Even as the US is at the cusp of a $700 bn bailout of Wall Street and stock prices are fluctuating like crazy, both closing keynote speakers former California Governor Jerry Brown and Vice President Al Gore remain optimistic about the state of the US economy.
The danger we are facing is quite grave, but the opportunity is right front of us.”
The past thirty years and and rapid climate change reflects the recklessness of the US government and a general disregard for the laws of basic economics. “Everything has a limit–our bodies have a limit, the earth’s resources have a limit,” Jerry Brown said. “Ecology and economics are closely tied together” Vice President Al Gore echoed these sentiments by stating, “We need to stop bailing out the financial crisis and bail in green energy. Green revolution is the solution to the financial crisis.” SubPrime and the Short Term View Gore pointed to the subprime mortgage, which the finance world assumed that a greater volume of subprime mortgages backed up by securities would handle the risk, and that assumption was wrong. It is particularly not sustainable for solar companies who have included renewable tax credits in their business plans when government has allowed renewable tax credits to expire at least 17 times. This causes investors to turn over 80% of their portfolios, because they are driven mainly be short-term quarterly earnings. To be sustainable, businesses have to look at the long term view and recognize the limits of natural resources.
Where does innovation take us now that words like green, organic, recyclable, locally-sourced are flying around? Is it enough for businesses to simply cut costs to improve efficiency? IDEO says it’s not enough and companies need to look at how to improve demand for innovative products by looking at individuals to understand their needs better and to tell stories that help consumers understand what it is that they are buying. Transforming Green Hype into Sustainable Demand IDEO is a creative design firm headquartered in Palo Alto that looks at opportunities to change products, services, and other offerings. Yesterday, IDEO hosted a workshop called “The Demand Side of Sustainability” to answer questions about how to get consumers attracted to sustainable products. With all the hype around “green” and some companies claiming they are green, more eco-conscious customers are more likely to be dubious about how sustainable a product really is.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger took the stage today in San Francisco at a Commonwealth Club event to celebrate the state’s success in its global warming fighting leadership. If it wasn’t obvious that the bodybuilder-turned-superstar actor-turned-governor wasn’t the typical politician, it was as he was received with a standing ovation as a Republican in one of the most progressive cities in the world, during a particularly heated election season. In his usual self-deprecating style, Schwarzenegger compared cutting the state’s carbon footprint to the approach one might take to losing a few pounds through dieting–something the former Mr. Universe and 7-time Mr. Olympia might know a thing about–by stepping on the scale, setting a goal, and making changes in one’s lifestyle. The California (pronounced Cal-ee-for-KNEE-a, since Schwarzenegger took office in 2003) legislation that he signed into law 2 years ago commits the state to cutting emissions to 1990 levels, a 25% reduction, by 2020, and to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, sidestepping Washington’s rejection of Kyoto. Global Warming and Man on the Moon While the implementation of such dramatic cuts in carbon emissions is easier talked about than done, Schwarzenegger drew parallels to Kennedy’s commitment to transport man to the moon, leading with vision, inspiration, and support, rather than R&D that should have been left to NASA. Kennedy was leading a movement and Arnold has clearly demonstrated his interest in playing a leading role in fighting global warming. He also appealed to the typical Californian who can cut her footprint by 25% immediately by making small changes in her life that add up, such as driving less, washing clothes in cold water, considering solar power, turning lights off, etc.
Mexico is emerging as a fascinating climate change case study. Four years ago, the Mexican government asked companies to voluntarily report their emissions using the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. The GGP offers a metric for tracking and managing greenhouse gas emissions. Intended for both public and private use, it was developed by the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), in collaboration with businesses, governments, and environmental groups. Mexico became the first country in the developing world to implement the program on a national scale. The Mexican Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Program focuses on outreach and education, translating materials and hosting workshops that reflect the stated needs of corporations. According to the WBCSD, emissions from participating corporations account for approximately 35% of the industrial emissions in the country.
At a talk from 1:30 to 3:00 at the San Jose Convention Center, attendees gathered to tap into the power of sustainable branding. It is both good news and bad news for green building businesses that more people are entering the marketplace. The growth of the sustainable or green building industry leaves many questions for business owners, namely, “How can we differentiate ourselves from one another?” and “How can we distinguish ourselves from the hype and greenwashing?” Koann Skrzyniarz of Sustainable Life Media has been working towards helping companies to become sustainable since 2004. She and her her colleagues Celia Canfield of Ecovertex and co-chair of Sustainable Brands International Pam Van Orden, spoke to a varied audience to make the distinctions of how good branding works. Sustainable branding means taking innovation to a whole new level beyond simply telling stories from the ground level up.
The new Global Carbon Budget’s out. The numbers, compiled by the Australia-based Global Carbon Project, an international consortium of scientists that tracks emissions, show that despite an increase in the international community’s efforts to combat pollution, the growth rate of the emissions continued to speed up. The recalculations indicate that atmospheric CO2 concentration was 383 parts per million (ppm) in 2007. That means that our emissions have grown four times faster since 2000 than during the previous decade. Emissions from the combustion of fossil fuel and land use change reached 10 billion tones of carbon in 2007. Natural CO2 sinks are growing but slower than the atmospheric CO2 growth, which has been increasing at 2 ppm since 2000 or 33% faster than the previous 20 years.
Optimists in the eco debate are often accused of pinning unrealistic hopes on the bet that American companies will create sophisticated technology that’s competitive. They believe the green sector will become a vital element in the economy recovery. Whether or not this is overly confident remains to be seen. Two companies that already are active in international competition for highly sophisticated green tech are involved in a smart metering project in Ireland. The companies, Redwood City, CA’s Trilliant and AclaraTech in Hazelwood (Mo) are competing against French telecommunications firm Sagem and Germany’s Elster Group.
RGGI, the regional greenhouse gas initiative, Holds Its First Mandatory C02 Auction Experts say that the prices for the permits to emit carbon will stay low because too many were given away for free, but 12.5 million permits will be auctioned overall, which is still pretty cool. Europe says “Welcome to my world.” Chocolate Doesn’t Need Boxes, and Other Mysteries of “Greening the Supply Chain” Greenbiz has a great discussion of the new trend companies are taking to reduce waste and expense at the same time. They lose points for not even mentioning Ghirardelli in the title, given that the first paragraph is all about the chocolate giant. (The best you could do was “Thinking Outside the (Cardboard) Box”?) Just let the people know about the chocolate, really. Japan’s Landfills Chock Full of Gold, Silver, Platinum US landfills full of bento boxes. Kidding! All those precious metals are inside the electronics that are being discarded by the millions each year. I sense an investment opportunity… Joel Makower on Video: Developing Your Company’s Green StrategyJoel Makower of GreenBiz delivered a great session last week at the Corporate Eco Forum. See the video which asks “how do companies operate in a world in which energy water materials toxicity carbon intensity become barriers to growth?” US Companies Know Climate Change Will Screw Them, Don’t Care 81 percent of U.S. companies expect climate change to negatively affect their business, but they prefer to wait for regulation to spur them to action. I love the head in the sand approach to risk preparedness. Natural Product Sales Skyrocket Despite Economic Downturn Growth in the natural personal care industry is five times that of the regular personal care industry. Maybe it’s all those sweaty hippie bikers trying to find work now that unemployment rates are up. Lastly, 3P covered a couple deep sustainable business questions this week: Sustainable Branding: is it all just greenwashing? and the million dollar question: Would you rather have an enviro employee or a competent one? (Yes, that is a gaggle of sustainable MBA students waving their hands frantically at the back of the classroom.)
You know Tetra Pak boxes– those cubes of cheap wine made of multiple layers of foil, and paper, right? Though they’re technically recyclable, it’s not exactly easy or economical do do it. But did you know Tetra Pak is committed to sustainability? They had a booth at the recent Natural Products Expo West 2008 trade show, and because they are “a natural products” company, they wanted to make a little video showcasing how green their booth was. That’s right. Not their products, just their tradeshow booth.
I love it when Lawrence the Tetra Pak employee calls it “renewability.” *ed note - there is legitimate argument that since TetraPak boxes are so much lighter than wine bottles, they do in fact save a lot of carbon in the shipping process, which is not trivial. Still, I’d rather hear about that than the tradeshow booth.
I love the novelty of the “Eco Dance Floor” – The idea is that some portion of a nightclub’s electricity might be generated by the kinetic motion of a crowd of people dancing. Indeed, this is possible, but can’t even come close to the amount of energy a club need to sustain itself for the evening. Adam Vaughan of SmartPlanet.com has pulled together an excellent de-bunking of the claims made by Bar Surya, in London, the self proclaimed “world’d first eco nightclub”. His post is reproduced below. Not that we’re raining on anyone’s parade here – we just want the facts. If we’re going to make bold “eco-claims” it’s a recipe for public relations disaster to exaggerate the numbers – not just for the club at hand, but for others who might be most conservative in singing their praises. The original is here. +++ When the “world’s first eco nightclub” opened in London this July, it attracted unqualified plaudits and celebs including Jade Jagger, Coldcut and shadow environment minister Greg Barker. But did Bar Surya deserve the praise? Is it really as green as it claims? To find out, I chatted to the team behind the club and looked at the numbers. Claim 1: The dancefloor creates 60 per cent of the club’s electricity
The piezoelectric dancefloor at Bar Surya uses the pressure of dancing clubbers to generate electricity. The owners have variously claimed the floor provides between 50 and 60 per cent of the entire club’s electricity requirement (the 50 figure came from an email Bar Surya sent me, the 60 per cent from its website). Bar Surya won’t say exactly how many kilowatt hours (kWh) the floor generates (kilowatt hours are the standard unit utility companies base electricity charges on). Let’s make an educated guess. Club Watt, a new eco club in the Netherlands, has a similar dancefloor and estimates each dancer generates between 5 and 10 watts.
The Read Green Initiative is a broad effort to raise awareness about the environmental impact of paper magazines. Participants get a 1-year *free* subscription to a variety of digital magazines. As the Read Green site tells us, the “trees will thank you”. Obviously there is a self-serving aspect to this initiative. One of the primary organizers is Zinio, a digital magazine company. But there are many other companies including the Magazine Publishers of America which are co-sponsors, and that’s because paper magazines take a huge toll on our planet. There are 12 billion magazines published in the U.S. each year and only about 20% of those are recycled – resulting in millions of trees being cut down.
One of the most challenging parts of building a lean and mean green company is finding the right balance of experience and passion. Especially in a young upstart company – like TerraCycle – where the status quo is often thrown out the window in favor of shaking up the typical “business as usual” model. But is it better (or even appropriate) to hire people who are committed to being green outside of work as well?
Official greenhouse gas data for the direct pollution caused by cities is highly exaggerated, according to a new study published in next month’s issue of the journal Environment and Urbanization. The article points out that while Western cities are not directly as polluting as they are believed to be, they house people responsible for the bulk of our planet’s environmental problems; the shop till you drop consumer. Cities, which are blamed for creating 75 to 80 percent of the world’s emissions, only are responsible for around half that amount, according to the article. United Nations agencies, former US President Bill Clinton’s climate change initiative and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have all stated that between 75 and 80 per cent of emissions come from cities. Data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that only two-fifths of all greenhouse gases from human activities are generated within cities. Agriculture and deforestation account for around 30 percent, and the rest are mostly from heavy industry, wealthy households and coal, oil or gas fuelled power stations located in rural areas and in urban centres too small to be considered cities.
This post is part of a series covering the Social Capital Markets 2008 Conference, which 3P is excited to be a part of. Napoleon Wallace — Remember when doing “good” came at the cost of doing “well”? This longstanding rule of thumb has been a fundamental investment policy for decades, and consequently, it has created a paradigm of misalignment between social impact and investment capital. Unfortunately, there has been no market to marry this disparity. However, as more alpha-focused investors begin to realize that there are financial consequences to social misalignment, cracks in the previous paradigm have begun to show. With these flaws now visible to the naked eye, the leakage of capital into socially-conscious investment vehicles is striking. In 2007, 1 in every 9 professionally-managed dollars (PDF Link) was invested with socially-responsible considerations, representing aggregate dollar growth of 324% since 1995. This growth is striking, and it is also indicative of a growing investor sentiment: “there IS value in values”. This is not said to make any distinction between value systems, but instead to illustrate that the previous model of externality-unconscious investing is functionally obsolescent… to announce that all impacts (social, environmental and financial) are a fundamental component of even basic investment decision making.
The Galapagos Islands are the Pacific island paradise where Darwin’s theory of evolution was born. It is a place filled with iguanas the size of small Fords, sandy beaches, and tropical flora. Now it will be famous for one more thing: the world’s first green airport. The archipelago off the coast of Ecuador has recently contracted Argentine Corporaci√≥n America to manage the redevelopment of the airport on the island of Baltra, an estimated US$ 20 million project to be completed in 2009. Several highlights of the new development are the utilization of wind and solar energy, passive heating and cooling systems, as well as concrete tarmacs as opposed to asphalt, which are claimed to have a greater carbon footprint during its production cycle. (Note: links appear in Spanish)
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