The Treasure America project, a unique one month initiative by MBA students and others to promote sound energy policy in the United States while preserving the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), is moving forward quickly. Meetings are being scheduled with community leaders in Kaktovik to discuss discuss economic, environmental, and social goals and strategies. For more information, visit the Treasure America website or download the latest press release [PDF Here].
Red Herring reports the US is sorely lacking in the ability to produce a viable market for renewable energy. The $50 Billion market is dominated by European and Asian concerns. Although activity in the US is growing, the country as a whole has great cultural leaps left to take before efficiency and the embrace of renewables truely reaches its full potential.
Estimates are that over 3/4 of all energy produced in China last year came from coal. Not only is China the world’s most populated country (1.25 billion people) but it is also the world’s fastest growing economy (9.5% increase in GDP for 2004). Put these two together, and that is a lot of coal being burned, with energy demands increasing in unison with the expanding economy.
Is there a cleaner solution? China has unveiled a strategy to make offshore wind farms a key part of its energy program within two or three decades. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, can the planet’s most populous nation afford the envrionmental taxation of two or three decades more of blistering growth fueled by coal?
This recent article in the Sunday Times is my favorite type: Another great, real world example of a small business reaping significant profits by taking proactive pro-environmental steps. The article credits standards programs like ISO 14001 with helping firms understand how to go about taking these steps as well as offering them a way to market themselves as “green”.
The EPA has given awards to seven student groups through an award program called “P3″, which stands for People, Prosperity and Planet (sound’s familiar!). The winners’ projects were exhibited on the National Mall last week. This type of program is a great way to get future leaders thinking about sustainabilty and better design, not to mention a showcase to the general public.
Wave power, an oft overlooked form of clean enery has had a major boost with plans for the first major wave farm underway in Portugal. The commercial project, led by OPD and a Portuguese consortium will generate enough power for 1,500 homes. The plan calls for 30 similar farms in the future. At close to $10 Million, it’s a pricey investment for the quantity of energy received – but that price will undoubtedly come down.
(Via Eyeteeth and Worldchanging)
Britain, which resides on the same latitude as Siberia, would be much colder, were it not for the Gulf Stream. This current transports an estimated 27,000 times more heat to England’s shores than all the power supplies in Britain could provide, warming the country by 5-8C. Researchers have detected the first signs of a slowdown in the Gulf Stream, evidently tied to global warming.
It is difficult to predict what the effects of this will be. Currents and weather systems take years to respond, so the jury will still be out on this one for awhile. Some models suggest Europe and specifically England will freeze, another is that the continent will cool while the rest of the world heats up due to global warming.
How does this relate to business? Better put, how doesn’t this relate to business? Imagine the consequences of a cooling Europe. Everything from agricultural to energy needs would be flipped on its head, with unimaginable fiscal consequences. Such consequences, unpredictable as they may be, must still be considered, as their effects are so overarching. Given such prospects, it seems no coincidence that carbon trading commenced this year in Europe, largely spurred by efforts to reduce global climate change.
I’m pleased to annouce that we’ve teamed up with Sustainable Business Leaders Network, a new online network for professionals interested in business and sustainability. You can see the latest job postings on our right-hand sidebar, just below the Treehugger posts.
If you’ve read Natural Capitalism, then you’re already familiar with the concept of putting a price tag on “ecosystem services” as well as on the negative externalities of business, such as pollution. Outside Magazine’s Bruce Barcott reports that maintaining wilderness intact has benefits far beyond the psychological and spiritual. For example, “studies of rivers and lakes reveal that healthy watersheds provide millions of dollars’ worth of water filtration, just one of many such natural services critical for healthy communities”.
Taking a more sophisticated economic look at wilderness, it’s apparant that a forest can sometimes be worth quite literally more if left standing than if cut and sold as lumber – recreational tourism is a part of that equation, but so are quantifiable services such as oxygen production, erosion prevention and property values. It’s also apparant that you can’t economically argue your way out of all threats (like forestry) in all cases, so it’s wise to do your math carefully before preaching.
(image from Dan Winters)
Major business leaders and UN officials will meet next week at the International Business Leaders Forum in London to talk about the private sector’s ability to impact poverty. The Financial Times has a great article on some of the ups and downs of involving business with international development.
It seems like just yeterday that Gap and Nike were the pariahs of the ethical trading community. They’ve since been welcomed back into it, with Gap now being a member of the ETI (Ethical Trading Initiative). Nike, since revealing all of its global suppliers last month, is considering membership.
While it would be nice to believe these two transnational entities are pusuing CSR (Corporate Social Responsinbility) soley for the sake of human welfare, CSR has become a part of bottom line reality. Shaw Lebakae, of the Lesotho Clothing and Allied Workers Union, said:
Gap had to change because its brand and image was being damaged. The people who it was selling to, American college students, were protesting against them because they didn’t want to support that image. Companies like Wal-Mart, which have no brand or image other than being the cheapest retailer, have no impetus to engage with trade unions in our country.
According to a survey of 600+ young adults aged 18-24 from Lichtman/Zogby International, young people coming into the workforce overwhelmingly value honesty and integrity, with 92% saying they believe that doing the “right thing” is more important than getting ahead in their career. These young workers place loyalty to friends, and love above honesty in business dealings.
The survey finds that, despite 96% saying honesty and trust are important in the workplace, when faced with a number of potential ethical dilemmas, a substantial number are more likely to value loyalty to friends (43%) and “forbidden office romances” (32%). Check out the study here.
Despite a comparatively lax governmental stance here in the US, may firms are already gearing up to comply with tougher environmental standards – those of Europe. (reported in today’s LA Times) The principal reason, obviously, is that if a US company wants to sell products in the EU, they’ll have to prove compliance. But it’s also sign that US companies are becomming increasingly proactive about governmental regulation, as it’s likely that regulations will eventually be tougher at home. Companies that make changes early are likely to have a competitive advantage over those that don’t.
A new truck stop innovation is reducing both noise and air pollution, while saving truckers money. It’s also saving them sleep, as the sound of chugging diesel motors surrounding the trucker’s cab during sleep time is greatly reduced.
The invention is called IdleAir. It replaces the need to to leave big rigs running while stationed at truck stops in order to run air conditioning units and other appliances such as stoves, microwaves and TVs.
We’ve had so many Toyota related posts here lately, it’s getting a little uncanny, but nonetheless, this one is worth it. Toyota will begin production of its newest hybrid – a version of the Camry – at its Kentucky plant in about a year.
The fact that Toyota is moving forward with more hybrid production is great, but the bigger side of this story is that it represents a solid commitment to jobs and economy in the auto-maker’s biggest market: the USA. With both GM and Ford struggling to stay afloat, Toyota’s continued investment means a less shakey future for America.