Posts Tagged ‘Sustainable Industries’
Sustainable Industries magazine has just issued its top 9 trends for 2009. They are not posted online, so I’ll summarize them here. (If you’re not a subscriber yet, consider becoming one.)
- Smart grid takes off:
Overall, the trend report suggests an economy that will continue to transform itself in the face of a deep recession. Progress may slow some next year, but sustainability is no passing fad.
Good piece in the June issue of Sustainable Industries (subscription req.) on Dave Williams, CEO of ShoreBank Pacific bank and a resident of the Portland area. The magazine named Williams one of its 20 Leading Green Executives for his success in taking ShoreBank Pacific into the black using a triple-bottom-line (people, planet, profits) approach to its business.
A couple of Williams’ comments struck me as right on. One was his comparison of the cultures of Oregon and the Bay Area around sustainable business development:
“Oregon has historically been a small-business state, so the strength of any particular community is dependent on the strength of the business in it,” he says. “But in the Bay Area, business is oddly independent of community.” Williams attributes that to a venture-capital mindset in the region. “The thinking is, ‘How do we build it and make it international then sell it off and do something else?” he says. “There’s a different approach to business and community that you get in Oregon where the feeling is more that we need these businesses and we’ll keep them going for the next 100 years.”
From my two decades in high tech, I know the VC model of the Bay Area (and elsewhere) has its place, especially in fostering innovation. But Williams perfectly captures the limitation of the VC business culture: it operates independent of community.
The mindset of fund it, build it and sell it has yet to translate into most urban areas, much less rural areas. That’s certainly the case in Oregon. What’s needed and wanted in most communities are stable, locally rooted businesses that provide solid jobs over many years and understand their success cannot be divorced from the communities in which they operate. The VC model doesn’t serve that need.
Williams, a Portland area resident, also drew an important distinction between green and sustainability. He says his bank distinguishes itself from other banks by focusing on sustainable communities not just green.
“My sense is there will be a backlash over the next three to four years about sustainability, caused by concerns about ethanol and rising food costs, and we need to be prepared for that and consistent in telling our story and why it makes sense.” In the end, Williams says ShoreBank’s commitment to sustainable communities may help it weather a shift in public opinion. “People who only characterize themselves as being ‘green’ will be under more stress than those that focus on community development and building sustainable communities.”
I agree with Williams. Green is often more about how businesses see themselves, while sustainability emphasizes the interconnections among business, community and environment. In other words, sustainability is not all about you, the business. It’s about operating from a larger mission or purpose than simply finding ways to make money from your customers’ interests in green products or services. And I believe over time, people will reward those businesses, like ShoreBank, that understand the difference.