What was billed as a debate between Al Gore and Martin Sorrell at the Cannes Lions this morning turned into a deep, soul-searching quest for options -- including WPP stock options. Early in the conversation, while discussing the role of finance -- including the effect that “remuneration” of board directors has on companies -- Sorrell actually offered Gore a seat on WPP’s board. Which led to a haggle over stock options.
“If you were a non-executive director at WPP, which there is an open invitation for you to do so,” Sorrell began.
“With options?,” Gore interrupted.
“Uh, no,” Sorrell, corrected, adding: “I was going to say that we would insist that you invest in the company.”
While that seemed to put an end to the portion of the debate devoted to stock options, the former American Vice President and the head of the world’s largest agency holding company turned their conversation over to options impacting other worldly matters, especially ones impacting the physical world. And the role that economics -- and business and government policies -- play in it.
Gore, who is a co-founder and chairman of Generation Investment Management, a global equities company that invests in businesses developing a more sustainable model for the world, asserted that policies are beginning to shift in favor of sustainability. But he implied there still is too much “short-termism” across the board: in business, in governing, and even in how we elect some governments.
He took the current American political system to task for a dysfunctional form of short-termism that has shifted legislators away from being accountable to their “constituents” -- voters -- and making them reliant on their financial donors, because of, ironically, advertising.
“When you have to rely on very expensive television commercials [to get reelected],” Gore explained, “it’s the money that matters.”
Gore made the case that businesses and governments are beginning to change toward more sustainable policies, incrementally, but not fast enough -- and he called on the Cannes crowd and the industry at large to help accelerate the shift.To which Sorrell proposed organizing a group of Madison Avenue’s “Big 6” agency holding companies to come together to develop policies -- and ideally executions -- to help make that happen.