More than 500 people gathered Monday for the State of Green Business Forum in San Francisco, an all-day event that marked the release of the State of Green Business 2009 report from the editors of GreenBiz.com. The report attempts to measure the adoption of green business practices in the U.S.
The Forum featured more than a dozen industry leaders to bring various aspects of the report to life: water management, green jobs, innovation and energy efficiency. GreenBiz.com Executive Editor Joel Makower also assembled a panel of advisors of President Barack Obama to discuss the new administration and its efforts to jumpstart a green economy.
In opening up the forum, Makower presented an overview of the finding of this year's report: in a nutshell, companies are doing OK, but there's plenty of room for improvement.
"Is all of this green activity we read about actually moving the needle?" Makower asked. "The answer, in aggregate, is not so much."
In running down a list of latest news stories, Makower offered examples of corporate environmental successes, all occurring since Nov. 4, 2008. Among them are beverage companies committing to grow their sales without using more water to make products, an apparel company incorporating green design principles into all its products, an IT company that developed energy management tools to dramatically cut companywide energy use, and a consumer products company selling $20 billion in greener products.
Despite the green success stories, the details of the State of Green Business Report are a mixed bag, but that progress is much slower than what we need. Makower outlined eight of the 20 indicators in the report that highlighted the good, the bad and the neutral in green business practices.
Among the sinking indicators Makower discussed were electronic waste and carbon intensity; in both cases companies in the U.S. are making slight improvements -- in total electronics taken back for recycling and the amount of CO2 equivalent generated per dollar of economic activity, respectively -- but that those improvements are failing to outpace the growth of the problems at hand.
On the more promising side, energy efficiency and paper use are areas in which U.S. businesses are swimming along well: "Energy efficiency is back on the table," Makower explained in looking at the long and steady decline in the amount of energy needed to power the economy year after year. In looking over the trends of the last few years, Makower said he expects that improved energy efficiency is something he expects to see as part of the discussion in businesses nationwide for years to come.
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