November 2, 2008

The Greening of American Business

Joel Makower comments on the opportunities and challenges presented by the green economy

For twenty years Joel Makower has been a prolific and insightful communicator about businesses and their role in developing environmentally sustainable practices. He has his own website and Two Steps Forward blog. Many recognize him for his frequent speaking engagements at Clean-tech, business, academic, and investment conferences throughout the country. In short, he is a multi-media "bridge-builder" - as high a compliment as I am accustomed to making.
Joel is co-founder and executive editor of Greener World Media, Inc., which produces and its sister sites,,, and He also serves as a senior strategist at GreenOrder, a sustainability consultancy, as well as co-founder and principal of Clean Edge Inc., a research and publishing firm focusing on building markets for clean energy technologies.

Joel Makower is also the author of more than a dozen books, including his latest titled "Strategies for the Green Economy: Opportunities and Challenges in the New World of Business" which I found to be a very illuminating snapshot of the operational successes and marketing shortcomings of environmentally conscious American businesses in today's economy. Joel offers a constructive discourse on the way many businesses assess the challenges and address the opportunities of "going green."

To be sure, many business marketing campaigns, in a vain attempt to appear green, are "all hat and no cattle" - calling themselves green for marketing purposes without any substantial impact on their environmental footprint. But Joel is fair in assessing which are making sincere attempts and he cites many examples that help define and illustrate what truly contributing to environmental sustainability is all about.

One of my favorite chapters is titled "You Gotta have CRED" - an acronym for Credibility | Relevance | Effective Messaging | Differentiation. Created by GreenOrder, a business strategy firm that he is affiliated with, CRED is the framework for crafting green strategies and messaging that work. He explains what and how necessary each element is and then simply concludes "Bottom line: You can start anywhere. The important thing is to cover all the bases."

Another chapter with particular relevance to my BIOwaste and BIOstock Blogs is titled "A Tale of Two Circles" which has pie charts I hadn't seen paired before (see my rendition above). It not only shows the total (.2 billion tons per year) and breakdown of municipal solid waste in the U.S. but also shows it to be a minor component of total trash in the country that comes from industrial waste.

In a recent post on his blog, Waste is a Profitable Thing to Mind he summarizes the import of the graphic:
The annual 13 billion tons of Gross National Trash is a costly burden on the environment, not to mention the companies that create these wastes and have to responsibly dispose of them. And it represents a vast untapped business opportunity for Waste Management and the world's other haulers and recyclers to find new ways to create value from these waste streams, or to eliminate them in the first place.

One of the true benefits of the new push for bioenergy would be the development of technologies that can efficiently clean up and tap the energy contained in the organic content of these waste streams.

Another important question that he addresses in the book is "Is green business a fad or a trend?" He then gives ten reasons why he thinks it is an enduring issue for businesses for years to come. Among them are: 1 - The problems aren't getting any better, 2 - The environment has become a fiduciary issue, 3 - Companies are moving beyond "sustainability" and 4 - There's money to be made.

Read the book to learn about these topics and others relevant to issues covered in the BIOenergy BlogRing.

You can hear Joel Makower interviewed for a NewPage OnPaper podcast recorded October 1st at the SustainCommWorld Live after his keynote speech.

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