This week FPI talked to Sarah Murray, a corporate responsibility and environmental sustainability guru. She’s about all things green and social entrepreneurship and writes about it for the Financial Times, where she used to be a staff journalist and is now a contributor. Oh, and you know, she’s also written for The Economist, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Guardian, and the British publications The Independent and The Times (that’s so Sarah’s mom, who lives in England, can read her work) – and a number of books. You know, the usual.
Recently, Sarah’s launched her own blog, “Mixing It Up“ which gets into these topics more in-depth (and a side of cocktails.) She dishes it with CEOs, policymakers, entrepreneurs, and other do-gooders that inspire – and lists all of their favorite drinks.
A few years ago Sarah got six-feet under and wrote about the different death and funeral rituals around the world – Making an Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre — How We Dignify the Dead. She’s also the author of Moveable Feasts: From Ancient Rome to the 21st Century, the Incredible Journeys of the Food We Eat.” Nom.
FPI: You just launched your own blog, “Mixing It Up.” Tell us about it.
I’ve launched a blog so that I can expand my coverage of everything from micro-finance, human rights and innovative solutions to poverty to clean tech and water conservation. I plan to write about a wide range of topics through short profiles and features where I’ll interview people from business, government, foundations, the non-profit sector and others. I want to track the cross-fertilization of innovation and highlight some of the ideas that you don’t always get to see in the mainstream press.
FPI: Why create this blog?
It is important to hear the voices out there. But we wade in a morass of information online. People are looking for curated information and analysis – and maybe fewer but better sources of information.
FPI: The topics you’ve chosen are 21st century topics – can you talk about the burgeoning of attention on these issues?
We’re seeing a wave of interest in forward-looking ideas. People want to hear about solutions to big global problems and they’re not prepared to wait for government for the answers. I think they’re also interested in what big businesses, as well entrepreneurs, are doing. There are a lot of great ideas coming from business itself, with intrapreneurs – people working for corporations – eager to produce innovation from within.
FPI: Are there patterns or trends that you’re seeing?
What I’ve seen over the past decade is the convergence of sectors. Ten years ago when I first started writing about sustainability, NGOs and businesses were enemies. Gradually, we’ve seen the warming of relations between different sectors. People realize that in order to fix the problems of today, no one sector or single organization can work alone. There needs to be a lot more collaboration – people get that now. But the challenge is how to go about it. So I also want to look at the remaining barriers to greater collaboration and cross-fertilization of ideas. While it’s important to highlight the successes, it is also critical to find out where work still needs to be done.
FPI: What are some of the successes?
We’ve seen a lot of innovation coming from the world’s biggest companies. The interesting thing is that often the companies doing best at managing their social or environmental footprints today are the ones that were attacked early on. Nike, for example, experienced boycotts over labor issues. Today, they’ve succeeded in embedding innovation across the company and have done a lot to improve working conditions in supplier factories. The mining sector is another example, with the efforts of some companies to address human rights issues.
FPI: What about small enterprises and social entrepreneurs?
The landscape for an innovator is very different today. Technology – from crowd-funding to 3D printing – has leveled the playing field and you’re seeing people from different backgrounds in different parts of the world come up with smart ideas. Innovation no longer has to come from a big company or someone with a lot of capital. Anybody with a good idea can get started today.
FPI: What’s next for the blog?
At some point in the future, I think there is potential for me to run online debates – to get people from different backgrounds with different viewpoints to discuss various topics. I’d like to provide a forum where people can engage on a wise range of issues.
FPI: Why did you call it “Mixing It Up”?
Part of it is because the blog will mix up views and ideas from across sectors. What’s more, I’ve never liked the terms used to describe what I write about – “CSR” or “Sustainability.” They can be off-putting and vague. The title also allowed me to have a little fun – “mixing” can refer to cocktails. So, as a lighthearted feature, I’m jotting down the favorite cocktail of each person I interview. [Ed note: We can totally get behind that].