One of the best things about living in san fran, beside the access to Tahoe, great culture and everything else that draws millions of visitors a year and sky high housing prices, is its role as a fulcrum for my area of business, sustainability and green. There are so many people and companies working in this space in the City and in Silicon Valley, and as an innovation nexus it is much easier to make connections across organizations and sense emerging trends in corporate sustainability.
One annual event that takes place in the area and has served as a great marker is the State of Green Business forum hosted by GreenBiz. At this event, which took place 2 weeks ago in San Fran, and now with companion events in Chicago and Washington, greenbiz introduces their annual report on green in the corporate sector and host a number of leaders and executives in the corporate sustainability space.
I like to use this event to report out to the Avaya community both the substance of the conference and my impressions as we look to continue to grow the sustainability program here at Avaya, which we hope is a forward and growing journey.
My 2 takeaway thoughts
- Corporate sustainability is ascendant: the results from numerous studies show investment in sustainability/green programs and innovation has risen through the economy challenges of the last 2+ years. This is in contrast to past economic slowdowns, where this investment was often one of the first things on the chopping block at corporations looking to get leaner.
- Co-mingling of transformation and disruption: these two concepts seemed to permeate so many of the presentations and side conversations throughout the event. This subset of professionals, including me, have a vision around the needed, and I would argue ongoing, evolution of the global economy. This vision is one of disruptive and radical new ways of connecting, collaborating and living. For example, there is a marked difference between incremental efficiency gains, such as the Avaya 9600 series phones that are more efficient and technology that migrates business to the digital realm, such as Avaya's web.alive solution. The green core team @Avaya has done some back of the envelope calculations around the energy footprint of web.alive versus energy requirements of standard office buildings on a square footage basis and found that web.alvie square footage a staggering 150x more efficient. That is the kind of transformation that is needed throughout all sectors or
More State of Green Business Forum Impressions
Joel Makower introduced the 2011 report: 5 big themes from the Report
1) Rescission hasn't deterred companies from continuing investment
2) More companies are engaging across sustainability
3) Commitment made by companies are trending deeper and more aggressive
4) Progress still incremental, not transformational
5) Communication is still hard and noisy
- Gavin Newsome, Lieutenant Governor of CA: 'States are the labs of democracy, cities are labs of innovation', which makes me think of the new book by Harvard economist Edward Glaeser, Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier, which is getting a ton of positive buzz. I have lived in dense urban areas and true rural and most places in between and it is interesting to think of cities as greener and the fountain of human innovation.
- Mike LaRocco, CEO of Fireman's Fund Insurance: Green buildings pay less in insurance premiums, due to modeling done by the company that shows higher occupancy rates and lower failure rates. For the insurance industry, green build offers lower risk for negative events.
- Steve Jurvetson, Managing Director at VC fund Draper Fischer Jurvetson disruptive innovation often occurs outside of the 'core functions' of any specific company, as that disruption is often not just for the market. ByY definition, disruptive is outside of normal growth.
- Clay Nesler, Johnson Control: Empire State Building undertook a massive retrofit of the building, starting with increased efficiency on the tenant side, where a full 50% of the savings from the work is realized, prevented owner from buying a new chiller. Costs saving from that alone paid for everything else in the retrofit.
- Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist at Microsoft: key to leveraging tech in sustainability ways is 'making it invisible' at the user/consumer level. Make it easy and automatic on the front end and utilize the power and possibility of technology on the back end.
- I think about this in the context of product development and user interface at Avaya. We strive to have products that are intuitive and simple for each person using them, with an excellent example in the Avaya Flare™ interface, which is simple and fun, which leads to people using it and reaping the many benefits of the transformation to digital coloration.
- Paul Anastas, Asst Administrator at the EPA: 'beyond incremental', rethinking what is possible as the need is for transformation innovation that happens through collaboration, between companies, governments and other stakeholders.