BOSTON (Reuters) - Chief executives can no longer brush off concerns about climate change but need to start figuring out how global warming -- and regulations intended to curtail it -- will affect their businesses.
So asserts "Climate Change: What's Your Business Strategy?" (Harvard Business Press, $18), a new book due out May 1.
"You can remain completely agnostic about the science of climate change but still recognize its importance as a business issue," write authors Andrew Hoffman and John Woody.
Their slim 97-page volume doesn't delve into the science of climate change, which suggests that, by burning fossil fuels and releasing greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, humans are warming the earth, potentially setting the stage for enormous changes in weather patterns.
Rather, they presume that human responses to climate change -- primarily in the form of regulations that raise the cost of emissions -- will affect how businesses operate.
Smart CEOs will respond by developing a way to measure their company's "carbon footprint" -- the emissions caused by heating buildings and transporting goods, for instance -- finding ways to reduce it and then taking a role in lobbying to influence what new environmental regulations look like.
"I'm talking to those who think, well, the science isn't there and I'm going to continue to stall -- big mistake," said Hoffman, a professor of sustainable enterprise at the University of Michigan, in a telephone interview.
'THIS IS A BUSINESS ISSUE'
"Let's take all the environmental language out of it, let's take all the moral language out of it, the 'Do the right thing' language out of it, and simply say, brass tacks, if you're a business, this is a business issue," Hoffman said.
Climate change will also create opportunities, in the form of new demand for green products, which is attracting new investment, the authors note.
"In green building and alternative energy, there is money to be made," Hoffman said. "That's where (investors) are going and if you're not thinking about this, you're missing out on these capital flows."
The authors cite U.S. industrial heavyweights General Electric Co and DuPont Co as companies that took on climate change directly and found opportunities to both cut their costs and develop projects that appeal to businesses and people concerned about sustainability.
Those companies stand out in part because U.S. CEOs generally trail their European Union counterparts in engagement on this issue, Hoffman said.
"The EU has been under a carbon regime and so they're much more used to addressing this," Hoffman said. "But there's a cultural issue too ... There is, I think, within the general public within Europe a greater sense of the scientific evidence around climate change and the need to respond than there is in the United States."
Taking climate change seriously -- and taking steps to reduce a company's emissions and other environmental impacts -- also gives it a better chance of having influence on future national and international regulations on emissions.
"Regulation is coming. If you want a seat at the table to influence what that regulation should be, you've got to get on this now," Hoffman said. "It may even be too late."
The United States Postal Service gets a lot of grief and is the object of jokes every so often, but we all should stand and applaud for their "Mail Back" program. Currently in ten cities across America, if you have an iPod; cell phone; digicams; gameboys etc. that no longer work, you can pick up a special envelope at the local Post Office and send it in to be either recycled or disposed of properly.
Here is more in a post from a University of Kansas student on a classroom blog. Also a hat tip to Triple Pundit. The company on the receiving end of the busted electronics is Clover Technology Group. The folks at Clover are paying the postage in addition to recycling all the defunct devices. This is a program that deserves our support so it can go national thus making it easy for anyone to recycle electronics.
The statistics regarding electronic waste are staggering. Hundreds of millions of computers, cell phones, ink cartridges and even televisions are being cast aside for newer improved models. This is one area where we can all do our part.
A Barkley alum has made good on his dream of starting his own company. It's called Interwoven Threads and here is a very nice article about this unique t-shirt company in Present magazine. Congrats to Andy Woolard for a job well done.
Another holiday gift idea from your personal shopper here at Citizen Brand.
Now I know there are some people out there who don't want those big wind mill turbines dotting the landscape or even the ocean scape....but I wonder how they would feel about a giant "tethered tornado" in their backyard. Thanks to triplepundit for the pointer.
Seems a guy named Louis Michaud has come up with an idea to create an "atmospheric vortex engine" that will actually create a tornado that he believes can create energy.
"This so-called atmospheric vortex engine will suck in hot air through a series of ducts at the base and channel it into an open roof arena. This would lead to the production of a tornado-like funnel of air that would provide the turbulent push to turn power-generating turbines."
"In order to generate electricity from this crazy machine the fans that create the vortex double as the power generators as well. Once the vortex is generated the twister will spin on its own without any additional or constant energy input needed claims Michaud. This self propelled full-grown tornado will suck in air through its base to continue spinning. This influx of air will turn the fans which will convert the mechanical energy into a claimed 100 megawatts of electricity."
Being a native Kansan and having lived through a tornado when I was 10 years old, this isn't such a crazy idea. I have often thought during our summer thunderstorms that if we could just figure out how to harness the energy from them, we would solve a lot of problems. We will see if it can work next spring when Michaud tests a 12 foot model in Ontario.
One of my Barkley colleagues, Susan Shank, pointed me to a great story today about another brand figuring out that going green is not just the right thing to do, but is good for business. In a New York Times story, we learn how Frito-Lay is going to totally convert one of its plants to become energy neutral. Here is an excerpt from the Times.
"At Frito-Lay’s factory here, more than 500,000 pounds of potatoes arrive every day from New Mexico to be washed, sliced, fried, seasoned and portioned into bags of Lay’s and Ruffles chips. The process devours enormous amounts of energy, and creates vast amounts of wastewater, starch and potato peelings.
Now, Frito-Lay is embarking on an ambitious plan to change the way this factory operates, and in the process, create a new type of snack: the environmentally benign chip.
Its goal is to take the Casa Grande plant off the power grid, or nearly so, and run it almost entirely on renewable fuels and recycled water. Net zero, as the concept is called, has the backing of the highest levels of corporate executives at PepsiCo, the parent company of Frito-Lay.
There are benefits besides the potential energy savings. Like many other large corporations, PepsiCo is striving to establish its green credentials as consumers become more focused on climate change. There are marketing opportunities, too. The company, for example, intends to advertise that its popular SunChips snacks are made using solar energy.
“We don’t know what the complete payoff for net zero is going to be,” said Indra K. Nooyi, PepsiCo’s chairman and chief executive. “If this works even to 50 or 60 percent of its potential, that is fantastic, and it’s so much better than what we already have.”
Continuing my alternative energy theme for another day, Triple Pundit tells us that nanosolar coatings provide an even better alternative for solar power production because they do not require silicon. This makes this method both more efficient from a cost standpoint as well as a more effective means of generating solar power.
Nanosolar can be mass produced because it is a coating that is rolled on to almost anything from glass to roof shingles. California is taking advantage of this technology as the foundation for its Million Solar Roofs initiative. In a state that has an abundance of sunshine and is a big energy user, solar power should be top of mind as an alternative.
While there are no easy answers to the energy dilemma we face, it is interesting to note that the buzz about alternatives is heating up, so to speak, and that is always a good thing.
With apologies to James Carville who helped Bill Clinton win an election in 1992 by making sure his candidate and the campaign stayed focused on the economy with a similar admonition. Wouldn't it be refreshing if a candidate or candidates running for President in 2008 put the same emphasis on the environment. Voters will always care about the economy - that is a given. But it would seem that there is a growing consensus among the vox populi that we had better start paying attention to Mother Earth. If this is true, the candidates will not be far behind.
Today is Blog Action Day. More than 15,000 blogs are focusing attention on a single issue - the environment. My two cents worth is that unless we do begin to take all actions large and small to impact the future of our planet in a positive way, nothing else will matter someday. Most especially the economy.
Andrea is already in the mix today with a simple message from a young man who understands that each one of us can make a difference with our actions. Another action bloggers can take is to join up with others of us over at Razoo.com and make a difference every day in ways both large and small. Check it out. And Alicia and Brady always know of good links when it comes to the environment (and of course fair trade.) Alicia recommends The Accidental Environmentalist as a place to get good ideas and fresh thinking about taking care of our planet.
So tonight, make sure you turn the lights off when you leave a room; try to use a little less water in the house but make sure your flowers and trees have enough to drink; and, take one less trip in the car each week. These seem like little things, but they are all doable. It takes 21 days to form new habits. Today is a good day to start some for all of us.
Brady and Alicia of Two Hands Worldshop (aka - my son and daughter-in-law) spent Earth Day weekend at the Chicago Green Festival. Visit the THW blog for their first person reports from the Windy City.
If you missed Chicago, there will be two more Green Festivals this year in Washington D.C. in October and San Francisco in November.
Read "The Power of Green" by Thomas Friedman in Sunday's New York Times Magazine. Friedman says the green movement not only has gone mainstream, but it represents the future platform for a "new, unifying political movement" in the United States. He says this movement is necessary to address the three major issues all Americans now face: "jobs, temperature and terrorism."
"How do our kids compete in a flatter world? How do they thrive in a warmer world? How do they survive in a more dangerous world? Those are, in a nutshell, the big questions facing America at the dawn of the 21st century. But these problems are so large in scale that they can only be effectively addressed by an America with 50 green states — not an America divided between red and blue states."
Change is in the air.