Lessons from Fortune Brainstorm Green

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Lessons from Fortune Brainstorm Green

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I had the privilege of attending Fortune Brainstorm Green last week in Laguna Niguel, CA. This was my 2nd time attending and as usual, Andy Serwer and entire Fortune team delivered a phenomenal event.

Here are some of my key event take always:

· The future of coal: Lively debate here, with Michael Morris, the CEO of coal-burning utility American Electric Power saying that without new government policy, coal will continue to be burned in massive quantities, not just in the U.S. but around the world. Alan Salzman, CEO of Vantage Point Ventures (who’s firm invested in Brightsource Energy) was adamant that “coal is the new tobacco.”

· Richard Branson: said that $200 per barrel oil, which is on it’s way, would cause "the mother or all recessions."

· David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue and now the Brazilian airline Azul: predicted that oil prices WILL go up, and if Branson’s speculation of $200/barrel is realized, it would reduce U.S. air travel by 40% and would wreak havoc on the economy.

· Tom Siebel from C3 (formerly Siebel Systems): discussed his ambitious venture C3, which is all about “measuring, mitigating and monetizing carbon reduction.” Tom figures C3 will require $150 million in investment over the next 7-10yrs, and he's going to market in an aggressive fashion that includes partnering with Barclays, Citibank and JPMorgan Chase to provide project finance for C3's prospective customers.

· Waste Management:  CEO David Steiner gave some insight into how the garbage company might use its vast land holdings and customer data as untapped assets. He suggested that in the near future WM may be PAYING YOU for your garbage, vs. the other way around

· Walmart’s culture change: according to Leslie Dach, EVP, Walmart’s sustainability efforts have paid off in many ways - they’ve helped the company save lots of money, they’ve driven sales of environmentally-preferable products, and they’ve dramatically improved Walmart’s reputation, making it easier for the company to enter new markets and attract employees. The sustainability efforts have also fundamentally changed the corporate culture of the company “It’s really been transformative inside in helping us take a broader look at our role in the world. Before, we weren’t meeting the world’s expectations of us.”

· Laird Hamilton: big wave surfer, environmentalist and father: He said that he wants to inspire people to take risks, push boundaries and defy conventional wisdom. He was at the conference to inspire as well as promote some work he’s doing on ocean conservation. I had the incredible chance to surf with him before his presentation at the event and he said his father taught him at a young age that big-wave surfers are born, not raised, and that he himself feels more anxiety on the beach, thinking about surfing 80-foot waves, than he does once he's in the water surfing them. I asked him if being a father makes him more conservative and he said not really. He wants his kids to know him and who he really is - he's a big-wave rider, not some guy who used to be one.  A good reminder to us all that our actions correlate to our values, especially when it comes to the environment.


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