Graham’s Column

(17 December, 2020 – final BCCJ WRU newsletter of 2020)

The sudden arrival of cold weather is one shock, and another is the thought that we are only a few days away from the winter solstice, this year on December 21st and with the added excitement of – weather permitting – being able to see a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. They’ll be close together in the night sky, looking west after sunset, the closest since 1623, and the closest observable since 1226. Well worth a look.

Our northern hemisphere ancestors would no doubt have welcomed the solstice as a sign of brighter and warmer days to come. We all probably feel like that now, too, after everything that we have been through in 2020. Even looking back on various global and local financial crises, the earthquake and tsunami, enduring conflicts from Vietnam to the Falklands and the Middle East, 2020 been the most disrupted and disruptive year I can remember.

We are also in the middle of budgeting. We are lucky to have the wise counsel of James Dodds to help us with this; but what a task it is with so much uncertainty as to the year ahead. It is the same for every business I am sure – what confidence can we have in revenue forecasts; what costs can we manage – what, in fact, will we be doing? What should we plan for the Olympics and Paralympics – right now, who knows?

At this stage, I think we have to assume that Covid is going to be with us for a while longer. Yes, there is good news on vaccines, but for them to be successful we are going to have to continue with a lot of the restraints on physical contact that we are living with now. So physical events should be possible – but they will be under Covid rules, at least initially. The BCCJ will host departing Ambassador Paul Madden in this format for lunch on January 26th. And we will also be planning a welcome event for incoming Ambassador, and old friend of the Chamber, Julia Longbottom, whose appointment has just been announced.

In thinking about the year ahead, and both budgets and event planning, we are conscious of the need to not let Covid dominate. There are so many other things going on. The BCCJ’s three pillars of diversity and inclusion, digital technology, and responsible business reflect our priorities and all three will drive activities next year, as they have done this. Our chamber task force leaders on each of these will be speaking at the Town Hall event on Thursday, and would welcome your advice, thoughts and feedback.

There’s one more event I’d like to bring your attention to, because it is shaping up to be a real agenda setter. With the support of Refinitiv, and great help from the team at the Embassy, we will be hosting an event on Biodiversity from 4-530 on January 14th. It is such an important topic and one that is going to be moving up in importance in 2021 at government and corporate level as we take steps together to stop the catastrophic effects mankind’s current activities are having on our planet. We have a keynote presentations from Dr Jane Stratford, who is UK Head of Delegation to the Convention on Biological Diversity; and Satoshi Ikeda, Chief Sustainable Finance Officer, Financial Services Agency, Government of Japan. We’ve top level speakers from HSBC, Refinitiv and WWF Japan, and a couple still to confirm. I really think this topic is going to be one of the themes of 2021 as companies come to terms with what is going to be expected of them. This will definitely be worth your time, I am sure.

I said earlier that this has been a disrupted year, but I would like to think that the efforts the BCCJ has made to develop our virtual events platform have been well received by members. The office team – Samata San, Sam Maddicott, and Sarah Backley have performed wonders, and have been a joy to work with. We all enjoy working with such a dynamic and diverse membership, and like you we are not going to let a little thing like a global pandemic put us off.

I’m told this is the last Weekly Round Up for 2020, so on behalf of Samata San, Sam and Sarah, many thanks for your continued support of the BCCJ. We will look forward to what ever 2021 brings!