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Proceed with caution

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Articles - June 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014

 LESSON 5: No disruption.

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Charles Wilhoite, managing director,
Willamette Management Associates

Some of the biggest corporate success stories in recent years have involved disruptive technology — from Amazon.com’s shakeup of book publishing to Airbnb’s sharing-economy innovations. But if “disruption” is a hot topic at business schools and in many industry sectors, the mainstream rhetoric around green business policy is decidedly incremental. In Oregon today, business leadership is driving green policy as never before — but by betting less on a great leap forward than on a slow build.

Not surprisingly, the business and political leaders we talked to say going green makes economic sense. Cutting waste cuts costs and can boost the bottom line, consumers are rewarding businesses that adopt environmental policies, and sustainable practices can help employers with recruitment and retention of highly skilled workers. In short, market forces are spurring businesses to go green without the cudgel of regulation. A few decades ago, businesses and environmentalists often seemed locked in permanent opposition, but today many businesses are siding with eco-warriors — and asking sustainability experts for help.

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Governor John Kitzhaber

No bold proclamations or unified policy prescriptions emerged from our interviews, although Gov. Kitzhaber came close. “A green economy means that we are not spending our children’s natural capital — their lands, waters and clean air  — and that our economy is operating on a long-term sustainable basis,” he says. “Oregon businesses already lead on so many fronts in the sustainable economy. The business community can and should lead on these issues, as there is a major competitive opportunity here, and the state should look for ways to support these efforts.” Gov. Kitzhaber says the state should “accelerate the transition to a sustainable clean economy.” He supports a state law passed in 2009 aimed at improving access to alternatives to gasoline. And he’s called for a number of studies and examinations into environmental challenges facing the state’s farmers and foresters.

Mayor Hales says Portland’s urban planning is guiding environmental business decisions, but he’d like more funding. Gottfredson says the University of Oregon is a leader in sustainability — and he wants more state money too. In the business community, Deckert, McDonough, Lee, Ford and Newberry prefer to highlight the ways many companies are already making sustainable choices, and shy away from talk of legislation. Finding the right incentives could spur more companies to go green, Barrow says, but it’s hard to agree on just what those incentives should look like.

So as environmentalists seek action, as policymakers proclaim the value of green business but hesitate to act aggressively, Oregon businesses continue to explore the bottom-line benefits of going green. The leaders we interviewed aren’t trying to disrupt the market — yet market-driven decision makers continue to crowd Green Bag Lunch events. Bit by bit, Oregon businesses are cutting waste and energy, developing clean-tech and alternative-energy innovations, and changing the status quo. 

“Not to diminish politicians,” says PGE’s Piro, “But politicians work on policy; real companies work on real problems.” 




0 #1 ownerGuest 2014-06-09 21:19:23
It is interesting that public giants like Nike and Intel refuse to participate. More alarming is the pollution Intel put upon us here in Oregon. Nike does it through the jet stream from China in various forms including acid rain that comes here daily. Conformed reports show 30% of the daily air pollution in Oregon comes from Asia and most of that China.
Of course the governors offices in China even if they had any never are going to be green leaders nor is the gov't of China going to get their pollution corrected and over seen by what we have here like the EPA.
The sky over Oregon is not confined in a bubble.
It is made up of everything moving thru it from wherever and easily charted daily.
That sky pollutes everything called Oregon from air to and to water and all habitats human,natural and animal and vegetable.

So Why Not begin like folks in Montana call their BIG SKY and define Oregon's Big Sky and really make things happen.

Last week I signeda petitin to force the labeling of foods that use GMO's

Well how about labels for anything that is produced outside of Oregon that comes here riddled with pollution both in actual product and the air that carries it sooner and in an open form that causes at this time far more damage.

Putting a label on what folks like Nike and Intel and others create here inOregon will at least make the public aware of what they are supporting with their purchasing dollars.
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