[UPDATE. WEDNESDAY APRIL 24 2019. FOLLOWING WIDESPREAD GRASSROOTS DISQUIET OVER THE XR BUSINESS WEBSITE, IT HAS BEEN TAKEN DOWN. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR XR AND ITS POSITION ON CAPITALISM IS NOT YET CLEAR. WE WILL PUBLISH FURTHER REPORTS AS INFORMATION COMES IN]
When Extinction Rebellion first burst into action in the UK last November, it felt as if something was finally going to change.
Their high-profile arrival on the political scene had a noticeable effect on awareness of environmental issues and gave people permission to speak more freely than before about our society and its relationship to nature.
But when this month’s big week of action in London got underway, with Waterloo Bridge and Oxford Circus blocked and Marble Arch occupied, it felt as if something important and radical was happening.
And perhaps it was, because, presumably, the vast majority of those who turned out, including the nearly 1,000 who were arrested, genuinely believe that our civilization needs to change course if life on this earth is to survive.
But the integrity of XR as an organisation was dealt a fatal blow on Easter Monday, when its Twitter account started plugging links to a new website called XR Business, which had been announced in a letter to The Times.
Among the signatories was Gail Bradbrook, director and shareholder of Compassionate Revolution Ltd and Holding Group member of XR. This is just not some separate support group, but an intrinsic part of the XR apparatus.
The very existence of the site was bad enough, but the home page was (and is) hideous. A corporate satellite view of Europe lit up like a Christmas tree. What sort of environmental movement would choose such imagery?
But somehow we wanted to give XR the benefit of the doubt and even naively plugged the London protests in our last bulletin.
The XR Business site, however, is a declaration of Rebellion Extinction. This is now officially an ex-Rebellion, shorn of all pretence of radicalism.
Instead, what we find is a list of “business leaders” who have identified environmental catastrophe as yet another get-rich opportunity.
And they are prepared to hijack and exploit people’s real love for life and nature in order to push their profiteering agenda.
First name on the list of these so-called “leaders” is Seb Beloe, partner at WHEB
WHEB describes itself as “a positive impact investor focused on the opportunities created by the transition to a low carbon and sustainable global economy”.
It adds: “We focus on nine sustainable investment themes with strong growth characteristics, derived from providing solutions to major social and environmental challenges”.
On a page headed “thought leadership” WHEB announces that it is “actively involved” in organisations “at the leading edge of sustainable and responsible investment”.
These include the Global Impact Investing Network, which explains in turn on its website that it brings together “impact investors and intermediaries who have the capacity to invest and intervene at scale, making multi-million dollar investments and aggregating funds large enough to access institutional capital”.
Another XR “business leader” is Amy Clarke, co-founder of Tribe Impact Capital LLP, which boasts the snappy tagline “A New Wealth Order”.
Clarke is very proud of having “spent time” at investment firm EY (“helping clients embrace industry disruption as an opportunity“), PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), Microsoft, and the Bank of America.
Needless to say, Tribe Impact Capital shows little interest in challenging capitalism (the clue is in the name!) or in calling for degrowth. Its goal is, rather, “long-term positive impact and growth for everyone”.
XR “business leaders” John Elkington and Louise Kjellerup Roper, come from Volans Ventures Ltd.
They are involved in the Tomorrow’s Capitalism Inquiry backed by companies like Aviva Investors, The Body Shop International, Covestro, and Unilever, the massive transnational consumer goods company.
Paul Polman, until recently CEO of Unilever plc, is also on the XR roll of honour, in fact.
And Jeremy Leggett, very active in promoting XR Business online, is founder and director of Solarcentury Ltd, which names Unilever as one of its “partners”.
Another XR business groupie is Jake Hayman, whose Ten Years’ Time programme “is tailored for the next generation of high-net worth families who are looking to invest capital into ambitious new ideas rather than following the crowd to safe ground”.
It’s that c-word word again!
Another XR Business enthusiast for “green” technology is Samer Salty, co-founder and managing partner of the infrastructure and private equity fund manager, Zouk Capital LLP.
Its site tells us: “Zouk’s infrastructure strategy capitalises on the global shift to greater sustainability.
“The fund targets a diverse range of sectors across Europe, including emerging utility-scale battery storage projects as well as wind, solar, waste-to-energy, electric vehicles and geothermal”.
It was announced in February 2019 that Zouk is entering into exclusive negotiations to manage the UK Government’s £400m CIIF investment fund aimed at helping to increase the uptake of electric vehicles in the UK.
No vested interests involved there, then, nor with XR supporter Michael F. H. Bonte-Friedheim, CEO and founding partner of NextEnergy Capital, “the leading international solar investment and asset manager”.
XR Business also boasts the support of Tomas Carruthers, CEO of Project Heather: “We’re building a stock exchange for the 21st century. It’s time to add ‘impact’ to ‘risk and reward'”.
The key to understanding the XR phenomenon comes perhaps from its business backers Charmian Love and Amanda Feldman.
They are co-founders of Heliotropy Ltd, terming themselves “Builders of a brighter future”.
On the surface everything seems yummy and wholesome. Explaining its name, the site says: “Heliotropy is a phenomenon in nature where certain plants (or parts, like flowers) grow in response to the stimulus of sunlight, so that they turn to face the sun.
“We believe humans are similarly motivated by the power of heliotropy. We will grow taller, faster and stronger when motivated by light, warmth and positivity, rather than fear and despair”.
Heliotropy says it is all about “Mobilising Movements”. It declares: “Today’s problems are interconnected, and movements must join forces to solve them. We are convening emerging leaders from global movements to imagine new ways of collaborating”.
But Heliotropy is a microcosm for the world of XR as a whole. Beneath the nicey-nicey surface lurks something rather nasty-nasty.
If you click on the section entitled “Reimagining Corporate Capital” you are taken to a site called Corporate Impact X.
This explains: “Corporate Impact X is a practitioner-led project designed to support corporations in developing high impact venturing, collaboration and investment strategies”.
It offers a report called “Investing Breakthrough: Corporate Venture Capital”. Sadly the link does not work properly, though it does point the would-be investor towards Volans, the aforementioned buddies of XR, Tomorrow’s Capitalism and Unilever.
The link to a second report, “Beyond the B1nary – Delivering Profits and Purpose Through Corporate Venturing” does work.
The “Thank You for Reading” section here is extremely revealing:
“Thank you to Elizabeth Boggs Davidsen of the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), of the Inter-American Development Bank Group, for managing this project and to the Inclusive Business Action Network (IBAN), a global partnership implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) for providing the funding. We are
grateful for the support of Global Corporate Venturing and Saïd Business School, Oxford University”.
It adds that the project was developed and delivered by Charmian Love (CorporateImpactX), whose email is given as firstname.lastname@example.org
Just to be clear, this is Charmian Love of the fluffy-sounding Heliotropy Ltd, who is one of XR’s select band of business leaders.
It should be clear to anyone who has taken a look at the snarling capitalist agenda behind XR’s smiley eco-mask that they are not to be trusted.
If the movement is as democratic as it claims to be, it may still be possible for genuine environmentalists to wrest control of XR. Who knows?
Otherwise, decent people should get out as fast as they can and form new networks of resistance which fight to bring down the ecocidal industrial capitalist system, rather than to prop it up.
As the eco-activist Judi Bari put it: “There is no such thing as green capitalism. Serious ecologists must be revolutionaries”.
See also: So who exactly is Christiana Figueres?
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