Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Most Important Green Business Stories of 2010

On December 21, Bloomberg Business published Harvard Review's most important stories affecting the greening of business in 2010. Here is a rough summary of the review.

US Politicians Fail to Pass Climate Legislation

The US Senate's failure to pass climate change legislation impedes global efforts to address climate change and undermines the competitiveness of American companies. The Republicans midterm election victory in the House of Representatives have definitively killed any hope of US climate legislation for at least two years. While the American legislature dithers, governments in the rest of the world are helping businesses to make the transition to a low carbon economy.


China has assumed a leadership role in renewable energy. China is now the world's largest solar producer and they now control almost half of the $45 billion global market for wind turbines. While China's support for its renewables companies may violate the WTO accord, there can be no doubt that China is investing massively in the low carbon economy through technology and innovation driven development that focuses on energy saving, environmental protection, and the low-carbon economy.

Declining Resource Availability

Climate change is impacting on countries around the world and this is directly effecting the availability of resources. Russia had the worst drought in 1,000 years and Pakistan was inundated by flooding. These weather events directly affect resource availability. The drought in Russia destroyed 40% of its wheat crop, pulling 1/6 of the world's trade in the crop off the global market, driving up wheat prices. The floods in Pakistan helped double the price of cotton. There is also evidence that rare earth metals, so vital to green technologies, may soon be in short supply.

The Growth of Electric Vehicles

A number of electric vehicles are now available in America and around the world. The Nissan LEAF and the Chevrolet Volt are amongst a plethora of electric vehicles that entered into the marketplace in 2010. An increasing number of companies are greening their fleets. This year GE announced that it would purchase 25,000 Electric vehicles including the Chevy Volt.

The Growth of Renewable Energy

The market for renewables is growing fast, in countries like Portugal almost half (45%) of the countries electricity comes from renewables. HSBC says the market for clean tech and climate change solutions will top $2.2 trillion by 2020.

The Growth of Sustainable Supply Chains

Despite the recession, there were numerous green supply chain announcements in 2010. These announcements include Wal-Mart which said it would eliminate 20 million metric tons of GHG emissions from its supply chain. We also saw major supply chain announcements from companies like IBM, Pepsi, Tropicana, P&G, and Kaiser Permanente.

Corporate Waste Reduction

Many corporations are working hard on waste reduction. GM announced that 62 of its plants now send zero waste to landfill, and UK retailer Marks & Spencer reached a 92% diversion rate on the way to its zero goals. Sony set a goal of zero environmental impact across its operations by 2050.

Sustainable Corporate Goals

Many large corporations are setting aggressive targets. Panasonic said it wanted its GHG emissions to peak by 2018 and it would greatly increase sales of eco-products. Unilever has announced that it would double sales by 2020 while halving its environmental impact the company has also announced other big goals.

The Greening of Small Business

Small companies are also seeing the value of going green. The fact that California's Bowman Design only has 10 employees and just 2,000 square feet of office space in Southern California has not prevented it from reducing the companies GHG emissions by 65% and saving $9,000 savings annually.

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