Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day at FORTUNE Brainstorm GREEN

We're spending a very inspiring Earth Day 2008 at FORTUNE Brainstorm GREEN, a high level corporate sustainability conference in Pasadena.

This first-of-its-kind event features about 400 select business leaders, technologists, venture capitalists, academics, and leading thinkers and activists from every angle of the green movement — all gathering to discuss how to solve the world's most pressing environmental challenges.

We were honored to advise FORTUNE staff on ways to green the conference, and they graciously invited us to attend the event.

The agenda has been packed with lively interviews and discussions featuring leaders like Dell Computer CEO, Michael Dell (unveiling bamboo encased eco computer, photo above); Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm; acclaimed green architect, William McDonough; feisty former California Govenor, Jerry Brown; John Passacantando, head of Greenpeace USA; noted Venture Capitalist, Vinod Khosla; Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council; and the CEOs of PG&E, Duke Energy, Waste Management, Edison International, Xerox Corp., NRG Energy, Monsanto, and SAM's Club, to name just a few.

Through two days of on-stage interviews, round table discussions, and networking, we've met some extremely smart people and heard and seen some incredible sustainable product ideas, strategies and innovations. (Our highlight was test-driving a sweet European-designed all-electric, carbon-free vehicle that can hit speeds of 70 MPH. We predict this zippy little number will be a mega hit when it's launched in California next year. More on the THINK electric vehicle later).

Our take-away from Brainstorm GREEN is cautious optimism. The conference underscored that we are in a redefining moment in history. The challenges ahead are daunting and some of the environmental statistics sited at the FORTUNE event are downright scary. Yet there is incredible opportunity for progress on the environmental front, the momentum is picking up, and it's exciting to consider how change may impact the future of our planet.

When you hear the CEOs of the world's largest corporations speak emphatically about the critical importance of sustainability initiatives, you know the times are a changin'. It's not just about crafting a greener image through clever advertising and promotions. The discussion here covered how specific sustainability strategies are being integrated into the core of business models, into the soul of brands, and into the DNA of corporate cultures.

In addition, it appears that corporate America and green activists are aligning more often and working more collaboratively to solve issues like climate change. This is a more effective approach than denial and antagonism. The tides are changing and the thinking of influential corporate leadership appears to be on the right track.

Happy Earth Day!