It's been an exciting three weeks since we announced the "Cleantech Goes Social" contest, in partnership with Facebook. So far, we've received over 100 entries, with more rolling in every day. Our diverse pool of applicants ranges from students to large corporations and, to date, represents over 25 different countries. Another exciting development is our partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which, as a technical supporter of the contest, is encouraging the use of open data to help people reduce their environmental impact.

Looking for inspiration or don’t know where to start? Head over to the new Resources section on the Contest website, which offers useful sources for entrants, including Facebook application tutorials, case studies of successful Facebook integrations, and open energy-related data provided by the DOE.

We've got two more weeks to go! Do you have an idea on how Facebook can be used to encourage individuals to reduce their environmental impact and increase the adoption of clean technologies? Enter the contest here and email your completed pitch deck to by March 4th to be considered for a chance to win $25,000, personalized guidance from Cleantech Group and Facebook, and the opportunity to present your pitch at Cleantech Forum San Francisco.

Register here for Cleantech Forum San Francisco – Sustainability Meets Innovation: Reigniting Cleantech, March 18-20.  Speakers include Autodesk, Bill McDonough, Facebook, GE, Google, Morgan Stanley, and more!

Cleantech Goes Social

Posted by: Samantha Buechner  /  July 24, 2014 / in Headlines

Cleantech Group and Facebook challenge you to use social to accelerate cleantech

by Sheeraz Haji

Cleantech products and services are inherently social. When my neighbors install solar panels on their roofs or buy an EV, they want to tell all their friends about it. Demonstrating how one is contributing to the broader public good by reducing their impact on the environment has become somewhat of a status symbol (at least in Berkeley!). However, the cleantech industry has not done a great job of using the web in creative ways to amplify the social aspects of cleantech products and services. 

With that in mind, Cleantech Group and Facebook are excited to announce "Cleantech Goes Social," a contest that aims to harness the power of Facebook's billion-person network to accelerate cleantech adoption and engage the public on sustainability issues. We are challenging cleantech companies and others to find new ways to use Facebook to accelerate cleantech, whether it's through an app on the Facebook platform or a new method of integrating Facebook into products and services. We are asking contestants to tell us their story about how they will use Facebook to address energy and resources challenges, accelerate cleantech adoption, and engage the public in dialogue about sustainability issues. 

The winner of the contest will receive $25,000 of prize money, as well as personalized guidance from my Cleantech Group colleagues and members of the Facebook team on how to deliver on their concept. Cleantech Group, Facebook, and members of the Global Cleanweb Initiative will judge the entries. The three finalists will be invited to Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2013 (March 18-20), where they will pitch their concepts to a panel of investors in front of an audience. To make this experience as interactive as possible, we will ask participants of Cleantech Forum San Francisco to vote on the three finalists. The winner will then be announced from the main stage on March 20th. 

In the spirit of social, this contest is very much open. We invite everyone, from around the world, to enter, including cleantech companies, enterprises, non-profits, developers, students and others with a passion for cleantech.

How are you taking cleantech social? Enter the contest now!

Estimates of electric vehicle (EV) share of the automobile market by 2020 vary widely, with projections as low as 2% and as high as 15% (Goldman Sachs, NRDC, BCG, IHS, Deutsche, IEA).  While 40% of consumers are “extremely interested” in purchasing an EV, according to Pike Research, without a convergence of technologies, services, and infrastructure this interest will not translate to actual sales.  This convergence is dependent on thoughtful collaboration between car companies, electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) companies, network solution providers, policy makers, and customers.

This blog was co-written by Brad Bate and Liam Bossi.

Corporate sustainability is undergoing a fundamental shift; for an indication of just how far it has come, look no further than SAP. The enterprise software giant has added environmental metrics to many of its core offerings, allowing information about environmental impacts to be seamlessly incorporated into everything from executive management to operations. It indicates that sustainability is starting to be internalized by at least some of SAP’s customers, which include many of the largest companies in the world.

The size, scope and sophistication of corporate environmental data has exploded in recent years, as recognition of potential savings through efficiency along with the pressure for disclosure have intensified the need for large companies to understand more about their operations. This will only increase as “smart” technologies become more prevalent and everyday objects create their own piles of data. The challenge is managing and drawing meaning from billions of data streams in order to understand it, apply it and make more informed decisions with it.

In New York City, there is an ever-evolving debate surrounding various green-painted stripes crisscrossing the city; otherwise known as bike lanes.  One of NYC’s many urban sustainability initiatives to build a “Greener, Greater New York,”  bike lanes are intended as a means to encourage alternative transportation and reduce vehicle use, with numerous benefits such as improved air quality, reduced noise pollution and reduced congestion.

However, the bike lanes haven’t been without challenges: claims of business being harmed (though areas where walking/cycling are given primacy can boost retail sales 10-25%), parking spaces lost, pedestrians claim of reckless cyclists, cyclists claim of inattentive pedestrians, and that the green-painted lanes are just plain ugly.  Discussion and argument and ways of addressing concerns has been thick: a New York Times Room for Debate discussion has various worthy suggestions, ranging from better enforcement to redefining the legal relationship between drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

However, prescriptive measures aside, there is a fundamental need for a change in mindset. To enable changes in physical infrastructure, we need to build cultural infrastructure.  The way we think, educate, behave and reward needs to support the transformational energy, environmental and infrastructure changes underway as we transition to a low carbon economy.  Rules, laws and physical landscape can help inform our thinking and behaviors, but social and cultural norms of human behavior are, arguably, the biggest challenges to a more sustainable future.  If we cannot change the cultural infrastructure, physical infrastructure changes will only go so far.  Such cultural challenges are being confronted across economies: electric vehicle manufacturers are tackling range anxiety, a product of a car-dependent culture; while consumer goods producers wrestle to rethink planned obsolescence and life-cycle impacts, a product of a disposable consumption-based economy.  These are issues rooted not just in physical, but cultural infrastructure.

This piece was originally published on Marc Stoiber's blog. It was co-written by Brad Bate, Senior Analyst at GreenOrder, and Stephen Linaweaver.

This piece also ran in Sustainable Brands, and Fast Company's Co.Exist blog.

Perception vs. reality has always been a major source of tension for brands. And sustainability, once heralded as the next big brand advantage, has only made things worse.

It’s simple, really. If you promise people your soap will make them smell nice and it doesn’t, they’ll get over it. If you falsely promise your soap doesn’t have palm oil from orangutan-displacing plantations, people aren’t nearly as forgiving.

Brands like Patagonia provide shining examples of what can happen when you effectively align perception and reality. Their values, their brand, and their actions all convey the same sustainability message. Using this trifecta to engage more deeply with customers may have contributed to the fact that, during the worst of the recession, their sales continued to climb.

But the Patagonias of the world are few and far between.

This point is illustrated by studies like MapChange and the Sustainability Leadership Report.

"The single greatest way to change the world is overcoming cynicism."

This was the challenge laid down by Lord Michael Hastings in the opening keynote of the 2011 Net Impact conference and it caught me unawares. 

Is cynicism really the biggest barrier to solving global issues?  Is our distrust of others’ apparent motives stopping each of us from taking action? 

Throughout the conference, CEOs, entrepreneurs and thought leaders shared lessons they’ve learned from business and life experiences that can help us overcome cynicism and drive purposeful change:

What if we weren’t afraid to fail?

Failure with a capital F discourages risk taking and prevents us from achieving disruptive innovation. That topic was a major theme this month at the GreenBiz Innovation Forum.

Nicole Boyer, Managing Director at Adaptive Edge, pointed out that Silicon Valley is one of the few places where failure is expected, accepted, and even embraced. If a venture capital firm is considering investing in a startup and that startup hasn’t failed at all, it raises a red flag. If a startup hasn’t failed what has it learned?

What if the whole country adopted this perception of failure, not as a worst-case scenario but rather as a way for companies to experiment, learn and innovate? "I want 100 people failing, I want 1,000 people failing, I want a million people failing," John Wilbanks, then VP of Science at Creative Commons, said.  "It costs almost nothing to start a failed software company, it costs almost nothing to start a failed web apps company, but it costs an enormous amount to start a failed sustainability company. And we need to change that, so we can have the same amount of money going in and a lot more innovation coming out."

This sentiment was echoed in brainstorm sessions during the forum. Boyer asked the audience to call out ways to make their companies more innovative. The term “failing forward” was offered as a way to reframe failure, encourage risk taking, and bring the startup spirit to the rest of the business world.

The HOW of Business Climate

Posted by: Michael Ellis  /  September 28, 2011 / in Conferences and Events

How we work was on my mind at last week’s Business Climate 2011 conference as the new edition of a book by my company’s CEO, Dov Seidman, launched on September 21. 
The book, entitled How: Why How We Do Anything Means Business (and in Life), made me realize that Business Climate was about how businesses must fundamentally change the way they work to become more sustainable.
First, we must work within and between companies more openly and transparently.  At the conference, Joel Makower, executive editor of GreenBiz Group, pointed out how the convergence of multiple technologies is creating new opportunities.  This convergence requires new collaborations between organizations. 
GE’s Mark Vachon agreed.  He emphasized that GE’s ecomagination is breaking down traditional silos to create new solutions for customers.  Andrew Shapiro, founder and President of GreenOrder, an LRN Advisory Group, also lauded the ecomagination Challenge as an example of a large company collaborating with venture capital firms and dozens of entrepreneurial portfolio companies.

This blog was written by Daniel Winokur, Leader at LRN and manager of the EcoStrategy Alliance.

Creating a workplace that values and supports sustainability isn’t easy. If you’ve run into trouble, you’re not the only one. When working with our partners, we see many sustainability departments initiating employee engagement programs seeking to deepen sustainability values and formalize them into business-supporting behaviors. But the truth is, many of these programs simply don’t work. They don’t pull the right levers to truly impact employee culture, so they lose out on behaviors that would reduce risk, increase productivity, and lower operating costs.

Ray Anderson and the Culture of Sustainability

Posted by: Andrew Shapiro  /  August 16, 2011 / in Latest Updates

Ray Anderson, who passed away last week, was a pioneer of sustainable business.  For me, he was also a personal hero.  When I started GreenOrder in 2000, few enterprises had adopted a truly strategic and integrated approach to environmental responsibility and innovation.  Fewer still had a CEO who was such a passionate and effective advocate for both the moral and business case for sustainability. Interface, the carpet company Ray founded, had both.

This piece is also featured on GreenBiz

Last week, Interbrand released its inaugural list of the Best Global Green Brands of 2011 following Newsweek by a couple of years.  The methodology splits out each company’s actual environmental performance as determined by a Deloitte analysis of publicly available Thomson Reuters ASSET4 data and Interbrand’s own analysis of public perception of each brand.  According to the study, companies like L’Oreal, Nokia, and HSBC are doing much more than they get public credit for, while for others like McDonald’s, GE, and Coca Cola the reverse is true.

Whether one is an executive, investor, or consumer, what are the implications of the gap?

Recently, I was part of a GreenOrder team working with a client partner that is a home and property care service provider. Despite employing industry-leading integrated pest management techniques, this partner was struggling to communicate the safety of their products to their employees and customers. They’re not alone. Even for highly responsible companies committed to transparency when it comes to their stakeholders, communicating product risks effectively is a challenge. Why?

A wide range of companies are conscious of the environmental impacts of their products and services. A smaller number of leading companies have adopted a stewardship mindset and are developing innovative best practices in supply chain management. These companies are experimenting with techniques that match their brands as well their footprints. Levi’s has studied and visualized the life cycle of a pair of jeans, Walmart is harnessing massive data from its suppliers.

In studying supply chain innovation, I got to thinking: what input lies at the foundation of every single supply chain? The answer is energy. Since energy is such an integral input to any modern supply chain (not to mention a central piece of our climate crisis), I thought I’d flip the question on its head: how can the energy industry itself improve sustainability across its own supply chain?  And what lessons can the energy sector learn from leaders in other industries?

In the energy sector, the majority of attention will remain focused on fuel stock – the fuel used for power generation and its method of extraction – as the key to a truly sustainable industry. While this focus is appropriate, it doesn’t capture the scope of the opportunities across the supply chain. Think, for example, of the 120 million utility poles used for electricity transmission in the US alone; or the tremendous amount of water used in resource extraction for energy production and generation;  or even the sustainability issues within the renewable energy space itself. The growth potential for sustainability improvements in the energy sector supply chain is limitless.

As the energy industry organizes itself to address sustainability throughout its supply chain, here are a few guiding principles to consider:

A User-Friendly Future

Posted by: Stephen Linaweaver  /  July 25, 2011 / in Conferences and Events

In late June, GreenBiz hosted VERGE, an intriguing roundtable discussion among top executives about how vehicles, information, buildings, and energy all fit together and what the convergence of these technologies might mean for the future of business and society. 

The meeting highlighted some very cool innovations waiting to be unleashed, and also exposed a major opportunity: improving how we enable people in a user-friendly manner to help create the kind of future VERGE technologies enable.

Amidst the brilliance in the room, it became clear to me that at the current pace technology is advancing, it is only a matter of time before we have access to all the data and gadgets we need to address our future energy challenges. A full list of the transformative technologies has been chronicled here. My personal favorite is the platooning concept that will allow vehicles to drive themselves on freeways in close proximity to each other at fast speeds thereby curbing their carbon footprint, all while you relax and watch DVDs of the Giants winning the World Series in 2011.

An optimistic vision, yes, but even the most promising innovative technologies will not reach their full energy saving and carbon-reducing potentials unless we create a culture that is dedicated to meaningful change. In order to do that, we must overcome one key obstacle: people.

I have a confession to make. When most companies come to me to demo their latest energy management gadget or app, I love them ... for about a week. Then my interest fades.

I've been working on energy efficiency for 20 years and care deeply about the issue, but this raises the question: Is it possible to get large parts of the population to engage -- and stay engaged -- in energy efficiency?

Every June, GreenOrder finds itself flooded with new talent from a range of top graduate programs. Here’s a look at how GreenOrder is continuing to attract a diverse range of sustainability experts.
Lyle Morton joins GreenOrder’s Team as a summer associate. A student at both NYU’s Stern School of Business and Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, Lyle brings a wealth of education and experience to GreenOrder and LRN.

By Stephen Linaweaver

I previously lived in a small town in Wyoming where winter temperatures often reached 20 degrees below zero.  Many residents only lived there for the summer.  The locals called them "90 Day Wonders," somewhat disparagingly. How much can you contribute to community, the thinking went, if you move on to the next thing in 90 days?
Many CEOs are forced into a similar "90 Day" mentality. When pressed on why a mindset of sustainable growth is challenging to adopt inside large companies, many mention the same thing: pressure to meet quarterly expectations. It is hard to promote sustainable growth and make decisions for the long-term benefit of a company, and the planet, when analysts are not interested in much beyond the next 90 days.

By Michael Ellis

Last month, Joel Makower, executive editor of the GreenBiz Group, wrote that green marketing is over.  His conclusions, similar to those of a recent study by OgilvyEarth, ignited impassioned commentary among green consultants and marketers. 

But it hasn’t gotten broader attention--which may be a good thing, since Joel’s argument is easy to misinterpret.  Indeed, as Joel importantly points out, marketing green is thriving in many ways and evolving rapidly; just a narrow slice of the practice is fading away.

While Joel doesn’t directly define green marketing in the piece, his implicit definition is narrow.  “Green marketing… is aimed at getting people to buy stuff that is better for the environment,” he writes.  It focuses on a “more just and sustainable world;” any marketing that focuses on non-environmental aspects of a product (e.g., hybrid cars’ convenience) isn’t “green marketing”.  Furthermore, Joel points out that “the business-to-business landscape is wholly different.  A wide range of things companies buy… are being marketed effectively for their environmental attributes.”

What Fed Chair's First News Conference Means for Sustainability

Posted by: Stephen Linaweaver  /  April 26, 2011 / in Headlines

Tomorrow the Federal Reserve will enter the age of transparency as Chairman Ben Bernanke holds a press conference directly following the release of the Federal Open Markets Committee's scheduled statement. Why does this matter?

For two reasons. One, it is another example of a buttoned-down establishment opening up, and is a model for companies. Secondly, one of his potential topics, food commodities, is critical to sustainability.

Don't expect anything earth shattering from Bernanke. He will provide some insight into what this month's monetary policy actually means. He may speak to the impact of the Middle East uprising on GDP or the global rise in commodity prices, and what that does or does not mean for U.S. inflation.

And like the average Fed statement, he may be somewhat vague. But he nonetheless is sticking his neck out for one reason: to provide reassurance. His calm tone and slightly erudite aloofness are intended to make sure that the markets don't actually do anything in response.

Executives should take note of this move. Some senior executives do not engage in public discourse regarding their companies' sustainability efforts because it is a really complex subject, they don't have much to say, or they are afraid of the questions. Welcome to Ben's world.