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Can global businesses be truly sustainable? Green tech is just part of the answer

One thing I miss about living in the San Francisco Bay Area is my access to random briefings on heady technology issues, like the OpenEco Energy Camp that was held Wednesday at one of Sun Microsystems' facilities. Thanks to the wonders of webcasting, I checked in for about 45 minutes on the webcast, but got bounced out after a while for some reason, so I will need to watch the replay to digest what was really said.
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Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

One thing I miss about living in the San Francisco Bay Area is my access to random briefings on heady technology issues, like the OpenEco Energy Camp that was held Wednesday at one of Sun Microsystems' facilities. Thanks to the wonders of webcasting, I checked in for about 45 minutes on the webcast, but got bounced out after a while for some reason, so I will need to watch the replay to digest what was really said.

One thing that really got me all jazzed up before my abrupt exit was some comments by L. Hunter Lovins, author of the book "Natural Capitalism Solutions." As you might imagine, Lovins is really keyed into the fact that before coal-powered manufacturing plants born of the Industrial Revolution began spitting out carbon-laden emissions to fuel a new economy, most businesses were locally sustainable. That is, owners used materials that were sourced nearby, in turn selling their own products in their close-knit community.

It is ironic, but not coincidental that the heightened pressure today's mammoth corporations feel to take their business global is happening simultaneous with the rise of green technology and all things eco-friendly. Rising world economic powers such as China and India are, reality, still informed by populations who grew up with the notion of local sustainability. To many emerging economies, the consumption habits of the United States and other developed nations are not just foreign, they are alien.

Now consider the fact that some alternative/renewable energy sources, take wind as an example, are very geography-dependent. That is, the weather or the topographical nature of certain countries and places is critical in the build-out of solar photovoltaic panels or wind turbines. You have to think about sustainability if you're involved with alternative energy.

It is Lovins' view that we as a business society have access to all the technologies to help us rethink the business of sustainability. It comes down to changing corporate culture. "How do we make business like nature?" she asks.

The green technology movement turned a corner a few months back when Former Vice President Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize. I could point to any one of several studies by reputable IT research firms demonstrating that the IT world now "gets" it. It's time to stop focusing on arguing the case green business practices and start the yeoman's work of using all the tools we have at our disposal to make it happen.

Stepping off the soapbox now.

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