Rick Rommel, Senior VP of Emerging Business at Best Buy, was a guest speaker at the State of Green Business Conference. Best Buy recently started selling alternative transportation solutions such as electric bikes and electric motorcycles made by Brammo.
The question is why. As a company that started by selling stereos, Best Buy is shifting into the green marketplace in response to, among other things, consumer demand. As Rommel pointed out, it is estimated that there are 120,000,000 electric bikes in China, representing 10 percent of the populace of the world’s most populated country. Rommel answered questions at GreenBiz.com’s 2010 State of Green Business Conference about Best Buy’s strategic focus and future goals for this entry into clean electronics.
Serious Materials, a green building materials company focusing on energy efficiency retrofits, raised $65 million through venture investments during the down economy–an anomaly in the current economic state. The building industry in general has been in the tank for the better part of two years. However, as Joel Makower pointed out in his ‘state of the green economy‘ introduction to the State of Green Business Conference, green building has been the only bright spot in the entire building sector in the past year, and Surace’s company is a giant in the making.
If the greening of mainstream business is alive and well, despite the bad economy, what is the overall big picture? Joel Makower of GreenBiz.com opened the State of Green Business Forum with the question: are we moving the needle?
If someone were to tell you that one of the major food manufacturers had redesigned its packaging to reduce overall waste by 20 percent, and if a major green IT center had opened at Disney World, and if a major utility had announced major cutback goals for greenhouse gases, wouldn’t you say that things are still looking up despite the recession of ’09? And if that person were to tell you that all of those things happened in January 2010, not in all of 2009, as you might have assumed, you’d guess that things were pretty swell in terms of the world of green business.
Sure, companies like Audi and GE like to take advantage of the Super Bowl’s huge viewing audience to promote their latest “green” message. Even Pepsi threw its hat in the game by saying it wasn’t going to advertise in this year’s game.
But, just how sustainable is the event itself? Is the NFL taking steps to reduce the environmental impact of the Super Bowl? What is the league’s view of sustainability, in general?
For answers, I talked with Jack Groh, director of the NFL’s Environmental Program, and he described these six ways the NFL is greening Super Bowl XLIV:
Leverage is a term we have come to associate with high-risk investment strategies that operate primarily with borrowed funds. The leverage comes from the potential multiplication of the investor’s relatively small cash outlay. But the term can also be applied to the multiplier effects that accompany the economies of scale.
A recent video produced by the Environmental Defense Fund, demonstrates the leverage that a few simple actions directed at improving vehicle efficiency can have when applied to a company’s vehicle fleet, both in terms of emissions reductions as well as in cost savings.
Instead, the shoe maker is investing in technology that will allow it to replace some travel with virtual meetings. “In FY09 we made a strategic decision to move away from offsets and instead focus on reducing miles flown,” says the report. Aside from reducing the carbon emissions generated through travel, the company also pointed to lowering its travel-related expenses, better employee productivity (thanks to less time spent traveling) and a better “work/life balance” for employees as other reasons for the change.
In FY10, Nike plans on increasing its investment in teleconferencing technology by 15 percent, over its FY09 spending. And in FY11, it wants to have 200 videoconferencing systems in place at Nike offices around the world.
In Obama’s 2011 FY budget proposal sent to Congress this week, the administration calls for eliminating more than $2.7 billion in tax subsidies for oil, coal and gas industries. As a result, more than $38.8 billion dollars in tax revenue could be generated for the federal government over the course of the next ten years.
With this proposal, Obama is sending a loud and clear message that the nation is moving towards a clean energy future. Overall, the budget provides over $28 billion for the DOE in 2011, a 7% increase over this year’s budget estimates. Much of this increase is for the support of renewable energy generation and advanced vehicle technologies.
A quick post today: KPMG has been no stranger to climate change issues and has offered some interesting commentary in the past, particularly during the COP15 conference in December.
The following is a great COP15 wrap up conversation I though was worth sharing. It features Alan Buckle, KPMG’s Global Head of Advisory, and Barend van Bergen, associate partner with KPMG in the Netherlands. Enjoy….
Call it Cradle-to-Crapper. An enterprising Japanese firm called Oriental has developed a machine that will divert the waste paper in your office and convert it into toilet paper. Right there, on the spot. Feed about 40 sheets of paper into one end of the machine and in about 30 minutes, a roll of toilet paper emerges from the other end.
Sure, the carbon footprints linked to toilet paper purchases might not account for entire chapters of corporate social responsibility reports. But this contraption–which Oriental has inexplicably named the White Goat–is perhaps symbolic of the diffusion of sustainable thinking into the most remote corners of workplace design. Or, depending on how much water and electricity the White Goat eats each day, it could be symbolic of sustainable thinking gone wrong.
On January 27, 2010 the ground moved underneath our CFOs when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) instructed publicly held companies to “…consider the effects of global warming and efforts to curb climate change when disclosing business risks to investors.” Gina-Marie Cheeseman posted an excellent article entitled “SEC Issues Guidance On Climate Change Risk Disclosure” on Triple Pundit on January 28 that provides more details about this ruling.
This article surfaces some of the issues now confronting CFOs.
Early in my energy industry career, one of the “pop questions” often asked of junior staff in the finance department was: “Who is most important: the investor, the customer or our associates?” In finance, the answer is always the investor, according to the narrow interpretation of incorporation law. Otherwise, one would have violated the concept of “fiduciary responsibility.”
The SEC guidance for reporting climate change risks is a milestone event in the definition of fiduciary reporting for a CFO. This “guidance” expands a CFO’s disclosure requirements when reporting financial results in documents like an annual report, 10K, 10Q and 8K, where a failure to adequately discuss or reveal risk could expose a company to investor lawsuit and regulatory action. One significant ramification of this SEC action is that CFOs will now need to take the initiative in identifying and reporting the risks that climate change may have upon their company’s investors. This is a sea change in CFO fiduciary responsibility.
Bicycles are great for the environment, for one’s health and for efficient urban travel. Many cities are bicycle-friendly, some more than others. But if you live in one with major hills, such as San Francisco or Seattle, and you happen to be a little older, perhaps, or simply not quite in Tour de France shape, then an electric-bike is the way to go.
Business is booming for several reasons: They are way more affordable than EV cars and spiffy new and lighter designs are multiplying worldwide.
A recent New York Times article notes that David Chiu, president of the San Francisco board of supervisors uses one to get to meetings without having to change clothes upon arrival.
The sustainable economy is perhaps the fastest growing, fastest changing segment of the overall economy. It’s hard to keep up with all the new books, movies, and websites that cover sustainable food, clean tech, renewable energy, alternative transportation, Socially Responsible Investing, ecotourism, green building, holistic education, and all the other facets of the sustainable economy–even for those of us who live and breathe this stuff.
But what about those people who are new to the field, and feel completely overwhelmed by it all? They’re not ready for a green MBA from Presidio or Dominican, but they are curious, interested, and part of that broader populace we need to reach that has open minds and are terrific potential converts to sustainable businesspeople and consumers….if only they could get, well, a crash-course in sustainable business.
According to the Environmental Paper Network, choices about paper use and selection are the most significant decisions one can make to impact the planet. Printing double-sided, or, better yet, not printing at all, can hugely reduce environmental footprint. But until the world decides to go 100 percent digital, paper is a necessity. When it comes to creating paper with the least impact on the environment, New Leaf Paper is leading the pack.
Continuing in its tradition of pioneering the sustainable paper industry, New Leaf has launched an online Eco Audit calculator. This tool helps New Leaf customers and their clients share the environmental benefits of using post-consumer recycled paper instead of virgin paper. New Leaf has offered this tool offline for the last ten years, providing print-ready, customized Eco Audit for their customers. While New Leaf Paper has more than eight million Eco Audits in circulation, this is the first time that customers have the online tools for their own use.
Some people just don’t like carrots, but nobody likes a stick. This is what John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods and notorious health care blow hard, doesn’t seem to get. In an attempt to reduce the cost of health care for its employees, Whole Foods created a new policy to offer deeper discounts on food to employees that can squeeze into the company’s [narrow] definition of health. The “Team Member Healthy Discount Incentive” is a voluntary program that evaluates the health of employees based on Body Mass Index (BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol, and nicotine-use. Based on these specific criteria, employees can qualify for an additional 2-10% discount on top of the 20% discount all employees already receive.
But instead of acting as an incentive, the program may have the exact opposite effect and act more like a punishment for larger-bodied employees who already have to deal with living in a society whose last acceptable “–ism” is hating on fat people. The issue here is not about companies encouraging the well-being of their employees. The issue here is that a large company is adopting a prescriptive definition of what health means for all people and bodies, and imposing that criteria upon its employees.
Most manufacturers of products that contain hazardous substances, like toxic mercury, cadmium, nickel, arsenic and lead, don’t think much about the end of their products life cycle. The onus to properly dispose of many banned substances is predominantly on the consumer. The problem with this scenario is that people still dispose of batteries, fluorescent lights, needles, cell phones, radios, computers and even televisions, through regular waste streams. In California, for example, citizens who throw batteries or CFL lights in the trash are creating a major headache for the waste management authority. Local governments frustrated with the burden, and the financial repercussions that result from it, are finally taking a stand and pushing back.
During the past year lawmakers in Maine, California, Minnesota and Oregon have proposed ways to start shifting the burden of waste disposal from the public to the private sector. The idea centers around “product stewardship” which means that manufacturers themselves would be required to pay for collecting, recycling and disposing of designated products after their consumers are through with them.
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