Archive | June, 2013

On the tip of the tipping point – when ecology is understood to be spiritual, there’ll be no going back.

A core tenet of Conscious Travel is an understanding that each place is alive and sacred.

Host providers will develop truly sustainable livelihoods that benefit their communities when they come into right relationship with all life.


Our indigenous brothers and sisters have always understood this and now find themsleves on the frontline of a global clash in world view:

  • one perspective considers all it views to be dead matter that exists for our manipulation and exploitation  (even divine intelligence is considered to be “out there” and separate);
  • the other knows  all is alive and interconnected and pulsating with the same energy that shapes all existence urging it forward in its evolution.

Two important events are occurring right in the middle of 2013 (i.e. July)  that I believe will help tip us towards a wider embrace of the second view of the world. They will help accelerate the shift in values  (towards greater meaning and purpose) that has been described throughout this blog such that when a critical mass wake up to the fact that ecology is not just physical, there’ll be no going back.

The first event is publication of a book of essays called Spiritual Ecology as introduced in the trailer below. Edited by Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee, it comprises diverse perspectives from such luminaries as Chief Oren Lyons, Thomas Berry, Satish Kumar, Thich Nhat Hanh, Vandanna Shive, Joanna Macy and Pir ZiaInyat-Khan.

The second is completion of the Sacred Land Film Project (SLFP) –  a four-part film series for public television titled Standing on Sacred Ground. Here’s its trailer:

Winona Duke describes Sacred Places as spiritual “re-charge” areas. Given that the root of travel is hospitality which, in turn,  is all about regeneration, re-creating (recreation), making whole, healing and re-charging, then we too are involved right on the frontline of this change in views. As hosts who welcome guests into their “their unique, special and sacred place” we have the chance to help them  come in touch with the magic and mystery of all places. But to do that we must have developed a sense of the sacred.

Author’s amendments August, 2014

Here is an excellent review of the Sacred Land Film Series by Leslie Sponsel.
Click here to access trailers of each film with ease.

Why John Mackey and Richard Branson should break bread together

Richard Branson launches the Bteam on June 14th

Richard Branson launches the Bteam on June 14th

Most of the public,  in the UK especially, has heard of Richard Branson – the flamboyant, fun loving, self-made, successful, philanthropic, provocative, charming entrepreneur;  Head of the Virgin Group, and sporting a well deserved reputation for generating publicity, supporting the underdog and championing good causes. In short, Richard Branson is an influential business celebrity and heads turn when he walks down the street.

John Mackey launches Conscious Capitalism in London June 12th

John Mackey launches Conscious Capitalism in London June 12th

John Mackey, on the other hand, is a shy, serious, but passionate Texan who happens to have developed the most successful grocery business worldwide – Whole Foods. He comes across as an intensely curious, philosophic, serious entrepreneur whose experience has shaped some strong convictions.  John Mackey proudly takes his personal rice cooker everywhere so he can start his day with a highly nutritious but cheap (30cents) breakfast. He considers himself a committed capitalist but one fully aware of its deficiencies and on a mission to correct them. Very few heads would turn even if he were to walk down Sunset Boulevard. And yet he and his colleagues, as initially identified by Professor Raj Sisodia in Firms of Endearment, are having a considerable impact on the business community in US, Australia and now parts of Europe.

While, in terms of surface appearances and style, they seem poles apart, Branson and Mackey are united on the things that matter so I can’t help but think what magic could happen if they were to meet and work actively together. They have more in common than you think. Addressing their differences would move both of their agendas forward.

It would certainly make for a fascinating dinner party:

  1. Both share a belief that the narrative associated with business and capitalism needs changing. Branson in his own colourful style thinks that business as usual should be screwed – see Screw Business as Usual – and focus more on doing good. Mackey, co-author of Conscious Capitalism,  wants to “liberate the heroic spirit of business” by helping business leaders become conscious.
  2. Both believe that profit isn’t the end, it’s a means to achieving a higher purpose.  In fact, it is the passionate pursuit of a purpose designed to benefit both society and individuals that creates profit. Both – consciously or not – build on the work of such luminaries as Willis Harman, John Renesch (see my brief acknowledgment here ) and Paul Hawken, who suggested back in the late 1970s that business was the only institution with the capacity to address the problems facing humanity.
  3. Both have recently committed to proselytizing this message. Richard Branson has formed a number of major initiatives such as Virgin Unite, The Elders and Carbon War Room that have all shaped his latest initiative –  John Mackey has teamed up with a number of other brands and created the Conscious Capitalist Institute and recently launched a book, called Conscious Capitalism. They both launched these initiatives in the same week but sadly their paths didn’t cross.
  4. Both believe very strongly in empowering the people who work in their companies to take responsibility, experiment, and lead at whatever level in the company they work and take any and every opportunity to grow personally and professionally. They know the power of a nurturing corporate culture to unleash passion, creativity and innovation. As a consequence, they each embody many of the characteristics of a Conscious Leader and each endeavours to “walk the values talk.”
  5. Richard Branson strikes me as more of a conventional motivator who prefers to delegate the details of execution to his team. John Mackey is also a great delegator and motivator but perhaps has a clearer, deeper idea of the “how” as well as the “why”.  The Conscious Capitalism text is rich in practical advice and applications that show how capitalism can be tweaked to become a true wealth generator as opposed to wealth spinner. Screw Business As Usual is more of an autobiographical tale, more anecdotal than prescriptive.
  6. Both men have created enormous financial value for themselves and all their stakeholders. They enjoy high levels of staff loyalty and engagement from employees, suppliers and the communities in which they operate.  As illustrated in Conscious Capitalism, there is no doubt that the approach promoted by both men works – conscious companies are proven to outperform their non-conscious peers financial by several factors to one (See Appendix A to Conscious Capitalism).

So why do I hope these two men will have a private dinner soon to explore ways of collaborating – a virtue each claims to value highly?

The opportunity lies in exploring their different approaches.

The Conscious Capitalists, as described in Mackey and Sisodia’s book seem more focused on “the business of business” and ways to improve it than the context in which business operates. They recognize the environment as a key stakeholder but only one of several stakeholders and, as such, “conscious businesses refuse to accept trade-offs for the environment, just as they do for other stakeholders.”

Out of a total 300+ pages, only 12 are devoted to the environment as stakeholder and, of these, four are devoted to the Whole Foods approach to sustainable livestock production, animal welfare and seafood sustainability.  This view seems to ignore the fact that Nature is not another human stakeholder whose needs must be met – albeit after some trade-offs  – but an autonomous, self-regulating system of which humans are a part and that Nature operates according to its own laws regardless of whether you believe it to be conscious or not. Two paragraphs from the book distill the Conscious Capitalist (Whole Foods) approach:

conscious capitalismWe will save our environmental challenges in the same way we solve all challenges: by raising consciousness, encouraging creativity and innovation, and recognizing and rewarding virtuous behavior… (Conscious Capitalism, page 151)

 Conscious capitalism recognizes that our natural resources are ultimately finite and must be protected and conserved. But it also recognizes that our inner creativity and inner resources are infinite, provided we can learn how to activate and deploy them. As emphasized earlier, the most powerful form of human energy on the planet is a turned-on, fully alive and awake human being.” (Conscious Capitalism page 292)

While it is impossible to resist this noble aspiration, it has a similar ring to Adam Smith’s invisible hand that has remained far too invisible to have really helped. The big IF in this case being whether we can produce fully turned-on, fully alive and awake human beings fast enough.

The participants in the Bteam – many of whom, consciously or not, practice the four tenets of conscious capitalism (higher purpose, stakeholder alignment; servant leadership and development of empowering cultures) appear much more aware of and focused on the challenges of the environmental and social context in which they operate. I can’t say with certainty but I suspect, if asked, they would demonstrate higher levels of agreement with the statement that “the economy and society are subsidiaries of the environment” than might the Conscious Capitalists.

The Higher Purpose of the Bteam is specifically focused:

“Our vision of the future is a world in which the purpose of business is to be a driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit” 

Both groups agree that being driven by the profit motive alone is no longer acceptable.

The Bteam believes that profit will accrue from directly addressing the social, environmental and economic challenges head on. The Conscious Capitalists seem to believe that by setting a higher purpose, learning to serve all stakeholders, create empowering cultures and leading consciously, the conditions for tackling those issues will be created.

Because the Bteam has this external focus, they believe that business also needs to address accounting systems (pay for externalities), address the issue of destructive subsidies or tax policies, and help develop new corporate forms, hybrids and partnerships that deliver benefit to people and planet.

Given the magnitude of the challenges facing humanity right now, these are admittedly minor differences between two very noble endeavours.

The Bteam talks about a new leadership underpinned by a moral compass that is Fair, Honest, Positive and Creative founded on cooperation.

The Conscious Capitalists’ Credo states that “business is good because it creates value, it is ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange, it is noble because it can elevate our existence, and it is heroic because it can lift people out of poverty and create prosperity….But we can aspire to something even greater.”

Sadly the references to the excesses of greed expressed by many businesses is not acknowledged and thereby the power of Mackey’s aspiration undermined.

What’s Missing?

In this assessment of what unites and distinguishes Conscious Capitalism and the Bteam I became aware of one missing element that is perhaps implicit in both approaches but needs to be made explicit – and that, again, is MIND-SET, or Worldview.

barrett NLPNeither proponent articulates the need to see the world differently before we can be and act differently. It’s true that as we develop our consciousness, these shifts in perception will occur. Richard Barrett, founder of the Values Centre, and author of the New Leadership Paradigm,  whose pioneering and seminal work on values and corporate culture deserves far more attention than it is getting, has shown how our unexamined assumptions, values and beliefs shift as we rise in consciousness. We move naturally from seeing ourselves at the centre of our own universe to ourselves as an interdependent part of a bigger system of which we are each an essential part- in other words, from “I “to “We” and from “I am insignificant” to “I must be the change I wish to see in the world”.  When CEOs and investors truly embrace a perspective of utter inter-dependence and connection increasing their rates of  compensation at rates 10X the national average will be unthinkable and not in their best interest.

I believe that both the Bteam and the Conscious Capitalists will accelerate adoption of their respective agendas faster to the extent that they can reveal the ways in which the assumptions underpinning industrial-materialism simply don’t work anymore and that our understanding of complex, adaptive self-organising systems is infinitely more relevant and effective than a worldview that sees the universe as a machine that needs to be engineered/managed  or as a lumberyard of resources to be exploited and plundered.

It’s true – we’ve come a very long way in half a decade when such a comparison between two great thought leaders would have been impossible. So we mustn’t let these great ships of progress pass in the night. There is so much to be gained by mutual recognition and support plus healthy debate and exchange. The challenge now is for these concepts to rapidly move from the fringe to the “new normal” only then will it make sense for marginal differentiation to occur.

Where Does Conscious Travel Fit?  
Conscious Travel is currently a movement and a model that applies the principles of conscious capitalism to the provision of hospitality and travel services to create a less harmful alternative to mass industrial tourism. It will become a collaborative network of action-oriented learning communities that develop various Plan Bs suitable for their places.  The learning starts with the inner mindset of the host and their awareness of the context in which they live so that they can assume responsibility for both protecting and regenerating the landscapes and cultures on which they depend and generate a higher net return to all stakeholders.  By working up from communities that celebrate the uniqueness of their place while applying the generic principles that uphold conscious capitalism, conscious hosts will offer an antidote to the commoditization and diminishing returns that plague modern tourism. They  generate creative, resilient and truly sustainable economies around welcoming and serving guests.

Southwest Airlines, Joie de Vivre Hospitality (Chip Conley), Kempinski Hotel Group ( see Conscious Hoteliers Show They Care) and recently Intrepid Travel have been identified as Conscious Capitalists or have been associated with the Conscious Capitalist movement. Virgin Airlines, and Virgin Travel will presumably form part of the Bteam. While there’s plenty of room for other major Fortune 500 travel companies to join them, Conscious Travel is really focusing on the helping the vast majority of tourism hosts – the small,  medium sized providers – to follow the lead of these emlightened pioneers.

More Information

For the launch of the Bteam, see:

For the launch of Conscious Capitalism in San Franciso, see:

Related Posts

Screw Tourism As Usual

What is Conscious Capitalism?

Is Conscious Capitalism Business 3.0?

Tourism What’s The Point

What Does it Mean to Travel Consciously?

I am indebted to Whole Journeys for sharing this quote from Andrew Zimmern, chef, author, TV host.


What does travelling consciously mean to you? Please complete this sentence: To travel consciously is to:…………..

Here are some thoughts – but let’s grow this together and get a complete picture:

  • To be a traveler, as opposed to a tourist is to travel with all your senses awake, aware and alert.
  • To travel is to travel consciously –or not at all.
  • To travel is to engage in an intimate conversation with the people and places you meet, constantly seeking to experience our world through a new set of lenses.
  • To travel consciously requires first that you take out of your baggage as many pre-conceptions and predjudices and leave them at home.
  • To travel  consciously means leaving your adult self at home too – be as a chlld, full or wonder, and irrepressibly curious.
  • To travel consciously necessitates that you slow down and focus on the small things.
  • To travel consciously is to become a Sherlock Holmes – attentive to the detail, open to unexpected connections.
  • To travel consciously is to look at the world as you would gaze at your lover seeking only his or her well-being and fulfillment.
  • To travel consciously is to seek a place and host who cares.

Do please add yours to this list here or on the Conscious Travel Facebook page….

The Burning Issue of Carbon

background to the post

In my previous post I suggested that we humans will only react to danger after an alarm is raised and if our senses are aroused – i.e., if we can see, touch, taste, smell or hear the danger.

The problem with carbon is that it’s invisible – the fact that we’ve passed the 400 parts per million concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere isn’t registering at all and our own pre-disposition towards denial, combined with willful and woeful blindness exercised by mainstream media, isn’t helping.

But what is interesting is the fact that the alarm bells are being sounded by the most unusual source – the investment community  and increasing incidences of extreme weather and its impact are being sensed or experienced (as in causing discomfort, pain, inconvenience) by a much wider population – see these studies showing major shifts in American awareness and concern for example. Panic and an orderly exit are to be avoided at all costs.

do the mathsIn this post, I am going to appeal to your head.  It’s all a matter of math and common sense – not the super complex algorithms used by money spinners in the City of London but more like the plain math used by Dicken’s Micawber.  In this case there are three kinds of math – an understanding of which is essential to anyone who cares about their own future and that of their family and children. It’s the kind of math that any responsible, conscious host, active in the tourism sector,  needs to grasp and deal with.  You can read the facts or watch the movie but in the latter case you’ll have to sign up to see it here: and promise not to host a screening ‘cos Al Jazeera now has the movie rights! (Now why could Al Jazeera have done the right thing and bought the rights to American TV which I don’t watch so that the rest of us could watch it online without having to go through this process????)

Thanks to Bill McKibben and the, there are just three key numbers that you need to grasp if you want to make sense of climate change. Fortunately, despite the plethora of statistics thrown about by both sides in this debate, you can take them as solid.

2 degrees Celsius
2 degreesThis is the maximum allowable increase in global average temperature over pre-industrial levels before life on Planet Earth for humans and many other fauna and flora becomes seriously unpleasant.  We don’t know for sure whether it is conservative enough but at least 167 countries have agreed it is a maximum. Note: the extreme weather and spate of record breaking climatic phenomena; the 30% reduction in the Arctic ice cap, the 30% increase in the acidification of the oceans with a 60% drop in coral have already occurred as a result of a 0.8 degree increase – so who knows what will happen when we up current warming levels by another 1.2 degrees?

565 Gigatons of Co2

carbon budgetThis is known as our “carbon budget” in other words, the maximum amount of carbon we can emit into the atmosphere by 2050 if we are to have a reasonable chance of staying below that 2 degree threshold. Sadly there are no signs that we’ve slowed down our spend of this budget as carbon emissions continue to increase globally at about 2-3% per year. Or another way of putting it – we’ll have spent our carbon budget by the time a child born today gets to celebrate her 16th birthday.

2795 Gigatons of CO2

unburnable carbonThis is what some very bright people in a company called Carbon Tracker have estimated is the amount of Co2 currently tied up in the reserves of existing fossil fuel companies.  Note: it’s 5 times the amount we can afford to burn. Or, to put it another way – 80% of the fuel reserves have to stay in the ground if we’re to have any chance of keeping under that 2 degree warming threshold.

We know that our economy has come to depend on relatively cheap fossil fuel for its enormous growth over the past 60 years.  The value of the fossil fuel industry is estimated – based on known reserves – at $27 trillion and some $4 trillion of that is concentrated in the hands of just 200 companies. You can see why the thought of not extracting and selling 80% of that wealth might meet some resistance.

We all complain at the price of petrol or heating fuel but, remember that the income derived by the oil companies in no way covers the additional indirect costs that all of us are have to bear in the form of subsidies (over $1.9 trillion worldwide according to the IMF); health care costs, clean up costs after spills and accidents. The top 200 companies also are spending $675 billion each year on research, discovery and test drilling – funds which a growing number of analysts think is grossly wasteful given that these firms cannot or should not be burning all their existing reserves.

Institutional and private investors as well as international and national governments are rapidly becoming aware of the huge cost associated with either environmental damage or failure to pay a sustainable price for vulnerable but critical ecosystem services. These “externalities” were estimated by UNEP and the Panel for responsible Investing (PRI) to total some $6.8 trillion in 2008 (equivalent to 11% of GDP) and are forecast to rise to $28.6 trillion by 2050 – here’s the report  Pricing environmental damage: US$ 28 trillion by 2050 – Principles for Responsible Investment. What makes tourism leaders think that tourism will continue to be exempt from paying its fair share especially once other sectors have to?


So why am I bombarding my readers – hopefully mostly tourism providers, hosts, employees etc – with these kinds of data?

The answer is simple – we’re all heading to that position known as between a rock and hard place!

"Rock, Hard Place" Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.

The Rock – Given the concentration of wealth invested in the fossil fuels that drive our global economy, a financial crisis could well occur if investors decided en masse that those assets were too risky to touch and withdrew their support in the form of capital and credit. That prospect is not that far away – see the HSBC report on Unburnable Carbon.

hsbc unburnable carbon

The Hard Place – if we allowed the fossil fuel companies to realise their asset and burn all their reserves, we’d exceed our carbon budget by a factor of five and, to quote Christine Lagarde, the Head of the IMF, all fry!  BTW, just in case you wish to dismiss me as some kind of left wing, tree hugging, alarmist then take note that at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Lagarde said,  “the real wild card in the pack is increasing vulnerability from resource scarcity and climate change, with the potential for major social and economic disruption.” She called climate change “the greatest economic challenge of the 21st century.” And in response to a question from the audience, went on to say “Unless we take action on climate change, future generations will be roasted, toasted, fried and grilled.”

There’s no way that an industry like tourism, so dependent on fossil fuels to transport its guests to the point of consumption, can expect to prosper, let alone survive, either scenario. (Pollock not Lagarde)

And the concept that tourism can save the world economy (as suggested in Abu Dhabi by its glitterati – see this post) is ludicrous.

It is in the best interests of the entire tourism industry to be doing all it can to face the carbon issue head on, wean itself off as much carbon as it can, and disinvest in companies or funds invested in fossil fuels. Only if there is a significant switch to renewable fuels in other sectors (ground transport, heating, cooling and electricity generation) can the aviation sector have enough time to kick its kerosene habit. (Pollock)

The financial crisis is not inevitable. But it will likely occur if we carry on with business as usual and muddle through until a combination of investor fear and public opinion determines that minimizing carbon spend is priority Number One.

The environmental crisis is not inevitable either – well, yet.  Both sunlight, human intelligence and ingenuity are abundant and the technologies already exist to eliminate our reliance on carbon producing fuels. A small fraction of the subsidies currently paid to fossil fuel suppliers could dramatically alter the energy landscape if diverted to renewables. But the spectre of food shortages, the large scale migration of people, rising sea levels and extreme weather will become daily occurrences unless we decide, individually and collectively, that is a future we don’t intend to create.

So what can YOU do?

  1. Wake up, become aware and informed and get active.
  2. Reduce your personal and business dependency on fossil fuels. Show your guests you care – the ones who notice and appreciate your responsible actions are the ones who can help your business grow.
  3. Assess your suppliers and do as much as you can to localise and ensure that your fellow citizens in your community benefit from your visitor’s spending too.
  4. If you have investments – disinvest from portfolios that comprise fossil fuel companies –  it was disinvestment in South African companies that helped stop Apartheid. To show the power of this approach, is persuading students to insist their universities divest from their fossil fuel investment portfolios. Switch to alternative fossils.
  5. Ask your DMO difficult questions – are their forecasts based on past performance and “business as usual” assumptions. Do they have a resilience strategy?
  6. Lobby your governments to lift subsidies on fossil fuels ($1.9 trillion a year) and subsidize alternative sources instead.
  7. Whether you call it the Naked King or the Elephant in the room, at least have the guts to start a conversation about carbon in your community. You may not be popular today but your children will thank you and your business might just survive if action is taken now.. and
  8. Don’t associate protest with NO but with a resounding YES vote for a better, healthier, happier future. A very small fraction of the population has much to lose when the rest of us wake up. They control the messaging and are counting on our apathy.

%d bloggers like this: