Business & Technology

Brit's Eye View: <em>Capitalism As If the World Matters</em>

New book by Porritt argues that we need to reshape capitalism to deliver a sustainable future

Peter Madden, chief executive of Forum for the Future, writes a monthly column for Gristmill on sustainability in the U.K. and Europe. ----- We have just published the American paperback version of Capitalism As If the World Matters. The book is written by Jonathon Porritt, one of the foremost environmentalists of his generation and cofounder of my organization, Forum for the Future. The foreword is by Amory Lovins. As well as working with us, Jonathon is chair of the U.K. Government's Sustainable Development Commission. Previously, he was director of Friends of the Earth. In the book, he tackles the most pressing question of the 21st century: Can capitalism, as the dominant economic system, be reshaped to deliver a sustainable future? He argues that it can be and it must be. He then lays out the framework for a more "sustainable capitalism." At the heart of the book are two theses: that capitalism is basically the only game in town, with the vast majority of the world's people content for it to remain so for the foreseeable future; and that learning to live sustainably on the planet is a non-negotiable imperative.

Wal-Mart will track some suppliers’ energy efficiency

Unrelenting in its quest for eco-domination, Wal-Mart has announced a plan to keep tabs on some suppliers’ energy efficiency. Through a partnership with the Carbon Disclosure Project, Wal-Mart will request emissions data from about 30 companies that collectively supply DVDs, toothpaste, soap, milk, beer, vacuum cleaners, and soft drinks. (Sure they’re all commonly used, but — random, anyone?) The project is very much a wee first step, as Wal-Mart has about 68,000 suppliers; the company has not yet determined whether it will use the information gleaned to actually demand that suppliers reduce emissions.

Green green

A roundup of green financial services

Joel Makower’s got a good round-up of new green financial services — mortgages, loans, etc. The holy grail of green financing tools, far as I know, is "Connie Mae," Al Gore’s proposed carbon-neutral equivalent to Fannie Mae.

Must-read climate report from Lehman Brothers

Climate policy and its implications for business

Lehman Brothers has just released a terrific report, "The Business of Climate Change II." The theme is, "Policy is accelerating, with major implications for companies and investors"; but the piece has a lot of breadth, with cogent comments on everything from the social/damage cost of carbon, to auctioning vs. grandfathering, to the Stern Report. Here are some extended excerpts:

Greenpeace releases another ranking of tech companies’ environmental records

Greenpeace has released the fifth version of its Guide to Greener Electronics, and lauds the tech industry for making “great improvements” since the first scorecard hit the scene in August 2006. Nokia, Sony Ericsson, and Dell took the top three spots this time around; Apple, the CEO of which was rankled by his company’s dead-last ranking in April, is now solidly tied with Hewlett-Packard for second-to-last, ahead of Panasonic. The report, released yesterday, noted that HP is “in free fall” on the list; also yesterday, coincidentally, HP launched an effort to improve e-waste recycling in Africa. sources:

Dirty hippies at it again

Another agrofuel protest hits City Hall

Candace Heckman, writing for the Seattle P-I Big Blog, put up a brief post about the protest yesterday by Duff Badgley and his rag-tag group against local biodiesel-refiner Imperium Renewables. Imperium is getting downright defensive: Imperium spokesman John Williams said this afternoon that the company is actively looking at "feedstocks" other than palm oil, and that for the next year-and-a-half, the City of Seattle would not be buying biodiesel made from palm. This blog post "makes it sound like at some point we might sell palm biodiesel to the city. We haven't, we don't and we won't." Get the violins and hankies out: Williams said his company is being unfairly targeted ... [ahem] Although, Imperium is not in the position to completely swear off palm as the company grows into a global corporation. Imperium has no choice. It has to make a profit. It has to try to pay back its investors. It is pointless to harp at Imperium. The power lies entirely in the hands of the consumer who can choose not to purchase food crop based agrodiesel. The problem is with our local politicians. They have mandated its use, subsidized its profit margin, and to ice the cake, have allowed millions of dollars of retirement funds to be invested in Imperium. This was all done with money taken from consumers via taxes. Adding insult to injury, these same consumers have to buy back this environmentally destructive fuel from the government at whatever cost every time they take a bus or ferry. Our politicians may have good intentions, but the road to hell is starting to look like a parking lot.

Is this an emergency?

Is global warming the moral equivalent of World War II?

From Al Gore to Lester Brown, writers concerned about preventing the worst of global warming have proposed that our "commitment will need to be of a scale comparable to what we did during World War II." But the parallels never go beyond a vague reference. PBS is about to run a series, premiering this Sunday, called "The War," so it might be a good time to think a little more deeply about the connection. There are two main questions that need to be asked: Is global warming -- or more generally, the assault on the biosphere, including the wholesale destruction of ecosystems and species -- an emergency, as was World War II? In other words, do we have to do something quickly? Second, what was done in World War II to meet the emergency, and what lessons can we learn from that response?

ADM's man at the USDA

USDA secretary resigns; industrial-corn man takes charge

Big doings at the USDA yesterday: Mike Johanns, the reliably pro-agribiz former governor of Nebraska, resigned from his post as USDA chair — right in the middle of Farm Bill negotiations, now in the Senate. He says he’s going to run for the Senate seat that Chuck Hagel is vacating. Chuck Conner, currently the USDA’s no. 2 man, will be the agency’s acting secretary. Conner joined the Bush administration in 2001 as the president’s "special assistant" on ag issues, and joined the USDA in 2005. Before working for Bush, Conner spent four years as executive director of the Corn Refiners …

Red Sox partner with NRDC to green Fenway Park

America’s national pastime is going green in Beantown as the Red Sox step up to the plate to make going to Fenway Park a whole new ball game. Under a five-year partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s oldest active ballpark may vend beer in corn-starch-based cups, serve local, organic food from concession stands, add solar panels, and even initiate a new tradition: a fifth-inning recycling stretch. Sounds like their bases are covered.

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