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
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
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
Michael Dell is the opening Q&A in this week’s issue of Time. The theme:
In the past year, though, rivals have gained on him. So this year he’s going for a green advantage: he wants to erase some of the environmental cost of running computers by offering a way to neutralize the carbon dioxide emitted by a PC.
Assuming there is more to the story for Dell, they could have used this opportunity to lay out a clear plan of what they are doing internally, not only that they are giving consumers a chance to spend more to offset the environmental impact of their purchase. Coming at this with a critical eye, it’s similar to if an auto company looking to sell more SUVs says, “hey, we’re not doing anything to make our SUVs more efficient, but don’t worry, you can buy a carbon credit and that will be enough to clear your conscious and then we (auto company) don’t actually have to do anything on our end to improve.” To give them credit, Dell does mention an energy calculator for consumers but I just typed it in on their home page and nothing relevant popped up in the first search results.
My point – Dell must have more to their green story and they could have spelled it out in a few bullets. Is Dell changing the amount and type of material used in production and packaging, do they have a consumer awareness program educating the public about ways to save money and energy using a Dell PC, are they increasing X percent of R&D for energy efficient design, have they developed any breakthroughs that serve as a best practice for the industry? Consumers would probably like to know this stuff, and after following the lead of GE Ecoimagination and now companies like Wal-Mart, investors may respond well to a computer companies green roadmap.
Maybe the problem is that everyone is so quick to jump on any big company when they come out with a green story. It’s never enough for a lot of people. Instead of rewarding them, we bring out our critical eyes. As I just did. Incremental progress is progress. More trees are great. And a company the size of Dell can probably plant a whole lot of trees. But we need to be tough on people so that the improvements get bigger. Leaders recognize accomplishments while continuing to push people to their potential. Maybe that’s where we are. Recognize, reward and keep pushing.
The PR side of this. If you have a story, be honest and tell the whole story (or as much as you can recognizing the needs of your shareholders). Here’s where we are, here’s where we can improve and here’s where we’re going. People are going to be critical. Don’t leave gaps for questions. Considering Dell had less than half of a page for this, he did a good job. But I still have questions.
Question #1: is Dell matching the any percentage of the $$ they’re asking their customers to spend on carbon credits?
We’ve hit it big. Reality TV has gone green. This sounds like fun and I’m not even a fan of reality shows (although my cousin didn’t do too bad on the first Amaging Race so I had to be a supporter of that).
Check out the write-up for HDTV’s newest show, Living with Ed:
TV and movie actor Ed Begley, perhaps the greenest man in Tinsel Town, rides his electric car to the Academy Awards and powers his home with the sun and his stationary bike. But Living with Ed and his environmentalist passion isn’t always a walk in the park for wife, Rachelle. This first-of-its-kind reality green show chronicles life with an earth-friendly fanatic with humor and heart. Check out this fresh unscripted docu-soap about the lifestyle of a diehard activist who puts his money and his time where his mouth is 24/7. Definitely not recycled TV.
A fun show with a sustainable message. I’m looking forward to watching. The PR opportunity? Green product placement goes mainstream, maybe? You can only imagine all of the things Ed Begley Jr. will test out. You’ve got a product or idea that can make a difference. Tell Ed! Maybe he’s listening.
The December 2006 issue of the The McKinsey Quarterly Chart Focus Newsletter provides a good look at the full circle approach required for companies to successfully improve in the area of social responsibility.
“Eighty-four percent of the executives from around the world who participated in a McKinsey survey agreed that their companies should pursue not only shareholder value but also broader contributions to the public good. Most acknowledged that their companies could handle sociopolitical issues more successfully, as well. To improve, a company should identify emerging trends and develop coherent organization-wide responses—an approach that requires it to integrate social issues into all dimensions of the business, not just the making of strategy…If companies don’t adopt that approach they run the risk of misalignment—a CEO saying one thing, the rest of the company failing to translate those good intentions into practical action. A company whose external-communications strategy emphasizes the search for more environmentally friendly products and processes, for example, will stumble if it simultaneously fights limits on carbon dioxide emissions.”
PR lesson: as is true in all industries, but especially when dealing with social and clean tech issues, a story doesn’t go too far if it’s only a story. “Spin” and chasing hype will get you to first base. A company that is aligned and has an executive team that believes in what they’re doing, socially and fiscally, will bring you home, or at least to third.
For more on how companies should manage sociopolitical issues—and can benefit if they do, “When social issues become strategic.” Or check out what executives think about the way companies handle social issues now, “The McKinsey Global Survey of Business Executives: Business and Society.”