While some companies cut back on energy, others don’t have to worry about it much. That’s because they’ve gone green and more will likely soon follow in their footsteps.
In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger hosted British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the leaders agreeing to bypass the Bush administration in the quest to go greener, planning to work together on research.
Move over Sierra Club. Some of the biggest names are pushing the business of being green.
From NBC parent company General Electric Chief Jeff Immelt, the force behind GE’s Eco-Imagination initiative, to Wal-Mart Chief Lee Scott, who is pledging to reduce greenhouse emissions and energy use as a key priority for the retail giant. (MSNBC.com is a joint venture of NBC and Microsoft.)
“We have a confluence of the economics and the environment coming together. It’s making much more sense from a bottom line point of view," said Jack Robinson of Winslow Management.
Analysts cite rising fuel prices and mounting global warming concerns for putting energy conservation on the corporate front burner. Green consultant Andrew Shaprio advised GE on its Eco-Imagination strategy and says the proof of it is in growth in areas like GE’s Wind Generation division.
“In it’s annual report, GE announced it had made $10 billion. They’ve set a goal to double that by 2010 and they’ve already got $17 billion in orders going forward, so this is big business," said Shapiro.
Beyond energy conservation and generation, the debate over greenhouse emissions may be among the most intriguing development in the greening of corporate America.
“We’re looking at markets and we’re recognizing that if you line up financial incentives with social objectives, it’s a win-win situation," said Richard Sandor of Environmental Financial Products.
Europe now has a CO2 emission cap and a market where companies can trade emission credits, so that a firm that puts out less CO2 can sell credits to one that emits more. The Bush administration has resisted the system, but big businesses like GE, Dupont and Wall Street heavyweight Goldman Sachs, under former chair Henry Paulson, have all argued for regulation.
“If you start to see the CEO’s of the world’s major companies lining up behind an issue, I think that’s a pretty good indicator that it makes some decent economic sense," said Shapiro.