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.
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
Below are a few top stories in clean tech from the past week. Of note for PR folks, Text 100’s global clean tech guru, Jodi Olson, outlines the seven steps that any organization can take to assess and communicate a corporate sustainability program. Check out her article on the International Public Relations Associations‘ website. Other interesting news:
According to the new Avastone Corporate Sustainability Study (ACSS), a missing critical step in achieving a company’s sustainability goals is a scarcity of higher-capacity leaders. The study — Leadership and the Corporate Sustainability Challenge: Mindsets in Action — examined the progress of 10 global corporations with revenues ranging from $1 billion to over $100 billion.
Fortune’s Toddy Woody reports that Silicon Valley start up Ausra is building the United States’ first solar power plant factory in Nevada. The facility is expected to go live in April. Ausra looked at location options in California and Phoenix and decided on Las Vegas because of its transportation center, workforce and central location for where they think all the power plants will be. Another example of renewable energy creating jobs.
As reported by Ted Samson of InfoWorld, Google unveiled photos highlighting the 9,000 plus solar panels featured atop its headquarters, Googleplex. According to Google, the installation will produce enough electricity for approximately 1,000 California homes or 30% of Google’s peak electricity demand in its solar power buildings.
The Guardian reported this week that Shell is bailing on its solar business. Terry Macalister reports that Shell sold its photovoltaic operations in India and Sri Lanka and similar sell-offs are expected in the Philippines and Indonesia.
treehugger reports that wind energy could power all of Britain’s homes by 2020. The Brown government is unveiling a proposal to build 7,000 new wind turbines off Britain’s coast by 2020. Britain’s offshore wind farm system currently produces enough energy to power 1.5 million homes.
– Barbara DeConto, Text 100 Clean Tech Group
Another busy week in clean tech! Here are a few news highlights:
- As reported on greentechmedia, a number of companies reported new rounds of funding. Davis, Calif.-based Agraquest announced that it has raised $20M of new capital for its biopesticides and Vermont-based GroSolar plans to develop technology to make panels easier and cheaper to install, raised $10M.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency honored member companies of its Climate Leaders program such as Frito-Lay, AMD and Xerox for taking strides to reduce water use and greenhouse gas emissions through the EPA’s voluntary programs. Water Efficiency Leader awards were given to Intel, Lackland Air Force Base and others for their efforts.
Xerox announced this week it reduced emissions by 18 percent from 2002 to 2006. The company’s new goal is to lower its total global GHG emissions by 25 percent from 2002 to 2012. According to Ted Samson of InfoWorld, reducing fuel usage or cars and trucks driven by sales and service employees helped it shrink GHG production.
New corporate green guides are out this week from WebEx (now a part of Cisco) and Office Depot. Office Depot’s “Green Book” and WebEx’s “Green Guide” both offer companies advice for incorporating green products and practices into offices.
According to a new survey from Forrester Research titled “In Search Of Green Technology Consumers: Why Tech Marketers Should Target This Emerging Segment,” if you’re an Apple customer, you’re likely green-minded. The study, which surveyed computer users to determine what drove them to be environmentally conscientious, finds Apple users are more eco-friendly than users of other vendors’ PCs and are willing to spend more for “green” products.
A new study from Dow Jones and Ernst & Young reports that third-quarter North Americans cleantech investments totaled $1.3 billion. More than $30 billion in the U.S., Europe, China and Israel during the first three quarters of the year. Cleantech deals are anticipated to drive VC investments to more than $40 billion by year end.
Until next week….
– Barbara DeConto, Text 100 Clean Tech Group
With so much interest in what corporations are doing to make their internal organizations and the products and services they offer more “sustainable,” it’s nice to see Intel introduce a CSR blog (thanks to triplepundit for catching this). Environmental Leaders points out that McDonald’s and Sun Microsystems also have CSR and eco blogs. I’m sure some research could uncover several others as well. Send me a comment if you know of corporate blogs to profile.
This all has some significance. Most companies are racing to figure out their internal/external approach to CSR, cleantech, and whatever else falls under the green umbrella, and just like consumers, big companies need examples and best practices to follow. Even with the dozens of new events, articles and industry associations, there aren’t enough places to turn for information. These blogs, if done right, should serve as a good forum to create discussions that help companies across industries develop their approach to CSR.
I’ve talked about how these companies are already coming together with trade groups like TechNet. Adding clear and transparent corporate blogs into the mix is another step in the right direction. And I’m sure the media won’t mind new places to turn for information.