Mad Like Tesla Book Project (2011)
Writing a book about clean technology innovation and innovators was part of the reason I decided to leave my reporting position after 10 years at the Toronto Star. For years I had been interviewing entrepreneurs and experts about the trials and tribulations of building green-economy companies. I decided to chronicle the efforts of some of the more interesting characters, so spent six months travelling, researching and writing. The end result was Mad Like Tesla, which was released in September 2011 and has done quite well, at least by Canadian standards. The book was an opportunity to also highlight key clean technology trends in an engaging way. I’ve thought about doing a follow-up book: a kind of “Where are they now?” story with a technology/trend update and a few new characters. So who knows? Mad Like Tesla II or Madder Than Tesla could some day be in a bookstore near you.
Greenest U.S. Presidents Project (2012)
In 2012, shortly after joining Corporate Knights magazine as editor-in-chief, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to pose the following question to nearly a dozen U.S. environmental and social organizations, including WWF, Sierra Club, Greenpeace and the Nature Conservancy: Who is the greenest president in U.S. history? I also asked Van Jones, Ralph Nader and Joe Romm of Climate Progress to weigh in. Teddy Roosevelt got the most votes in the end, followed by Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. Barack Obama came fourth, keeping in mind that this was when Obamacare, not climate change, dominated his to-do list. Today, I think Obama would rise to the top. The picture here is a screenshot from C-SPAN, which covered the press conference we held in Washington, D.C., at the press club. To my immediate right is Ralph Nader, followed by Robert Engelman (Worldwatch Institute), Erich Pica (Friends of Earth) and Joe Romm (Climate Progress).
Magazine of the Year (2013)
My editorial team was pleasantly surprised in June 2013 when Canada’s National Magazine Award Foundation announced Corporate Knights as “magazine of the year” at its annual gala in Toronto. My four years as editor-in-chief of the magazine was, in a sense, an ongoing project that had me overseeing a major redesign, a website overhaul, and some terrific storytelling by top-notch writers.
The First Straw (2013)
After winning mag of the year, I was determined to up our game by walking the talk on sustainability. I met with Jeff Golfman, who along with actor Woody Harrelson had founded a company called Prairie Paper that made paper mostly out of wheat straw, not trees. The company was already selling its paper in photocopier format at Staples. I wanted to be the first to use the paper to publish a magazine; not just a few hundred, but more than 100,000 copies from cover to back. It would be a completely tree-free print magazine published in large volumes, made from an agricultural waste material and recycled fibres using a process that consumed less energy and water.
I convinced Staples to come aboard as a partner, as well as the Globe and Mail and New Jersey-based printer Earth Color, which did a fantastic job of making the colours pop. It seemed fitting that the project itself be a story within the magazine, so we flew to New York City to do a photo shoot with Woody Harrelson, who also put together an entertaining promotional video for us. Overall, the project was a great success and a valuable learning experience. The issue won the “Premier Print Award” from the Printing Industries of America, the largest graphics art trade association in the United States.
CK-Schulich International Case Competition (2014-2015)
In late 2013 my publisher Toby Heaps and I got the idea of launching an annual MBA case competition focused on business sustainability. Student teams from around the world would be given a company as their case subject and would have to come up with a plan to dramatically boost its sustainability performance relative to industry peers. We structured it so that the top 3 teams would be invited to Davos, Switzerland, during the World Economic Forum to present in front of a panel of high-profile judges. The Schulich School of Business at York University signed up as a partner and we named it the CK-Schulich Business for a Better World Case Competition. I oversaw it for two years, first with Suncor Energy as the case subject and Novartis the year after. Both years went as flawlessly as I could hope. Again, another great experience but also rewarding to see the students who participated get so much out of it.
While at the World Economic Forum, Corporate Knights held its annual executive roundtable dinner. The first year I attended we had British economist Sir Nicholas Stern join us as a speaker. The year after we had UNFCCC boss Christiana Figueres and Larry Summers, former U.S. treasury secretary. The conversations were lively and insightful.
Paris Climate Reporting Project (2015)
After four years leading editorial at Corporate Knights, I decided to venture back out on my own, which unexpectedly led me back to the Toronto Star. My mission: beef up coverage of climate issues in the lead-up to and during the historic Paris climate summit in December 2015. For four months I was Climate and Economy Reporter as part of a partnership between the Toronto Star and the Tides Canada Foundation. I wrote about 50 stories during this period, which included a week attending the Paris summit. Attending this conference was a key highlight of my career, and gave me a new appreciation for the role that international organizations can play in tackling what is a global challenge. Before the summit I was skeptical that countries would unite on this issue. Now, with a binding global agreement in place, the hard work starts. Props to the French, particularly French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, for skilled diplomatic stick-handling.