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Bill Roth headshot

Nominate Your 2014 Sustainability Winners and Losers

Words by Bill Roth

Have you been grinding your teeth all year wishing you had a forum to tell it like it is on who is helping or hurting the adoption of sustainable solutions to economic growth and enhanced human health? Here is your chance! The following are some of my observations. But more importantly, post what you think in the comments section below this article.

2014 in review

2014 was definitely a year of conflicting results in terms of sustainability. Dishearteningly, the World Meteorological Organization reported a “carbon surge” in climate-changing emissions to 142 percent of pre-industrial levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change analysis raised an alarm that this carbon surge was approaching a point of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”

2014 also saw milestone growth in the green economic revolution: American consumers, lead by the millennial generation, are buying into a green economic revolution that in 2014 generated trillions of dollars in global commerce and investments. But the question raised in 2014 is whether this green economic revolution will be a case of too little, too late.

So, with these conflicting results who were 2014's sustainability winners and losers?

2014 Winners

2014 saw the emergence of real winners measured by their ability to advance a sustainable economy and environment. Here are four of these “sustainability winners:”

Solar. Solar's 70 percent price drop was the sustainability story of 2014. Deutsche Bank issued a 2014 report projecting that this price decline pace will make rooftop solar price-competitive with utility-supplied electricity in all but three states by 2016. 2014 found homeowners in states like California and Hawaii reducing their electric bills by approximately 40 percent with zero onsite emissions from installing rooftop solar. 2014 also marked significant steps toward Zero Net Energy (ZNE) building designs driven by California’s adoption of ZNE building codes. Enabling this mega-shift was economies-of-scale implementation in battery and smart-building technologies that hold the potential to duplicate solar’s path to price competitiveness.

Organic food. Consumers cannot correctly define how a food is “organic,” but they are buying it at a record pace driven by their growing awareness of the link between industrial foods and the obesity/diabetes epidemic. The consumer’s tsunami shift toward healthier foods is driving down the sales of McDonald's and Coca-Cola while propelling the stock values of Chipotle and Krogers to record levels.

CAFE regulations. The American consumer, along with China, are the two forces driving down the price of oil and pump price pain. Americans are buying more fuel-efficient vehicles in large part due to CAFE regulations that mandate higher “fleet” MPG results for automobile manufacturers. This increased fuel efficiency is reducing oil demand and forcing oil suppliers to slash prices to maintain marketshare. CAFE regulations are achieving their goal of reducing consumer costs and global warming emissions.

Elon Musk. 2014 marked the year Musk became the poster person for the green economic revolution. His vision for rooftop solar and electric cars has achieved commercial success. He is being joined by a growing number of CEOs with companies like Apple, Walmart and Ford that are using sustainable best practices to cut costs, grow product sales and reduce environmental impacts.

2014 Losers

2014 was also a year of regression and stagnation in the development of a sustainable economy. Even though most Americans now believe human generated climate change is real and damaging they place a much lower priority on climate change compared to product price competitiveness in deciding what to buy and who to buy from. 2014 also saw massive lobbying by entrenched industries to blunt the competitive threats of healthier products and more sustainable competitors. Here are four 2014 “sustainability losers:”

Millennials. The most recent national election was won by “none of the above.” Sixty-six percent of voters did not vote. The millennial generation was a no-show. Their non-participation in 2014 may make them losers in terms of how Congress addresses their core desire for a sustainable future.

Electric utility industry. The electric utility industry has made revenue preservation their strategic issue as solar, batteries and Zero Net Energy building technologies gain price competitiveness. 2014 marked a clear push by the industry to protect their revenues through rate designs that erode the ability of clean technologies to compete on price. Except for a few utilities, the industry is using its political power and regulatory expertise to insure that the electricity used in the U.S. flows through their meters and that this electricity will mostly be generated through their fossil-fueled power plants that are significant sources of climate changing greenhouse gases.

Boomer generation. While their children are in pursuit of a sustainable future, the boomer generation is stumbling toward massive government subsidies because they have failed to save for their retirement. The boomer generation also continues to be the largest consumer group for full-size pickup trucks and higher MPG vehicles. Seventy-five percent of boomers did vote during the last election as they look to government to sustain their lack of prudence in personal finance and environmental impacts.

Congress. Is this kicking an obvious dead horse? Less than 10 percent of us believe Congress is doing a good job. 2014 was a Congressional non-event in terms of legislation supportive of a sustainable economy and environment. With the massive lobbying by entrenched industries, the fear is that 2015 could produce legislation that erodes the path to price competitiveness for sustainable technologies and best practices.

Nominate your 2014 winners and losers!

Now it's your turn. Do you have a business or organization you want to recognize for their 2014 sustainability achievements? Or have you been grinding your teeth all year wishing you had a forum to tell it like it is? Here is your chance! In sixty words or less please submit your nomination for a 2014 sustainability winner or loser by posting in the comment section below this article. If we get enough posts I will write a follow-on article about your nominations. So brag or vent away!

Image credit: Flickr/madmarv

Bill Roth is an economist and the Founder of Earth 2017. He coaches business owners and leaders on proven best practices in pricing, marketing and operations that make money and create a positive difference. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, profiles business case studies of pioneering best practices that are proven to win customers and grow product revenues. Follow him on Twitter: @earth2017

Bill Roth headshotBill Roth

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!

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