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Thursday October 30th 2014

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Appreciating Maurice Strong

Hazel Henderson, August 2009

“Maurice Strong is a unique player on the world stage. His career is also improbable and very inspiring, as he followed his own vision for a better world through thick and thin. I found Maurice a wonderful role model and sometimes I was fortunate that he could be a personal mentor. I met Maurice at the first UN Summit on the Environment in Stockholm in 1972. I was a journalist reporting for the Council on Economic Priorities in New York, the famed NGO which launched the now worldwide practice of “triple bottom line” accounting for companies’ social, environmental as well as economic performance. This ESG (environmental, social and governance) accounting has since become the norm for over 600 global corporations and formalized by the Amsterdam-based Global Reporting Initiative.

Maurice steered the thousands of delegates, most of whom were unfamiliar with environmental issues to the very first global agreements and set up the United Nations Environment Program, headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. I was enthralled to meet Maurice, as a lowly journalist, also working with Teddy Goldsmith’s The Ecologist magazine and its daily reporting on the Summit. One of my mentors, Barbara Ward, the indefatigable author of Spaceship Earth (1962), who later wrote an endorsement for my first book, Creating Alternative Futures (1978) was also at the Summit in Stockholm. I remember joining hands with her and Maurice marching down the Sveavagen in front of a bus, all clad in black plastic as a whale, to draw attention to the killing of theses majestic animals.

Maurice later joined a group of intellectuals in the USA called The Lindisfarne Fellowship, founded by historian William Irwin Thompson, which included me, E.F.”Fritz” Schumacher, author of Small is Beautiful (1973), Amory and Hunter Lovins, John and Nancy Jack Todd, Richard Falk, Chilean biologists Francisco Varela and Humberto Maturana, architect Paolo Soleri, Michaela Walsh, founder of Womens World Banking, as well as James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis who expounded the Gaia hypothesis. We had many wonderful seminars in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Colorado, and I remember doing presentations with Maurice to this group about what we thought was wrong with economics. This inspired me to continue my efforts to correct the errors of GNP/GDP and develop my own indicators, later partnering with the Calvert Group of socially-responsible mutual funds to create the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators (updated regularly at www.Calvert-Henderson.com ).

Maurice is a powerful initiator, and he was a key figure in launching the University for Peace in Costa Rica, which I visited on several occasions during conferences sponsored by President Oscar Arias.

Maurice became interested in how the UN could interact more with the private sector and, in 1998, he was kind enough to set up an appointment for me with UN Assistant Secretary General John Ruggie so that I could ask him how the UN might use social and environmental criteria to choose companies for its $900,000 of procurement under UNOPS each year and to use such criteria in managing the UN’s Employees pension fund. I remember going into Dr. Ruggie’s large cavernous office on the executive floor at the UN headquarters in New York and making my case to Ruggie and his Assistant at the time ,Georg Kell. They were both shocked and told me that both my ideas were simply out of the question. I and a colleague, Stephen Viederman, President of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation whom I brought along, left empty-handed. Yet less than two years later, Secretary General Kofi Annan announced the UN Global Compact and its Nine Principles of Good Corporate Citizenship and soon after, Georg Kell became its Executive Head. I was then able to bring the Calvert Group and their screening research to the Global Compact to research the signatory companies’ social and environmental performance. Maurice deserves much credit, since I could never have obtained this entree to Dr. Ruggie without Maurice’s help.

I am in awe of all Maurice’s accomplishments, and his crowning achievement as Secretary General of the Second Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero in 1992. I was covering as a journalist for InterPressService and participated in the efforts of NGOs to get into Agenda 21 the article where governments agreed to correct the errors in their national accounts GNP/GDP. Maurice has always been a tireless and effective leader, inserting new ideas, policies and paradigm changes as he did in organizing the Brundtland Commission and their report Our Common Future in 1989, which first laid out the criteria for sustainable forms of development. Mostly I respect Maurice’s entrepreneurial approach and the fact that his lack of formal academic degrees never slowed him down. I salute this wonderful global citizen in his 80th year of service to our planet and our common future!

Hazel Henderson , August, 2009

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