Corporate America goes green

March 13, 2008 7:15:47 PM PDT
For years, environmentalists and corporate America have been at odds over sustainability and climate change -- that's changing.

An "eco"-nomics conference in Santa Barbara is taking place where one-time adversaries say they're ready to move forward together.

Wal-mart's president and CEO, H. Lee Scott, says it was tough dealing with environmental critics. Wal-mart's mission was helping Americans stretch their budgets.

"Some were nipping at our toes, some had a full grasp. It was a little bit of both," said Wal-Mart president and CEO Lee Scott.

Now they are working together and attending a Dow Jones "eco"-nomics conference, learning how companies can make money by being green.

"More and more companies understand that the future is going to be individual consumers and governments demanding environmentally sound products and that they see a profit in supplying the demand," said Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp.

Fred Krupp is President of the Environmental Defense Fund.

Wal-mart says Krupp and other nonprofit groups have helped the company reduce waste, boost energy efficiency and promote green products in its stores.

Krupp's new book puts the spotlight on a number of companies with innovative technology -- such as Miasole in Santa Clara that makes thin solar film. Start-up's that will reform energy use and solve global warming issues.

"The technologies being developed in the Bay Area are going to end up being a boom that will dwarf the switchover to personal computers or even the Internet boom. This is going to be a much, much bigger thing," said Krupp.

However, even big, established companies are jumping in with profits in mind.

Andrew Liveris is President & CEO of Dow Chemical. His global company is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to solve environmental problems.

"We have the science, we have the scientists. I employ 6,500 PhD's. If I can just point them and say, bring me a solution, find me some answers, bring them to the table and see whether there's a business response -- The business of making money in environmental issues," said Dow Chemical Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris.

Hollywood actor and environmental activist Ed Begley, Jr., also spoke at the conference. He thinks it's only a matter of time before government comes to the table.

"When you see many of the financial magazines having a cover story about the emerging green marketplace, I think the time is now. People know that you can have good products that are energy efficient. You can give people a cool beverage and a warm shower, you're just going to do it more efficiently," said actor and environmental activist Ed Begley.

A word often used today was momentum; however momentum can be broken by two potential problems - immigration policy and a potential brain drain. We'll explore those issues as our coverage continues on Friday.