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

No comments: