My wife and I were on our way to Chicago for a long weekend. We were taking in the sites, wondering if we should stop in Lafayette on the way back to see Purdue University’s campus when we came around a bend in I-65 and saw something completely disorienting. Actually, the disorientation was not immediate.
“Look,” my wife said, “there are some windmills over there, giant windmills.” We made this trip to Chicago a
couple of years earlier and didn’t see any windmills. It was like they had just appeared overnight. They were pretty cool looking, for the first couple of miles. But those few windmills become dozens and those dozens became hundreds. They were spinning slowly, majestically and some of them were very close to the interstate. continue
For a few years now, clean energy and sustainable business practices have been driving large-scale efforts inside companies of all sizes. Whether the end goal was cheap energy, response to impending government regulation or even a little positive media exposure, evidence of the new green corporate landscape is everywhere. The green movement is gaining a substantial amount of momentum with little evidence of slowing down, due to large-scale implementation of energy efficiency projects. I recently stumbled on an article that discussed how Google has invested $280 million through a partnership with SolarCity, a California-based solar design and installation company. continue
April 12, 2011 • Perspectives
by Roger Durham
Do you have any idea how much energy is consumed by the cloud? No, not that cumulus cloud outside
your window. I’m talking about the cloud that hosts a growing majority of the world’s electronic data. I’m talking about the cloud that makes Facebook and Google and Amazon and iTunes possible. According to a report from EnergyStar, EPA estimates place the 2006 electricity consumption level of all U.S. servers and data centers at something close to 61 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh). That consumption number is projected to climb closer to 100 billion kWh in 2011. And that growth will only continue as cloud computing proliferates. continue
If you are keeping up with the developments in Congress around “Cap and Trade” and the newest incarnation moving through the House, the Energy Tax Prevention Act, then you can picture the face-off this appears to be. Essentially, you have two sides, which are bickering on points that would benefit from a little round-table discussion. What we need here is a little peace, love and understanding.
First, we have the Cap and Trade folks who want to insert regulation, which will hold large greenhouse-gas emitters responsible for polluting. In a nutshell, the process would work like this: A company is told they can produce a certain amount of pollutants (Cap), and depending if the company over-pollutes or under-pollutes, they can purchase or sell credits (Trade) to ensure compliance under the proposed system. Sounds great, right? Well, not so fast, because this produced a firestorm of critics and lobbying efforts to denounce even the thought of a Cap and Trade system. Opposition runs the gamut from paranoid (the government is trying to control everything) to financial (the excess costs a company would incur would be passed to the end customer, which would spiral Americans into a desolate country of glorified panhandlers.) continue
I truly enjoyed this MIT Sloan Review article regarding sustainability and innovation. Not only was it well-researched and written, but I particularly warmed up to one of its key findings: the primary driver for enhancing a company’s sustainability position is how it affects their brand. Music to a marketer’s ears.
Getting a clear definition of “brand management” can be tricky. Depending on who you ask, you get different answers. Branding giants like Interbrand have claimed to be able to put an economic value on a company’s brand. Business valuations have upheld that “brand equity” can drive significantly higher earnings multiples, elevating an organization’s financial value. Brand value is real, but it can be hard to succinctly define. Its meaning will likely evolve over time like “corporate communication” has in light of Facebook, Twitter and mobile devices. For our purposes here, let’s say that brand management is any activity that affects someone’s opinion of a product or organization. So, in essence, it’s perception management.
(I can hear the brand management purists groaning now…) continue
I’ve got a confession to make. I work for an energy management company that offers, among other things, energy sustainabilityservices, but I have been, for most of my life, largely agnostic about “green energy.” I know. It’s not comfortable to say out loud. But it’s true. And based on my background, being agnostic about renewable energy is probably a generous position. You see, I grew up, and still live, in a coal-producing state. I am married to a woman whose grandfather was a coal miner. My Dad started a family petroleum business which put bread on the table and paid the country club dues and sent me and my 3 siblings to good private universities. When I succeeded my father in that business, I grew fond of the sweet smell of diesel fuel, and the nice things it afforded. I have always liked petroleum. continue
Here is a simple question for everyone out there: Do you like money? Now, the response to such a question will be wide and probably very interesting, but I would suppose that the inner-capitalist in most of us would answer with a profound, “Of course I do.” Money buys the goods that keep our economy turning; when money is tight, it usually means conversations go from, “Nice weather today” to a glummer “bah humbug” type of response. Due to government policies of the 1980s, we witnessed a jolt to the U.S. economy, prompting a robust recovery and an infusion of capital through tax cuts, spurring the yuppie stereotype. Overall, most of us think of the 80s as the time when greed was the word de jour and the capital flowed, at least until the market crashed. We can go on and on about how cool money, taxes and the 1980s are, but I want to shift gears and transition to the ongoing developments at the Empire State Building. Don’t worry; we will still talk about money. continue
Ahhh, bipartisanship. The inner workings of our beloved government can strike feelings of frustration, confusion and an overall sense of general disorder in the typical layman. Many would associate the shift in power and control in Congress with the sometimes violent childhood game of Red Rover. The verbal swipes between parties seem even more similar to “clotheslining” the kid down the street. Well, at least to me.
Take the friendly topic of “cap and trade,” which began innocently enough as a program to curb pollutants. The overall goal was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from large producers by 17% by 2020. Sounds great, right? Well supporters of a cap-and-trade system believe it will be positive both economically continue
November 23, 2010 • Perspectives, Sustainability
by Ann Barczak
Me in Sea Isle City with my first flounder!
A recent conversation with a client regarding their corporate sustainability strategy brought to mind one of the smartest people I have ever met. He was generations ahead of his time. His daily life was a practice of sustainability and energy management before those words would even become relevant. He had no more than a sixth grade formal education, but my Grandfather Jim, or “Red” as everyone knew him, learned his trade through apprenticeships, on the job experience and observation. He ended up becoming a valued electrician and member of the AFL – CIO, but more important was the value he gave to his 30 plus grandchildren.
As many summers as we could, my family would make the long trek from Roswell, Georgia to Sea Isle City, New Jersey. Sea Isle was home to Pop Pop’s “Beach House”, as we Southerner’s call it, or “Shore House” as my northern relatives would refer to it. It was a duplex with a ringer washing machine, one shower and a screen door that had a distinctive latching sound that would rat you out at night if you dared to come home late. continue
November 22, 2010 • Current Events, Perspectives
by Roger Durham
The bad news kept piling up for BP. And not all of it had to do with oil in the gulf. According to Emily Price, in a PCWorld blog post, BP added to its troubles by some ill advised image control tactics.
Price reported that British Petroleum had admitted to “doctoring” an image posted on its website of its “Crisis Room” in Houston, Texas. Apparently, some of the television screens depicted in the photo in question had images of underwater cleanup efforts superimposed over other images, thanks to the magic of Photoshop.
BP apologized and implicated one of its photographers, but apologies did not mitigate the damage done. It was one more weight to tip the balance that cost the CEO his position with BP. The incident further depleted an asset that BP desperately needed to be accumulating in volumes. That asset is integrity. Integrity is critical to the survival of any company, not just BP. Relinquish integrity and you cut off the blood supply that allows a company to thrive. continue