Thursday, April 30, 2009

Solar Stock: Recovery and Comparative Market Performance

Consecutive weeks of gains on the major indexes suggest the market is showing signs of recovery, however as predicted by The Green Market, solar has had a bumpy ride. At the beginning of 2009, The Green Market published its Solar Stock Picks, these five solar companies were selected based on their ability to weather the impending decline in demand, manage smaller margins and deal with financing difficulties.

Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. STP

Late last year The Green Market asked investors to consider the Green stock buying opportunity. Through a combination of timing the market and short side profits, The Green Market illustrated that investing in solar can be a lucrative proposition. In January of this year, prior to President Obama's inauguration, The Green Market reviewed ways for investors to time the Obama effect.

On March 7, The Green Market outlined some of the variables that are driving the value of solar stocks. Over the course of March and April there was extraordinary growth in all the major indexes, yet early in the rally The Green Market noted that between March 9-17 The Green Market's solar stock was under-performing the market at crucial pivot points.

For the week ending on March 7 all The Green Market's solar stock was down led by SPWRA at 16 percent, only FSLR managed a 2 percent gain. On March 12 The Green Market highlighted ongoing volatility of the solar industry by comparing solar stocks to the leading indicators. DJIA, S&P and the NASDAQ were all up and except for Canadian Solar (CSIQ), the Green Market's solar stock was down across the board.

For the week ending on March 14, financials led stocks to the best week since November 2008 and all the Green Market Stock picks were up significantly led by ESLR's 37 percent. However while other solar players were making double digit advances, industry leader SunPower posted modest advances of only 4 percent.

For the week ending March 21, ESLR declined 3 percent while FSLR and SPWRA all lost between over 7. STP advanced less than one half of a percent and CSIQ posted gains of 20 percent. The last week of March saw the best gains of 2009 with Wall Street closing out its first two-week gain in almost a year. All The Green Market's solar stock picks were up with ESLR and STP up over 60 percent. During the week ending on April 4, ESLR, FSLR and SPWRA all declined while CSIQ and STP posted respectable gains of 16 and 20 percent respectively.

The week ending April 11 was exceptional, on Thursday March 9 stocks surged to their highest levels in two months. The same day, The Green Market reviewed the importance of international cooperation in anticipation of recovery. The period between March 9 and April 9 2009 proved to be an extraordinary month for the stock market. The S&P 500 rose 26.6 percent and if this March-April advance were a calendar month, it would be the best month for the S&P 500 since 1933. Despite these momentous gains, all the Green Market's solar stocks were up only marginally with FSLR leading with gains of 5.71 percent.

On the week ending April 18, Wall Street kept its six-week rally alive FSLR, SPWRA and STP posted one to two percent gains while ESLR and CSIQ declined 2 and 6 percent respectively. The week ending April 25, the DJIA capped off the week with a gain of 119.23 points. Yet during this period all The Green Market's solar stock was down except for FSLR, which had gained a modest 2.55% for the week. SPWRA and CSIQ were both down over 10%.

On April 29, 2009, President Barack Obama's 100th day in office, the GDP report, a rebound in consumer spending, and a decline in business inventories all provided signs that the economic slide has slowed. The Fed reiterated what Wall Street has already realized: The recession is starting to ease and the economy is stabilizing,

By the end of the day the major indexes had already been up sharply, posting gains of more than 2 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 169 points to its highest close since Feb. 9. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose to its highest trading level since late January. The Nasdaq composite index posted its highest finish since November 4, and the Green Market's Solar stocks were up between 3 percent (FSLR) and 16 percent (STP).

There are two noteworthy conclusions that can be drawn from this Green Market solar stock review. As anticipated by The Green Market on March 4, 2009, in the solar sector, cost is trumping efficiency. First Solar's lower priced thin film solar technology has marginally outperformed Sunpower's more efficient solar panel. Between the period of March 18 and April 24, FSLR posted gains of 19 percent while SPWRA posted gains of 14 percent.

Even more noteworthy than the comparative performance of FSLR and SPWRA, is the fact that the two of the largest and best performing players in the US solar industry are being bettered by other solar firms even though each is the leader in either cost or efficiency. Between March 18 and April 24 of this year, FSLR and SPWRA posted gains under 20 percent while CSIQ, ESLR and STP posted gains of over 30 percent.

As of the end of trading on Wednesday April 29, most of The Green Market's solar stocks are down for the year. Two are up for the year, they include STP at 21.71 and FSLR at 9.93 percent. CSIQ is down 5.88 for the year, ESLR is down 31.35 percent. Most notably SPWRA is down 32.3 percent for the year. To put this in perspective the Nasdaq composite index is up over 8.6 percent for the year.

However, since the Green Market's last solar stock report on March 17 we have seen overall gains. Between March 18 and April 24 all the major indexes and all The Green Market's solar stock is up.

NASDAQ 1491.22 - 1694.29 up 11.98%
S&P 794.35 - 866.23 up 8.29%
DJIA 7486.58 - 8076.39 up 7.30%

*The three indexes are up an average of 9.19%

STP 7.03 -13.16 up 46.58%
ESLR 1.37 -2.16 up 36.57%
CSIQ 4.09 - 5.89 up 30.96%
FSLR 118.64 - 147.46 up 19.54%
SPWRA 21.65 - 25.41 up 14.79%

*The Green Market's solar stock are up an average of 29.68%

Although the recession is impacting everyone including large well financed solar companies, The Green Market solar stock average was 3 times better than the average of the major indexes. To put it another way between March 18 and April 24, The Green Market solar stock average is outperforming the average of the major indexes by more than 20 percent.

Despite the recession, the credit crunch and other hurdles, The Green Market's solar stocks are posting significant gains.

Next: SunPower News: Share Offering and Convertible Debentures

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Environmental Assessment of President Obama's First 100 Days

Having completed his first 100 days in office, President Barack Obama is being evaluated as part of a 77 year old tradition in American Politics. Although 100 days is an admittedly arbitrary yardstick, Americans have been using it to evaluate their Presidents since Franklin Roosevelt was elected in 1932.

On December 18 2008, Yale Environment 360 asked a wide-ranging group to offer advice to Barack Obama for his first 100 days. The respondents included scientists, activists and The Green Market's mentor, eco-entrepreneur Paul Hawken. Despite the broad range of interests, they were largely in agreement that the best way to solve the current economic and environmental challenges is by "weaning the country off fossil fuels and onto renewable sources of energy."

They all agreed that the President should use the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and put a price on carbon. They further agreed that he should lead the charge to forge a new global climate change treaty and guided by science move with a sense of urgency.

Here is a summary of Obama's accomplishments on the environmental front since being elected President late last year. Even before taking office, Obama was working to realize his ambitious agenda, on December 15, 2009, then President-Elect Obama appointed a capable team committed to improving America's environmental record. He simultaneously laid out his vision for a new energy economy that sees America as the world leader in clean energy.

Shortly after taking the inaugural oath one of the President's first acts was to sign Green executive orders on January 26, 2009. One demands high standards of fuel efficiency for US vehicles and the other orders the EPA to reconsider its decision to deny California a waiver under the Clean Air Act. (A waiver would allow California and 17 other states to impose stricter limits on greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles).

The President's environmental vision is present in The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, this $787 billion economic stimulus package signed by the President on February 17, 2009 includes $100 billion Green stimulus that will create Green jobs. The budget clearly supports the President's view that clean energy and the environment are top priorities and includes funding for various energy and environmental programs. The President also supports US climate change legislation ahead of the international agreement being sought at the COP 15 meeting later this year. The proposed US climate change legislation includes putting a price on carbon through a system of cap-and-trade.

On March 30, 2009 the President signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, a bill that protects more than 2 million acres of wilderness land and creates a national system to conserve another 26 million acres of land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The law protects rivers and important wildlife habitat from mining, logging and oil and gas leasing. The law further requires the BLM to make conservation a priority when managing land at 850 sites nationwide. The law includes the first coordinated federal research program on ocean acidification and additional funding to protect ecologically sensitive coastal areas and estuaries.

On Earth Day, April 22, 2009 the President announced a new initiative to lease US coastal waters for the purpose of generating electricity from wind and ocean currents. Recently the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared that six greenhouse gases pose a danger to public health and welfare. Should cap-and-trade legislation fail to pass into law, the EPA ruling implies that greenhouse gases could be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

President Obama has changed America's international role from a climate change resistor to a climate change leader. The Bush administration will be remembered for its efforts to exploit resources at the expense of the environment and hide the truth about climate change. In the short time Obama has been in office he has reversed much of his predecessor's woeful environmental record. Obama has restored critical protections under the Endangered Species Act, which had been weakened by the Bush administration's eleventh hour changes and reversed another Bush Administration insult to the environment that allowed mountaintop coal mining. The President has also restored protections for public lands and restricted offshore drilling and oil shale exploration.

The President appears to have addressed all the advice of the experts interviewed by Yale Environment 360. The Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope is unequivocal in his praise for the President. As he said in a statement, "It is difficult to overstate the tremendous progress President Obama has made in just 100 days. He has moved swifter and smarter than any president in recent memory. While naysayers warned of doing too much too quickly, President Obama maintained his resolve and his boldness is backed by overwhelming majorities of the American public."

"President Obama has done more to lay the foundation for the clean energy future in three months than has been done in the previous three decades,” Pope continued. “His economic recovery plan, the budget, and a sweeping set of executive branch actions amount to a huge down payment on a cleaner, more prosperous future.”

Despite intransigent opposition from Republicans, the President enjoys widespread support. At least one Republican has realized that American conservativism is sinking. Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania realized that his party is in the politically untenable position of criticizing the President without being able to offer a viable alternative, leading him to renounce his Republican roots and switch allegiance. Specter is one of only three Republican senators to vote in favor of the stimulus package and in a bid to gain favor amongst his constituents, he announced Tuesday that he is leaving the Republicans and joining Obama's Democrats, bringing them within reach of a filibuster-proof 60 seat majority.

President Obama has put the environment at the forefront of the American national agenda, he has created a new clean energy vision and given science its rightful place in policy decisions. The President gets an A+ for his efforts to forge responsible environmental policies and build a viable green economy, however, after the honeymoon is over, Republican resistance and misinformation will hinder President's agenda.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Silencing Earth Day Critics

Earth Day is an important day for business, collectively companies are spending tens of millions on Green marketing. But others have expressed their concerns that Earth Day constitutes little more than another over-commercialized marketing event. As Natalie Zmuda writes in an article, "It's Earth Day: Time to consume more to save the planet."

Others are even more cynical, "My concern is that some companies just view [Earth Day] as a marketing event, like Thanksgiving or Christmas," said Larry Light, chairman-CEO of Arcature, a management consulting firm. "Then they've fulfilled their obligation for the rest of the year. The whole issue of sustainability means that a commitment also has to be sustainable. If it's only for one day, then it's a marketing event."

Some are resolute in their dismissal of Earth Day. "Earth Day's usefulness has passed," said Alex Steffen, executive editor of World Changing, a sustainability blog. "The idea that we're going to direct our attention to the planet for a day or a week ... is not a sufficient response anymore. An awful lot of people view Earth Day as the time to express the idea that they are sympathetic to change. We need to move from being sympathetic to change to actually changing things."

For years Grist has derided Earth Day, two years ago David Roberts was complaining about it, noting that it wasn't enough, saying “The time for "small steps" is long past. It's time for people to wake the hell up.” This year Grist unveiled an appropriately titled Screw Earth Day campaign. The purists behind Screw the Earth think that we do not do enough to get the message across. They feel we need to do more to protect the environment. As they expain, “It’s not about a single day, dude, it’s about living green every day.”

Grist's David Roberts points out, "Green is all the hype everywhere. So you might think that the public would be engaged in this push....polls find public interest as low as ever, and opinion about climate and energy policy is as inchoate and incoherent as ever. There are no rallies. There are no emails and letters and phone calls streaming into Congressional offices. There is no real social movement behind energy/climate action. There’s nothing to push a recalcitrant member of Congress in the right direction."

Although Mr Roberts may be correct about the hype surrounding Earth Day, he is wrong on just about every other count. Earlier this year, one Billion people around the world turned out their lights to vote for climate change action during Earth Hour and today another billion are expected to get involved with Earth Day events. The social momentum of environmental interest is obvious and irrefutable. This is an important period of transition, and although the mediums by which this interest will express itself are not yet fully formed, the mechanisms of change are coalescing.

Contrary to Mr Robert's assertions, public interest in the environment is not low, studies are finding that despite the recession the interest in Green continues. Earlier this month Joel Makower pointed this out as the one constant from the polling data on consumer environmental attitudes, "Vast majorities of consumers say they have adopted greener habits in their daily lives, and shop for at least some products with a keen eye on their environmental provenance and energy and climate impacts. In other words: the marketplace is getting greener -- way greener."

At least one criticism is well founded. As more companies and marketers jump on the Earth Day bandwagon it is evident that some are guilty of masking environmentally destructive practices under the guise of environmental sensitivity. This practice, commonly referred to as greenwashing, dilutes the integrity of Green branding efforts. And this prompts concerns that consumers will stop paying attention to Green altogether.

Earth Day is not only an opportunity to move product, such events also exert pressure on companies to improve their environmental record. All companies who promote sales in conjunction with Earth Day open themselves to scrutiny. Unsubstantiated Green claims or associations will be exposed and this could prove detrimental to a company's reputation. Although some companies are guilty of greenwashing they will be punished by consumers and legislators.

The business community is an important contributor to the environmental crises we are confronting and they are an equally important part of the solution. Forward looking companies understand that greenwashing is simply counterproductive, these companies know that the best and most enduring way to position themselves is through earnest environmental initiatives that have integrity. That is why many companies are already looking well beyond events like Earth Day and emboldening their commitment to sustainable business practices.

For business, Earth Day is a marketing opportunity, and as such an opportunity to grow profits and increase market share, but businesses are also using Earth Day to fund environmental projects and raise awareness about the environment. If the world is to change, people's attitudes must change and public events like Earth Day are an important part of the transition to a Greener world. Earth Day engages people and helps to transform the wider culture.

Although it is easy to respect the dedication of many Green activists, it is sometimes difficult to understand the approach of certain eco-purists. The anger they vent as they rail against popular movements like Earth-day seems at times incomprehensible. It is easy to appreciate the purists' roles as watchdogs and stalwart activists, even their impatience has its place, but at times their comments detract from the urgency of the Green message.

As a force within the broader efforts eco-purists serve a valuable purpose, but when they hijack the mainstream discussion, they foster anger, apathy and cynicism. Environmental extremists may attract a core of misanthropes, but they alienate the general public and send businesses looking for loopholes instead of contributing to the discussion. Thankfully many corporate leaders are participating in finding solutions, and many more appear ready to follow.

Are eco-purists trying to help the planet or as it sometimes appears, do they prefer distancing people with unproductive vitriol? Some purists go so far as to call for a revolution that does away with capitalism and the whole free market system. However, it is clear to almost everyone that these nihilistic reveries do not serve people or the planet.

More reasonable approaches envision ways of bringing about change without bloodying our streets. It seems obvious that the most expedient change will occur by working within our system. For example, proposed climate change legislation in the US would put a price on carbon emissions and unleash the power of free markets expediting an efficient transition to a carbon restricted world. Perhaps the most reasonable approach involves sending a loud message to our elected representatives.

As purists rue the popularity of Earth Day, Green businesses are taking advantage of the opportunity to highlight their Green initiatives and eco-entrepreneurs are hopeful that events like Earth Day will expedite the task of bringing their innovations to market. Earth Day is effectively turning the wheels of our free market economy.

Sadly some green-purists appear confused, they fail to understand that sustainable consumerism is not the enemy it is the goal. Their cynical rants further serve to illustrate that their approach does not engage the public nor influence politicians.

Admittedly, Earth Day is a highly commercialized event, but those who criticize should remember that commerce is the language of action. If we are to see a Greener world, businesses must not only be amongst those who contribute solutions, they must lead.

For businesses and consumers, Earth Day is about more than a point on a calendar. The Earth Day event has amplified a message that will reverberate throughout the year.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Earth Day Business Resources

What can businesses do for Earth Day? From easy no cost money saving strategies to intensive overhauls of your workplace and supply chains, here is a comprehensive list of resources to help your business make the transition to a Greener world.

Administrative Operations

Reduce and reuse wherever possible. Eliminate unnecessary photocopying and encourage e-mailing. Use spell check and proofread before you print or copy. Print double sided whenever possible. Use digital storage solutions to cut down on paper. Set up an area to store and exchange reusable office supplies.


Recycle everything you no longer need, from paper to packaging for shipping and e-cycling electronics. Find a recycling center near you. Make sure you properly dispose of items you can't reuse or recycle.

Alternative Transportation

Start a carpool, walk, bike, or use mass transportation instead of driving. Provide reserved parking for carpoolers. Offer transit passes to employees who take the bus or subway and bike racks for cyclists. Let workers telecommute. Teleconference instead of travel.

Energy Management

Unplug technology when it's not in use. Up to 75 percent of the electricity used to power office equipment is consumed while the product is turned off but still plugged in. Turn off your computer monitor, printers, copy machines, and the lights when they are not being used. If possible, take the stairs instead of using the elevator. See the consumer's guide to energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Use Energy Star's energy-efficient office products. Explore energy efficiency tips and products. See programs, tools and resources.

Green Power Partnership: Use the tools and other resources. Review information on the organizational procurement of Green power, see advice and technical support. Explore how Green power can improve your organization’s environmental performance.

General Technical Overview of Power Management: Review methods of maximizing IT power savings, see savings estimates, activation instructions, and software tools.


Buy recycled content, remanufactured, and recyclable office products. At a minimum, buy recycled paper and recycle it again. Buy compact fluorescent bulbs to replace incandescent bulbs. Make the environment, and not just price, a factor when purchasing. Tell suppliers that you're interested in sustainable products, and set specific goals for buying recycled, refurbished or used. Talk to suppliers about alternatives to toxins used in batteries and copier toner.

Water Management

Water-efficiency: Reduce operating costs by employing water-efficient practices. Convey an image of stewardship to employees, customers, and the general public by helping to conserve water resources for future generations.

Green Building

Apply green building principles to your office buildings: See how sustainable design (green building) principles apply to your place of business. Use tools and read information on worker productivity, risk and cost reduction and see what it means to build with greater responsibility towards future generations.

Go Green with GSA. Review the U.S. Government Services environmental initiatives designed to help federal agencies Go Green.

Green Resources for Business

The Global Environmental Management Initiative: (GEMI) Use the tools and review information geared towards helping businesses achieve environmental excellence.

Center for Waste Minimization: Conduct sustainable opportunities assessments to help your facilities reduce their waste and/or recycle by-products and pollution prevention.

Green Pages: Find screened and approved Green businesses.

Products and Services: Find environmentally preferable products and services, including environmental attributes to look for, procurement guidance, tools, case studies, and other resources. Explore links to, and highlights from programs which enable agencies to meet these goals include: Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP), Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG), ENERGY STAR®, the Green Procurement Program (GPP), and the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP). Regulations, Guidance, and Policy / Supporting Information and Tools / Lessons Learned / Training, Presentations, and Briefings / Conferences and Events.

EPA Publications: What you can do at the office / What you can do in small business / What you can do in industry / What you can do in retail / What you can do when planning and conducting meetings and events.

Sustainable Business

World Business Council for Sustainable Development: Review a wide range of information on sustainable development.

Business and Climate Change Solutions: See what the science of climate change means in terms of the risks and opportunities for business.

Eco-Capitalism: Review tips from a successful eco-capitalist.

Businesses have many choices as to how they will celebrate Earth Day and increasingly discerning consumers are rewarding sincere efforts from companies who are investing in a sustainable world.

Although measures like switching to compact fluorescent bulbs can deliver up to 75 percent energy savings and last more than 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, clearly this is not enough. Sustainability includes simple efforts repeated millions of times, but if we are to achieve the kind of change required we will need to do more than change light bulbs.

It is important that businesses lead the general population by doing as much as they can. By carefully reviewing operations and processes, businesses can find innovative and creative ways to recycle, reduce and reuse. We must take bold steps towards sustainability, not merely on Earth Day but everyday.

Next: Silencing Earth Day Critics

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Business of Earth Day

Earth Day is a great example of grassroots environmentalism turning the wheels of the free market. Businesses are joining people around the world who are coming together for workshops, rallies, cleanups, tree plantings and other events focused on the environment.

In 1962, Senator Gaylord Nelson decided he wanted to raise the profile of the environment in American politics. Six years later, amidst the war protests of 1969, Senator Nelson came up with the idea of holding a national protest in defense of the environment. The first Earth Day event was held on April 22, 1970 and was a massive success with over 20 million people taking part across the US. That day marked the beginning of the green movement in America. Twenty years later, on Earth Day 1990, 200 million people in 141 countries took part. In 2007, an estimated 1 billion people celebrated Earth Day around the world.

As reported in a recent article, "solving our environmental problems is going to require both top-down and bottom-up solutions. Now more than ever, we've all got to roll up our sleeves and get to work, in whatever way each of us can, because we're all in this together, and it's going to take everyone of us—from housewives to politicians to CEOs—getting with the program."

With the participation of approximately one billion people for the recent Earth Hour event and amidst climate change hearings in Washington, Earth Day 2009 promises to be bigger than ever.

Businesses are responding in varying degrees. Consumers can shop at Banana Republic, where 1% of sales from April 22 through April 27 benefit the Trust for Public Land. Some companies have launched comprehensive lineups of Earth Day activities and promotions. The Disney Store North America's approach is designed to educate families about their impacts, encourage recycling and replant an endangered rainforest through The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees Campaign. These initiatives build on The Walt Disney Company’s recently announced long-term environmental goals to reduce emissions, waste, electricity and fuel use, as well as the company’s impact on water and ecosystems.

Several broadcasting networks, including Fox Broadcasting, NBC and Nickelodeon, have announced green-themed TV program scheduling in honor of Earth Day. Verizon Business employees in Dallas, Boston and Tulsa are volunteering in local projects in support of Earth Day. Newsweek subscribers were able to fashion the cover of the April 14 issue into an envelope to send plastic bags to Target in return for a reusable tote bag. And Clorox's Brita brand's integration with NBC's "The Biggest Loser" has resulted in the elimination of plastic water bottles from the show's campus.

This month, Wal-Mart is running seven national 30-second spots, bearing the tagline "Budget-friendly prices. Earth-friendly products," Wal-Mart Ads also tout recycled materials. Macy’s Turn Over a New Leaf campaign is designed to support, educate and inspire eco-friendly practices in everyday life, and will include special promotions and merchandise. Last year’s event raised more than $2.9 million for the National Park Foundation. Toys 'R' Us' launch the "enviro-friendly playthings,"

With a host of Earth-day activities, benefits and workshops Anthropologie is drawing attention to the simple steps we can all take to help our planet, placing special importance on the survival of the honey bees and sustainable agriculture. Office Depot customers can take advantage of free electronics recycling with the purchase of any Zip Express service. Cartridge World has launched a “Recycle it @ Cartridge World” campaign that encourages consumers to recycle printer cartridges and cell phones at participating stores.

EarthGrains bread will make a $100,000 contribution to a leading international conservation group, The Nature Conservancy, to support the protection of the world’s lands and waters. Full Circle Architects hosts a free "Building Green Can Save Green" event. Reynolds Consumer Products is offering a free roll of its new recycled aluminum wrap.

For the second year in a row, New York’s airline JetBlue Airways invited hundreds of New Yorkers to do “One Thing That’s Green” by participating in a community tree planting day to support the MillionTreesNYC movement. Last week employees at Anheuser-Busch used public transportation, car pooled, biked or walked to work; recycled, planted trees and participated in community clean-up and restoration events. Many of the company's 12 U.S. breweries have combined "Green Week" activities with the company's annual "Bring Our Kids to Work Day" event to educate employees and their children about actions they can take to benefit the environment.

Outside of Philadelphia, Kenilworth business partners will be cleaning up a local wooded area and stream. And Fairmont Hotels have introduced the "Lexus Hybrid Living Suites." From local efforts to high end initiatives, businesses are aggressively capitalizing on Earth Day, even Barbie now has a green-accessories collection just in time for Earth Day.

More companies are using the day to highlight Green products, roll out eco-friendly initiatives and disseminate Green information. Earth Day has moved well beyond the largely student-led groups of the early days and is now a day for business.

Next: Part 2, Earth Day Business Resources / Part 3, Silencing Earth Day Critics

Friday, April 17, 2009

US Cap-and-Trade: Positioning Your Business

Businesses will be the first to be impacted when cap-and-trade becomes law. In response more and more businesses are crafting strategies to increase their efficiency and reduce their carbon emission. The climate change legislation being discussed in the US will increase the cost of carbon emssions and this has multifaceted implications for business.

In a previous Green Market article entitled COP 15: Positioning Your Business, I reviewed some of the issues businesses should consider ahead of the UN Climate Change Convention in December. In this article I review some of the ways companies are positioning themselves ahead of proposed US climate change legislation.

According to Environmental author Miriam Horn, businesses should position themselves ahead of a cap-and-trade program. "I think that businesses really need to start looking at their own carbon footprint and recognizing that it has a cost right now to the atmosphere, and that cost will soon be reflected on their balance sheets."

Even without legislation, many businesses see the value of making serious changes. They are becoming more efficient and many are making demands of suppliers throughout their supply chains.

In the US, there are already regional programs focusing on efficiency and emissions reductions. As Horn has indicated many forward looking companies see real value in the move towards carbon neutrality. Some of the largest firms on the planet are getting involved including Intel, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, GE, Applied Materials, Microsoft and Dell.

"Wal-Mart is working on their whole supply chain, even in China, to try to ask all of their suppliers to find lower carbon ways to do their manufacturing and lower carbon materials."

"[DuPont] has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions 9.5 percent since 2004 by cutting its energy use 7 percent, saving $60 million in fuel, electricity and purchased steam. It's also on track to increase revenues by at least $2 billion from products designed to help its customers increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including polymers to make vehicles lighter, pressboard used in transformers in wind turbines and laminates used in hybrid vehicles."

"It’s been two or three years now since Google decided that they were going to begin operating as though there was already a cap on carbon and already a price for carbon, so all of their business decisions now reflect that. They do carbon accounting in every decision that they make."

However, extensive carbon accounting, even for behemoths like Google, cannot fully insolate a firm from the effects of recession. The company's CEO Eric Schmidt said recently, "Google is absolutely feeling the impact," According to Investor Guide, Google's quarterly report reveals its first sequential drop in sales since 2004. Google has cut its total workforce with three rounds of layoffs. In addition, Google has eliminated several side projects and its capital spending declined 40% from last year's fourth quarter.

As Google illustrates going Green does not make a firm immune to the effects of recession, it is however part of the kind of positioning that will help weather the current economic storm and take advantage of the eventual recovery. It is no coincidence that despite the recession Google continues to be profitable reporting a first quarter net income increase of 8.9% or $1.42 billion from this time last year.

Most small businesses in the US have carbon outputs that fall below the level indicated in the cap-and-trade plan contained in the proposed US climate change legislation. As the bill now reads, revenue from auctioning off carbon emission allowances will offset much of the higher energy costs. Although most small businesses will not be directly impacted by the proposed cap-and-trade legislation, reducing your businesses footprint can save money and reinforce customer loyalty.

Increasingly large and small companies are realizing that Green is more than a marketing angle, it is a basic consumer expectation. Well positioned businesses understand the particular implications of restricted carbon emissions on their industry and throughout their supply chains.

Sustainable solutions involve smart thinking, technology and innovation that respond to your set of circumstances. The first thing that any business can do is become radically efficient. Some companies are taking this further and acquiring plug in hybrids to meet their transportation needs others are completely redesigning their manufacturing processes.

Although cap-and-trade still has to overcome many obstacles to become law, the confluence of environmental and economic crises are driving a paradigm shift. Future looking businesses have a vested interest in staying ahead of the curve rather than trying to play catch-up after legislation is passed.

As stated by Horn, "Preparing for the new carbon-constrained economy might seem like a burden but will actually be a winning proposition for most businesses, helping them streamline and cut costs by cutting energy use, and also opening up new market opportunities...More and more companies are recognizing that their biggest growth opportunities will come from this transition to a low-carbon economy." The writing is on the wall and future looking businesses cannot risk being left behind.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

US Cap-and-Trade: Obstacles and Solutions

The US Congress is discussing the details of a climate bill which includes cap-and-trade. Although some hold that the proposed legislation is crucial to America's future and the future of the planet, there are others who are resistant to cap-and-trade. Some Americans are worried about job losses, others are concerned about the fact that without the participation of nations like China cap-and-trade legislation would impose unfair restrictions on US businesses and still others rue the cost.

Opposition is expected from "brown state" Senators, who are concerned about unemployment. Ratification of the bill may come down to a collection of 15 moderate Democrats from the Midwest and the West known as the "Gang of 15." These 15 Democratic senators, represent rust-belt states that are dependent on carbon emitting industries like coal mining, steel production and heavy manufacturing.

China's involvement is crucial, according to Jonathan Lash, director of the World Resources Institute, “If the U.S. and China find agreement, the world will move.” A ClimateProgress article, goes further, saying that "Obama’s entire presidency and the fate of the planet depend on it. Getting the 67 U.S. Senate votes needed to ratify a treaty, will not happen without binding commitments by China to cap emissions by 2020."

Fiscally conservative “blue dog Democrats” share cost concerns with many Republican legislators. These concerns are compounded by the fact that several estimates exceed those of the White House. Most agree that the proposed climate change bill will increase costs for energy companies and businesses that are heavy energy consumers.

Despite these concerns, many in the business community are standing up in support of action on climate change. ConocoPhillips and Shell Oil are working with the Environmental Defense Fund in a coalition called the U.S. Climate Action Partnership to push Congress on greenhouse gas reduction. The Environment Defense Fund which helped organize U.S. CAP, comprises some of the biggest companies in America, all of which support cap-and-trade. Besides Conoco Phillips and Shell Oil, the list includes Caterpillar, GE, Dupont and Dow Chemicals.

Environmental author Miriam Horn points out that companies want clarity on the rules "so that they know how to write their 10-year plans and figure out how to deploy their own investments and where to take their own companies, but some of them like GE have had direct experience with the benefits that a cap-and-trade bring. When the first cap-and-trade was put in place for sulfur dioxide in 1990 to control acid rain, GE was one of the companies that started innovating better solutions to cleaning up that pollution from coal plants and they created this whole new profit center at GE. So these companies recognize the opportunity."

Small businesses owners that fear exorbitant costs need to understand that the proposed cap-and-trade legislation will not increase energy costs to small businesses as revenue from auctioning off carbon emission allowances will offset much of the higher energy costs. According to Tony Kreindler, an Environmental Defense Fund spokesman."There are more people saying 'Yes, we've got to do something' than there are saying 'no.' "

Cap-and-trade is a workable system with functioning examples already in operation around the world. The United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism is an international greenhouse gas market. In the US, Climatebiz reports that the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative's (RGGI) is working well. "The third carbon allowance auction raised $117 million for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs in 10 Northeastern states. The system's cap is set at 188 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, which will be ratcheted down incrementally through 2018 for a 10 percent total reduction. Several reports, however, indicate emissions in 2008 were between 16 percent and 17 percent lower than the cap."

As a compromise some American legislators have indicated their support for a carbon tax over cap-and-trade. However, according to Horn, "there are a number of problems with a carbon tax but the biggest one, in terms of incentivizing technologies, is that there isn’t a way for capital to flow easily to these solutions. A tax just requires people to pay a fee and it doesn’t set any guaranteed environmental outcome. You have to guess where to set the tax. We know how much we have to reduce CO2 emissions. We don’t know how high we’d have to set a tax to achieve that. If we guess wrong we could hit one of these climate tipping points and be in real trouble."

In order to pass a climate bill, sponsors must craft a measure that satisfies both hard core supporters and more than a dozen Democratic and Republican moderates who speak for a cross-section of key industries and interest groups. By all accounts, the “Gang of 15” will be critical to achieving the additional support needed for ratification. For more information on US climate change legislation players and positions see Climate Debate.

Barbara Boxer, the chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said, "At the end of the day, when we act, we will not only avert the catastrophe of global warming, we will also create millions of green jobs," she said, "and so we are pushing harder than ever to address this issue."

America's adoption of a cap-and-trade plan would send a powerful signal to other countries in the world. And the case for cap-and-trade, is further bolstered by the fact that there is a legal basis for using trade measures to enforce environmental initiatives.

Cap-and-trade detractors point to the failure of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act last year. Although previous attempts to legislate cap-and-trade did not succeed, the current economic and environmental crises present a once in a lifetime window of opportunity.

Next: US Cap-and-Trade: Part 3, Positioning Your Business

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

US Cap-and-Trade: What and Why

As the world's largest polluter American environmental leadership is crucial for the planet. This week the US Congress begins a round of hearings on a serious energy and climate bill. This is an important piece of legislation that will be supported by the President and many Democrats.

According to a Grist article, the bill unveiled by Waxman and Markey "would create a cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide that covers any entity emitting more than 25,000 tons of CO2 per year." The proposed bill sets aside a certain number of allowances for energy-intensive industrial sectors like steel, aluminum, iron, paper, cement, glass, and chemicals. The draft also includes several provisions to control the price of carbon credits.

The draft includes a number of renewable energy and efficiency provisions as well as provisions for a smart grid. The proposed legislation includes emissions standards for new coal fired power plants, heavy vehicles, and airplanes as well as limits for the carbon content of fuel. The bill also includes efforts to accelerate progress on carbon-capture-and-sequestration.

As reported in a Money article, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) chair of the Energy & Commerce Committee, said he intends to have a cap-and-trade bill ready by late June. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) promised comprehensive energy legislation including cap-and-trade laws will be put to a vote this August.

The importance of climate change legislation cannot be overstated. Energy policy is vital to American national security interests. As is evident in America's Energy Security Trust Fund Act, energy policy is a national security issue.

According to Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp and journalist Miriam Horn's book "EARTH: The Sequel," cap-and-trade is the "silver bullet" needed to unleash clean technologies at the scale and speed required to address climate change. As Horn stated in a greenbiz interview, "we have got to do this quickly for the sake of the economy as well as for the sake of the atmosphere, and a cap-and-trade mechanism mobilizes enormous sums of money -- private money, not government money -- to flow to these low carbon solutions and allow the innovations to really advance."

According to Horn, cap-and-trade is a great way to incentivize technologies and guarantee an environmental outcome. Cap-and-trade would create the conditions that will help US companies catch up to European and Asian companies. Many green companies will experience an accelerator effect from cap and trade, this will bring them to market quickly and due to the cost advantage this will bring them to scale much faster than would otherwise have been the case. If the bill is passed into law we can expect even faster growth of renewable energy sources.

The US energy and climate bill would create millions of clean energy jobs, make America less dependent on fossil fuels, and reduce global warming pollution. This bill lays the foundation for broad international action on the climate crisis and is an important part of a climate strategy that both protects the economy and achieves environmental goals.

Energy technology is the economic engine of the coming century and if America is to lead, passage of cap-and-trade legislation is crucial.

Next: US Cap-and-Trade Part 2, Obstacles and Solutions / US Cap-and-trade Part 3, Positioning Your Business

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter from the IMF

Despite the recession, businesses and governments continue to lay the foundation for a Greener world. Easter is but the latest cultural fixture to go Green. With billions being spent, Easter is huge for chocolate manufacturers and retailers. The chocolate industry is getting serious about reducing packaging and the White Houses' 2009 souvenir egg, is the "Greenest" egg in history.

According to a UK article, the chocolate industry creates 4,500 tons of packaging every year, but manufacturers of Easter confections are getting serious about reducing packaging. "Nestle is removing plastic from 20 million of its products. It says the changes will bring a 30 per cent reduction in the weight of packaging, cutting some 700 tons of waste - equivalent to 100 double-decker buses....Also out are the plastic bags that hold the sweets that sit inside the eggs. As well as cutting waste, the move will reduce transport costs and emissions because each [truck] consignment can carry more of the smaller boxes - saving some 48,000 road miles."

Perhaps the greatest gift this Easter comes from an unlikely source. The IMF, often derided for its tendency to favor developed nations by attaching strings to the credit it provides, is now being cast as a savior for the collapsing world economy. As reported in Time, since September 2008, the IMF has provided rescue packages totaling more than $50 billion for Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Ukraine and other financially struggling countries.

On April 2, G-20 leaders in London agreed to "triple the IMF's resources to $750 billion, and to allow it to issue a further $250 billion on its own. Part of that money is supposed to go to countries suddenly in financial straits, and part is designed to serve as a more general liquidity boost to the contracting world economy."

Money is not the only offering from the IMF, important changes in the way the IMF functions have been proposed. According to these proposals Europe and the US will share power with emerging economies such as Brazil, China and Russia. Further, the IMF will play a more active role supporting and enforcing regulation.

This would reflect a return to the IMF as it was outlined by John Maynard Keynes in the 1940's. The IMF "is not a Red Cross philanthropic relief scheme, by which the rich countries come to the rescue of the poor," Keynes declared. Rather, it should be a "highly necessary mechanism, which is at least as useful to the creditor as to the debtor."

If the G20 declarations are put into practice, this will represent a profound shift in international monetary policy with the IMF playing a pivotal role. And the current recession makes it difficult to overstate the importance of stabilizing the world economy.

The proposed changes to the IMF are an important step on the road to sustainablity because global stability and international cooperation are crucial to the world wide proliferation of Green.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Businesses Must Cooperate for Climate Change Solutions

Debate on an international climate change framework is getting some much needed input from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). However, it would appear that many in the business community do not understand that economic recovery and the future of sustainability depend on the development of a low-carbon global economy.

Demonstrators at the G20 London summit urged governments to begin legislating the transition to this new economy. Although last week's G20 declarations did not focus on climate change, the world's wealthiest nations managed to reach agreement on unprecedented economic cooperation.

On April 2, 2009, the WBCSD organized a side event during the Bonn Climate Change talks on the Business Contribution to the Climate Change Debate. "The WBCSD and its member companies have been working together to contribute to the debate on climate change, energy access, energy security and competitiveness by sharing knowledge, new ideas and pragmatic solutions."

Despite the uncertainty of many business owners, some understand that the business community has a vested interest in climate change solutions. According to the WBCSD, "as the major delivery agents of low-carbon investment, innovation, products and services, [business] must have a voice at the table."

The WBCSD, "is working with leading, global CEOs to support negotiators in this process by recommending specific policy mechanisms that might contribute to a cost-effective and environmentally sound future climate framework. The WBCSD's new publication, Towards a Low Carbon Economy, aims to share business experience in technology development and deployment, finance and carbon markets, cooperative sectoral approaches and adaptation and proposes policy recommendations for a future agreement. The Bali Action Plan, agreed at the 13th climate change conference in Indonesia and advanced at the negotiations in Bonn...outlines technology, finance and adaptation as key elements of the negotiation process leading to a new climate agreement."

WBCSD's recommendations advocate a framework where countries work collectively and cooperatively. Their recommendations are summarized as follows:

A future framework must enable countries to collectively work towards a low-carbon economy with the urgency needed. This includes emissions reduction targets for developed countries and supporting infrastructure to enhance the financial and technology flows to developing countries to slow emissions growth and work towards net emission reductions in the longer term. Low-carbon technologies exist and have the potential to significantly reduce global emissions, but enabling frameworks and specific policy responses are needed to support their rapid deployment, in developed and developing countries.

New technologies will also be needed. A future framework must facilitate the scale-up of research, development and demonstration of clean energy technologies through new financial mechanisms and international cooperation.

A future framework must unleash large-scale private and public investment by enhancing carbon markets and effectively using public funding to leverage private finance. Financial flows to developing countries need to be enhanced by addressing investment barriers, extending and streamlining the Clean Development Mechanism, and establishing new mechanisms to drive large scale investments.

Collaboration between developed and developing countries on sector-specific mitigation and adaptation activities can enhance actions and increase financial flows to developing countries.
A future framework should enable the establishment of strong, integrated infrastructure planning and policy environments to promote adaptive capacity and resilience planning.

Although sharing technology with competitors in the developing world may seem like an anathema to private enterprise, it is actually driven by enlightened self interest. Wealthier nations have a vested interest in sharing clean technologies with the emerging world, because unless this is a truly global effort we have no hope of combating climate change.

Clean tech and energy technology (ET) are destined for unbridled growth, businesses that lead in these sectors will be global leaders. The Chinese understand this and so does Obama, but for the uninformed, clean-tech and ETs like renewables are viewed as costly philanthropic endeavors rather than pragmatic investments that will yield unparalleled monetary and environmental dividends.

A low carbon economy will stimulate the economy and foster innovation while reducing emissions. There are costs associated with a new low carbon economy, but they represent a fraction of the potential return.

Friday, April 3, 2009

G20 Lays the Foundation for a Better World

At the G20's London Summit, the governments of the world's wealthiest nations showed their support for free markets and global trade as well as a willingness to assist those in the emerging world who have been hardest hit by this recession.

The CBC reports that G20 nations will inject $1 trillion into the world economy in an effort to curb the global financial crisis. Hedge funds will be made to submit to regulation, banks will be more transparent and trade financing will be made available over the next two year through several institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The package even has some teeth, it includes tough standards and sanctions for those who do not come into line. US President Barack Obama said, "we will identify jurisdictions that refuse to co-operate, including tax havens, and we will take action against them."

International financial reform includes regulating credit agencies to end conflicts of interest. Tax havens will have to disclose their banking details. An early warning mechanism will also be put in place to avert similar global calamities in the future. And an oversight group will monitor pay and bonuses to ensure they reflect actual performance.

Germany's Merkel, the leader of the largest European economy, praised the outcome of the G20 meeting, saying it was a "very, very good, almost historic compromise." Despite Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's absence from the group photo, Canada played a prominent role. Harper told reporters in London the actions that world leaders have taken "really is unprecedented, co-ordinated, and fast action by the international community to an economic crisis, and frankly a speed and level of engagement that we've never seen in the past."

Canada is in good shape, "because of a regulatory system that enabled domestic banks to stave off many of the ills afflicting other institutions overseas," Harper said. Appropriately Canada was an integral part of a financial regulation report that was used as the model for the G20s regulatory efforts announced on Thursday.

Obama praised the communiqué agreed upon at the London G20 summit for tackling the economic crisis head-on. "This document will help put an end to the bubble and bust economy that prohibits sustained growth," he said. He painted the expenditure as an investment, rather than charitable aid. "These are all future markets for all economies," he said.

Harper said the agreement reached at the conclusion of the G20 summit in London was a "remarkable statement" that should give financial markets "an awful lot of confidence." Indeed international stock markets reacted well as summit leaders revealed the largest economic stimulus package the world as ever seen.

Rather than exacerbate the problem, as some had feared, world leaders managed to resist protectionism, fix the financial system and stimulate the global economy thereby contributing to a global recovery.

As Harper said, we have shared economic values regarding "the importance of globalized markets, free trade, … [and] also the importance of governments' responsibilities to act economically and socially when catastrophe hits."

Contrary to the tired polemics of protestors, this summit shows that governments can intercede and manage free markets to serve humanity. Brown said, "We want to encourage corporate responsibility in every part of the world." "Today the largest countries in the world have agreed to a global plan for recovery and reform," Brown said. "I think the new world order is emerging and with it the foundations of a new and progressive era of international co-operation."

As predicted by The Green Market last November, this crisis could auger the dawn of a new international system that balances free markets and government oversight. This crisis affords a great opportunity, not only to better manage our economies but to invest in a global Green New Deal and eventually create a Sustainable World Order.

Green is a powerful catalyst for consensus building. However even Obama's pledge to lead the New Energy Economy cannot arrest the threat to our environment without the participation of the rest of the world. That participation may be forthcoming as we may be on the cusp of a new era of international economic and environmental cooperation. With its extraordinary industrial growth, China's participation is key. We are seeing evidence of greater cooperation and as we know, China-US cooperation is vital to recovery and the environment.

The Chinese character for difficulty also means opportunity, appropriately China is planning to work closely with the US as it assumes its responsibilities alongside other nations in the global community. I am amongst those who dare to hope that the agreement achieved at the G20 in London, constitutes the beginning of a global commitment to greater economic, social and environmental responsibility.

G20 London Summit Leaders Statement
Declaration on Strengthening the Financial System
Declaration on Delivering Resources Through the International Financial Institutions

Thursday, April 2, 2009

G20 Protestors Dilute Green Message

Amid calls to 'make capitalism history,' leaders of the world's wealthiest nations are gathering in London today. The G20 together account for about 90 percent of global economic output and although called the G20, the summit will actually involve 24 nations. Normal G20 meetings involve the world's 19 largest economies plus the European Union. But the host, Mr Brown, has also invited the leaders of Spain, The Netherlands, Thailand, and Ethiopia.

G20 leaders have already agreed to a $2 trillion stimulus in November and appear to be ready to do more. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he will ask G20 leaders to agree on a $100 billion fund to boost world trade, which has fallen dramatically in recent months. Writing in the London Evening Standard, Brown said that a great deal had already been achieved as a consequence of the decision to hold a meeting of G20 leaders in London. The G20 normally meets at the finance minister level, today's meeting will mark only the second time that the heads of government have assembled.

"Already the work leading to the summit has generated action on a wide range of issues, on a scale that would normally have taken years to achieve," Brown wrote. "In short, the economics of the Depression-era US president Herbert Hoover – of doing nothing except retrenchment and cutting spending – has been firmly rejected right across the globe. Governments of left and right are intervening to take action to help people and businesses in their countries through this global recession."

According to an article in the Guardian, The Prime Minister Brown's spokesman said."We see it very much as a process, rather than an individual meeting. It is a process that is nearer to its beginning than its end," the spokesman said. Obama also stressed the need for leaders attending the G20 to "deliver a strong message of unity" for the sake of the world economy. France's President Sarkozy joined the two world leaders in making a similar point.

Protests demanding economic and environmental reforms persist even in the face of ongoing efforts to address climate change in Bonn and the global regulation of financial markets in London. At the start of 6 days of protest, an estimated 35,000 people converged on Hyde Park last Saturday. Scotland Yard has indicated that it has undertaken efforts to combat radical groups that are promising violent protests. Many banks have boarded up their windows in anticipation of violence that has become predictable. Despite these precautions, the Financial Times reports that protests by anti-capitalist demonstrators turned violent on Wednesday smashing windows at a branch of Royal Bank of Scotland in a hail of missiles from an angry mob screaming "storm the banks." One man collapsed and died at the protest, police said, and 88 arrests were made.

Four marches, led by representations of horsemen of the apocalypse, converged on the Bank of England at the ‘Financial Fools’ day’ yesterday. An FT reporter at the scene said: “They’re going into RBS and they are urinating in the bank. The words “Burn” and “Thieves” were scrawled in spray paint on the outside of the building. Protesters attacked the offices, shouting: ”These streets, our streets! These banks, our banks!” Some of the banners read: “Eat the Bankers”, and “Capitalism Isn’t Working." One group of protesters urged people watching from the top of Santander bank to “jump”.

One protester wearing a balaclava and carrying a sign saying "welcome to pig city” and who declined to be named said: "I am an anti-capitalist, I am an anarchist. It’s a rich man’s club. I believe in class war. It is poor versus rich, as simple as that.”

Although no one spokesperson can represent the diverse interests of those protesting, Sharan Burrow head of the International Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) comes closest when she said, "It cannot be business as usual. We want to see action, we want to see a recovery plan that includes the world's poorest nations (and) is focused on jobs, green jobs." Protestors were fueled by the ACTU president who told the rally in Hyde Park that greedy corporate leaders were responsible for the economic crisis and they were still trying to fill their own pockets despite the biggest economic collapse in decades.

Ms Burrow said, "the fraudulent corporate deal that has sold us a myth that you can leverage profits off debt has actually continued." The corporate architects of the crisis are "already seeing that the party is over but wanting to get their last bits and pieces out of the deal...Those bankers who are taking those big bonuses, the CEOs taking their salaries and sacking workers, we know that they still need to get the message and the message is the party is over," she said.

A great many people and politicians blame unchecked ''Anglo-Saxon'' capitalism and lax financial regulation for the economic crisis. Last week Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, said ''this is a crisis that was caused by white people with blue eyes'' who "before the crisis they looked as if they knew everything about economics.''

Who are the groups involved in protest and what do they want? According to an MSNBC article, the tens of thousands of people who marched across central London Saturday were demanding jobs, economic justice and environmental accountability. However there are more than 150 groups each with their own agenda.

There are many Green advocacy groups protesting in London including, Camp For Climate Action, Campaign Against Climate Change, Rising Tide and People and Planet. However, Green advocates find themselves in a coalition of protestors. Some of the biggest groups behind Saturday's demonstration were the Stop The War Coalition and Youth Fight for Jobs. The broad coalition of protestors also includes a wide range of other causes and interests from Anti-Israeli advocacy to a campaign against the expansion of Heathrow airport.

The goals of the protest are anything but clear, some want the leaders of the G20 to admit responsibility others want to see world leaders abdicate, as though they were protesting at the gates of an eighteenth century monarch.

Despite the diverse causes represented in London, there is an underlying anti-capitalist sentiment. Andy Bain, the president of Transport Salaried Staffs' Association said, "All the money is going to the rich." To underscore this sentiment, some G20 protestors have adopted slogans such as "Hang a Banker."

All throughout Europe demonstraters set their sights on the G20 emergency summit. Berlin police estimated that around 10,000 people gathered in front of the capital's city hall last Saturday with some demonstrators carrying placards saying, "make capitalism history." While some are protesting against capitalism others appear to be protesting the notion of a government stimulus, and others are just there to throw rocks.

Direct action represents a threat to business and the G20 Emergency Summit is but the latest example. We have seen protests in Europe (Ireland, France, Greece, Britain) Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Lithuania) and Asia (Japan, Vietnam), the Caribbean (Guadeloupe, Martinique) and Africa (Chad). In the US, at the end of February several "tea parties" were held to protest Obama's stimulus initiatives.

It is easy to understand the public's support for a powerful coordinated Green global stimulus, as well as regulation and reform in financial markets. Few would dare dispute that we need more active oversight for economic innovations like collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), and governments are poised to more actively regulate free markets. In the US Obama has made his support for a Green stimulus spending clear, he has aslo preemptively introduced his own broad plan to overhaul financial regulation.

However, rather than support these efforts, protestors have made unrealistic and often contradictory demands. There are so many competing issues being raised, the Green agenda loses its focus. Anachronistic revolutionary sentiments dilute support for action on climate change within the existing UN framework and give credence to claims that Green advocates are in league with anarchists.

Protestors outrage at government, the upper class and capitalism is really motivated by a mood rather than an issue. Frustration and anger are fueling the fires of protest in effect, obscuring the issues.

These protests underscore the dangerous partnership between the growing ranks of disillusioned unemployed and radical environmentalists. Those of us who are serious about fostering recovery and supporting climate change legislation must not allow Green advocacy to be hijacked by stone throwing anarchists.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Road to Copenhagen (COP 15): Positioning Your Business

Whether to escape the kind of direct pressure we are seeing at the latest round of G20 talks or simply to be more competitive, businesses need to consider the ways they can adjust ahead of pending regulation on climate change. UN delegates are meeting in Bonn again today to continue to work out the details of a post Kyoto climate change treaty.

Within the next year we can expect to see some form of global treaty on climate change (see Timetable). In this trying economy, businesses need to be prepared to manage the major changes that are on the way.

Although the details of climate change regulation will likely differ depending on your industry and where you are located, it is clear that energy management is at the center of a post Kyoto UN climate deal.

To position your business ahead of COP 15, it is well advised to consider the impact climate change regulation will have on your business. Try to anticipate how you will function with higher energy costs, then depending on the amount of energy you use, factor costs from the carbon associated with that energy use. Make sure you consider indirect effects like how your suppliers will be impacted. Some businesses will need to carefully examine their supply chain to ascertain how regulations upstream could effect costs or create problems in their supply. Investigate the ways in which emission caps and trading could effect your company and your industry.

Perhaps most importantly businesses can get involved by contributing to the discussion. Now is the time for companies to engage the issues and help shape climate policy. Get involved with different standards groups, particularly those that address your supply chain and how carbon footprinting is measured.

Consider the ways in which innovation could reduce your energy requirements in your production processes and other cores activities. Understanding the issues will enable you to begin planning a strategy and properly positioning your business will give you a competitive advantage over firms that wait for the legislation to drop before responding.

To inform yourself about the major issues being discussed at UN Climate Change Conferences see the implications for business. Keep abreast of the latest developments at UN Climate Change discussion go to UNFCC press headlines, COP 15 News, UN News Centre, Earth Negotiations Bulletin, Climate Action Network, and Third World Network. See guidance on GHG emissions footprinting at the World Resources Institute (WRI) website.

Assess and lower emissions using the tools, information and resources in the Green Link Library to the right. Stay ahead of the risk by conducting broad policy assessments of sociopolitical situations, using resources like the Economist Intelligence Unit, the International Country Risk Guide, Business Environment Risk Intelligence, and S. J. Rundt & Associates.

Next: G20 Protests