Which variable world do you live in?


Money seems to be the only variable in this world. Beautifully summed up by this Dilbert Comic.

Topper: I reject your idea because the costs are high.

Dilbert: In a one-variable world, you would be a genius.

Topper: Thank you.

Dilbert: I meant every word of it.

Have you ever seen a Chartered Accountant offer a return on investment on an environmental project instead of a tax return, audit financial statements instead of sustainability reports, and offer advisory services to clients based on what is good for the people and the planet?

What about environmental and social costs and related variables? These are mostly hidden unless deliberately shown in the form of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) or ESG (Environmental Social and Governance) disclosures.

I attended a webinar once where I raised this question – “When do you see CSR getting integrated into financial reporting?” Their answer – “Regional characteristics and resource limitations play into this greatly. As you may be well aware, Integrated Reporting (IR) is heavily deployed in South Africa and in neighboring/partner countries. Similarly, countries where stock exchanges require ESG disclosure, are more likely to produce integrated reports. Here in the U.S., many of our pioneering IR companies came into this space for the need to share resources with the financial/accounting teams when producing reports. Finally, we’re starting to see a great deal of interest for these types of reports blooming in the U.S.”

65% of Canadian institutional participants said that they often or always consider environmental and social issues, and 95% of them often or always consider governance issues for all investments.

In 2013, research by the India Responsible Investment Working Group, encompassing large corporates as well as Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), more than 50% businesses are now prepared to provide ESG information to investors / other stakeholders.

The big players are considering these costs. Is your business following suit?

What will you protect first? Water or forest?


Do you find yourself in the middle of another chicken and egg story as you read the title of this blog? You should, because it is.

Editor of Sanctuary Asia, Bittu Sahgal, has something interesting to say about the Cauvery river in India. Stay with me, we are on the same story. “Cauvery Cunnundrum: States fight over the water, but cannot find the wisdom to protect the water source… the forests.

So, we should have more national parks, right?

I have another story for you, that of the Van Gujjars, a forest-dwelling nomadic tribe in northern India, who for centuries have migrated into the Himalayas every spring. Now their culture and livelihood is at risk as some of the jungles and meadows they call home have become national parks.

As it goes, solutions are not cut and dried.

This year, Peru established that it would protect one of world’s last great untouched forests. Difference between this and the national parks in northern India is that Peru is working alongside local and international conservation groups and the National Park designation also protects land inhabited by several tribes of indigenous peoples, it doesn’t push them away. Or at least, that’s what the article says.

Technically, you are not in a chicken and egg story anymore. It is not this and that. It is different – each case.

Humans of my neighborhood

According to Brandon Stanton of the Humans of New York, it all began as a photography project to create an exhaustive catalogue of the city’s inhabitants. Over the years, it started featuring stories from over twenty different countries. I think I would find very few people not touched by these stories. You can see 17 “Humans of” Facebook Pages.

With the intention to foster relationships in the city, City of Surrey organises Inclusive City Philosopher’s Cafes – where people come together to discuss and listen to each other’s stories on a common theme. What’s more, it offers grants to residents to strengthen their community:

Every city has stories. Every face in the crowd has a story to tell. Every face not in the crowd has a story to tell. We learn so much from each other by trying to know each other. That’s true engagement. How well do we know people in our own community? How well do we know our neighbours? How do we affect each other? How can we help each other? What’s keeping us from doing this?

Being humane while we intend to do good


How far can our intention to do good go and what form can it take? Our black and white ideologies offer simplification and clarity, but may not always be humane. What steps are we taking to keep our good selves in check? What’s our moral compass saying now, and tomorrow, and day after? How fast are our perspectives changing and how are we acting on them? Are we hearing the voice of those we are making decisions for? Are we really helping someone or are we just executing our ideologies because we can?

“Little things done with love are much better than big things without love.”  ― Lailah Gifty AkitaPearls of Wisdom: Great mind

It is hard to imagine the rigidity of our world but a series called Black Mirror does it for us. One of its episodes called White Bear shows a contemporary society, how technology’s effect on people’s empathy has given rise to vigilantism that has a twisted idea of justice and punishment. Another series called Manhunt Unabomber, tells a story of Ted Kaczynski who after witnessing the destruction of the wildland surrounding his cabin, concluded that living in nature was untenable and began his bombing campaign.

It’s a two-way street. An individual has as much effect on the society as the society has on the individual. So, who’s really responsible? We all are. Collective social responsibility requires community participation. Following are some examples where socially progressive individuals or countries have taken bold and kind steps to be humane to those with varied degrees of criminal backgrounds.

  • In April 1994, a ten-day Vipassana course for over a thousand inmates was held inside the confines of Tihar Prison in New Delhi, the capital of India. The course was conducted by Mr. and Mrs. S.N. Goenka, with 13 assistant teachers. This was the largest Vipassana course to be held in modern times, inside or outside of a jail.
  • In Scandinavia, a Danish Prison and Probation Service and architecture firm CF Møller have designed what they’re calling the world’s “most humane” maximum security prison.
  • When Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, USA, opened more than 180 years ago,  this was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of prisoners.
  • At my time with Toastmasters in New Jersey, I learnt that the Toastmasters Gavel Club there visits the Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) facilities for mentoring, as volunteers in these correction facilities.

First or second, a chance is something we all deserve, don’t we? So do developing countries setting ambitious national targets to tackle climate change. How do our perspective about these countries change when we realize that their banks are funding coal? Aren’t they trying enough already? Who’s counting? In a study published in 2014, scientists revealed a ‘fair system’ for countries to tackle climate change.

Perhaps we need more than just a chance, we need help, we need resources. Human rights is also a part of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Are we heeding to the feedback and changing our corporate social strategies? Many corporations are helping refugees and helping people in disaster struck areas. Microsoft and the UN Human Rights Office are developing cloud technologies and data analytics in new ways to expand and improve protection of human rights around the world. Open source technologies for instance encourage collaboration, a decentralized way of sharing knowledge so that everyone can contribute and together make the world a better place.



Grandpa kitchen

Do you like to cook? Ethnic or fusion? As a job or at home? For yourself or others or both? Spicy or mild? Takeout or home-made tiffin? Beginner or an expert? Do you need motivation or guidance? Do you sell or distribute food? Are you into healthy cooking? Do you recognize food as an environment issue? Do you turn food waste to compost? Is it a human rights issue? Do you donate food? Are you grateful for the food you eat, for the hands who make it? There’s so much one can do around food. This blog post introduces a personality who not just cooks but also donates the food he cooks to charity. Introducing Grandpa Kitchen.

Grandpa Kitchen is a YouTube channel whose goal is to provide basic needful things such as cloths, books, school fees, birthday celebrations, and food to orphan children. Grandpa’s real name is Narayana Reddy. The channel is operated by his son Shrikant Reddy. They are now able to feed children two days a week and may be able to do more with everyone’s support. On similar lines in another Youtube Channel called Village Food Factory, that went viral last year.

To watch him cook food, out in the open air, among the trees, is such a delight. Reminds me of the times when as a kid I relished open air wood fire roasted burnt potatoes. Last year when I visited Sangli, a place in Maharashtra, India, I enjoyed roasted corn, on the road, lined by fields of sugarcane. Eating outdoors has its own charm. When was the last time you had such an experience, or rather created one?