Shadier Shade of Green

Climate Change Will Be the Greatest Disruptive Event of the Next 20 Years

Joe FeeleyBy Joe Feeley, Editor in Chief

We've posted several white papers on energy management in our white paper library on ControlDesign.com, but I want to mention one titled, "Growing a Green Corporation."

The paper, written by Schneider Electric's building management and energy services biz, submits that climate change will be the greatest disruptive event of the next 20 years.

Whatever you conclude about what can or can't be done about climate change, the paper contains a topic on which we all can agree: greenwashing. TerraChoice Environmental Marketing (www.sinsofgreenwashing.org) defines the term as "the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service."

Most market-changing events begin as fringe movements with little recognition or notice.

In November 2008 and January 2009, TerraChoice researchers went into big-box retailers to record products making environmental claims. The researchers recorded product and claim details,  supporting information and any explanatory detail or offers of additional information or support.

In the U.S. and Canada, 2,219 products making 4,996 green claims were recorded and tested against guidelines provided by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the Competition Bureau of Canada. TerraChoice says more than 98% of the products committed at least one of its previously identified greenwashing sins and a new seventh sin emerged—the sin of worshiping false labels. Some marketers  exploit consumer demand for third-party certification by creating fake labels or false suggestions of third-party endorsement.

Greenwashing was most common in toys and baby products, cosmetics and cleaning products.

I know many controls folks who fume at machine-builder companies and integration houses that use "green machine" as empty marketing pablum, often when exhibiting at tradeshows. Companies also publicize implied and highly overstated machine-performance values from standards compliance.

There are many effective initiatives machine builders can execute that have real impact on energy and lead to improved operating cost, better machine performance and  competitive advantage.

A disruptive approach to machine automation really can help.

The white paper points out some of the precepts of disruptive technology. Among them, that these technologies can be considerably less disruptive to a company if it's watching out for them. "Most market-changing events begin as fringe movements with little recognition or notice," says the paper.

Then come harder issues. What does a company do when it sees one coming? Recognizing a disruption, even a potentially helpful one, and doing something about it are distinctly different things.

Finally, of course, you have to get it done. That means full commitment, particularly after the low-hanging fruit has been picked.   

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