« The Six Sins of Greenwashing | Main | Leadership Mindset and Sustainability Success »

December 02, 2007



Hi Joel - thanks for providing a bit more info on the report.

I've read about the gap between the beneficiaries of efficiency (e.g. building tenants) and the bearers of the up-front cost (e.g. developers).

The sense I get from your review is that the report suggests it's up to consumers to drive this change, or perhaps legislation (in the form of carbon tax or building standards) is the key. I'm wondering if the report address this gap more directly?

Mark McElroy

Hi Joel:

I think the hope placed in benevolent consumers is a pipe dream. The average consumer doesn't give a hoot about climate change; and greater efficiencies will only result in higher levels of consumption and emissions, not less. This is the well-known Jevon's paradox in economics. Plus, so-called 'green' products are as liable to be higher-emitting in their impacts as not, thanks to the absence of standards or rigor of any kind in that term. To refer to a product as 'green' is to tell us nothing about the environmental impacts of its manufacture, use, or disposal. When will we get that through our heads?

What we need, in my view, is precisely what we're not willing to do: supply control, also known as rationing. But to do this would be to challenge consumer sovereignty and the sanctity of the free market. Still, in desperate times (and these are desperate times) rationing is the rational thing to do. I wonder if the reports you cited even touch on this subject. If so, good for them. If not, why not? Let's look into this shall we?



Stephen Albinati

Hi Joel

Excellent post -- I look forward to reading both the McKinsey and CBI reports.

Theses statements echo an interesting quote that I came across a year ago when reading Suncor's 2005 CSR report:
"Suncor was the first Canadian energy company to present a cost analysis showing compliance with the Kyoto Protocol should not have a material impact on our business – at a range estimated between $0.20 and$0.27 per barrel of oil."

For those of you unfamiliar with Suncor, they are an oil company whose oil producing assets primarily consist of the extremely CO2 intensive tar sands of Northern Alberta. If a company, in one of the most CO2 intensive industries is willing to take the leadership and voluntarily publish a claim as such, why are our politicians not showing more leadership and providing a vision for our industries to strive toward.


Hey Joel,

Thought I’d throw my two cents in. Sorry if it's a little long.

A vast majority of small businesses and their employees are not too savvy when it comes to this carbon stuff. Obviously, I’m included in that group. I have to admit, I don’t completely understand it but that’s more of a result of not paying attention in science class. But American society is learning and getting better every day. Two areas that will bring change quicker is better understanding of the language of carbon neutrality, carbon capture/sequestration and the messaging on public policy initiatives that address these and other environmental issues.

The language and science is sophisticated jargon, and hard to understand especially for a baker, trash hauler or restaurant owner. The Energy Bill and the Bali Conference need to address the educational side of energy issues too and make them very easy to understand. I’m sure that there are a lot of businesses that have no understanding of the complex notion of carbon sequestration. Does someone really catch it and store it?

The other point relates to mixed messages, specifically from business groups. You recently posted a great article on greenbiz by Kevin Fletcher that discussed the role of Chambers of Commerce can play in helping to educate businesses on how to better understand and embrace green business practices. That would include the carbon thing. Chambers and NGOs can play a role here and help the business community and their employees better understand the carbon lingo. But when it comes to taking positions on public policy sometimes business groups are not on the same page. On this very issue, while the Conference Board, a leading NGO, endorses the McKinsey Report, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has stated that if the Energy Bill becomes law, among other things, “American consumers will be forced to pay as much as $6 trillion to cope with carbon constraints. “ If I’m a small business owner or mid level executive who happens to be a member of both organizations, how conflicted am I? The McKinsey report is looking good, my company does its little part, won’t be too expensive, The Conference Board says so. And then $6 Trillion! How many zeros is that?




Speaking of lost opportunities, we're coming up on one in the N H Primary. Visit www.carboncoalition.org for a record of what caanidates have promised on climate action.

The comments to this entry are closed.