My journey from Southern Tyrol took me through the Val Müstair, over Ofenpass at an elevation of 2,149m and through the 19km Vereina Rail Tunnel on a car transporter. Thereafter, the road wound past Kueblis and down, out of the mountains to Landquart, where I joined the autobahn to Zürich.
The following day as I explored the city, enjoying the absence of meetings and deadlines, I thought of my several previous trips to Zürich to meet clients and speak at conferences. One of these was significant in my career and I reflected on this and how my understanding had developed since.
It was 2005, the year after I founded Hermes EOS and I was invited to give the investment managers’ perspective at the International Sustainability Leadership Symposium, held in Rüschlikon on the west shore of Lake Zürich. During my session, I delivered a simple and (I thought) positive message that sustainability was just good business and the task of company leaders was to embrace this and transform their companies.
However, my presentation received a hostile reception, including from some prominent sustainability campaigners and at that moment I understood that the people most concerned about sustainability risked becoming part of the problem. That is, if we treated “doing the right thing” as a separate or opposing activity, then business would not change.
I realised that order to change companies we needed to demonstrate shared interests and change minds. Over the next decade, with my wonderful colleagues, I developed an approach to investor-company dialogue that was collaborative rather than adversarial and sought to understand and promote a vision of a more successful future for all. A true antidote to the short-termism of the financial markets.
I now call this “recognising our interdependence” and believe that in many aspects of life, when we are fighting we are part of the problem. Our difficulties often come from fear: our own and that of others. Afraid, we withdraw into tighter groups and become suspicious of those outside. It is so important that we remain open and recognise our common interests and humanity. If we recognise our interdependence and hold a vision for a larger group, then working together we can achieve great things.
The first two photographs below are the Ofenpass, looking back down the the Val Müstair and a frozen fountain in a courtyard off Fraumünsterstrasse. In the tobacconist, I like the window display and the customer’s expression. The rest have my usual themes of buildings, reflections, depth, different artificial light sources and twilight.