By Bill Roth
What does the Copenhagen Communique mean to an entrepreneur? Am I being too blunt to suggest the answer is "nothing"?
Entrepreneurs are focused upon their customers as the source of inspiration and profits. Laws passed by politicians receive entrepreneurial attention only when they impact their customers' ability to buy or their cost of operations. The Copenhagen Communique is a non-event to entrepreneurs except that it creates uncertainty on what rules governments might change in the future.
But I hope that our future environment and economy will become more sustainable as a nexus grows between pioneering entrepreneurs launching price competitive and sustainable solutions and consumers' search for cost less, mean more goods and services.
Market research identifies the Millennial Generation and their moms, Concerned Caregivers, as pioneering adopters of sustainability. Along with "Sustainable CEOs" (and those who report to these leaders) these three consumer groups have $10 trillion of combined annual purchasing power. What market research indicates is that they will buy "green" goods and services if they are at least at price parity with un-sustainable goods and services.
The Copenhagen Communique and the 1400+ page proposed federal legislation tells us: "There are not enough votes to legislate change." Don't blame our politicians, do you really expect them to vote for change when 85% of Americans are against a tax on gasoline even with the understanding that our country is operating an un-sustainable economy where we borrow from China to finance our addiction to imported oil?
Vinod Khosla has the correct vision for how change will take place. He is billionaire venture capitalist investing in technologies that hold the potential to be price competitive against carbon-centric technologies. Vinod's vision is to have bio-fuels that are price competitive against $30 per barrel oil! And it isn't just visionary entrepreneurs like Vinod who are financing bio-fuel's commercial development. ExxonMobil has announced a $600 million investment into algae based biofuel technology and BP is investing $500 million into biofuels in alliance with the University of California-Berkeley. Chevron, Khosla Ventures & Lightspeed Venture Partners recently announced putting $25M into LS9, a bio-diesel company projecting 2011 deliveries at $40/barrel oil equivalent.
The creation of competitively priced, sustainable goods and services by our entrepreneurs will restore our jobs, environment and economy. It would be great if governments could accelerate this adoption process by including in the price at the pump, meter and cash register the "externality costs" tied to emissions and waste. Taxing cigarettes has contributed to reducing the number of smokers with measurable gains in reduced incidences of cancer. This same path for taxing emissions and waste to encourage positive behavior is available but less likely because climate change and energy independence just doesn't have as powerful a direct link as having a loved one die a painful death tied to their smoking addiction.
But even without global political consensus or Congressional action to price externality costs at the pump, meter and cash register, a critical mass of green entrepreneurship and green consumerism is building around green products and companies that are price competitive. When commercial events like $30 per barrel price competitiveness occur then it really won't matter what wasn't achieved in Copenhagen. The real path to solving our environmental and economic challenges runs through the cash register, pump, meter and the consumer's wallet.
And the great news is that green entrepreneurship and green consumerism is now aligned to realize this global mega-trend of economic opportunity and environmental restoration.
Bill Roth is author of The Secret Green Sauce that profiles best practices of actual companies growing green revenues by offering price competitive and sustainable goods and services.