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.

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