Day 1 – London

In the middle of a quick tour through the EU, visiting customers, government officials, and various environmental NGOs and meetings.

Enjoyed a lively dinner hosted by Richard Barrington, our point man in the UK on sustainability. The group included executives from utilities, government infrastructure, various energy-related startups, other high tech companies, Forum for the Future, and academia. Many of the folks, including Richard on behalf of Sun, participate in the Corporate Leaders Group which represents industry in the overall policy debate.

Dinner topics included:

  • Generational differences in attitude towards sustainability, including whether or not the current college-age generation has internalized sustainability as it relates to their personal responsibility
  • Relationship of innovation, technology and sustainability, and how policy can be a catalyst for innovation vs. a deterrent
  • Effectively driving change, with the relative merits and effectiveness of bottoms up voluntary change v. top down policy or rules (general conclusion: we should keep encouraging bottoms-up change, but the risks are too high and time is too short to rely solely on it)
  • Ineffectiveness of traditional economic analysis to effectively measure the return or guide investments related to decisions which include an environmental component
  • Potential for telepresence technologies (such as our iWork activity inside Sun) to offset the some of the needs for commuting, business travel, etc
  • Unsustainability of our current PC-centric model, and potential for thin clients. I was pleasantly surprised by the consistent interest in thin clients and Sun’s SunRay technology in the UK. I suspect I’m going to be writing more about this in the future.
  • Miserable showing by the US in last weekend’s Ryder Cup. I suggested that we suspend the Ryder Cup indefinitely given the environmental folly of flying dozens of people overseas for a golf match, but the rest of the folks at the table relished the results too much to agree

Finally, my day coincided with Gordon Brown, the Labour Party’s candidate for Prime Minister, announcing that the environment will be a centerpiece of his campaign. Most of the people I talked to expect the election to be a true three-party race, and that each will try to outdo the other on environmental issues. This should be an interesting election to watch, and may a preview of what to expect in the 2008 national elections in the US.