Why DiCaprio's 'Before the Flood' is a must-watch (even if you won't learn anything new)

Rarely do I settle down excitedly for a TV premiere; the advent of on-demand catch-up TV options has made redundant any collective flurry of enthusiasm in the Idle house. Ignoring the release strategy for Before the Flood – for it too was available on-demand via YouTube – I put all mobile devices out of reach at 9pm on Sunday to fully immerse myself in Leonardo DiCaprio's new documentary about climate change.

Directed by Fisher Stevens, and executive produced by none other than Martin Scorsese, this National Geographic film is a thing of beauty, making the most of sweeping, drone-captured photography to bring the narrative to life.

For those of you working in sustainability communications these past five years, you will know that best practice suggests overlooking doom and the gloom illustrations and negative storytelling in favour of possibilities, solutions, innovation and technological wonder.

Well, this film goes back to basics. Following an angry-looking DiCaprio, a UN Messenger of Peace with a special focus on climate change, over the course of two years, the movie uses every trick in the old-school book (polar bears on melting glaciers included) to depict our planet's plight and get his message across – that climate change has already taken its toll and failure to curb its march will end in disaster.

But it does a fantastic job of simplifying a big, fat complex issue.

It doesn’t try to dumb things down; we get to hear from some of the greatest academic and scientific minds out there, as well as some top NGOs and politicians (Barack Obama and John Kerry included) – people with real knowledge and insight into their subject. And it is edited and packaged in such a way that really lays out the problem, as well as many of the solutions (Elon Musk is on hand to explain his vision in probably the most jargon-laded segment of the film).

Ultimately this is a film that will hopefully appeal to newcomers. I, like many of you, learned very little new from watching Before the Flood. But then this is not a film designed for those of us with any real knowledge of the subject.

It is for those coming to the issue of climate change fresh, or with limited awareness or interest.

Ten years ago, I bought the DVD of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. At that time, my knowledge and awareness of climate issues was minimal and that movie had such a huge impact on me; things exploded from there and my passion and interest for working in the world of sustainability was cemented. So many people I have spoken to in the past decade say they had a similar experience after watching that film. The power of storytelling is incredible.

As an artistic tool to engage people that are sat on the periphery of this era-defining issue, Before the Flood is a special film. Whatever you think of Leonardo DiCaprio – and I am not a massive fan; I find him cold, detached and hard to warm to as a personality – I heartily recommend this film.

15 of the best quotes to inspire a sustainability movement

As a writer, there are three specific books sitting on my desk within easy reach for good reason.

One is a dictionary (yes, the internet has not diminished my love of reference books). One is a thesaurus (why use ‘flexible’ when ‘pliable’ will do?).

The third is my absolute favourite. The Penguin Dictionary of Quotations is a book I return to most often in support of my work. If I’m struggling to find the right words, I seek out those of others. The pointed, pertinent, pithy and, sometimes, poisonous quotes of scholars, academics, celebrities, authors and educators can, more often than not, get a content creator like myself out of the tightest of editorial corners.

My new pop-up ethical t-shirt business – launched this week at betterbusinessshow.teemill.co.uk – had me reaching for this invaluable tome once more in search of inspirational citations from the great and good of the sustainability world.

And there have been some dynamite proclamations over the years. Here’s my 10 favourites.

And if you’d like one of these quotations emblazoned across your chest, head over to the store now.


‘Comply’ is not a vision
— Ray Anderson, founder of Interface
I’m not running for sainthood. I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer, who puts back into the soil what he takes out.
— Paul Newman, actor
Progress is measured by the speed at which we destroy the conditions that sustain life.
— George Monbiot, writer and activist
The best way to predict the future is to create it.
— Peter Drucker, management consultant
The future will be green, or not at all.
— Jonathan Porritt, environmentalist and author
Politics hates a vacuum. If it isn’t filled with hope, someone will fill it with fear.
— Naomi Klein, author
Science always uses metaphor.
— James Lovelock, inventor of the Gaia theory
If you ask the wrong question, of course, you get the wrong answer. We find in design it’s much more important and difficult to ask the right question. Once you do that, the right answer becomes obvious.
— Amory Lovins, physicist, environmental scientist and writer
Being a good human being is good business.
— Paul Hawken, environmentalist, entrepreneur and writer
I’m not a pessimist, even though I do think awful things are going to happen.
— James Lovelock, inventor of the Gaia theory
The earth is a museum of divine intent.
— Bill McKibben, author, environmentalist and co-founder of 350.org
When you warn people about the dangers of climate change, they call you a saint. When you explain what needs to be done to stop it, they call you a communist.
— George Monbiot, writer and activist
Give up meat to save the planet.
— Nick Stern, economist
There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.
— Marshall McLuhan, philosopher
[On climate change:] What if it’s all a hoax and we’ve created a better world for nothing?
— Naomi Klein, author

The Better Business Show Pop-up T-Shirt Store is inspired (and, quite frankly, enabled) by the amazing team at Rapanui, creators of Teemill. Co-founder Rob Drake-Knight appeared on episode 30 of the podcast. His story can be heard here.

Listen up. 52 reasons for hope in the fight to save humanity

The Better Business Show - my new weekly podcast – has well and truly been launched. The first three episodes are up now on iTunes, where you can also subscribe.

It’s certainly at a 1.0 stage, but will no doubt quickly grow into a more proficient entity. I’m truly proud and excited about it.

It’s been eleven years since I began writing about the business of sustainability. And, of course, in that time everything has changed. The world has a global deal to tackle climate change; CEO’s are thinking beyond their 5-year tenures. We have new business models that favour the leasing and sharing of goods and services. We have enlightened businesses aiming to be ‘net positive’ or ‘circular’. Some of them are even putting a cash value on natural assets.

But during this past decade, nothing has changed too. And the pace of transition to much more socially, economically and environmentally positive ways of doing business has left me largely frustrated.

An overflowing pool of evidence points to the fact that being a positive and responsible company is a good thing and will sustain economic growth and social wellbeing in the long-term. But it is not always easy, I get that. Often, company execs are being asked to take a huge leap of faith in developing scary new ways of doing things – ‘scary’ because there is often no reference points or previously trodden paths to greatness.

As Rien Otto, my guest in episode 3 of the Better Business Show declares: what the world really needs is ‘less talk, more action’.

While my new podcast is going to struggle to get over former (‘talking’ being essentially what it is), I hope the latter will be more than catered for by the examples neatly packaged up in each 25-minute show.

To make sustainable business growth – which has long term, purpose-led values at its core – seem that much less scary, the Better Business Show is here to help.

Shining a light on the very best start-ups, entrepreneurs and innovators – as well as the most progressive corporates – and exploring how and why they have found exciting new ways of doing things, the show will be stuffed full of insight, inspiration and hope for organisations that truly want to create positive change in the world.

  • INSIGHT - We’ll be scanning the planet (our first 3 episodes alone visit London, the Netherlands and Ghana) to talk to the founders and CEOs leading the charge – to find out what makes them tick and how they plan to shake-up their respective industries;
  • INSPIRATION - By learning about the challenges, considerations and successes of others, each show will leave you inspired to take new ideas back to your own organisation;
  • HOPE - Ultimately, the 52 examples we will broadcast this year will give you hope – hope that sustainable business models, products and services do work; hope that they can be applied to your own organisation; and hope that, despite how big, and fat, and scary it might seem, there is a better way.

So, what are you waiting for - dive into episode 1 right now, in which I introduce the show and, among other things, bang the drum for how great podcasts are and why you should think that too, and take it from there.

Happy listening. And if you like what you hear, share, subscribe, and share again.

Hear this: Your monthly digest to everything supply chain sustainability

We've taken over the reins of Supply Chain Risk & Innovation, the brand new subscription title launched by Innovation Forum.

So, to tell you what you can expect from each issue – and what's coming up in the next few months – Innovation Forum's Ian Welsh and I jumped in a room with a microphone and had a chat about this exciting new venture, something we'll repeat every month as a new issue becomes available.

Issue 2 lands on 1 February.