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.
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
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.
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
Hello fellow clean tech enthusiasts! I’m pleased to join David Swain this week as a guest contributor to Clean PR. To help us all wade through the mass of green news each week, I’ll be bringing you “Clean PR’s week in review” moving forward.
I think I picked the right week to kick off this segment. Following turkey day, some of the tech heavyweights must have been feeling especially thankful and generous. As Dave mentioned earlier in the week, Google and HP announced new sustainability initiatives. In other news:
- The Dept of Energy is investing $5.2 million to support the development of low-cost Concentrating Solar Power (CSP). DOE will also make available a Technology Commercialization Development Fund (TCDF) of up to $7.2 million to three of DOE’s National Laboratories to support commercialization of clean energy technologies.
- Greenpeace released its updated Guide to Greener Electronics. Newcomer Nintendo was singled out in a most unfortunate way as the first global brand to score zero across all criteria. Sony Erickson was recognized as the new leader due to improved takeback reporting and new phone models that are PVC free.
- Greentechmedia reports today that the World Economic Forum announced it has chosen 10 green tech companies for its annual Technology Pioneers. The companies (Cima NanoTech, FluXXion, Gridpoint, Hycrete, LS9, Nanostellar, Primafuel, Silver Spring Networks, SkySails and Unidym) were selected as part of a group of 38 winners that also came from biotech/health and IT categories.
- The National Venture Capital Association released data this week reporting U.S. venture firms invested $2.6 billion into 168 cleantech deals in the first nine months of the year. The year-to-date total is already 46% more by dollar volume than all of 2006 and the highest dollar volume ever. The three largest clean tech investments by US firms went to overseas companies. Specifically, a Netherlands based company with a focus on oilfield-production enhancement, a Brazilian Renewable Energy Co and China’s Yingli Green Energy Holding Company.
Of note for PR folks, a study released mid-month by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism reports the number of green business stories published in the U.S.’s ten largest newspapers this year has already doubled last year’s total: study (PDF). The report finds sustainability stories published in the business section still represent only a fraction of the green-themed stories found throughout the newspaper. On a positive note, editors surveyed don’t think interest has peaked yet.
For those interested in sustainability and CSR, the following reports are also worth checking out: from the Business for Social Responsibility, Beyond Neutrality: Moving Your Company Toward Climate Leadership and Assessing the impact of societal issues: A McKinsey Global Survey.
I think that will do it for this week. I’m sure next week will have plenty more green news for us to cover — Barbara DeConto
As we come to the close of the year green technology and products moved forcefully in to the mass market, it’s a strong wake up call when almost 100 percent of companies failed a green test run by TerraChoice Environmental Marketing this month. A summary of the report:
In an effort to describe, understand, and quantify the growth of greenwashing, TerraChoice conducted a survey of six category-leading big box stores. Through these surveys, they identified 1,018 consumer products bearing 1,753 environmental claims. Of the 1,018 products examined, all but one made claims that are demonstrably false or that risk misleading intended audiences.
Rather than go into too much detail here, check out Joel Makower’s observations on the results, methodology and what this says about the progress of the green marketplace.
Outside of ways Joel points out to hold green marketers more accountable, what isn’t discussed is a likely cause for the sad state of affairs highlighted throughout this report. I don’t personally represent any consumer brands pushing a green message, but I’d guess that consumer perception and buying behaviors have changed in favor of green faster that the companies building the products can keep up. The result: rather than lose to the competition and disappoint customers, partners and investors, these companies are doing whatever they can to meet consumers’ “green” demand. Because there is a massive lack of standards and green measurement best practices, they join the bandwagon and push out a misleading claim or message…moving the industry backwards.
Green products undoubtedly need to make some fast and significant progress catching up to the claims on their labels. That is our biggest hope because as long as consumers are asking for a green product and there aren’t reliable green industry measurements, companies are only going to ramp up their green marketing efforts. And I’d argue it’s as much the CFO/CEO evaluating the business consequences for not joining the green party as it is the “marketer” who is responsible for where the industry is at. As marketers, we need to get educated and do our part to not exaggerate or misrepresent our company’s product or service.
Check out the report for more detail but here are the Six Sins of Greenwashing listed by TerraChoice:
- Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off
- Sin of No Proof
- Sin of Vagueness
- Sin of Irrelevance
- Sin of Fibbing
- Sin of The Lesser of Two Evils
Whenever this much hype springs up around a topic like green business, technology and building, it’s rightfully inevitable that the media pays closer attention to claims being made, as Ben Elgin did with BusinessWeek’s Little Green Lies. The same scrutiny occurred in 2000-2001 before the software industry consolidated when PeopleSoft, Siebel, Oracle and others started announcing new product upgrades faster than reporters could keep up. Were they really upgrading products or were the marketing departments shuffling around features and re-branding them as new in an effort to capitalize on all the buzz?
Rather than let the media do all the questioning, dozens of green auditing businesses seem to be popping up that can help make sure a company’s “claims” are valid. In the case below, SCS, a company that brands itself as “an independent certifier of environmental, sustainability, and food safety, quality and purity claims” developed an ad campaign aimed at helping companies move from greenwashing to accountability.
Organizations, associations and other third-parties like SCS seem to be creating their own systems, which appear to be moving the industry forward by helping companies put processes in place and understand what to talk about and what to leave on the shelf. This should lead to more real news, better educated businesses and less greenwashing, but with very few industry standards or benchmarks, relying on third parties’ homegrown systems could make for a bumpy ride. At this point it seems like the best option we’ve got.
I caught this ad in a fancy online brochure for the upcoming Greenbuild Conference in Chicago.
Todd Woody at Business 2.0 covered Steve Jobs’ open letter about Apple’s approach to green and concludes his post on Green Wombat with this question for me:
Why Apple left increasingly eco-conscious customers unenlightened about what appears to be years of work to remove toxic chemicals from its computers and gadgets remains a public relations strategy best plumbed by bloggers like David Swain at Clean PR.
I’m no Apple expert and I haven’t followed them in the press much more than the average person. That said, I’ll speculate a bit about why a company like Apple – with one of the most devoted and loyal user communities on the planet – would leave customers to debate the eco-friendliness of its fearless leader.
- The overflow of green coverage in the past 6-10 months makes it easy to forget that just a year or two ago, Apple and its competitors didn’t have to deal much with mainstream perception relating to environmental topics. Whether or not they were innovating internally, when it came to communicating to the outside, not much needed to be done other than showing that they were complying with industry regulations. Apple appears to be slow but in relative terms, are they that far behind?
- GE paved a path for big companies with its ecomagination campaign and it’s only a few years old. Their campaign has been a hit and it has given other companies the confidence to do something similar. Gauging from several of the big tech companies I’ve talked to, a lot of the best stories with the most history and depth have yet to be told. We’re just getting started and that’s a good thing. Many of these companies have the luxury to tell their story when they’re ready. Apple appears to have been pulled in to this — by its users, Greenpeace, etc.
- Like many companies with loyal communities of users, Apple’s priorities relating to this specific topic may have been more in-line with meeting the needs of its core audience than the broader public and shareholders. The response wasn’t overly speedy, but the community spoke up, and now Apple has issued its response. If you’re going to issue a highly anticipated response, what better way to do it than to show some transparency and go above and beyond the competition? Whether or not they actually went above and beyond I’ll leave for the community to decide.
- Most companies are still not aligned around sustainability and the environment which can lead to endless delays in getting a story out. Rick Walker of Siemens could be right suggesting that we need a Chief Sustainability Officer to bring all of the pieces together. I’ve talked about the full circle approach suggested by McKinsey. The business leaders need to partner with their communications teams on this. Maybe someone more knowledgeable about Apple’s organization structure can share what processes the Apple communications team had to go through to uncover and then share their story.
Apple has opened a door. Let’s see what comes through it next. They are clearly an innovative company. Innovation with the environment shouldn’t be a response to some bad publicity. Apple should show by example how companies in their industry and other industries can build more sustainable products and adopt better business practices. Hopefully they don’t silo this into a debate with the competition about who is doing it better – that won’t get us too far. And I expect Apple’s opinionated community won’t be too happy if Apple doesn’t step up and lead.