Friday, July 25, 2008

Taming the Ox: Green Trade and International Cooperation

Arguably the greatest challenge to the proliferation of Green comes from nations like China. However, despite mutual animosity and mistrust, the environmental technology trade between China and Japan affords common ground. Japan is one of the world's Greenest countries, and China is a grateful recipient of Japan's environmental skills and technology. "Japan, on an international level, is a responsible country," says Xia Guang, Vice Director of the Sino-Japan Friendship centre for Environmental Protection. "We recognize that Japan's work promoting environmental protection in China has real seriousness, and we thank the government and people of Japan."

Pollution does not respect national boundaries. Which means all nations have a vested interest in finding ways to cooperate on matters of the environment, particularly when it comes to the worlds greatest contributor of GHG.

Beyond the economic benefits associated with reducing greenhouse gases, the Green movement offers powerful incentives for nations to cooperate. As reported in a recent Time Magazine article, even historical foes can be allied when it comes to Green. "That's certainly true of China and Japan, which, despite their animosity, need each other desperately. China's costly and wasteful use of energy and escalating environmental degradation threaten the sustainability of its economic boom. Japan, one of the greenest, most energy-efficient countries in the industrialized world, is brimming with the know-how that could help China alleviate these problems. China could benefit from Japanese technology in everything from advanced nuclear reactors to clean steel mills to hybrid cars. And Japan has every incentive to sell that technology to generate new business for its otherwise sluggish economy. Green tech is leapfrog tech: it will allow emerging economies to jump to the leading edge." Japan's provision of cleaner technology strikes the perfect balance between altruism, self interest and trade. As reported in the same article, "Environmental protection isn't just a good-neighbor policy; it's an industry, and a new way for Japan to turn a profit from China's economic boom. Selling eco-friendly technology is potentially big business, and one in which Japanese firms still have a tremendous competitive advantage."

As illustrated in the relationship between Japan and China, Green trade affords powerful incentives for international cooperation. One of the major problems remaining is China's notorious disrespect for intellectual-property rights. But even here China's need for Japan's Green technology may foster cooperation and embolden Beijing's efforts to enforce intellectual property rights laws.

"[T]he potential benefits of cooperation on the environment, are compelling. "The environment is a mutual problem," says [Japanese] Environment Minister Kamoshita. "So, concretely, we benefit by working together." If so, a repaired relationship between Japan and China could make the war against global warming a lot easier to fight."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Japan's Energy Efficiency Trade

Japan is reaping the profits of decades of investment in environmental technologies. Japan is a working model of modern energy efficiency and the world leader in environmental technology. Despite prodigious growth, Japanese industry has reduced energy consumption and lowered emissions.

As reported in The New York Times, "Corporate Japan has managed to keep its overall annual energy consumption unchanged at the equivalent of a little more than a billion barrels of oil since the early 1970s, according to Economy Ministry data. It was able to maintain that level even as the economy doubled in size during the country’s boom years of the 1970s and ’80s." Amongst Japan's environmental technologies are systems which harness waste heat and gas to generate power. This is one reason why engineers come from all over to study Japanese industry.

Japan's conservation record has earned it a leadership role on the environment. "According to the International Energy Agency, based in Paris, Japan consumed half as much energy per dollar worth of economic activity as the European Union or the United States, and one-eighth as much as China and India in 2005."

The burgeoning cost of oil is increasing the demand for Japan's power-saving technology and Japan is ready, willing and able to meet this demand. “Superior technology and a national spirit of avoiding waste give Japan the world’s most energy-efficient structure,” Prime Minister Yauo Fuda said. “[Japan] wants to contribute to the world,” he said.

Japan's energy conservation efforts have been good for the environment, they have reduced operating costs and spawned an entire industry in the process. Investment in Green technologies can pay lucrative dividends. However, as illustrated by Japan's example, governments play an important role in researching and developing environmental technologies. "[Japan] is also the only industrial country that sustained government investment in energy research even when energy became cheap again. Japan taught itself decades ago how to compete with gasoline at $4 per gallon,” said Hisakazu Tsujimoto of the Energy Conservation Center, a government research institute that promotes energy efficiency. “It will fare better than other countries in the new era of high energy costs."

The "Sector Approach" is a model for energy management based on Japan's frugal energy standards. According to the calculations of Yoshitsugu Iino, group leader of JFE Steel’s climate change policy, the international application of Japanese standards in the steel industry alone could reduce annual carbon emissions by 300 million tons. The Sector Approach would also increase demand for Japanese energy saving technologies and skills. As the Japanese example illustrates, investment in Green technologies is not only about saving the planet, environmental foresight leads to significant trading opportunities in an industry that is destined to grow exponentially.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Print Newspapers and the Growth of Digital Marketing

The print industry is a dirty business and it is being increasingly replaced by digital formats. Traditional print medias rely on paper which require raw materials that deplete natural resources. Paper manufacturing processes generate harmful pollutents and ultimately waste. By comparison, digital medias have a smaller environmental footprint than printed paper.

Despite initial software problems, Apple's recently released iPhone 3G sold over one million units in just a few days. Thanks to the popularity of technologies like the new Apple handset, Mobile marketing continues to proliferate, while widespread layoffs in the newpaper business are indicative of print medias decline. The availability of digital news is an important reason why print newspapers are declining. Many giants in the US newspaper business have conceded this point as evidenced by their online presence. As reported in the MobileMarketer, "Brands launching new mobile applications specifically for the iPhone 3G include The Associated Press, USA Today, The New York Times, [and] The Washington Post." The print media industry is trying to recoup some of their lost print revenue by selling ad space on online facsimiles.

Newspaper readers are aging and younger people do not read print newspapers as much as their older cohorts. Younger people have incorporated digital technologies into their way of life. For marketers, the writing is on the wall, but you will not see it unless you are wired.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Energy Conservation Via Mobile Marketing

A July 14, 2008 Mobile Marketer article by Giselle Abramovich reviews a Californian utility company's campaign to promote energy conservation through mobile marketing. Sponsored by San Diego Gas and Electric, the energy conservation campaign concurrently runs ads on television and is supported by a website. The objective is to educate consumers on how they can save up to 20 percent on their energy bill. The caveat is that the discount is only given to those with a specific income level and number of people living in the home. Mobile marketing is an ideal marketing medium because it is able to target consumers who meet specific criteria. If interested, the consumers can text, they will receive a link to a website or they can also click-to-call. This feature is convenient for consumers because they can decide when they wish to call. These are voluntary opt-ins and unsubscribing is easy.

As illustrated by this energy conservation campaign, the mobile approach affords a highly targeted direct line of communication. The future is Green and the future of marketing is Mobile.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Planning a Future Without Oil

With the price of crude hovering above $140 a barrel there is significant pressure to reduce and manage our energy consumption. Goldman Sachs has predicted that we will soon hit $200 per barrel.

Politicians and commentators are quick to offer solutions or attribute blame. However many of them deny the fact that in the not too distant future, supply will not be able to keep up with demand. Drilling cannot fix this and speculators are not to blame. Speculators are simply reading the markets. Making pariahs out of speculators is yet another way to avoid the reality of the energy problems we face. And drilling for oil in Alaska or off America's shores will further degrade the environment and do nothing to reduce the price of oil.

Even the much maligned government of China has put energy efficiency on the top of their agenda. Within the realm of today's technology it is entirely possible to achieve a 10% reduction in energy consumption. Although inflation is a real problem, there are some upsides to increased oil prices. The high price of oil exerts pressure to reduce consumption and research alternatives.

Although oil is still part of the energy equation, in the future we will have a more diversified energy economy that is much less dependent on oil. If we are to be weaned off of oil we will need to focus on energy in a methodical way. From a policy point of view we need incentives and disincentives in support of efficiency and alternatives. We need national and global energy strategies.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Greenwashing Organic

There appears to be a marketing frenzy around organic food. This is not surprising when you consider that organic foods are a growing $16 billion a year business.

However, foods labeled organic does always mean healthy food. Inconsistencies in the way organic foods are marketed are harmful to the reputation of the organic food industry and threaten to make the term 'organic' little more than a marketing cliche.

A June 3, 2008 Washington Post article suggested that people increasingly want more nutritious food when they eat out. A recent poll indicated that 76 percent of the people said they are trying to eat out more healthfully than they were two years ago. Another showed that organic is one of the hottest trends in food.

The future of organic food and the future of the whole Green movement demands that marketers deliver on their promises. Increasingly consumers are demanding more than merely a marketing facade.

The Growth of Organic Food

Organic food is growing in popularity, global sales increased over 10 percent to reach $23 billion in 2002. U.S. organic food sales have increased from $3.5 billion in 1996 to more than $9 billion in 2001. As of 2007 that number has increased to 16 billion.

Conventional farmers apply chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and synthetic herbices, but organic farmers feed the soil with organic fertilizers, use insect predators, barriers, crop rotation, tillage, hand weeding and mulch. Conventional farm grown food is often tainted with chemical residues, which can be harmful to humans. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides and 30 percent of insecticides to be carcinogenic.

Conventional farming methods are harmful to the earth and Pesticides can have many negative influences on health. These adverse health effects include neuro-toxicity, disruption of the endocrine system, carcinogenicity and immune system suppression. Pesticide exposure may also affect male reproductive function and has been linked to miscarriages in women.

Conventional produce tends to have fewer nutrients than organic produce. On average, conventional produce has only 83 percent of the nutrients of organic produce. Studies have found significantly higher levels of nutrients such as vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, and significantly less nitrates (a toxin) in organic crops.

As the demand for organic increases the prices will drop, and the supply will increase.