which said you are absolutely right and we’ve correlated our different products and their reception and the advertising’s reception against the historical religious tradition in the area. So Catholic cultures for all sorts of reasons do not think in abstract terms on environmental issues because in Catholic culture it’s is the water clean? Whereas in Protestant culture, because of the tradition of debate and abstract argument and all the rest of it, they want all the super-structure, so to speak.
CR: So, they think about the eco-system of things, the economics rather than just business.
SB: Because the Protestant traditions is individual responsibility and the individual responsibility is played out in a process. The Catholic tradition is actually very limited personal responsibility for what happens in the wide world because that’s the responsibility of His Majesty. Now every Catholic theologian would say what I just said is completely rubbish and would immediately have a drink and agree that’s exactly the case.
There’s a marvellous piece of work by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, whatever it’s called, three years ago, they found a valley in Switzerland, which for odd historical reasons, one end of the valley had stayed Catholic and the other end of the valley had converted to Protestantism, and in every other significant way, they were completely the same, in the quality of farmland and all the rest of it. It’s a great piece of research. You can track it year by year as the Protestants get richer, and richer, and richer, investing the money this year has made into what they’ll need for a better piece of machinery next year. Meanwhile on the other end of it, things are exactly what you want to be on holiday.
I know this sounds a bit abstract, but I talk about this all the time when I am working. It has to do with personal disposition, where you are on the autism spectrum, what your cultural background is, whether you were brought up religious or not, what your attitudes to money are. It has to do with the country you that come from, because the country will have a set of national characteristics which will also play out in your role as a senior manager. It has to do with generation. Each generation takes on a set different set of attitudes to some of these questions and you can see it, almost like rings in a tree by the time you got to our age actually. It has to do with function in the company.
NGOs Blinded By Issues ?
SB: When I am dealing with people in ENGOs, they tend to be issue focused, in a way which blinds them to what the possibilities for change are. People have to focus on how to make the thing change, not why it should change. Many of the campaigners in their communication focus on “why you should change,” which does not change anyone.
SB: John Passacantando – I got to know him very briefly when he was doing the Greenpeace job in the US and I was deeply impressed. When I had a couple of conversations with him about the real, corporate stuff, he actually understood, in a way which most of the people I dealt with in the environment movement never did. You could say things to him, and he will just get it all.
Corporates in a Hole
CR: Other people have said to me, for example Tom Burke – ‘[there are] very few people in business who understand how political decisions are made’.
SB: I think mental disposition, character dispositions play a huge role in it … If you have a corporation which is B2B and is, in plain language, “pile it high and sell it cheap,” in other words, commodity of some sort, the culture does not require and does not accept anybody who understands sophisticated communication. It would be a threat to the organism.
I have seen this in some of these companies. Some of these people at the senior management do not engage in these issues, because they would then know what is was wrong to do, and it would constrain their actions. I’m serious, I’ve seen that. I think [in] that kind of culture, [there is] a cross-over between the function of the company and the kind of people who get into the top of that company.
‘When you get those two in a perfect storm, what you get is a very large, global corporation, with no consumer interface, therefore no public recognition, therefore no understanding of how public opinion works, and therefore they dig themselves deeper and deeper into the hole’
When you get those two in a perfect storm, what you get is a very large, global corporation, with no consumer interface, therefore no public recognition, therefore no understanding of how public opinion works, and therefore they dig themselves deeper and deeper into the hole …
You could argue that selling to farmers isn’t exactly B2B, but actually it does not involve in large scale communications.
Where to Find Progressives
CR: We are trying to explore the difference political decision-making and business decision-making.
SB: If you really want to find real progressives, by and large the best place to look is the legal department. Everybody thinks it will be the marketeers, but that’s not right.
It’s the legal people who can sit back and understand what a big picture question might mean and think it through, in a way that marketeers generally don’t from my experience. Marketeers can be sold something, because as we have been talking about, if you want to sell it, sell it to a salesman. So I usually get the salesperson and marketeers on side because you can sell it to them.
‘If you really want to find real progressives, by and large the best place to look is the legal department. Everybody thinks it will be the marketeers, but that’s not right’
But if you want the intellectual arguments understood, the lawyers are the best place to go, in my experience.
Multinationals and American ‘Multinationals’
SB: So, personal characteristics, the way the process is going, which country you come from, what your function within the company is, whether the company has a communications-rich culture or a quantity-driven culture, how international the company genuinely is – many multinational companies are in fact national companies with lots of operations around the world; some are increasingly, genuinely multinational.
CR: An example? Presumably Coca-Cola is basically American?
SB: In my experience, American companies are all American companies. If I were looking for genuinely international companies, I would mainly look at continental European or Asian ones actually. The big Indians ones are genuinely multinational. If you go to work with a big global Indian company, they employ anyone from anywhere. That’s the way Indian culture works. Can you make us money? Good, you are in. Whereas the Americans, there will be, you know, the black man, the Chinese lady, one-eyed lesbian negress, all things will be carried through, but there won’t be any diversity.
‘If I were looking for genuinely international companies, I would mainly look at continental European or Asian ones actually. The big Indians ones are genuinely multinational’
CR: Do you think any of these has something to do with whether or not, some political cultures have a view about business, corporations, making money or not [is a good or bad thing], which others don’t so much?
SB: I think that’s true.
CR: Then that gets transferred into the social politics.
‘The Trump presidency has made maintaining America as the global leadership in multinational corporations untenable’
SB: Yes, I think that is true. I think there is a particular moment now. This is not just because of my working life right now. I am seeing it all over the place. The Trump presidency has made maintaining America as the global leadership in multinational corporations untenable. I am seeing it all over the place. You cannot pop up in Davos and say “Hello Charlie what are you doing for climate change and by the way I am paying for Trump’s inauguration.” You have to choose! Some of them are really wriggling in having to choose.
Drifting Into Right Wing Views
SB: Another element here is because of the political naivety, a lot of these people drift into supporting whatever the right-wing option is, because they do not see the centre-left option.
Browne at BP was unusual because he mixed socially with social democrats across the Europe, and Blair and all the rest of them.
But most senior people in corporations would struggle to see their way through a social event at the local Conservative Association to be honest with you. Everybody think he is the CEO of so-and-so, he’ll just ring Downing Street – well, first of all try it, I’ve been there when they try it. It’s not that easy.
Secondly, the first question would be: What are you going to do for us? Most CEOs and senior corporate people don’t understand that politics is about trading favours. They think politics is about judicial. We presented you with the evidence, and you haven’t ruled according to the evidence.
CR: Would you say that a lot of NGOs think that influencing government and corporations is about trying to present them with the evidence, and a lot of corporations think influencing government is about presenting them with the evidence?
SB: Yes, that’s where the power of government comes from, that they are governing people who do not understand how government works, and they can play everybody off against everybody else. 90% of the time spent on that science, 90% of the money on it from the commercial world and from the NGOs is a total waste of time, other than making life pleasant for the people who are involved in it. It makes no difference. Nothing ever gets changed by another rat study. It just doesn’t.
That’s not to say the case does not have to be consistent with the science and all the rest of it. What we are talking here is the cultural quality of the argument I think.
The Influence of Partners
CR: Tell me about what happened when Unilever went to Buckingham Palace
SB: It’s just an easy example of the way in which when you are looking at decision making, what you have to do is to look at people’s self-image. And their self-image is as much to do with what their partners say about them as what they think of themselves. That was an acute example. We had a lot of resistance from the senior level, WWF fixed up for senior Unilever executives to go to spend an afternoon being shown round Buckingham Palace and then having tea with the Duke of Edinburgh. And had been given passes to see all the nice places and all the rest of it.
By the following week, they were all on board, because the Duke of Edinburgh was very good. “I understand this must be a challenging commercial decision, and I know I do not understand all the ins and outs of it, but I like the direction of your thinking!” And after ten minutes their wives are going “oh they like the direction of your thinking!” and by the end of it we’re on a home-run. That stuff happens all the time.
(Johnson Matthey made autocatalysts which were central to reducing vehicle pollution and contained platinum. The catalyst was poisoned by lead. So campaigns against lead in petrol, and against air pollution, covered with the interests of Johnson Matthey, a precious metals specialist.)
SB: I was working for Ian Greer, the lobbyist who was disgraced in the end, but I had a lot of time for him, he was very good at the job. We’d been to a meeting with Virginia Bottomley. I think she was in the environment secretary at that time actually. She said you must stop this campaign because I have decided, that under no circumstances will we agree to the amendment that you seek. So I want your clients to stop damaging themselves. That’s very clear. So out we came, and Ian who is about four foot high, was giggling like hell, saying we won! We won! She wants us to call off the dogs because we’ve won. If we were losing, she would say, carry on, you are doing a great job.
CR: What was this campaign about?
SB: Auto-catalysts on motor cars. We were representing Johnson Matthey. Very enjoyable campaign, which involved in working with Des (Wilson) on getting lead out of petrol. So all these things link up.
CR: What happened to Ian Greer?
SB: He moved to Africa in the end and I believe he leads a reasonably pleasant life. I got along with him absolutely fine. I never saw any evidence of any bribery he was involved in, if he was involved in any. What I did see, was an awful lot of sleazy Tory MPs whose minds could be changed over a decent couple of glasses of Port. That’s not quite the same thing as the allegation that he was paying them chunks of cash.
CR: This was a cash for questions thing?
SB: I think what happened there. I think in the end the allegation was true. The cash was being paid for questions, but to some extent, Ian is absolved of responsibility because he was working with one of the biggest maniacs I’ve ever met in my life. The man who owned Harrods, Al-Fayed. You only had to be in the room to see that you’d better check where the fire escape was and check your silver! But Ian, from a working class background in Glasgow dealing with the man who owns Harrods, so I think he fell for a bit more than he should have done.
… SB: … it frustrates me that nobody ever makes the effort to seriously measure what the benefit of doing this stuff is to these corporations. I see it all the time.
Johnson Matthey made an utter fortune out of the introduction of autocatalysts in Europe. That was the combination of a cleaning campaign that ran for 15 years – conjunction by Johnson and the commercial world and the NGOs. It would not have happened if that conjunction had not happened.
‘That is absolutely wonderful example of how commercial companies can make a fortune by doing the right thing and nobody has ever written it up. There are dozens and dozens of them. Because all of the ethical consultants are not interested. Because they weren’t there’
CR: Could you name a couple of other examples of where people made a fortune by doing the right thing?
SB: An obvious one is the Body Shop. You can argue about it, whether it was good or bad thing, I’m not interested in that. What I’m saying is, she clearly was motivated by a desire – I met her [Anita Roddick] several times and I have no doubt all that she’s motivated by a desire to do the right thing and happened to make several hundred million as a sort of en passant thing, largely organised by a very smart husband, in terms of the financing.
CR: Gordon Roddick.
SB: But as an example of making money from doing the right thing and branding yourself as doing so, it’s incomparable.
CR: That’s one of these examples that is known, and Johnson Matthey one’s not well known.
SB: Well if you ask people who are in the business, certainly if you ask Octel, who we were campaigning against, they would give you chapter and verse on it. But the ethical people aren’t interested in that stuff because it’s long and difficult and complicated, and it’s not going to the right whoopie cushion points frankly.
Scientists and Politics, in Which ‘Nothing Fits’
SB: When I’m working with a corporation, I have exactly the same problem [as with scientists in NGOs] . They have no idea the way the political system works.
‘in science, everything fits together until you get to a very deep and sophisticated level, whereas in politics, the whole point is that nothing fits together. Values are continually in conflict with each other. You must continue to make expedient value judgements the whole time, and you have to do it in the now-time’
So I run workshops … because these people are used to dealing in data. … The core issue, is that scientists, particularly commercial scientists, tend to be very certainty-orientated, proof-orientated and so on. But politics isn’t like that.
The obvious reason is, in science, everything fits together until you get to a very deep and sophisticated level, whereas in politics, the whole point is that nothing fits together. Values are continually in conflict with each other. You must continue to make expedient value judgements the whole time, and you have to do it in the now-time and you cannot plan for them. You have to do it on the basis of experience because no rules ever seem to work and so on. That’s what the difference is.
I acted as bagman for Roy Jenkins [UK politician] on several occasions, Roy took very profoundly important decisions based on something someone had said to him on the phone because that is his job. He has to take the rap for it and he has to have the right people in place so that when they phone him he says are you sure and they say 90% sure and he says that’s about as good as we can get tonight, we’ll go with it.
Smoke and Mirror Politics
I was bagman for Steel [UK politician, now Lord Steel] when he was being interviewed on a morning TV programme, this was in the early days of morning TV. His interviewer, some smart arse said: “Mr. Steel, does the Liberal Party, support the maintenance of sterling, in the European flexible snake mechanism?” I knew perfectly well he had no idea what this meant. “Yes, we do. We are strongly …” and away he went with all that kind of stuff. It was straight into, “You have got to be aware that we have people working on this thing night and day”. That was either yes or no.
You have to make it up on the hoof. He hadn’t got the bloody papers, he didn’t know what the science was, and he has no idea about what the f***ing snake mechanism was either. What is he going to do on a TV programme?
CR: What is the most important thing about what he said and the way he said it?
SB: It was plausible. To get through it. That’s what they have to do.
‘I’m afraid many people in the NGOs just do not get it. A minister will not read the bloody paper. The minister wants to know, when they ask the question, am I saying yes or no?’
CR: So is politics entirely a game of smoke and mirrors in that sense?
SB: It did not used to be, but it is now. When I first took an interest in politics, the average to do a camera comment was about 40 to 50 seconds in a main TV bulletin and it’s now 3 to 4. You can’t say anything in 3 to 4 seconds. If you are lucky, you can say motherhood and apple pie, that’s it. So there is no chance of the politicians engaging with the public and changing opinion. That’s now done by a vast machine, the Murdoch machine … whatever that might be. The politician is buffeting about in the dingy on the top of this, with absolutely no hope in influencing what so f***ing ever.
Enoch Powell was right, when he said 40 years ago, a politician who complains about the press is as a sailor who complains about the sea. They’ve got to sail over the top of it. That’s the way it is. And nobody in the commercial world, and I’m afraid many people in the NGOs just do not get it. A minister will not read the bloody paper. The minister wants to know, when they ask the question, am I saying yes or no. They do not need to know the rest. They can make that up: “Lady in my own constituency, only this week, told me she was concerned about the flexible snake mechanism. I told her – no one is more concerned about this than me …”.
The Most Effective NGOs ?
SB: The organisation which is brought the most change, from where I see it, without doubt at all, is Greenpeace … Because Greenpeace addresses the motivational issue. Greenpeace knows how to put the fear of god in them and that’s what brings the change.
I see WWF as coming along by coming along doing the sweeping up, and by that time frankly I have pretty well lost interest because all the politics is sorted …
CR: Aside from Greenpeace?
SB: I am a big admirer of Environmental Working Group in the US. I think they’ve got the balance right, between being a radical campaign organisation and being prepared to do the serious negotiations if needs be. They’ve also got a very coherent political strategy in the Trump era. I’m not a big fan of WWF – at its most basic level it has to do with looking at how much money it costs and what I think I could do with that much money, I’m afraid, is the answer. I normally see WWF as the acceptable face of the environmental movement when I don’t need to get much done. But if I want to get something done like a step change thing, and step change wouldn’t be just because it is good for the environment, but because I’ve been persuaded that the step changes is good for the clients. I have never done this at a client’s expense and I never would. There is no point doing that. I’d be one of those f***ing ethical consultants and I’m not interested in that. This works. This will make your company money. I’ve done this with other companies. I’ve got the numbers you can ring them, call out this is how much money we made. That’s what brings the change.
Climate and Environmental Lawyers
SB: There is one ENGO thing emerging which I think might turn out to be very interesting [this was winter 2017]. That is the increasing extent to which environmentally conscious lawyers are connecting with each other. That seems to me to have massive potential.
‘Not … the historic bilateral world of commerce versus the ENGOs, but in the newly emerging world of total chaos in which those distinctions are largely meaningless. I don’t know what the new distinctions will be but [they] won’t be those’
Partly for the reason I indicated earlier, if you look at big corporations that are in closed-in mode, the place where you will find the last redoubt of rationality is usually the legal department. Also legal people have a tendency to see what the implications of things are, in a way that marketing and salesperson just see the next quarter.
I think if I were looking at it from an ENGO perspective, I think that that development of that huge network of environmental lawyers, I’ve seen various bits and pieces of work they are doing, and I was impressed by it, has got big potential.
Not so much in what I see as the historic bilateral world of commerce versus the ENGOs, but in the newly emerging world of total chaos in which those distinctions are largely meaningless. I don’t know what the new distinctions will be but [they] won’t be those.
I also think, that around climate change and corporate behaviour, there is a f*** lot of money to be made, for lawyers. There are decisions being made every day that in my view are highly questionable legally.
CR: Because liabilities are going to rise?
SB: Yes. There is a very interesting piece of research which I read about on the WSJ about five years ago and I have been kicking myself ever since for not having clipped it. They interviewed nine multinational CFOs and asked them a set of structured questions which were looking at how investment decisions were made. [It was] only when they were analysing the answers afterwards, [that] they realised that one of the questions could only be answered “yes”, if the cooperation was acting illegally – and all of them answered yes. Because that’s what they do.
The question was: “at what point do you inform your shareholders when it looks as though a long-term risk has become harder.” Their answer was, “I will leave it as late as possible in the hope that something turned up.” That’s what they all do all the time and it’s illegal. They are not supposed to do that, and they all do.
‘Jesus that a soft underbelly, It really is, and I know some good people who are working on it. But if I were them, I would go hell for leather on it’
A good network of lawyers should be [saying], “Thank you very much for the annual report. We would like to know what papers were submitted by the legal department on the liability questions”. You’ll get, “That’s not available.” Why not? How many other shareholders believe that … ? Jesus that a soft underbelly, It really is, and I know some good people who are working on it. But if I were them, I would go hell for leather on it.
CR: Client Earth is the best-known group. Are there others?
SB: There appears to be a lot of informal ones actually. Bar lawyers in the United States who are just good at it, who are getting in touch with each other which I think is good. Client Earth I think is potentially very good. If I were one of the big foundations, I’d earmark a sum for a creative group to spend a week and say, if we had a big budget for legal, what could we do, because I think some interesting stuff could come out of it.
CR: [Aside from Environmental NGOs? ] I don’t know how involved you are on gay rights, gay representation politics and all that stuff. There’s a whole bunch of NGOs there, who made a lot of waves in terms of changing, like Australia, the marriage thing recently, what happened in Ireland, masses of stuff going back to the 70s and 80s at the beginning. Do you see from there or other NGOs, like development NGOs, other civil society organisations who you think, from understanding how it impacts corporates and governments, are impressive, competent?
SB: The examples you give are quite interesting. The success of gay rights movement was not driven by the success of gay rights campaigners. It was a fundamental change in society that just happened to manifest itself in that impact on the gay community. Once you’ve introduced virtually universal birth control, traditional sexual ethics just melt away and the church did not grapple with that. The homosexual community benefited from what basically is a technological event followed by a sociological change that went with it. So I think one has to careful about that.
There are some great campaigners. Peter Tatchell in the UK is a truly great campaigner and there are many others. But they were surfing the wave as they would be the first to say, I know Tatchell does, he’s very good on this stuff.
‘frankly, the development people are just better at avoiding the finger jabbing stuff’
SB: In the case of [the] development movement, I think that’s different again. And here, to me, one of the things I often do when I’m working with big corporations is engage with the development movement because that is much easier for corporate people to cope with. Because there are agreed and understandable outcomes. They can see to some extent what their responsibility is. Because frankly, the development people are just better at avoiding the finger jabbing stuff.
If you get the development people, Oxfam – which is a very radical organisation actually – they will do a tough check on what you are doing, but if they say this will be advantageous for our people, they’ll do it and they don’t give a shit.
You don’t get that with the environment movement which to me often has quite a lot of “I don’t know if I want to defend this one, and I’m talking to others, stuff.” It’s a difference between boots on ground and abstract argumentation stuff I strongly suspect. So that’s how I would come at those three different groups and how their cultures are different.
CR: What about health NGOs and politics? That’s a massive area, I mean, in terms of money, impacts, social importance, like the King’s Fund in the UK or big health charities, that are disease related.
SB: Yes. Right now [post cancer operations] I am a huge fan of the Macmillan Fund which has been unbelievably good. Their online resources are truly extraordinary. You get all the world experts, and then you get everybody else who has the same situation as you, putting in what they did, in really detailed stuff, fantastic resources. In some sense, Macmillan is a campaigning organisation actually, because it certainly mobilises political opinions and it does so in Brighton for getting more investment in the centre and so on.
“flickr pills – you should check how many you need …” by higlu is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
SB: I’ll tell you what I think the issues are because I’ve been working for all of the big pharmaceutical companies, yes all of them. The big issue there is that the system is fundamentally broken. That’s the problem. This is not something where the right company can step up to the plate and change things. It’s the system that is f***ed. In a way in which the system isn’t f***ed in fishing or agriculture actually, in principle, we can fix those. The pharmaceutical industry would just have to start from the ground upwards.
‘The big issue there is that the system is fundamentally broken’
CR: Is that because it’s a disease model system?
SB: I think there are a lot of issues. I did a presentation called ‘Down Tobacco Road’ in the late 1990s which I showed at board level to most of the big pharmaceutical companies. The starting point for it was, I said, do not go for the over the counter TV advertising. This was in the States at that time. The industry wanted it, because they just assumed that we advertise on TV and we sell more product. And I was saying, look, you have a unique status and the polling was absolutely clear. You could sweep the village away, rape the women and butcher the children, but you made medicine, and you were fine. And I said as soon as you start to compete in TV advertising, you could forget all that.
Within two years, their reputation [pharma companies] crashed through the floor, because they made public realise that they were commercial organisations like any other. That mystique had gone, and they’ve been in the shit ever since.
CR: We should talk more about big pharma another time I think.
SB: Because there is a load of opportunities there. There are senior people in the pharmaceutical industry who are very interested in talking about fundamental change. There’s a very, very good person on this that we both know, who is the daughter of Christopher Tickell, Sophia Tickell. I only met her once, but I heard her speak in a radio programme, and I thought god she’s good. She’s understood it. But I do know some senior people in this industry whom I would be very happy to have a serious conversation about what needs to be done. Particularly now, all of these people, are terrified of going down with Trump, the serious ones are. The whole model of pharmaceutical companies being offered a long intellectual life and then them negotiating the price of the product simply does not work. Everybody knows, it does not work. So we have to change it.
Do NGOs Understand Industry ?
CR: I have another question for you, which is, in your experience, do you think, do the NGOs, the people on the NGO side, actually understand the structure of the industry and what it does?
CR: For example, the difference between chemical companies, plastics companies, crop protection companies, agro-chemical companies and pharmaceutical companies.
SB: They would have similar cultures, in some ways, although interestingly different in others. But much more importantly, an intelligent analysis shows you that they do not have shared objectives. I’m often surprised, and I know that you and I have had conversations over the years which had fruitful outcomes, just to mention one because I don’t think there is any problem with it. Do you remember when there was a campaign against the toy industry on plastics, and I said to you, Hasbro versus Mattel are really frightened over what will come out on your side just for the sheer hell of it and we went to Lego. Do you remember that? That’s the sort of thing I was talking about. Work out what the competitive marketplace is, and then work out who’s got something to gain by screwing everybody else.
CR: Why you think it was Greenpeace who ended up running… ?
SB: Indeed, but most NGOs don’t do that at all, because they are expressive. “We know what we don’t want, and we know who we hate”. When they grow, they then acquire policy people. Sometimes those policy people are like David Baldock [former director of IEEP], they don’t actually start off as an agriculture expert, they just do it as a side line because they worked out how that how the power system works. But he’s unusual. Most experts continue off down the policy system.
Then you end up with the worst of all worlds of course, which is where there ends up being a professional lobbyist for the organisation. That in my view is also a bad mistake, because they become the arbiter of the organisation’s priorities. That’s no good either.
All of these are exactly the same in the commercial world. If you speak to the public affairs people of the big multinationals without any doubt at all I can line them up for you. They’d all say “my biggest problem is I’m not allowed to do the political deals that work, because my bosses don’t understand how politics works. They just get a list of what will sound good in the next quarterly shareholders’ meeting and tell me that’s my political objective. Frankly, they are going to tell you this: ‘I organise meetings with MEPs who are mates; I take the Chief Executive there a couple of times a year, so the CEO knows we are campaigning on this; I do f*** all on it from one year to the next’”.
Are people stupid?
CR: … now on taxi drivers, and maybe we can add fisherman in my experience.
SB: Yes, there are certain groups in society, with whom it is completely impossible to reason neither individually or collectively. Farmers and fisherman are two such groups.
‘there are certain groups in society, with whom it is completely impossible to reason neither individually or collectively. Farmers and fisherman are two such groups’
CR: Why taxi drivers?
SB: Taxi drivers are the height of that. You don’t go into taxi driving because you love coordinated action. The acute individualism of those professions would attract people with that kind of personality. Therefore [they] feel animosity toward collective decision-making and process that might bind them to do something they don’t want to do in the future.
CR: Taking a completely different tack for a moment. Reading through the notes you sent me, which are very interesting and thinking about various discussions. I feel a risk of – if you just looked at this stuff, you might think, if you were either on the NGO side or a public affairs person, possibly on a corporate side, you might think there’s a bit of a clever dick, because every example is about how stupid somebody is and there by implication how unstupid you are. That’s why a lot of them are funny. I share the view that there’s a lot of stupid stuff in there.
SB: That’s how I experienced in my life.
CR: Yes, but as a story-telling position, or conceit or construction, it’s probably not the most effective.
SB: It depends on the circumstance.
CR: If you focus, to get some of the people at the end of it to change the way they are doing things.
SB: If you start from the proposition that those people are unchangeable, why would I want to try to change them?
CR: I suppose it depends on whether or not this is just an expressive or instrumental exercise.
SB: No, it’s not instrumental to get people appear to be on your side when they will betray you later in the process. If they don’t buy into the objective, they are not part of the coalition, because they will fall apart. That’s why I have such a problem with [ ]. If we do this stuff, and he’s not totally on side for it, he will say something in a TV interview, and the whole pack of cards will collapse.
CR: I wasn’t talking about the agriculture thing. I’m thinking if you want to turn this into some sort of book or course
SB: Oh, in that case I don’t care – whatever is necessary.
CR: Thinking about these examples of things you’ve come across over the years, there are a lot of examples of stupid behaviour by companies, and there are some implicit examples of stupid actions by NGOs though not so many. If you went through companies, and if you went through NGOs, and thinking in relation to the general dysfunction you described in their triangular relationship with governments and politicians, which examples of companies who are getting it right, in things you saw them do, being effective, so examples of “good practice”.
SB: Yeah, I know. There is good practice. That’s true. But good practice flows from good people. So what I would do is to look around the corporations where good people are doing worthwhile things. There is a board member at Trafigura, which is a real, nitty gritty, billion-dollar, shift it round the world, dig it out of the ground, type of corporation, who is doing all sorts of interesting stuff, on what sustainable mining would really look like, and what actually needs to be mined and all of these.
‘What you really want, is the grand bargain. The grand bargain is, the ENGOs, the agro industry, and the food processors, all getting together and saying this is what sustainability looks like’
SB: He’s the sustainability guy. I haven’t seen him for years, but I’ve seen one or two of the things he’s doing, and they are very helpful. If I could find somebody else who could share the big picture here. What you really want, is the grand bargain. The grand bargain is, the ENGOs, the agro industry, and the food processors, all getting together and saying this is what sustainability looks like. Of course, it would be a grand bargain which has a lot of details to be subsequently filled in. Those three parties, in my view, could agree on a grand bargain for the next 20 years without too much trouble. The difficulty is, the optics require the farmers, which prevent any kind of a grand bargain. What I’m therefore saying is, let’s do it by abandoning the desire for the optics. Let’s take the tough decision and accept that the farmers would go berserk.
SB: I would see, the farmers objecting vehemently, as a proof point. My ultimate audience, actually, is the regulatory process in Europe. What I want to say is, we can get together, we can sort out what sustainable regulatory processes look like, we can impose them in Europe, and they will then be adopted globally. The only hope, actually, of achieving global regulation, because the Americans have abandoned the whole project. I am forever being criticised for being too big picture. My reaction is, why does everyone else have such a poverty of ambition?
CR: There is long way of doing it, that is, to run a political simulation, to say this is game, you know, we’ve got the world’s top game theory people, getting together to a massive computer chip or some way. It is going to do interesting things to produce a lot of flowing, multi-dimensional diagrams about the result and you’re going to be in it. And it’s going to be three days in CERN or California or wherever you want … erase the difference between it being a game and being real. Because people would take part in games, what is experimental, what is solvable.
SB: Yeah, I do that. If you allow them to stay in their working role, they would be obdurate and stupid because that’s what the role requires. If you are now the Minister of Women of Uganda, you would be amazed by how imaginative and creative they could be.
SB: I do get it, but I think there is an interesting point. I don’t think even you realise how deep the emotional psychological resistance to this is. I’ll give you an example. I did a session in Asia, which was attended by the senior management team of Syngenta in Asia including the Head of China division. The top people were there, including the global Chief Operating Officer. We lined up half a dozen NGOs operating in Asia, not just WWF, but also working women in agriculture in Asia, Tropical Rainforest Alliance. Quite good groups. I spent two days talking to them on the phone, meeting them in the town and all the rest of it. I said I’m going to do a little bit of theatre and I’m going to make a few suggestions. If you feel you could persuade your organisation to go along with it, would you mind saying yes? Because I want to show them what might be possible.
All six of them said yes, including Tropical Rainforest Alliance. So in front of the entire management team, I said I would like to ask the panel, if the company agreed to use close-loop and licensing in Asia for the use of pesticides, would you agree to campaign with the company that only licensed distributors should be allowed to distribute pesticides and herbicides because there’s a massive commercial gap to the industry? It knocks out the pirates, which is a real problem to the environment movement but gives them a commercial gain. What is your view?
I started with the Women in Agriculture woman because she was so good. “This is a wonderful idea. I would be happy to support you. We can find women in the different countries to give views on what you need for all of it”.
The Chief Operating Officer then stands up: I arrived at this meeting, thinking it was a waste of time. He’s a charmer. I now see what the point it is. I want this, and I want it before completion, (completion is when the sales and purchases and various internal bits and bobs): nothing ever happened. Nothing. It would have dealt with it.
‘the commercial side is exactly the same as the environmental side. They are so used to planning everything around the animosity’
There is no division for having good relations with lots of different people. That’s a war room. They have no idea about how to go into a negotiation. So the commercial side is exactly the same as the environmental side. They are so used to planning everything around the animosity.
They have no mechanism, for when sensible people say, yeah, you are right, you’ve won, what do we need to sort this out? “No no no, you are evil!” But we just said, we are going to sort it out. You know what [ ]. said to them? “I won’t do anything with you in public, but you should talk to my team and you’ve got a lot to learn from them”. Thank you. F*** you!
CR: Another approach to this type of problem is to change the players, or change the format, say you just basically, that’s what I said to you before about the agro industry: one option would be for them to grow the food? I know that’s what they criticise. Monsanto is a bad example of wanting to do that.
SB: Bad people wanting to do something good does not make good things bad.
Syngenta and Sustainable Farming
CR: I would be interesting to hear about the farm tour to discuss sustainable farming. Is that in Italy or somewhere?
SB: The industry, in this particular case, Syngenta, has a partnership with a wealthy guy in Northern Italy who is deep into sustainable landscape in the north of Italy. I can’t remember exactly his name. They set up a model farm to see how you could do modern farming in the most sustainable way. I’d been asked by Syngenta to organise tours of journalists to go and see it, which we never got around to doing. (I would have said 90% of the stuff we discussed with Syngenta that was a good idea no one ever gets around to doing.) What we did do, is I went down to see it myself and by coincidence, I was there doing the tour with a political journalist from the Evening Standard.
The tour was excellent. The two people doing the tour were scientists who actually live on the model farm, which is a beautiful place by the way. The water is all done as natural flows, there were ducks to eat the pests. But they do use pesticide and herbicide, where appropriate and everybody’s agreed it and so on. It was a model farm. It uses pesticides and herbicides radically less than what’s currently being used in comparable agriculture in the same region.
Towards the end of the tour, which was genuinely interesting, the political journalist became more and more political. [Journalist:] “Does this make us as much money as the other farms?” [Scientist:] “Yes.” I don’t believe it does incidentally, but we’ll set it on one side. [Journalist:] “In that case, what do other farmers around here think about this?” [Scientist:] “They think it is an interesting experiment.” [Journalist:] “Why aren’t they doing it if this makes the same money?” “Umm well, there may be a slight difference in how much the farms make. Therefore, we are looking at how we can do that.”
“Why, incidentally, if it’s a marginal thing, do the farmers round here not try it?” The scientist showing us around, said, “They don’t want to do it. They hate it. They hate all of this stuff. It’s a psychological problem, not a science problem, none of that, it’s a cultural problem.” Then the political journalist said, “That’s exactly the conclusion the politicians come to.”
The political journalist immediately says, “Is it possible that we could have a farm that is as sustainable as this, and the difference between how much this one makes and how much the other one makes could be made up by a reform of Common Agriculture Policy, and the cost would be far less than the common agriculture policy?”
[Scientist:] “Ah, well, yeah I suppose put it like that the arithmetic does seem to add up.” Then he [Journalist:] said, “Why, incidentally, if it’s a marginal thing, do the farmers round here not try it?” The scientist showing us around, said, “They don’t want to do it. They hate it. They hate all of this stuff. It’s a psychological problem, not a science problem, none of that, it’s a cultural problem.” Then the political journalist said, “That’s exactly the conclusion the politicians come to.”
CR: Was the scientist you were talking to Italian?
CR: Because in my experience, Italian scientists are more broad minded, when it comes to thinking about the human side of things.
SB: These guys were actually. I was very impressed by them. They were very committed to what they were doing, but they were not nerds. Frankly enough, the culture around here just hates this. That’s where the real problem is. I was impressed by the political journalist by the way, who left saying, the company is doing a lot. The problem is not with this company, but the farmers.
CR: When I worked for WWF in Italy, because they just won this nuclear power referendum or something, I was asking various questions about what is going to happen next, some problems with renewables, efficiency, and the power. I said, what about the nuclear industry? And they said “you know, that’s just a social problem, what we do with the workers essentially. It’s not a technical, not an energy problem it’s a social/psychological problem getting rid of nuclear power”.
SB: That’s true.
CR: The person I was talking to was actually a scientist and energy campaigner.
SB: That is an interesting point actually.
CR: [he said] “We are going to get the Unions on side”.
SB: Can I give a stronger version of that, on the farmers? I was working with ECPA, crop protection trade association, go and meet Ariel Brunner, Bird Life. Cut long story short, the team went, which was three of them, (to [see] the NGOs). I thought it was a good team for the industry to send. I felt all three of them perfectly reasonable people. They came back, presented how the discussion had gone. The man running the trade association, intervened at some point, and say, “just to make it clear, 80% of what he said he wanted us to do, we already know we should be doing”. They therefore concluded to end the discussion. In other words, they’ve gone to the NGO. The NGO said this is what you need to do, to be clear with us, on the birds’ side of this. They got back and said yes we can do this, but we’d better stop this discussion.
CR: Why did they want to stop? What would you mean by “we’d better stop this discussion”? In case what?
SB: If you start acting in the public policy process on the basis of the evidence, you will not be on the same side as the farmers.
CR: What did actually happen to ECPA (European Crop Protection Association)?
SB: They withdrew. They now just send ranty lunatic press releases about how the institutions of European Union are dominated by people who are not scientists, written incidentally by people who have no experience in science.
CR: So this 80% gap in terms of actions. What scope is there to actually…
SB: Make it happen?
CR: Yes, to make it happen by NGOs and …
SB: They don’t need to do anything. What I did, was I went to Syngenta and said, if you want to mark yourself out from the rest of the sector, why don’t you do something with Bird Life, because actually, what they asked for, we already know is perfectly reasonable? Andy Mack went and saw Ariel Brunner I believe I arranged for Ariel Brunner to go and talk to Alexandra and the little group leading this initiative. Ariel Brunner agreed. I don’t know about the last bit, whether he actually said yes. But I know he will. I’ve never met him. But I’ve indirectly communicated with him. I think he is aware of what we are trying to do and he seems to be prepared to play ball. The reason why I am going with that, is that as soon as I knew, what he wanted they could easily deliver, I thought good, I’ve got a bit we can hang on to here because we can use it as an example internally, of, look, bird lovers across Europe, if we get them on our side rather than on the other side, all of a sudden, we are no longer lepers.
CR: Back to farming.
SB: The point of the story about showing the model farming in Italy, and the point about the story about dealing with Ariel Brunner, is what the agro-chemical industry could do, could make a huge difference.
What’s stopping them doing it, there are lots of different things, multi-causal, but a primary one, is the belief that they will not have the support of their customers, the famers. In that belief, all the evidence shows, they are correct.
For nearly thirty years, more than that, I can remember going back to when we worked together 40 years ago, on straw burning [CR and SB were both at Friends of the Earth], the farmers were the problem.
There is a marvellous letter from the ambassador in India to President Kennedy, as to why farmers are always conservatives, that should be nailed [on the wall of the office of] every agricultural minister of the world. They are the problem. They defend what they’ve got, I completely understand why that is.
Somebody needs to explain to them that courage is getting from where you are to where you need to be. If they stay where they are, they are going to get wiped out. Politically they are. The public will not put up with this kind of subsidy system for much longer, even in France, I think. So they ought to move, but they won’t.
‘The answer is we have to reform the CAP to move towards sustainability, whether the bloody farmers like it or not, and they are going to have to catch up. What we have to give up on, is the belief that everybody has to agree on what has to happen. Because the farmers never will. But the agro-chemical industry will, because they don’t want to get the blame. They are caught between the farmers and the retailers’
So, the next question is, what can we do, that means they have to. The answer is we have to reform the CAP to move towards sustainability, whether the bloody farmers like it or not, and they are going to have to catch up. What we have to give up on, is the belief that everybody has to agree on what has to happen. Because the farmers never will.
But the agro-chemical industry will, because they don’t want to get the blame. They are caught between the farmers and the retailers, and the retailers are saying, we want sustainable agriculture, because that’s what the nice sign in our shops say. Get us sustainable agriculture.
The agriculture, agro-chem industry, knows what sustainable agriculture is. These people know what it is, and they can agree in private with the ENGOs on it. So, the question here is, can we come up with a really surprising alliance that fundamentally reforms the CAP to the benefit ultimately of the farmers, but not requiring their initial support? Because in reality, they’ll never give it.
CR: [If] we take it as read that Syngenta is going to move, which is a possibility. If that possibility turns out to happen, what else would you say, that people like the NGOs or others apart from farmers, and/or some of the farmers in your view, you know, if there are subgroups, but particularly the ENGOs, what do they need to do? How do they need to get involved?
SB: I’m speaking to you without qualifications. Of course, there are subgroups. We’re talking about the basics of the issues here.
I think what they’ve got to do is to accept that they too need to demonstrate a bit piece of courage. It doesn’t even need to be public courage. It just means, why don’t we sit down and talk, and see what these people are prepared to do? I think they’ll be surprised by what comes out of it.
I think, the industry, ultimately, will commit to accepting they have a role in climate change stuff and therefore moving to being non-fossil fuel based provided they are given a reasonable time scale and milestones to do so. I think they’ll agree to engage the public policy process in a different way because at the moment the internal decision is what is in our commercial interests that is what we would say in the public policy process.
We could easily remedy that. If we did so, it would change the nature of the public policy process.
Incidentally, I think that applies to all sectors, but why don’t we start with this one?
SB: I think we can get the Europeans to adopt a different way of looking at this from the Americans, undermining Trump’s disembowelment of the EPA. This is going to be a battle between Trump and all the loonies in the corporate world, trying to create a world without global corporate regulation, and the Europeans and, in my view the Chinese, who would be necessary to trying to do something else. This issue is going to split America versus the rest of the world.
‘This is going to be a battle between Trump and all the loonies in the corporate world, trying to create a world without global corporate regulation, and the Europeans and, in my view the Chinese, who would be necessary to trying to do something else’
Just look at the commercial position. The key playing field will be South America, which is the big expanding market for the agriculture, agro-chemical industry. At the moment, the drift in South America would be, in my opinion, not towards sustainable agriculture. On the other hand, I think that drift would not be that difficult to adjust in direction so that it did end in the place of sustainable agriculture, and I know there are serious people in the environment movement in South America that would take the same view. Because I’ve met a few of them in Brazil. Very impressive people. They are WWF people but not under the WWF brand. I can’t remember what they were called.
CR: Yes, in Brazil there’s lots of stuff like that.
SB: They are good actually. So that’s what I think the opportunity is.
CR: What is it that, in your view or your experience broadly, the NGOs in this area don’t know or think that’s wrong, or otherwise is a deficit or absence about getting this to happen?
SB: I think it’s not a knowledge or even an attitude problem. It’s a structure problem.
Nobody To Negotiate With In the Environment Movement ?
SB: The environment movement is more like the Orthodox church than it is like Rome. There is no centre of authority, there are just lots of archbishops who happen to get along okay, sometimes. If you have a serious conversation, who do you go and talk to?
This has been one of the biggest problems for me, working on this stuff. Now I’m used to it. So I know you have to go and talk to Ken Cook and you have to talk to Chris Rose and you have to talk to Peter Melchett. People in my generation who I know, and I trust, and I can have a frank conversation with.
Incidentally I don’t know many of the young people. When I engage with them, I found the cultural difference is so big it’s very very difficult to talk with them. Even the way they speak, I find difficult. The adoption of Australian accents – every sentence goes up at the end. I am thinking, “why are you doing this?”. I can’t hear what they were saying because they have these weird ways of talking. I don’t know who to engage with from the other side. It’s okay on the development side.
At the end of the day, Oxfam will always put someone serious in the room. But the environment movement, there just aren’t the people with the experience of big change negotiation. It would really need be a group of people who, in my view, were committed to the environmental cause, would probably be older and would be able to sit in a corporate broad room and say I see what you are doing there.
Ken Cook can do it and he does it brilliantly, because he says, I see what you are doing there, and I think we can help you with that if you put it in this way. At one stage, he said “you know your science is much better than ours, we’re astonished at how good your science is”. They were creaming themselves. Then he would say things like “I’ve got a fundraiser a week on Thursday, do you think you could take a table?” He leaves knowing everything, he had access to all of their science. “Marvellous science – look forward to further discussion with you”.
But he’s a serious negotiator. The deal he puts up on the table for the fragrance industry, he knew, was a very good deal for them, and it was. Their refusal to do it, was again, it is not about how good it is for the public policy process, ‘I will not work with the devil’. I said to Ken, at one stage, “they see you as the devil”. He said “you know what, if necessarily, I’ll wear horns when I come into the room so that they can feel more comfortable about it”. What most people say, is that’s what WWF is there for. Then why doesn’t it serve the purpose?
Ring Fencing the US
SB: Let me get back to the Agri-chemical sector, I think the way to change it, at the moment, it’s just a reactionary grouping. So Dow put a million into Donald’s inauguration. That to me is a symbol of that sort of thing. So how do we change that? You change the industry as a whole?
In my view, that’s not possible. Because the bulk of the industry culturally, the culture stuff is US.
That is the problem, not part of the solution. On BP, Unilever, and many other things I’ve worked on, you always have to ring-fence the US, because culturally they just can’t cope with this for deep historic reasons.
Because Trump is disembowelling the EPA I actually think there is scope for a clause in the grand bargain that says that the industry will not support what the chemical and petroleum industry is doing in the US to disembowel the EPA. That would split the industry straight down the middle.
For this reason all the European companies are horrified by what is going on in the US, absolutely horrified by it and the US companies all think it’s great news. If you want a split point, boy dance there.
CR: Tell me about you said the most professional people I’ve worked with, how Philips Morris and British American Tobacco actually work and how they usually win.
SB: The great thing about the tobacco industry’s culture, is that there is almost totally no self-delusion. That’s what it marks it out from all the other industry I’ve ever worked with. The tobacco industry is: “we are selling stuff that kills people. We are bound by a lot of rules and regulations. What are we going to do?” So you are straight away into a real discussion with real people. If you go to the chemical industry, you know, you will hear: “we are saving the world, they misunderstood us”, etc.
So what they do, is they appoint people who are realists. If you talk to a tobacco lobbyist, the first thing they’ll say is that we can’t do anything you just said son, we tried it all, and it don’t work. If we are very lucky, we’ll get this little bit if we are very good boys and we do all the right stuff. That’s how lobbying really works when it’s done successfully. Because they worked out what’s possible and focused their resources there.
Relationships and Talking To Yourselves ?
CR: Let me ask you a different question. Yesterday one thing you talked to me about what frustrated you about some groups, I think WWF was one of the manifestations. You came up with the phrase, that I hope you can recall. You had a word for them. It was essentially that they weren’t getting what they could get. They were giving without asking, getting just say the involvement of one company.
SB: It seems to me to they were focused on relationships at the expense of outcomes. I also think that the WWF people themselves actually have a deep poverty of ambition. Michael Sutton was very good on this, because he was the Head of Marine at one stage for WWF. He would say, when we go into a room and say, we want to reform the way fishing operates around the world, our problem is not going to be the fishing industry, it’s going to be the ENGOs, and indeed that’s what it turned out to be.
I remember talking to the Greenpeace fisheries people in Germany and ending up shouting at them – “the only people who read your labels are housewives in Germany!”. Of course, you can imagine the nuclear explosion on the other side. But it was perfectly true. What they wanted was what was called provenance labelling, so every package would tell you where the fish came from. How many people do you think would really pay attention to that information who are not professional fish stock sustainability campaigners? That’s the issue. They are always talking to themselves.
CR: But more generally, do you think NGOs that often fail? Because you gave me an example of agro-chemical people saying , and Bird Life people saying what they want to do. Is it the case that corporations quite often will be sitting on the potential to do quite a lot, which sometimes does not really cost them that much?
SB: I’ve never come across a corporation that do not have that. Most corporations not only have a little vault of things they could do, but some of the serious people will know what’s in the vault.
CR: Do you think by large the NGOs do not understand that?
CR: What’s the best way of finding out about it? Or, do they need to find out about it? Will they just be able to get the right result in the right circumstances by being in a position of putting on a bit pressure and pushing on this or that that eventually it probably hits on something?
SB: I think that the idea that part of the movement creates the pressure and the other part of the movement creates the solution is the ideal model.
Unfortunately, the campaigning end of that has, in my view, got quite good. Pressure on multinationals is often quite sharp and they really feel it. The solutions negotiation end of that has, in my view, have been very poor indeed.
‘the campaigning end of that has, in my view, got quite good. Pressure on multinationals is often quite sharp and they really feel it. The solutions negotiation end of that has, in my view, have been very poor indeed’
Not because that there aren’t hundreds of people who understand negotiating processes so on and so forth, but because this is about politics. If you are going to have that negotiation, they would want it over actually want it in two or three weeks. You either have it done before the next board meeting or it’s not going to happen. Who do you talk to, in those terms?
CR: To some extent that’s what people like you or you at any rate, I don’t know how many others have done, by giving some insight into what might be asked for so it’s the actual pirate diplomatic thing.
SB: I discussed extensively with Ken Cook what we thought a step change would be. By extensively I mean no more than five minutes but five minutes with Ken is deep stuff. He would say, we have to reconcile modern agriculture methodology with environmental sustainability and feeding at lot of people and everybody knows that’s the case, why don’t we get together and sort it out? I said, part of that is the industry needs a degree of certainty, and the turbulence of the last five years was hell.
Could we in private work out a list of all of the chemicals currently used by the industry and the ranking order of which everybody agrees they should be knocked out? I think the industry would be commit itself to it. The only reason they’re defending everything is they think you want to knock out everything. If you sat down with them and said, that is a really evil, bad thing, but that’s going to be okay for another 30 years. I’ll tell you what they’ll say. You say yes to that, we will say yes to that. Who would we have that conversation with? Because what happened on the other side of the table is that we want you to give up on everything now. That was pretty much [ ]’s position last night apparently. “I won’t talk to you in public. You must come to talk to my team, so you’ll understand what our position and feedback is”.