Please visit to see the new & improved site.
Please visit to see the new & improved site.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Time to move from Analysis to Vision

During the North American launch of the SMART 2020:USA report, there was a discussion about why climate change initiatives have taken hold in Europe and Japan but are getting less traction here in the USA. I heard a consensus that this was due to consistently higher oil pricing and a national strategy for energy. But, I think even that answer begs the question of why governments in those countries have been more inclined to create a national energy strategy.

Political reasons have something to do with it, but I would like to add one additional and perhaps more personal observation on European/American contrasts. I think that Europeans (I realize I am generalizing here) are more receptive to having to knuckle down and sacrifice to solve a problem. Americans, in contrast, do better if they can see creative and imaginative ways forward that include a vision for a better future. I have written before about the need for positive visions of a carbon constrained future and feel we need those positive visions now more than ever.

We need to move from a "you're not gonna be able to that" vision (which might have worked somewhat in Europe - aside from the spelling of "gonna") to a "you’re gonna be able to do all this!" vision. We need to capture the imagination of the public with the possibilities and potential for a better lifestyle. Thomas Friedman makes a start on this in Chapter 10 of Hot, Flat and Crowded where he draws an attractive vision of a carbon constrained future.

Corporations are experts at marketing and we now need to grow from analyzing and quantifying and instead expand our focus to include depicting attractive and creative views of what our lives could look like. The government needs a public mandate to act. If we can influence the public in a positive way, we will help build that groundswell for action. Of course there is some fear of being thought to be green washing, so we have to continue to take action on our own footprints and the impact of our products and services. However, we should not forget how good we are at marketing and at helping people see the potential of a brighter rather than duller future.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

SMART 2020: USA Report Released

On June 27th, I wrote a post about a new global report called SMART 2020. The Climate Group and GeSI produced the report. It is the best-quantified comparison yet of the contrast between the global negative and positive impact potential of the ICT sector on carbon emissions. In the interests of full disclosure, Chris Tuppen of BT was on the steering group for this report.

Yesterday, I attended the North American launch of the SMART 2020 report. At the same time, a report called SMART 2020: USA was released. As the name suggests, SMART 2020: USA identifies the USA specific contribution of the ICT sector. I chatted after the meeting to Chris Lloyd, Executive Director of Corporate Responsibility at Verizon. Chris was an active participant in the production of SMART 2020: USA and helped me identify some of the USA specific characteristics of the report. I think it is informative to look at these contrasts.
  • As well as the carbon emissions focus of the global report, the USA report puts equal emphasis on cost savings ($140-240B) and on reduction in oil imports (a 20-36% reduction).
  • Where the global report offers a potential reduction in emissions from application of ICT services of about 15% of global emissions, the USA report identifies a range of between 13% and 22% of business as usual emissions.
  • The global report identifies dematerialization, smart motor systems, smart logistics, smart buildings and smart grids as the five main areas for potential reductions. The USA investigation discovered that 45% of all vehicle miles driven in the world are driven in the USA and so not surprisingly, the emphasis of the conclusions is slightly different and focuses on four areas, smart grid, more efficient road transportation, smart buildings and travel substitution.
In my next post, I will share my perspectives on climate change initiatives in other countries as compared to the USA that were topics of discussion.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Future Business Leaders of America

I am on my way back from the 2008 Net Impact Conference. If you were not one of the lucky 2,400 to have a place at the event, you missed a wonderful forum. And if you were one of the apparently 400 people on the waiting list, try again next year - it is worth it.

During the conference, I facilitated a panel on Quantifying Benefits of Energy Sustainability Initiatives that included Brian Boyd, Vice President, Worldwide Environment, Health and Safety, Johnson & Johnson; Dan Fiorino, Performance Track Program Director, EPA and Eric Israel, Managing Director KPMG LLP. As you might expect, we addressed approaches to making sustainability tangible through quantifying the benefits. Just for interest we compared the carbon footprint reduction targets of the three companies on the panel. We all quantify our emissions but all use different baseline years, different end target years and different decisions on what we include from scope 3 emissions. It is a lesson in the difficulties of comparing, even among three companies which quantify their activities in this area.

The event continues through Saturday. It was inspiring to see the level of engagement of the participants. The audience of Net Impact includes mostly graduate level students, with many executive MBA participants. It was inspiring to see so many committed people from across the country – many traveling in at their own expense. If this level of interest is carried into peoples' values when they are back in the workplace, I am very optimistic about the future for sustainability.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Collaboration and Competition in the Development of Renewable Energy

I have just returned from a meeting for the World Resources Institute Green Power Market Development Group that BT hosted at our headquarters in El Segundo, California.

The group, of which BT is a member, is a collaboration of leading corporations and the World Resources Institute. It is dedicated to building corporate markets for green power. Our goal is to develop corporate markets for 1000 MW of new, cost competitive green power by 2010.

The agenda included a tour of the progress made with BT's solar installation (see the latest here) and a roundtable where members share and learn from each other's experiences and discuss pursuing collaborative projects in the green power space. It was interesting to compare this collaborative approach with the competitive approach presented by the X-Prize Foundation. The Foundation is planning a suite of future prizes in the energy and environment space.

The two approaches are complementary. The collaborative approach of the Green Power Market Development Group lends itself to the development of markets and commercial scaling up of tried and tested technologies. The higher risk, but higher reward competitive approach of the X-Prize will stimulate creativity, out of the box thinking and ultimately the breakthroughs we also need. It will be interesting to watch the initiatives that result from both paths.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Silver Lining to Sustainability

It is instructive and encouraging reading other positive perspectives on the economic crisis outside of the specific issue I have addressed in my blog. Bill Kramer, principal of The Global Challenge Network, LLC, has a post in, “Silver Lining to the Financial Meltdown?” While Bill covers the inevitable toll the downturn will take on vulnerable populations, he also highlights the potential refocus of Asian corporations to regional and domestic markets and the benefits this can have for sustainability initiatives at the bottom of the pyramid.

In a similar vein but at a different scale and on a different continent, Joel Kotkin had an article in the Washington Post, “Turns Out There's Good News on Main St”. Joel writes, “Forced into belt-tightening, Americans are likely to strengthen our family and community ties and to center our lives more closely on the places where we live.” He goes on to illustrate the benefits of what he calls "the new localism” and examines the benefits of such localization.

Having lived here for twelve years, I have learned that it is an innate attribute of Americans to look for the silver lining even in difficult times. Even the Chronicle of Philanthropy had an opinion piece this week titled “Nonprofit World could emerge Stronger from Economic Crisis”. The challenge for companies remains to continue to find the intersections between economic growth and enhanced sustainability.