June Events for Creative Business People

What’s happening in June, from Wal-Mart’s annual meeting to the World Barista Championships.

June Events for Creative Business People
Bridge Pavilion | courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects Bridge Pavilion | courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects
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Week 1

sunday, june 1
China bans plastic bags

The Chinese use more than 1 trillion plastic bags a year — 20% of the global total — many of which end up choking sewers or decorating the countryside. To combat plastic pollution, the government is banning shops from giving free plastic bags, and barring factories from making ultrathin ones. But China isn’t going from red to green just for Mother Earth. Production of plastic packaging devours 37 million barrels of oil a year. Cutting that figure would help the planet as well as China’s balance sheet. — Theunis Bates

sunday, june 1
World Newspaper Congress
Göteborg, Sweden

How can newspapers boost both print and digital advertising? How can they monetize their Web sites? Are search engines friends or foes? The 1,500 media reps attending the four-day World Newspaper Congress will reckon with such tough questions, gathering in the homeland of the world’s oldest continuously published paper, Post- och Inrikes Tidningar (Post & Domestic News-paper) — which went online-only in 2007, after 362 years in print. As Tim Bowdler, CEO of Britain’s Johnston Press and a congress headliner, says, “The opportunities lie in the very threats that confront us.” — Clay Dillow

tuesday, june 3
OECD Forum 2008

If you’re looking for comic relief from the world’s woes, you might want to skip the annual forum of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD — a think tank funded by the world’s 30 richest countries — will entertain 1,000-plus business and political leaders with doomy-gloomy discussions on the faltering economy and market turmoil. Expect humor-free speeches from WTO honcho Pascal Lamy and European Central Bank boss Jean-Claude Trichet. — TB


tuesday, june 3
Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior
By Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman

Why would a game-show audience intentionally mislead a contestant? And why shouldn’t you pay your friend for a favor? Sway has the answers. In this engaging journey through the workings — and failings — of the mind, the Brafman brothers use captivating characters, from a violin virtuoso to a Florida football coach, to explain the forces that derail rational thinking and suggest how to avoid being swayed. Their stories of senselessness — including one about a Harvard business student who paid $204 for a $20 bill — are as fascinating as the lessons we learn from them. — Bianca Bosker

tuesday, june 3
Read More
Why the Dalai Lama Matters
By Robert Thurman

The eve of the 19th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests brings this timely and passionate essay from Robert Thurman, a Columbia professor, former Tibetan Buddhist monk, and father of the famous Uma. He makes the business case for developing a semiautonomous Tibet as not only an exclusive, Bhutan-like tourist destination and eco-preserve but also a Switzerland of Asia. He envisions it as a global finance center, with its own privacy laws, that would help free the flow of foreign investment on the continent. However utopian, Thurman is compelling on the point that a radical about-face on human rights is a prerequisite for China to grow into its role as a 21st-century superpower — a point that has been made in the Olympics-related protests. “Tibet’s problem is China’s problem and Asia’s problem,” he writes, “and therefore our global, individual problem — yours and mine.” — Anya Kamenetz

wednesday, june 4
World Economic Forum on Africa
Cape Town, South Africa

Every year, the World Economic Forum holds a powwow focused on Africa, and every year, it’s in Cape Town. Beautiful as the city may be, you have to wonder whether that’s the only place in Africa to which the hundreds of attendees — CEOs, ministers and heads of government, academics, assorted members of entourages — will go. This year’s theme, “Capitalizing on Opportunity,” suggests the opportunity is for Africans. In reality, it’s marketers and investors from outside the continent who seem most eager to capitalize on the potential of a region where economic growth has exceeded 5% for four years running. In a sign of that enthusiasm, two of the meeting’s cochairs are E. Neville Isdell, CEO of Coca-Cola, and Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, chairman of Dubai World, the ambitious holding company with the regrettably colonialist slogan “The sun never sets on Dubai World.”— Jeff Chu


thursday, june 5
World Environment Day
Cape Town, South Africa

It’s a little ironic that far-off New Zealand is this year’s host of the UN’s rotating symposium on environmental issues. The 2008 theme is “Kick the CO2 Habit! Toward a Low-Carbon Economy,” but the long airplane flight to Kiwi-land is probably as carbon unneutral as it gets. Save the airfare and the emissions: We suggest you jump-start your celebration of World Environment Day by staying home instead. The day will be marked in more than 100 countries with local rallies, tree plantings, art exhibits, lectures, cleanup campaigns, and concerts.— Kate Rockwood

friday, june 6
Wal-Mart annual Shareholders Meeting
Fayetteville, Arkansas

Call it what you will: a pep rally, an old-fashioned Arkansas revival, a Peoples Temple brimming with Kool-Aid and those creepy Wal-Mart smiley faces. We still can’t wait to see what kind of hoopla the WMT annual meeting generates this year, with the company’s investors and employees expected to pack an 18,000-seat arena near its Bentonville headquarters. Sure, company executives will talk about revamping stores and boosting sales at a time when Wal-Mart’s low- and middle-income customers are enduring rising gas prices and plunging consumer confidence. But the real draw of this five-hour-plus affair, which contrasts with Target’s 30-minute in-and-out express meeting, is the special entertainment, never announced until just before the show. Think J. Lo (last year’s surprise guest), Beyoncé (the year before), and a 90-minute “Wal-Mart: The Musical.” No, really. — KR

Week 2

wednesday, june 11
Blast Off
51st Meeting of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space
Vienna, Austria

It may not yet have achieved peace on earth, but the ever-ambitious United Nations is still confident that it can make outer space a bit safer. Representatives of the world’s 69 space powers — including galactic giant Bolivia — will gather for 10 days of talks to set rules for the exploration and commercial exploitation of the cosmos. Another universal concern expected to be discussed: clutter. Thousands of objects, including disused satellites, remnants of rocket motors, and even a camera lost by U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams during a space walk last year, are now floating above the earth. — TB


friday, june 13
The Incredible Hulk
Directed by Louis Leterrier

Last time around, in 2003, the Hulk wasn’t incredible — not at the box office, not to fans, not to Marvel. The comic-book giant has since reacquired the film rights to the not-so-jolly green giant, produced this new big-screen version independently, and restored the title character’s incredibleness. The 2008 version has Bruce Banner (played by Edward Norton, who also cowrote the script) desperately torn between fully curing his overexposure to the gamma rays that transformed him into the raging Hulk, and harnessing its powers to protect humanity, instead. We have no idea what he’ll choose. — Abe Lebovic

saturday, june 14
Expo Zaragoza 2008
Zaragoza, Spain

Drought and desertification may not be your typical tourist lure, but this summer, some 5 million people are expected to flood into the Spanish city of Zaragoza for Expo 2008, which is dedicated to the theme of “water and sustainable development.” More than 100 countries will be participating in the $1 billion Expo, the modern-day descendent of the World’s Fair. The exhibition will also feature Europe’s largest freshwater aquarium — stocked with aquatic life from five of the world’s great rivers — and H2O-themed buildings and bridges by architects including Enrique de Teresa and Zaha Hadid, whose Bridge Pavilion is shown in the photograph above. “Never before has the world talked about water for 93 days in a row,” says Eduardo Mestre, one of the Expo’s directors. “This summer could be the turning point in the way we use this vital resource.” — TB

saturday, june 14
Pledge Allegiance
Flag Day

Though surveys show that just 40% of Americans know when it is, Flag Day, which Woodrow Wilson first established by presidential proclamation in 1916, still spurs more than a quarter of the population to send their patriotism up the flagpole. The still-not-over war on terror has been a boon to the $350 million-a-year stars-and-stripes industry, although the post-9/11 bump has moderated lately (how many flags does one person need?). Here’s one bright spot for American manufacturing: Nearly 99% of American flags are still made right here at home. (The rest? You guessed it. Almost all in China.) USA! USA!— KR

Week 3

monday, june 16
Bio International Convention
San Diego

From VCs to MDs, everyone who’s anyone in the fast-growing biotech business — and a lot of nobodies too — will be at the sector’s biggest event; attendance is expected to top 20,000. Celebrating “healing, fueling, and feeding the world,” this year’s summit will feature discussions on patent protection and the latest technology. Also on the schedule are keynote addresses from two well-known biotechnology heavyweights, former secretary of state Colin Powell and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Their scientific contributions might just be overshadowed by those of Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, who’s planning to present initial results from the Cancer Genome Atlas, a project that is using DNA sequencing to assess the causes of cancer. — BB

monday, june 16
By Elizabeth Royte

As Fast Company highlighted one year ago, in a feature called “Message in a Bottle,” cracking open a bottle of water these days can be a political statement. And if you can’t make it to Zaragoza for this summer’s water-themed world expo, then pick up a copy of Bottlemania, by Elizabeth Royte, the author of Garbage Land, who digs further into the story of our most valuable natural resource. The most fascinating part of the book is Royte’s absorbing account of a Maine town’s David-and-Goliath battle against Nestlé, the owner of Poland Spring and Perrier waters. Though Royte’s case for drinkable reclaimed sewage water (“toilet to tap”) is less than convincing, her book is ultimately an insightful, well-reasoned look at the problems of packaging a resource we think of as cost-free into a product that we have to pay for. — Beth Adams

Week 4

monday, june 23
Women in Business Conference

The 2,000-plus businesswomen who will gather at this four-day conference are serious about networking — featured prominently on the timetable are MatchMaker Meetings, a sort of speed dating for companies. They’re also serious about business, if the keynoter is any sign. Chin-Ning Chu, author of The Art of War for Women, will teach attendees how to apply The Art of War, the famed sixth century B.C. military treatise by Sun Tzu, to the workplace. As conference cochair Nancy Williams explains, Chu’s focus will be “understanding your competitor, who is your enemy,” because “going into business is like going into war.”— BB


thursday, june 26
Rock Out

As the world’s largest music festival, Summerfest has quite the reputation to uphold not just as an 11-day party with an outstanding sound track but also as an economic engine. Nearly a million fans are expected at this year’s music marathon on the shores of Lake Michigan. Big-name talents Tim McGraw, Tom Petty, and Stevie Wonder will headline a program that includes hundreds of other acts, including Keller Williams, Thievery Corporation, and Rodrigo y Gabriela. One name in lights will be perennial sponsor Harley-Davidson, a major funder of its newly overhauled namesake stage. Another is Milwaukee, which is set to benefit from $110 million in economic activity, by which we mean beer consumption. — CD

friday, june 27
Directed by Andrew Stanton

The earth is empty, save for one trash-compacting robot. That’s the idea behind Pixar’s ninth feature film, WALL-E, which has been 14 years in the making. It’s the brainchild of writer-director Andrew Stanton, the creative genius behind Finding Nemo. He hatched the idea — “What if mankind had to leave Earth, and somebody forgot to turn the last robot off?” — during a frighteningly productive business lunch in 1994, the same meeting of minds that dreamed up A Bug’s Life and Monsters, Inc. A film about a janitorial robot was thought to have slender commercial appeal, and the concept was shelved — until now. Eight straight box-office hits later, Pixar has proved it can pull off quirky projects. (Vermin in the kitchen? $615 million worldwide.) Hello, WALL-E.— Ellen Gibson

saturday, june 28
IFT 08
New Orleans

Today’s top chefs are behaving more like mad scientists, flash-freezing hot chocolate and ink-jet-printing sushi; universities are adding programs in culinology (that’s chemistry plus cooking); and the functional foods market (not just yogurt packed with active cultures but also skin-firming collagen marshmallows and Japanese chewing gum that’s allegedly breast-enhancing) is expected to reach $109 billion by 2010. The Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition will draw more than 20,000 foodie geeks who inhabit that creative universe. Some sessions sound totally unappetizing (“Cold Plasma: An Emerging Technology for Food Processing”?). But this being New Orleans, event organizers will try to spice things up with a field trip to an oyster-shucking plant as well as plenty of tasting sessions. In fact, the expo is being billed as equal parts “biotech and blackened redfish, organics and okra.” Yum.— EG

Week 5

sunday, june 29
World Congress of Architecture
Torino, Italy

The International Union of Architects has lured big names to northern Italy for this convention, including Pritzker winner Alvaro Siza and visionary town planner Paolo Soleri. But it’s the building hosting the event, the Lingotto, that may say the most about what architecture, deployed cleverly, can do. In the early 1990s, Renzo Piano turned the former Fiat factory into a sleek convention center, museum, and mall, helping to spark a wave of regeneration across once-ailing Torino.— TB