Agassi, Friedman, and sustainable enterprises

better-place-car

The Better Place car (prototype)

In July, I used an op-ed piece by Tom Friedman from the New York Times to discuss the importance of renewable energy, and how we as marketers can incorporate it into our printed communications.  One of Friedman’s examples was Shai Agassi, the founder of Better Place, a company focused on creating electric car grids around the world.  What’s exciting about their business model is that it approaches the car business much in the same way that cell phone networks like AT&T and Verizon Wireless approach their own – they plan to sell miles like these networks sell minutes.

Friedman wrote a follow-up piece about Agassi and his company last week, and I wanted to make sure readers of Sustainable Ink didn’t miss it.

I had the opportunity to hear Agassi speak in person earlier this month at the Museum of Science in Boston.  He was an inspiring presenter and certainly a person with a great vision.  Although I cannot guarantee whether his plan will work, I was impressed by his resolve, especially in the face of rapidly declining energy prices.  Although people may be less apt to adopt his electric car model when gas prices are under $2/gallon in the United States, he laid out a plan for success, and delivered his message in a clear and exciting way.

His determination should serve as an excellent example to other executives who have either made public commitments to sustainability or had been considering green initiatives when the economy was stronger and now are mulling whether they should move them to the back burner until the economy turns the corner.  My strong advice to these leaders would be to not let the tumultuous economic times distract them from positioning their organizations for success in the future.  Shorter-term approaches necessary for ensuring a stable enterprise may involve cost cutting now, but longer-term strategy should not be overlooked.  Generally, for organizations to be successful in the long-term, they must be able to successfully create new products, compete in new markets, and recruit the best talent possible.

My belief, is that in this environment of limited natural resources, undoubtedly unstable energy prices, and a public that cares deeply about fighting global warming (not to mention an administration that has made the reduction of carbon emissions a stated goal), organizations that incorporate environmentally-responsible practices into their businesses will not simply be making moves to address a short-term fad, but instead will be building sustainable enterprises.  They will be ensuring the long-term survival of their organizations in a future where their customers want to buy products that use less natural resources and leave less of a footprint on this earth.  In fact, IDC, a leading research firm, reported last week that a recent study found “continued support for sustainability initiatives despite current economic challenges.”

Although many companies will hold off on making any green investments while they face a deep credit crisis and sagging revenues, if they want to remain successful enterprises and position themselves for long-term success, sustainability must be a part of these plans.

“Texas to Tel Aviv”: Excellent op-ed piece by Tom Friedman in the NYTimes

I had the chance to read Tom Friedman’s most recent op-ed piece, “Texas To Tel Aviv” in the New York Times today, and felt compelled to share it with the folks who read Sustainable Ink.

The article focuses on two people: T. Boone Pickens and Shai Agassi.  Pickens, who made his fortune in the oil business, is leading a charge to get the United States to devote a significant amount of resources to the development of wind energy.  In fact, he has spent $2 billion of his own money buying land in the Texas Panhandle as well as 700 wind turbines from GE (their largest turbine order ever), in order to create the largest wind farm in the world.  To read more about his efforts, please visit the Pickens Plan website.

Agassi, an Israeli technology guru, launched Project Better Place last year, with the goal of creating a nationwide grid of electric cars in Israel.  The project has a very ambitious mission, but has been gaining traction with car makers and governments.

The reason I wanted to call your attention to the column, and more importantly to these two entrepreneurs with bold visions, is because electric cars and renewable energy are game-changing initiatives that have the potential to have a dramatic impact on the fight against global warming as well as our nation’s addiction to oil, most of which comes from foreign sources.  Pickens and Agassi are showing that doing well while doing good are not mutually exclusive ideas.

Over the last 16 months, my firm has been at the forefront of bringing renewable energy to the marketing industry.  We not only have powered our own plants with wind energy, but created a cooperative group that comprised a half-dozen other firms in our space to do the same.  As a result, we have saved tens of thousands of gallons of oil as well as eliminated more than 1 million pounds of carbon emissions from the atmosphere.  For these efforts, we have been recognized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Pickens and Agassi are impressive because they are not waiting for the US Congress to act to make renewable energy initiatives easier.  Neither should we.  Each of us in our own way, either personally or organizationally, can do our share to reduce our dependence on oil by moving to renewable energy.  My firm, Grossman Marketing Group, decided that the best way to do this is to use wind power to produce all of our marketing materials.  Our efforts have been endorsed by some of our country’s most reputable environmental organizations, including the League of Conservation Voters and the National Park Foundation.  In addition, many of the nearly 100 clients that have produced their materials with us bearing our proprietary wind power logo have received positive feedback in the marketplace for doing so.

It is incumbent upon us in the marketing industry to do our part to fight global warming and the country’s addiction to oil, and we believe wind power is the best way to make that a reality.

For a link to the full Friedman column, please click here.