Friday, June 27, 2008

Inventors panel discussion July 7

I was honored to be asked to lead a panel discussion about innovation and invention at the next meeting of the Green County WI Entrepreneurs and Inventors Club.

This is an especially vibrant E&I Club. The panelists work from a wide variety of interesting and creative parts of the economy.

The meeting is Monday July 7, 2008 from 6:30 to 8:30 PM. The location is the Monroe Clinic in their New Glarus Room. 515 22nd Av. Monroe, WI

Come early and have a Limburger sandwich at Baumgartners on the Monroe square. Monroe is one of my favorite WI cities and you just can't beat the environment and the economic potential of this great location.

If you have an interest in learning more, please send me an eMail

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Nice recognition for this blog

I just received a nice note from the folks at HR World. Their web site is a resource for business people of all kinds, with a focus on HR work.

They have just chosen this Sustainable Work blog for a special honor. They have included us in a new article titled, "Top 100 Management and Leadership Blogs That All Managers Should Bookmark."

Here's what they included in their write up, "Novices can get tips for innovation, startups and emerging enterprises, while established leaders can get know-how on developing sustainable new products and services."

They included some of my favorites, such as Tom Peters, Chris Anderson (The Long Tail), and Seth Godin among many other notables.

Very nice. Thanks HR World!

Link to the HR World article

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Green return on investment is here

Here is a quick follow up to the previous post. I just came across a new article by Ray Unger, who writes an excellent financial column for my local paper. Ray is the Chairman of Forward Investment Advisors of Madison. I like his writing a lot. Ray has provided a long record of open, transparent service to his community through his writing over decades. Great in-the-trenches stuff from a no BS guy.

Ray talks about how the legislation behind the Clean Air Act of 1990 entered the world and changed environmental history. The Clean Air Act used a "cap and trade" system to allocate the burden of cleaning up the air.

You may or may not have strong feelings about cap and trade systems, but as Ray points out, the Economist Magazine in 2002 crowned this system, "probably the greatest green success story of the past decade."

The article continues, "Today, much the same thing is happening in the area of global warming and carbon dioxide emissions. And like after OSHA, winners and losers will emerge."

The rules that will emerge will likely be based on a cap and trade model. The difference between political parties will be on the timetable.

Either way, it's coming, and the numbers are big. One estimate is $3.32 trillion dollars in costs to non-sustainable practitioners between now and 2050.

Green ROI is here. Our society is about to create a measurable, marketable return on investment for enterprises greening their operations. Green is getting monetized. Big time. Those that can demonstrate continuous improvements in sustainability and stay below the cap get increasingly valuable credits to sell. And there will be a large market for buyers of these credits going forward as large commodity based commercial systems plod through their conversions. You get to sell them increasingly valuable credits for a long while. For getting greener. Green ROI.

A current cap and trade bill has been introduced in the Senate by people considered to be pro-business. The Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act probably won't be the final version that passes, given the national elections, but I think it defines the debate going forward. The lobbyists will help all involved sort out the timetables.

As Ray Unger closes his piece, "… it's never too early to work out such details. One thing's for certain: It will raise the cost of virtually all goods and services that depend on energy. And that's just about everything."

Creating ever-tighter sustainability practices has become a security issue and a survival issue for our economy. It's also about to become a lot more profitable.

Will this act as a tax on enterprises that are bad environmental actors? Yes. Will they try to pass along the tax to consumers? Of course. Are we bound to do business with them? Only at your own risk. Greener substitutes will arise, and we'll leave the bad actors to drift off.

And oh, by the way, getting greener will make your own products and services more profitable.

Not to mention the marketing avalanche anyone can create by documenting their sustainability gains.

When you can fix up the place and measure the payback, life is good.

Ray Unger's article, Confessions of a Money Manager: Carbon dioxide cap will change investment playing field

I love still saying "my paper", but reading it online. My afternoon paper for decades moved to the web and is doing a great job. I read it several times a day... The Cap Times online

Friday, June 06, 2008

Green Management Storming Every Gate

Today we had the biggest one day jump in oil prices in history. A couple of big economists at major banks predicted $150 or $200 per barrel oil this year.

Is this the end of the world? Of course not. Some Europeans are coming here to take driving vacations because energy is so cheap.

Is it the end of the road for inefficient, wasteful, energy intensive commerce? Yes, thankfully.

In my last startup I skimmed & recycled industrial fluids. I saw millions of gallons of oil going to waste. The industries I worked in called that oil a contaminant or pollution. They were paying to have oil hauled away. Oil. Honestly. I'm talking this century.

Long ago Buckminster Fuller said pollution is resources in the wrong places. If he knew how dysfunctional the transition would be, I'm sure he would have been shocked.

I used to give talks around the country, mostly in industrial settings. I loved speaking at the yearly industry conventions and professional education seminars for our industries.

I had to travel on the night of Sept. 11, 2001. I was giving a talk in Cleveland the next day for some of the heaviest hitters in my business. It was an awful drive. My society was seizing up. There were people waving flags on almost every bridge across 4 states. There were reports of Indiana Troopers seizing gas stations in Gary, IN for hoarding fuel as I drove past wondering where I could find the next open gas station. Weird, scary times.

During the seminar the next day, we were all politically numb but a new economic reality was in the air. The focus of every discussion was the need to protect our exposures - as a nation, as states, as industries, and as individuals.

Every single day since 9/11 more and more people have equated the idea of increasing efficiencies and cutting energy use as a way of decreasing exposures of all kinds.

Today - especially today - you can't escape the tidal wave of public support/demand behind getting all areas of our culture greener and more sustainable.

My point for this post is as follows: Think of energy use as a 'sin tax'. Something that costs you dearly for your guilty little pleasures. You'll pay more because you just gotta have it…..

Sure the revenues may not be going directly to the government as true taxes, but the money is flying out of your world as lost, not as a productive investment. You've got exposure. You're going to pay. Fix the exposure and you become safer, more productive, and more sustainable.

The idea of 'we just gotta keep to our old ways' is NOT inevitable. Good design can reduce the 'gotta'. Thoughtful, sustainable practices reduce the 'gotta'. Day by day, you reduce the 'gotta'. Day by day you get stronger, more efficient, and less exposed as an organization.

If you are an entrepreneur, or if you are an entrepreneurial company, this is a time of great opportunity to help.

I know the industrial world the best. The way we manufacture things, the way manufacturing energy is expended, the way manufacturing fluids are spent, the way manufacturing affects air quality and the overall effects of manufacturing on carbon emission issue are all significant, immediate opportunities.

Remediating these issues will only get more expensive over time, especially as inflation returns to the economy. Energy costs may dip now and then, but the upward trend is inexorable so long as we're exposed to energy insecurities.

The way to get the biggest bang for the buck is to remediate these exposures and build out new sustainable systems as fast as possible. Do the math. There's no other solution to that problem. Do it fast. Save the most. Decrease exposures and increase security immediately. Payback is forever. Duh.

There is a lot of low hanging sustainability fruit in many parts of our industrial and commercial worlds.

If you are an entrepreneur or work in an entrepreneurial enterprise, this economy is not the end of the world. You are living through a world-wide economic system change.

Thankfully there is a vast, public demand for measurable improvements in sustainable practices at every level of commerce. Thankfully you can be here to help.

We had a gentleman in town this week doing a seminar at the University for regional marketing execs. While not exactly talking about my world of commerce, his thoughts about branding any enterprise in this economy is an apt way to close.

The following quote is from Mr. Gary Hirschberg, one of the founders of the $300+ million revenue per year Stonyfield Yogurt and a well regarded business writer.

"The best brands are truly the most authentic ones. Brands that really set out to be solutions to environmental problems, water problems, energy problems, climate problems, are going to have an inherent competitive advantage, especially in a world where oil is heading for $200 a barrel."

Sustainable practices make money. Sustainable practices decrease exposures. Sustainable practices increase security.

Measurable, sustainable practices are also the greatest opportunity to build an authentic brand and to create a company that people want to do business with.

The world is changing. Change with it, my friends. Be diligent out there.