Saturday, March 17, 2007

Some Good Sticky Stuff

CSU's Global Social & Sustainable Enterprise program has been generating some nice press coverage. First, a radio interview March 6 on NPR's Colorado Matters. And then this week, an interview for Business Week Online.

Last week, our Bainbridge MBA students presented their business plans to a great group of judges from the Pacific Northwest- Gifford Pinchot, Paul and Debbie Brainerd, Chris Van Dyke (NAU), Larry Nakata, Joe Versuchen, Maryel Duzan and Gary Smith (Timberland). It was a proud moment... in particular to see some of the students do a great job, when in January they were expressing grave misgivings that they could put together a business plan in only two months. It is a treat to work with students who are so interested in pushing business to the next level in the sustainability area. The judges pushed, too. No "build it green and they will come" plans allowed here. "When do you break even? Who are your advisors? How much research have you done with your customers? How are you better than the competition on design, distribution, and impact? Who are your modeling your supply chain on?"

As a follow up to my "Made to Stick" post, this book really does make you start seeing sticky ideas. One of note recently is the $45 billion TXU buyout. How often does Thomas Friedman write about private equity deals? Not often. Yet he wrote about this one, because it is a sticky idea. Investment banks are now hiring environmental groups to advise them on billion dollar deals and create value by NOT building coal power plants. As Friedman wrote in his column yesterday "Every college activist should study this story, because it is the future. In the old days, when activists wanted something done, they held a sit-in or organized a protest march. Now they hire an investment bank."

It meets the brothers Heath definition: Simple (if you don't dig into the SEC documents), Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and a great Story (KKR rides to the rescue to cut back the number of coal fired power plants). In reality, this was not a revolution, but an evolution of the continued trends of (i)engagement by environmental groups with industry- Nature Conservancy, EDF, NRDC and WRI (for example, Conservation International played a role in Wal-mart's green conversion) and (ii) the growing interest of the investment banks in creating and selling "green" value (Goldman Sachs and their Horizon Wind investment).

A promising development, and I hope there are more to come. I can picture the Wall Street movie sequel now, with Gordon Gecko pondering carbon footprints and waste diversion value plays...