This picture of Brazil cutting rain forest for fuel is too powerful to not share. It’s from this week’s cover story in TIME, The Clean Energy Scam. Check out the story. It reinforces the extra due diligence that needs to be paid to anything relating to green business, the environment and politics. Perceived short-term progress can turn backwards quickly (although the article makes it seem like questions about ethanol are just starting which leaves out the major year of debate in 2007). With any “green” progress will be tradeoffs and articles like this bring them to light. When progress starts looking like the opposite, it gets scary.
I had the opportunity last week to attend the Clean Tech Investor Summit in Palm Springs presented by Clean Edge. Ron Pernick and team put together a diverse agenda for attendees. Sessions covered everything from green building and carbon markets to “clean coal” and Wall Street’s take on clean tech.
The range of topics covered and companies represented illustrates the growing influence clean tech is having on businesses across industries. Thursday’s corporate keynotes brought together representatives from Wal-Mart, BP and Cisco. Each provided a different slant on going green either through internal initiatives or product development. Hearing perspective from an operations/business person, scientist and engineer showed how sustainable thinking is being incorporated into every level of an organization.
Matt Kistler, Wal-Mart’s senior vice president of sustainability, claims that it will spend more for products that are environmentally-friendly and last longer, but not necessarily at a higher cost. Wal-Mart’s goal is to one day use only renewable energy and create zero waste. Mark has been in a sustainability role for 90 days – likely not an uncommon level of experience in most companies that are starting green initiatives. The BP chief scientist comes from an academic background and Cisco’s green engineer recently joined the company from American Power Conversion Corporation. Diverse backgrounds and diverse approaches to green.
The keynote on “clean coal” from Greg Boyce, Chairman and CEO of Peabody Energy, also drew a lot of attention. The conference organizers were quite open-minded to invite a coal company to speak at a clean tech event and Boyce was equally brave to accept the invite. Whether or not you agree with the idea of “clean coal,” isn’t listening to companies with different propositions and participating in a “friendly” debate what clean tech is all about? Whether or not investors and consumers buy into the idea is another story.
Over the next 25 years, Greg says there will be a 75% increase in coal use. And a quarter of the world’s coal reserves. As the price of oil continues to rise, companies are bound to give clean coal a second look. Tech Review discusses a new porous material that can soak up 80 times their volume of carbon dioxide. The material could be used in coal gasification plants. The idea of clean coal has created a great deal of discussion in the industry. Questions that came up in the Q&A following Greg’s keynote included: should there be a national charge on coal to help companies move to clean coal? Why should there be a public subsidy? Why shouldn’t the coal industry pay? My thought: the sun as a resource is endless; let’s make sure the long-term solutions are a (BIG) part of this mix!
In the Bay Area alone, there are at least three or four more clean tech conferences taking place this month. Industry discussion and excitement around clean tech keeps moving.
— Barbara DeConto, Text 100 Clean Tech Practice
Joel Makower and his editorial team at GreenBiz.com launched a 64-page report, “State of Green Business 2008,” this morning. Aside from analysis on green business activities in the United States, it features the debut of the GreenBiz Index. And handy for anyone building out their green communications initiatives, it includes dozens of “Editors’ Picks,” lists they’ve compiled of the best books, websites, reports, business initiatives, and other resources.
The GreenBiz Index is a set of 20 indicators of green business progress that Joel and his team will update annually. It measures the following:
• Alt-Fuel Vehicles
• Building Energy Efficiency
• Carbon Intensity
• Carbon Trading
• Carbon Transparency
• Clean-Technology Investments
• Clean-Technology Patents
• Corporate Reporting
• Employee Commuting
• Employee Telecommuting
• Energy Efficiency
• Environmental Management Systems
• Green Office Space
• Green Power Use
• Packaging Intensity
• Paper Use and Recycling
• Pesticide Use
• Quality of Management
• Toxic Emissions
We’ve been tracking business media coverage for the past two years and one thing that has always surprised me is the lack of coverage in these publications about “how to” green your business. These same business publications have published dozens of articles on how to be a greener consumer, and have reported on green news coming out of businesses… but they’re business publications and CEOs, CSOs, CFOs are all struggling with what they should and shouldn’t be doing. That’s their readership, and business executives want to know more than just the news from other companies, or the sporadic bashing of a few companies for “greenwashing.” For their part, McKinsey, The Economist and the Economist Intelligence Unit have done a good job of addressing the executive audience directly, with real ideas and best practices.
Congrats to Joel, his editorial team and his publisher Pete May for keeping us moving in the right direction.
UPDATE: Check out Joel on CNBC’s Closing Bell.
Anyone who grew up near my childhood home of tropical Rochester, NY can likely relate to the stories my parents would tell about walking to school with 20 foot snow drifts reaching the telephone wires. Well, according to this image I just saw on BusinessWeek’s green blog, they might have been telling the truth. The surface temperature change in the Great Lakes region is profound. The poles are another story. Not news to most of us, 2007 was the second hottest year on record. Maybe the tropics and Rochester really will meet.
Industry heavyweights, political leaders and celebrities gathered in Davos Switzerland this week for the World Economic Forum and one of the primary issues up for discussion was sustainability. Check out this video from Forbes TV which highlights Al Gore, Bono and Bill Gates.
Corporations in attendance included Campbell’s, who Forbes TValso interviewed. Following Davos, will companies in attendance take a stronger stance on sustainability or were they just in for the great company at the event? I’d love to hear your comments.
— Barbara DeConto, Text 100’s Clean Tech Practice
Following a week of candidates campaigning in Michigan about challenges facing the U.S. economy and heightened discussion around the possibility of recession as many companies dropped their expected earnings for upcoming quarters, it was refreshing to read that the clean tech industry is continuing to prosper.
The Cleantech Group released numbers this week indicating venture investment in clean tech across North America and Europe increased 40% in 2007 – reaching $5.18 billion in 2007. Red Herring reports the high numbers are attributed to “an unexpectedly strong fourth quarter despite growing uncertainty in the global economy.”
The number of venture funding announcements in the first few weeks of 2008 suggests growth in clean tech will continue in 2008. TheDailyGreen writes the continuing rise of clean tech companies will be instrumental in battling increasing unemployment, wages dropping and housing troubles. Something especially relevant in clean tech cities like San Francisco and Austin, where we’re already seeing job creation and new opportunities.
Outside of investment news, industry leaders – Google, Dell, HP, IBM, Sony, Nokia and Ptiney Bowes – made green headlines this week. Interestingly, six out the seven mentioned above made announcements that involve developing industry standards.
The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), which involves 11 corporations including HP and Dell and hundreds of investors, is developing a standard method to gather carbon-emissions information from suppliers. The hope is that suppliers can more easily provide carbon emissions details to customers by following one standard rather than juggling requests in various forms.
Additionally, IBM, Sony, Nokia and Pitney Bowes announced an effort called Eco-Patent Commons, which will make available rights to environmentally friendly technologies. Twenty-seven of the first 31 patents are being contributed by IBM. It’s off to a good start – we’ll watch to see how this programs grows in the coming year and if more companies join on to support the cause.
— Barbara DeConto, Text 100 Clean Tech Practice
As most of us in the tech world are aware, the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show took place in Vegas this week. The trend of “going green” at conferences was certainly evident with numerous companies unveiling energy efficient products aimed at consumers.
CNN.com aired an interesting piece with a CES rep demoing various green products on display such as home energy meters and USB drives that can fully charge your blackberry in 20 minutes. NPR took a look a the news as well in this morning’s show and posed some smart questions about what it actually means to be green.
HP announced plans to reduce the energy consumption in its volume desktops and notebook PC families by 25% by 2010. InfoWorld’s Ted Samson raises an interesting question to HP and its competitors. Setting reduction levels is great, but even better news would be hearing companies commit to make the most energy-efficient power supplies the standard in their systems – building green features into products rather than giving customers the option. After a year full of green announcements and hype, everyone is going to be looking for some real action and follow through.
CES itself went green this year making recycling bins available across the show floor and using “environmentally friendly chemicals” in maintaining over 100 restrooms. CES also announced plans to donate to renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects to compensate for any environmental damage caused by the show. While we’re all in favor of donations, I’d rather here about more ways CES is reducing energy usage at the show.
greentechmedia reports that industry watchers find the organization’s plans to offset 20,000 tons of carbon associated with the conference by purchasing carbon offsets from the nonprofit Carbonfund.org to be a minimal effort. This is a good point. Especially when you think about 100,000+ people traveling into and around Vegas for a few days.
However, for a major conference like CES to step up its green initiatives is certainly a step in the right direction. It will be interesting to see if other conferences follow suit and perhaps up the ante. We saw Hollywood take a stab at it earlier this year.
– Barbara DeConto, Text 100 Clean Tech Practice
Happy New Year! We’re only a few days in to 2008 and news of clean tech funding, awards and predictions for the year ahead are already in full swing. Here are a few highlights from the week:
- Gap, Nike, Dell and Xerox were among the 21 companies classified for “exemplary disclosure that placed performance in the broader context of sustainability challenges, risks and opportunities” and named as finalists for the 7th annual awards program from Ceres and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. Winners will be announced in April.
- Greentech Media reports that clean-energy companies globally pulled in $117.3 billion in public and private funding in 2007. According to London-based New Energy Finance, that’s 41 percent more than the $83 billion the firm tracked in 2006.
- Deeya Energy, a battery energy storage startup, kicked off 2008’s funding news by raising $15 million in a Series B funding. Deeya is developing battery storage technology called “L-Cell,” which has been describe as “flow battery” technology.
- Looking ahead to 2008, check out Earth2Tech’s interview with with Draper Fisher Jurvetson’s partners Steve Jurvetson and Raj Atluru that appears on the GigaOM TV Show. Steve and Raj discuss where they see clean tech investing heading in 2008.
– Barbara DeConto, Text 100 Clean Tech Group
Even with the holidays approaching, there was no shortage in clean tech news this week. Not surprising, end of year analysis and predictions for the clean tech market in 2008 are in full swing. Here are a few highlights from the week:
The National Venture Capital Association released its 2008 predictions from Venture Capitalists and not surprisingly, the majority (80%) of VCs surveyed said 2008 will be a big year for clean tech investments.
- According to a Forrester report “Green Progress in IT,” as of October 38 percent of IT professionals said that their companies were using environmental criteria in their evaluation and selection of IT equipment, compared with 25 percent in their April survey. The main motivation? According to 55 percent of respondents, was to reduce energy-related operating expenses. While that is not surprising, the number two motivator was “doing the right thing for the environment.”
- A new study from IBM, “Plugging in the consumer: Innovating utility business models for the future,” finds that of countries survived (Australia, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States), 67 percent said they’d pay as much as 20 percent more for energy from sources with a lesser effect on the environment. Responses came from 1,894 bill-paying households over 18 years of age. However, only 14 percent expect their energy use to decrease somewhat. Check out the finding: PDF.
- In clean tech investing news, greentechmedia reports several new deals in energy-efficient lighting including Element Labs, a provider of LED-based products for entertainment, architecture and signage applications, raising $12.75 million Series B funding.
- After a year filled with funding announcements, it is great to start hearing more clean tech product news. San Jose based Nanosolar, a maker of thin-film solar cells, announced it has shipped its first product. Along with Beck Energy of Germany, Nanosolar won a contract to create a solar farm on the site of a former landfill owned by a wastewater treatment plant in Luckenwalde, Germany. The facility will generate 1 megawatt of electricity, enough to power 750 California homes.
- If you have friends, family, colleagues looking to learn more about clean tech heading into the new year, there is a good (and brief) clean tech overview posted on ZDNet from venture firm Foundation Capital.
No “Week in Review” next week as I’ll be off for the holidays, but I’m sure we’ll have plenty more news to highlight in the new year. Have a happy (and green) holidays!– Barbara DeConto, Text 100 Clean Tech Group
Chevy’s PR team just sent me a note about an interesting youth engagement initiative they’ve run as part of their latest College Challenge. In 2006 they showed what students are capable of with the Super Bowl Ad Challenge; this year they took a green approach and invited students to design a communications campaign that educates consumers about Chevy’s current and future fuel saving technologies. Five finalist teams were chosen and flown to Detroit last week to present to Chevy’s marketing executives. They’ve prepared the following video with a few highlights.
Props to Chevy for a great idea. College students are probably the most active and passionate green demographic – what better way to learn how to market to them (and position Chevy as innovative) than having your target market try to write a communications plan targeted at themselves. One question: do we get to see the strategies the winning team came up with?
Engaging youth in activities like this is something that has been around forever. It makes sense. Bring them in, give them a challenge and hopefully turn them into advocates for your brand or cause. This has really taken hold recently in areas relating to politics or the environment where passionate individuals are given a forum to join video contests or social networking groups and move their cause forward through ingenuity and creativity. Check out the winning video from the Current & The Alliance Ecospot Contest.