“Cost Less, Mean More”: A $10 Trillion Product Revolution

Bill Roth | Friday December 11th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Recycle graphicAn Australian expression I love and use constantly is “No worries!” That phrase captures the essence of an entrepreneur’s faith. And it captures my faith that it will be our entrepreneurs, rather than government, that lead the way in figuring out solutions to our current environmental and economic mess. My attendance at the Cleantech Open re-enforced this faith as I enjoyed an entire day listening to entrepreneurs pitching how their green products will save the planet, grow jobs and make money. And here’s the key maturation in green business that has just occurred this year. ALL of these entrepreneurs had price competitiveness at the core of their green product designs.

Achieving price competitiveness drives my economic analysis projecting a $10 trillion global annual revenue sustainable economy by 2017. This projection is based upon cutting-edge market research documenting that consumers will almost always buy the green product if it is at price parity with the non-green product. Market researchers have branded this shift in consumer behavior as a search for cost less, mean more solutions. And the great news for our economy and environment is that our entrepreneurs are now launching a green product revolution covering market segments from construction materials to chemicals to energy that is focused upon selling “cost less, mean more” solutions.

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FAO Program Promotes Low-Emission Farming

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday December 11th, 2009 | 1 Comment

15826_FAO_Indonesia_J_M_MicaudNot to be too outdone by their COP 15 colleagues grabbing the world’s attention this week in Copenhagen, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization moved on a couple of climate change and food security fronts, including the launch of a multi-donor program to support sustainable, low-emission agriculture practices in developing nations.

FAO announced that Finland, the first country to participate in the program, will kick-in $3.9 million over the 2010-2011 period. The agency intends to approach other potential donors for further funding under the five-year initiative.

On a separate track, FAO is hooking up with Brazil on a large-scale project to collect data on emissions and deforestation via satellite.

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The Global Water Challenge: Four Novel Solutions

Jennifer Elder, The Sustainable CFO | Friday December 11th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Access to water is not always easy or safe

Access to water is not always easy or safe

“There are 84 million people without water.  More children die from bad water than from HIV and malaria combined.  But solutions abound.”  Those were the words of hope spoken by Cheryl Choge from Global Water Challenge at the Net Impact 2009 Conference.  Cheryl and Tito Llantada of Ashoka Changemakers discussed the winning ideas from the Changemakers/Global Water Challenge Contest and what they learned from the first competition.

The contest, which ended in March 2009, sought solutions for clean water and safe sanitation.  All entries were judged on their ability to be sustainable, replicable, and scalable.  The contest drew an amazing 265 entries from 54 countries.  The number and variety of entries demonstrated the breadth of global ingenuity and proved that there are viable low cost solutions to global water issues.  The winner and three finalists shared one million in prize money donated by the CocaCola Foundation.

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Amanda’s Feel Good Fresh (Fast) Food

| Friday December 11th, 2009 | 1 Comment

amandasI was invited to sit on a panel last week by the UC Berkeley Undergrad Net Impact Chapter. Among the excellent panelists, was Stanford MBA Amanda West, founder of Amanda’s, a soon-to-be chain of fresh, healthy restaurants. West opened her first store in downtown Berkeley about a year ago and by all accounts things seem to be going well. Ambitions for more stores in the Bay Area and beyond are on the table, and grand visions of an In-N-Out burger level of customer devotion are in the works. Her vision? To serve quick meals that are more wholesome and ecologically sound than the fast food status quo.

Ecologically sound materials went into the building process (a renovation of a 1920’s storefront) from the paint & fresh air ventilation to the tabletops & flooring. As for added costs, Amanda says: “The green aspect did add some to our costs. Low-VOC paint is more costly than conventional paint and reclaimed wood can be more costly than regular wood. But, we had some saving, as well. By using a waterless urinal, we were not required to upgrade our water service, which would have cost us up to $10,000.”

And the food?

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Cooling Downtown with Seawater in Honolulu

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday December 11th, 2009 | 6 Comments

Honoes-2009-033364_0001Within the next couple of years Honolulu will become the first warm-climate city to use frigid deep-sea water to cool part of its downtown core.

Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning, a limited liability company created specifically to develop the $240 million project, says its technology will cut the city’s air conditioning electricity usage by up to 75 percent, while also drastically reducing carbon emissions and the use of refrigerants.

HSWAC plans to cool more than one-half of the Hawaiian city’s downtown skyscrapers by 2012, using ocean water pumped through a pipeline.

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Travelocity’s Green Hotel Directory Highlights Earth-Friendly Properties

Jace Shoemaker-Galloway | Thursday December 10th, 2009 | 7 Comments

travelocity-green

Travelocity is getting serious about sustainable travel.  Besides offering free carbon offsets for the 2009 holiday season, the online travel agency also provides a convenient and simple Green Hotel Directory as part of its Travel for Good Program.

Alison Presley, manager of Travelocity’s Travel for Good Program, told Triple Pundit, “What makes our Green Hotel Directory so unique is that we flag green hotels across the site. If you shop for a hotel in San Francisco, all of the green options will be marked with our green leaf tag. For the customer, that means it’s easy and affordable to go green.  Not only can you compare prices among the eco-friendly options, but you can even add a green hotel to a vacation package. We’re the only major online travel company with that functionality and we’re very proud of it.”

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Why Humans Are Wired for Systems Thinking

| Thursday December 10th, 2009 | 5 Comments

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B0004164 Neurons in the brain - illustrationBy David Jay
During a recent lecture at the Presidio Graduate School’s MBA program my professor gave us a taste of systems thinking. In a PowerPoint slide with text too small to read, he showed us a nest of boxes and arrows, stocks and flows describing just a few of the millions of complicated relationships between a company, its environment and the society in which it operates. Systems thinking, he explained, is about taking all of these complex interconnections into account—a daunting task for an oversimplified system that is too dense to read, let alone memorize or fully understand.

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International Chamber of Commerce: ‘We’re not with stupid’

3p Contributor | Thursday December 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

road-to-copenhagen

icc-logoEditor’s Note: This article was originally published on Grist, and is posted with permission.

By Jonathan Hiskes

There is numbingly little news coming out of most of the 20 or so daily press briefings at the Copenhagen climate talks. Officials from national delegations and research, policy, and trade groups seem to use them to restate their already-known positions, wrapping them in as much jargon as possible just to be safe.

That held true for Thursday’s briefing by the International Chamber of Commerce, where several American reporters came to learn how the ICC felt about the U.S. Chamber’s antics this year. The U.S. Chamber, for a refresher, fought the clean energy bill that passed the U.S. House this summer, called for a 21st Century Scopes Monkey Trial to question the science of climate change, and was deserted by several prominent members—Apple, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Exelon, and PNM Resources—who trashed the Chamber’s climate policy on their way out.

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Business NGO Working Group: Building the Market for Safer Products

| Thursday December 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Earthflask_transparent_sm

I have been a big proponent of cross-sector dialogue for years and believe that when businesses, NGOs and governmental agencies can work together, more innovative and creative solutions can emerge.  My pet peeve with such dialogues is that they often are all talk and no action.

Tuesday, at meeting at Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland office, I and a two other members of the press had the opportunity to sit down and chat with a few members of the Business NGO Working Group, a project of Clean Production Action, whose mission is to “design and deliver strategic solutions for green chemicals, sustainable materials and environmentally preferable products.” Its lively International Director Beverly Thorpe stressed that the Working Group members really do roll up their sleeves and work through the tough issues. And with a current focus on implementation and policy reform, they are a group worth paying attention to.

Business representatives from Kaiser Permanente, Catholic HealthCare West, Seventh Generation and Staples attended the meeting, to update us on the group’s current projects and future direction.

The Working Group is a unique collaboration of business and NGO leaders who “are creating a roadmap to the widespread use of safer chemicals in consumer products.” They were here in the Bay Area this week for their annual meeting. Starting in 2006, with twenty-two organizations from the environmental community and the electronics, health care, furnishing and retail sectors, today the group has grown to 170 participants, working on three key initiatives:  Safer Chemicals, sustainable materials and public policy reform.

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Greenwashing’s Two-Edged Sword

Bill Roth | Thursday December 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

greenwashing-pie-chart-lgThank you to those who wave the flag of “Greenwashing” at companies who are not walking their talk. I work with businesses across the country and I can confirm that the fear of being tarred with the greenwash label is a motivating force firmly in place inside Corporate America.

However, I’m also beginning to see evidence from my national network of “going-green” businesses that the fear of being branded as a greenwasher is also means they’re slow in adopting more sustainable practices. The following quote paraphrases something I hear a lot from within my network: “We don’t want to advertise what we are doing for fear of being labeled as greenwashers by environmentalists.”

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California Small Businesses A-OK Under AB32

| Thursday December 10th, 2009 | 2 Comments

your-bill

The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report today (full disclosure- they pay my rent, which is why I got a jump on writing about this great report) outlining the impact of California’s groundbreaking global warming legislation on small businesses. The long and the short of it? No big changes! The impact to small businesses is expected to come primarily from changes in the cost of energy, because the cost of producing cleaner energy, as required under AB32, will potentially be passed on to consumers. At least that’s the worry.

The report finds that it’s not a big concern. The percentage of revenue spent on energy for a typical small business will change from minuscule- 1.4% to mildly less minuscule- 1.7%.  Even better, this is a conservative estimate, assuming that businesses do not invest in any energy efficiency upgrades. Companies that choose to invest in upgrades to reduce their energy consumption might even see decreases in their costs, but UCS wanted to focus on the worst case scenario for companies that do not pursue energy efficiency.

In addition to examining the impact to small businesses by sector, UCS conducted a case study on the Border Grill, an upscale Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles  owned by the Two Hot Tamales of Food Network fame. The Border Grill was chosen because restaurants and bars account for the largest share of employment in any small business category, and restaurants also have relatively high energy costs– think of the gas used for cooking and the energy used to refrigerate, light and cool a typical restaurant. Energy costs are a pretty big concern for many independent restaurateurs. Plus the Border Grill was willing to open its books and share detailed information on its physical premises, equipment, lighting, energy use, and financial performance with the analysts. All of this was necessary to conduct a rigorous analysis, but don’t worry, the hot tamales are getting some nice PR out of it. Anyway, the analysts did their analyzing and it turns out that if the Hot Tamales were to do *nothing* but carry on as usual, all they would have to do is raise their typical check from $20 to $20.03 and their increased energy costs would be totally taken care of. Yes, that 3 cents will be passed on to the customer, but he can probably swing it.

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Green Patents Jump to the Front of the Line Under New Government Program

| Thursday December 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

600px-us-patenttrademarkoffice-sealsvgThe United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced this week that pending patent applications for certain “green” technologies will get an accelerated examination by the Office, with the goal of shaving off years from the time the patents are pending.

The pilot program, effective immediately, is intended to spur the approval, and thus commercialization, of patents relating to “environmental quality, energy conservation, development of renewable energy, or greenhouse gas emission reduction,” according to the published guidelines (PDF).

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How California Is Taking Climate Change Seriously

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday December 10th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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California, the most populous state in the Union, takes climate change seriously. Last week, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled a map of what climate change might do to California. The California Energy Commission and Google.org paid the Stockholm Environment Institute to develop maps with Google Earth so Californians can see what the possible impacts of climate change might be, and how the state will need to adapt.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also released a video last week in which he argued that reducing California’s carbon dioxide levels is not enough. “We must also be prepared for some continued climate change, which is now inevitable,” he said.

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The Sustainability Management Maturity Model: Version 2.0

| Thursday December 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

SM3 Curve - Small

As Geoff Barneby noted in his earlier post Doing the Right Thing in Business: Are You Doing it Right?, several critical questions must be considered before launching a strategic sustainability program, including:

  • What is your corporate vision for sustainability?
  • Do you have clear and measurable sustainability goals?
  • Who will sponsor and lead your sustainability initiative?
  • Who will manage your sustainability initiatives through full implementation, and coordinate across business silos?
  • How will you measure the results and report on your progress?
  • How will you get critical stakeholders on board with the program?

In Geoff’s subsequent post, Sustainability Management Infrastructure: What It Is and Why You Should Care, he introduced the Sustainability Management Maturity Model (or SM3), a tool developed by FairRidge Group to help organizations address these questions using a quantitative, systems-based approach. In addition, SM3 helps businesses to assess how capable their management infrastructure is for responding to, managing, and ultimately taking advantage of coming sustainability challenges.

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New Poll: U.S. Supports Cap & Trade, Would Pay Extra to Reduce CO2

Dev Crews | Wednesday December 9th, 2009 | 5 Comments

mcclatchy-logoA new poll released today (PDF) demonstrates that over 60 percent of Americans recognize that the earth is getting warmer mostly because of human activity such as burning fossil fuels. The poll, conducted by The McClatchy Company, the third-largest newspaper company in the United States, and Ipsos Public Affairs, found that a slight majority of the U.S. population also supports cap-and-trade legislation.

A substantial majority of American adults would be willing to pay a surprising additional $25 per month on their electrical bill to support limiting the amount of greenhouse gases companies can put out – as long as the programs created a significant number of green jobs in the United States.

The budget Obama submitted to Congress earlier this year included revenue from a national cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions, which would come from auctioning off emissions permits to industries. The climate program is expected to generate $645 billion between 2012 and 2019. Initial funds would be invested in clean energy. According to the Center for American Progress, a think-tank that has done considerable research on the economic effects of such legislation, this would create 16.7 jobs for every $1 million invested. A $100 billion green investment program would create 2 million new jobs nationwide over two years, most of which would be non-exportable, clean, well-paying jobs.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said climate change legislation would cost the average household $175 a year by 2020, far below what Americans are apparently ready to pay.

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