Clean PR

Clean Tech. PR. Sustainable Business.

Clean PR’s Week in Review: Dec. 14

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

December 14, 2007 Posted by | clean energy, clean tech, CSR, green marketing, green tech, public relations, renewable energy, sustainable business, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Clean PR’s Week in Review: Dec. 7

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

December 7, 2007 Posted by | clean tech, CSR, green marketing, green or clean PR, public relations, sustainable business, Uncategorized, venture capital | Leave a comment

Clean PR’s Week in Review

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

November 30, 2007 Posted by | environment, green marketing, green tech, public relations, sustainable business, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Google and HP make some green noise

It’s a big day for green press releases in Silicon Valley. Check it out:

  • Google’s Goal: Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal. A new initiative to develop electricity from renewable energy sources that will be cheaper than electricity produced from coal. The initiative, known as RE<C, will focus initially on advanced solar thermal power, wind power technologies, enhanced geothermal systems and other potential breakthrough technologies. RE<C is hiring engineers and energy experts to lead its research and development work, which will begin with a significant effort on solar thermal technology, and will also investigate enhanced geothermal systems and other areas. In 2008, Google expects to spend tens of millions on research and development and related investments in renewable energy. The company also anticipates investing hundreds of millions of dollars in breakthrough renewable energy projects which generate positive returns. It’s interesting to see who is covering this: everyone from social networking blogs like Mashables to tech visionaries like Tim O’Reilly. It’s not just the green business and environmental blogs.
  • HP Expands Renewable Energy use in its Operations. HP announced relationships with two renewable energy providers, SunPower Corp. in the United States and Airtricity in Ireland, as part of the company’s strategy to reduce its global carbon footprint. Under a power purchase agreement with SunPower, HP will install its first-ever, large-scale solar power installation at its San Diego facility. The contract with Airtricity will ensure that nearly 90 percent of HP’s energy use in Ireland is renewable, exceeding the company’s 2007 target for carbon emission reductions.

Google logoHP Logo

November 27, 2007 Posted by | clean energy, clean tech, environment, green tech, public relations, renewable energy, solar, sustainable business | Leave a comment

Inside Greenwashing’s “Six Sins”

sixsinsgreenwashing.jpg

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

November 19, 2007 Posted by | environment, green marketing, public relations, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Little Green Claims

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.

SCS Greenwashing Campaign

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.

November 1, 2007 Posted by | environment, green marketing, green tech, media, public relations, sustainable business, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Green Q&A: Greentech Media’s Jennifer Kho

Greentech Media Logo

I think there’s some dust collecting on this blog. I set it aside to tour the country with my seven-month old son for six weeks. My first post since returning is with Jennifer Kho of the recently launched Greentech Media. I first met Jennifer last year when Text 100 was introducing its clean tech group. At the time, she was at still at Red Herring and was one of the few people reporting daily on green business topics. She was nice enough to sit down with us then to share her thoughts on the emerging clean tech industry. A year later, she has a great thing going at Greentech Media, which dubs itself as an “integrated online-media company comprised of cutting-edge news, in-depth market research, and focused industry events.”

Swain: I subscribe to a lot of green newsletters and RSS feeds and more seem to be popping up every day. Is there enough news to support all of the people writing about it?

Kho: Yes, I still think there is plenty of news left to cover (and uncover) in this area. The players are so diverse, involving energy, transportation, energy efficiency, energy management, water and air and so on, that I think a number of reporters are needed to cover the industry thoroughly.

Before you left Red Herring, was the number of pitches in your inbox still increasing or did it start to level off?

The number of pitches in my inbox was growing and is still growing, but many of the pitches I get are not really matched to what we cover at Greentech Media. For instance, I’ll get pitches about new hiking trails, attempts to save endangered species or regional environmental efforts not involving technology. Also, we’re noticing more “greenwashing” from companies that aren’t really focused in green technologies.

You were covering clean tech long before it hit today’s level of mainstream attention – how have things changed?

There’s certainly more mainstream interest. Now, cleantech comes up in the mainstream press every day. Politicians talk about it, we see new fundings almost daily and I no longer have to explain what solar power or ethanol is when I write about it – at least not every time. The public is getting more savvy, as are the companies. When I first started, few of the companies I talked to each day had public relations representatives. That has changed.

The news is coming from the tech, VC and energy industries, and when you add in verticals like building, auto and consumer products, things can get complicated. Are there specific sectors or areas you’re paying closer attention to than others?

Yes, we definitely see more of our news coming from the energy area right now – although we also are doing our best to add more coverage in other areas, like water and green IT – and readers also seem to be very interested in car technologies. We try to find a business angle for every story.

Unlike the technology industry, the success of many cleantech companies and products has a lot to do to do with public policy and changes in old industries that are notoriously slow and resistant to change. Do you think the reporting process for cleantech will change in the coming years?

Yes, as the industry starts to mature, I expect we will be moving from covering mostly new technologies and startups to covering more public companies and new applications for the technologies. Especially if, as some have speculated, there continues to be less money going into university and government research in these areas.

Do you have trouble finding the products, people and companies that have the potential to make a real difference?

I wouldn’t say I am seeing a shortage of companies with this potential. But whether they will be successful or not is anybody’s guess. We definitely will have winners and losers.

Rather than specific cleantech news and innovations, are you interested in hearing from companies who are applying these new technologies as part of a corporate social responsibility initiative?

As important as those initiatives are, we will be covering fewer of those types of stories, compared with news about new technologies. However, it’s still worth pitching us because we will occasionally cover those initiatives when they are very big or when they are surprising.

What are you seeing as big risks and challenges this sector has to overcome in the next five to 10 years?

The different parts of the sector are so diverse that they each have their own set of challenges to overcome. But, in general, I think companies will have to meet their promises, avoid too much hype and persuade legislators to approve greentech-friendly policies. One risk still is the historically volatile price of oil. Even though technologies like solar power don’t directly compete with oil, investors’ perceptions do tend to trade solar and other alternative-energy stocks higher when oil prices are high and lower when oil prices are low. Likewise, different parts of the greentech sector risk being influenced – for better or for worse – by the rest of the sector, so that if one piece disappoints, some investors might lose their enthusiasm for other parts of the sector.

The solar industry has already started to consolidate and I expect a lot more to come. Do you think other renewables/clean sectors will see the same thing as startups start to mature? If so, which sectors are next?

Yes, I think consolidation is a natural part of growth and maturity. This is already happening in wind power. Also, alternative cars and energy-efficient lighting are some areas where I expect we might see some consolidation once the technologies are ready. In fact, we already saw Hymotion get purchased by A123Systems, as an example.

Suggestions on how to work with you and what you look for in a story.

I am looking for stories involving both business and technology. That means story pitches should include elements of money and technology aiming to improve the environment. The product must be a technology, an innovative, fairly complicated piece of hardware or software. It also must be purposely created with some green intent. This focus on business and technology might well shift or expand as we grow, but it is what we’re looking for now.

As for working with me, the best way to reach me is to e-mail me at kho@greentechmedia.com. You also can call me at 510-268-9929. Obviously, notifying me early and giving me a scoop or an exclusive makes it more likely you will catch my attention. And if you do call, the best time is in the afternoon, when I’m off the daily deadline.

September 24, 2007 Posted by | clean tech, environment, Journalist Q&As, media, public relations, venture capital | 2 Comments

Renewable Energy’s $16 billion weekend

This weekend’s news: “The U.S. House of Representatives on Saturday passed a Democratic rewrite of U.S. energy policy that strips $16 billion in tax incentives away from Big Oil and puts it toward renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.”

In a time when it’s standard to see overall clean tech and renewable energy funding or incentives barely put a dent into what’s going into fossil fuels, it’s a big moment when $16 billion is in the same sentence as renewable energy. David Roberts at Grist talked yesterday morning about the need for a national renewable energy standard, highlighting a new 150-page report, “Renewing America: The Case for Federal Leadership on a National RES.” I’m curious what David and the report’s authors think about yesterday evening’s news.

Many states have enforced similar measures but we’ve yet to see big action at a federal level. Reuters sums up how the skeptics feel… House Republican leader John Boehner said the bill “cuts the lifeblood of our economy off at the knees by increasing taxes to pay for green pork projects.” Green pork?

Clean tech, clean energy and whatever else you call them are new industries that need new infrastructure and new innovation. Aside from the often talked about reduced reliance on fossil fuels and global warming benefits of cleaner energy, what gets me excited about this “green pork” are the jobs already being created around the country. The same people talking about green pork are raising red flags about losing U.S. jobs and our ability to compete in a global market. The same way Silicon Valley become a global hub for technology innovation (and helped boost Calif. to become the world’s sixth largest economy), clean energy can do it again for the U.S. It’s a nice goal, right?

Century-old incentives and subsidies are what got fossil fuels to where they are today. Let’s not forget that when we try to compare the real cost of our energy. Those coal plants have had some help along the way (understatement).

How a bill like this could impact the clean tech industry is a good topic for a policy communications expert like Sean Garrett at 463 Communications. Maybe he’ll have something to add…

August 5, 2007 Posted by | clean energy, environment, global warming, policy | 4 Comments

Intel’s new CSR blog

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.

July 27, 2007 Posted by | blogging, CSR, environment, sustainable business | 1 Comment

Clean Tech Q&A: CNET’s Martin LaMonica

CNET LogoMost of us in technology communications have at some point crossed paths with Martin LaMonica at CNET. He has covered everything from application development to big Internet industry trends and news. For the past few years, he has cranked up his clean tech coverage to point where it is now part of his daily beat at one of the most popular sources for news on the Web. He comes at this emerging space from many perspectives and is one of the people that is making a real difference in keeping the public informed as the pieces connect in clean tech. Add him to your list of reporters to watch if he’s not already on it.

Swain: What was your first exposure to clean tech and sustainability issues?

LaMonica: I first wrote about “clean tech” back in 2004 when–guess what!–a PR person pitched me on a solar data center story which I eventually did because I had been interested in alternative energy media for a couple of years. Later in 2004, I did an interview with Nick Parker at the Cleantech Venture Network which gave me a broader perspective on clean tech. It was an important moment because I saw that the clean tech label was large enough to include all sorts of environmental-related technologies–not just solar and wind. I’ve cared about environmental protection for years means so I’ve been aware of sustainability issues.

I subscribe to a lot of green newsletters and feeds and more seem to be popping up every day. Is there currently enough news to support all of the people writing about it? Has the number of green-related pitches increased over the past few months or has it started to level off?

The number of green/clean tech pitches is definitely up in the past few months. It’s a bit early to say if things have leveled off yet. The rising pitch count is clearly a result of companies getting funding and marketing themselves. But even once the VC money slows down, the whole “green” movement won’t go away. It’s clearly becoming a mainstream/front page issue.

Obviously, there’s a lot of experimentation in green media–and I suspect not everyone will stick with it. I think the challenge for tech journalists–and PR folks too–is to get beyond the “clean tech company gets funding” stories that are so common now.

Between you and Michael Kannelos, you’ve been able to stay ahead of things in clean tech – did you start to focus on this topic because of a personal interest or did CNET see that you needed a solid channel covering news relating to business, sustainability and the environment?

I got into it purely out of personal interest but now it’s just part of what CNET covers. Michael’s got a good read on Silicon Valley VCs so he saw that energy/clean tech was a hot area and jumped on it.

Now, clean/green tech is an official part of my beat, rather than something I write about once in a while. Other CNET reporters cover green tech, too. We’ve also hired some high-profile people in the industry for the green tech channel on our Blog Network, so we’re committed to it.

The news is coming from the tech, VC and energy industries, and when you add in verticals like building, auto and consumer products, things can get complicated. Are there specific sectors or areas you’re paying closer attention to than others?

Yes, you could argue that the clean tech label is too broad. We don’t have very specific beats–yet, anyway. But I write about power generation technologies (solar, wind, biomass), fuels, financial stories, green buildings, and a bit of policy. Generally, I want a tech/innovation angle to a story, which is natural to me as I’ve covered IT for years.

Unlike the technology industry, the success of many clean tech companies and products has a lot to do with public policy and changes in old industries that are notoriously slow and resistant to change. On one side we have Web 2.0 and changing delivery models for software that allow startups to get moving and see success in a year or two with little up front capital. On the other, we have clean tech where things can move slowly and could take years if not decades to see real results. Do you think the reporting process for clean tech will change in the coming years when the industry starts to mature?

A lot of clean tech coverage these days is about start-ups trying cool things. These are great stories but at a certain point, if that’s all a media outlet is doing, it’s going to look shallow. We’re starting to see some stories about companies merging, failing to develop the technology they promised, or replacing CEOs. So I think the better media outlets will do these follow-up business stories.

Another thing that the better outlets will do is follow the larger issues and trends around clean tech. A lot of these new energy technologies have lots of tradeoffs–think biofuels and the whole food versus fuel debate, for example–that media outlets should try to cover.

Do you have trouble finding the products, people and companies that have the potential to make a real difference?

Clean tech is tricky in this regard. Many old ideas are being dusted off and tried again. And some of them–like solar thermal at utility scale–are totally viable. But then again, you run across claims from academics or entrepreneurs claiming to make “free energy” or enable the “hydrogen economy” tomorrow. So you have to be discerning. That said, I’m always looking for more great stories and interesting people who have the potential to make a difference.

Are you most interested in hearing from big technology companies, clean tech startups, or companies who are making investments in new technologies like solar or green data centers that can make their businesses more sustainable?

Startups tend to be the most fun because entrepreneurs are generally passionate about what they’re doing. But large corporations have a huge amount of weight and the money to invest in R & D, so I’d like to hear more from them. I haven’t done a lot of coverage of “sustainable business” practices but I think it’s got potential.

What should the clean tech community know about CNET?

We cover clean/green tech in various forms in different places. You’ll see more consumer oriented items in places like Crave or CNET.com while more of the business coverage at News.com and in the Blog Network.

Suggestions on how to work with you and what you look for in a story?

I’m always looking for news so timeliness is important. And in general, I’m looking for a tech-related story, although that’s not all I’ll do. It seems that certain areas got lots of attention, like solar these days, but I think I’m not afraid of less glamorous topics if it looks like it could have wide appeal. (I did a story on a combined heat and power home furnace and readers loved it.) Email’s generally the best way to pitch me.

July 23, 2007 Posted by | clean energy, clean tech, Journalist Q&As, public relations, sustainable business, venture capital | 1 Comment