History will look back at 2015 as a crossroads in America’s adoption of sustainability. It was a year that saw milestone steps toward the adoption of a low-carbon economy with the Clean Power Plan and the COP21 global agreement. The real milestone event of 2015 was California winning world economic growth leadership while also reducing emissions. The first article in this two-part series documented three 2015 mega-trends that are reshaping our country's trajectory toward human health, environmental and economic sustainability.
This second article profiles the 2015 milestone steps created by the millennial generation, our national weight crisis and corporate social responsibility's growing role in determining business success that are now the driving forces behind the emerging $250 trillion green economic revolution.
A 2015 millennial milestone event was this generation's new position as the United States' largest employed demographic group. Research released during 2015 found that millennials, unlike any other generation, expect CSR to be part of their job. This expectation is pushing commercial real estate's adoption of smart building designs using collaborative workspace along with increased investments in onsite solar systems, energy efficiency and smart building technologies.
By 2017 the millennial generation will be both our country's most employed demographic group and our country's largest consumer group. Future business success now hinges on satisfying the millennial generation's sustainability expectations.
Encouragingly, 2015 saw a milestone where Costco became America’s largest retailer of organic food. Healthier food sales are now growing at three times the sales growth rate of less healthy food. Consumers are increasingly leaving the grocery store center aisles and fast food drive-through windows in search of foods that are labeled clean, organic, gluten-free and sustainably sourced.
Even so, a new lifestyle paradigm is required. Similar to the consumer search for sustainable products, we are in a national search for how to have fun while doing right by our health and the environment.
2015 was a watershed in how businesses compete. A business can buy customers with price discounts. They can win customers by selling highly authentic products that are produced and delivered through transparent business practices. In 2015 corporate social responsibility moved from its historical niche role to become a driver in how businesses win and retain customers, most especially during today's intense price competition.
Low-carbon economy. 2015 saw the achievement of economic growth and reduced emissions. California has turned global warming into an economic growth engine driving its economic success by delivering low emissions technologies that are price competitive with fossil fuels. California' success, along with the launch of the Clean Power Plan and the COP21 agreement, gave birth in 2015 to the low carbon carbon economy.
Solar price-competitiveness. 2015 saw solar power gain price competitiveness with fossil fuel generation. 2015 was also the year battery technologies began their path toward price competitiveness through increased economies of scale. 2015 was a launch year for an energy future where renewable energy and batteries will be the core technologies for our buildings and cars.
Cities default to green. Cities cannot wait any longer for national governments to adopt sustainable public policy. As a result, city leaders around the world are aggressively innovating in search of sustainable solutions to pollution, congestion and food porn. Their path toward "defaulting to green" is now a global innovation engine driving adoption of sustainable technologies and public policy.
Millennials drive the green economic revolution. The millennial generation is displacing the baby boomer generation in terms of employment and buying power. This mega shift is driving a green economic revolution. Today, businesses must incorporate CSR into job tasks to successfully recruitment millennials. Going forward, millennials will push CSR from a niche staff function to a core product design attribute.
National weight crisis. Food is increasingly becoming the path for initial consumer adoption of sustainable best practices. Industrial foods taste great, cost less and are the basis for a weight crisis that has delivered a diabetes epidemic and soaring health care costs. This ticking time bomb is exploding and only consumer purchases of clean and sustainably sourced foods will prevent a devastating denotation.
CSR is now core to business success. 2015 provided the evidence that CSR wins customers. It is the path out of the margin destroying price competition that continues to depress our economy. Companies like Unilever get it and are growing revenues and profits by incorporating CSR best practices in product designs and business operations. 2015 leaves us with the question of how quickly the majority of businesses will see CSR as the marketing path to winning and retaining customers.
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Bill Roth is a cleantech business pioneer having led teams that developed the first hydrogen fueled Prius and a utility scale, non-thermal solar power plant. Using his CEO and senior officer experiences, Roth has coached hundreds of CEOs and business owners on how to develop and implement projects that win customers and cut costs while reducing environmental impacts. As a professional economist, Roth has written numerous books including his best selling The Secret Green Sauce (available on Amazon) that profiles proven sustainable best practices in pricing, marketing and operations. His most recent book, The Boomer Generation Diet (available on Amazon) profiles his humorous personal story on how he used sustainable best practices to lose 40 pounds and still enjoy Happy Hour!