How the Internet Can Create Jobs and Green Our Economy

On February 5th, Time magazine published an article written by former Time managing editor, Walter Issacson, called: How to Save Your Newspaper. Mr. Issacson calls for an end to major newspapers making content available free on their websites. As he points out, newspapers depend on three types of revenue for their survival: subscriptions, newsstand sales and advertising revenue. A newspaper cannot afford to employ dozens of full-time writers and investigative journalists on revenues generated by Internet advertising.

As an environmentalist, I don’t see anything praiseworthy about making everything on the Internet available for free. Our current system only functions when economic activity is increasing. But in a world of limited resources, we are destroying that which has real value (nature) in the struggle to maintain economic activity. Our economic system cannot function without our ecosystem. We are turning our planet into the ultimate economic bubble.

So where will we get the resources to continue to fuel economic growth? Some people look to outer space for more room. I think we should look at cyberspace. The Internet is one place where we can achieve greater economic activity without a concurrent increase in resource consumption. If we can shift much of our product-based economic activity to web-based economic activity, we can create green jobs and rebuild our economy without damaging the environment.

But here’s where we run into a problem. How can we create Internet-based green jobs if most people are accustomed to receive valuable information, goods, and services in cyberspace for free? We need to transfer money from the real world to the virtual world. Even on the Internet, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

I am afraid for the planet, the same way I was afraid for my dad

During the three years my dad lived with incurable cancer, I tried not to wallow in fear.  But shielding myself by living in denial wasn’t an option. Dad needed me to find clinical trials, look for new treatments, talk to doctors–anything to try to keep him alive. I spent hours and hours on the computer, trying to find something that would give my family hope.

It was hard to keep trying.  Because I knew all along that he wasn’t going to make it, no matter what I did.  Just three weeks after he was diagnosed, I found a retrospective study that showed that no one, not one person in all the case records they had found, had survived this cancer more than five years. Sometimes, I would find myself drifting away from the hard reality. Hey, let’s not think about it. Forget the cancer newsgroups tonight. Don’t bother with checking clinicaltrials.gov. But then that tight lump of fear in my chest would return.

My dad’s been gone for a long while now. When my dad died, I was very sad, but I was also relieved. He wasn’t suffering any longer. And I no longer had that lump of fear.

But now the fear is back. James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia hypothesis, says there will be less than a billion people on Earth in 90 year’s time. Wildlife and whole ecosystems will vanish…Polar ice is melting faster than scientists had anticipated.  Polar bears are drowning. The glaciers on Mt. Kilimanjaro are disappearing. That will mean drought and death for the elephant orphans I love so much in Tsavo National Park.

It’s like coping with incurable cancer. The years ahead will be ones of pain, loss, and sorrow. Each animal extinction will be a death knell for me. The large mammals will go first. Polar bears, penguins, tigers, gorillas…Then birds, amphibians, whales, fish, coral reefs. And trees! We will lose so many beautiful trees.

Are you afraid of global warming? Please leave me a note. They say there’s strength in numbers…

I also have a request for global warming naysayers who may read this: Please do me a favor and surf on by. Or discover what thousands of Nobel Peace Prize winning-scientists have to say on the subject:  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

I Am Afraid For Our Planet, The Way I Was Afraid For My Dad

During the three years my dad lived with incurable cancer, I tried not to wallow in fear.  But shielding myself by living in denial wasn’t an option.  Dad needed me to find clinical trials, look for new treatments, talk to doctors–anything to try to keep him alive.  I spent hours and hours on the computer, trying to find something that would give my family hope.

It was hard to keep trying.  Because I knew all along that he wasn’t going to make it, no matter what I did.  Just three weeks after he was diagnosed, I found a retrospective study that showed that no one, not one person in all the case records they had found, had survived this cancer more than five years.
Sometimes, I would find myself drifting away from the hard reality.  Hey, let’s not think about it.  Forget the cancer newsgroups tonight.  Don’t bother with checking clinicaltrials.gov.  But then that tight lump of fear in my chest would return.

My dad’s been gone for a long while now.  When my dad died, I was very sad, but I was also relieved.  He wasn’t suffering any longer.  And I no longer had that lump of fear.

But now the fear is back.   James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia hypothesis, says there will be less than a billion people on Earth in 90 year’s time.  Wildlife and whole ecosystems will vanish…   Polar ice is melting faster than scientists had anticipated.  Polar bears are drowning.  The glaciers on Mt. Kilimanjaro are disappearing.  That will mean drought and death for the elephant orphans I love so much in Tsavo National Park.

It’s like coping with incurable cancer.  The years ahead will be ones of pain, loss, and sorrow.  Each animal extinction will be a death knell for me.  The large mammals will go first.  Polar bears, penguins, tigers, gorillas…  Then birds, amphibians, whales, fish, coral reefs.  And trees!  We will lose so many beautiful trees.

Are you afraid of global warming?  Please leave me a note.  They say there’s strength in numbers…

I also have a request for global warming naysayers who may read this:  Please do me a favor and surf on by.  Or discover what thousands of Nobel Peace Prize winning-scientists have to say on the subject:  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Good to Great?

Thomas Falk, CEO
Kimberly-Clark
351 Phelps Drive
Irving, Texas 75038, USA
Fax: 972-281-1490
Email: thomas.j.falk@kcc.com

Dear Mr. Falk:

I am currently reading Jim Colin’s classic book: “Good to Great,” which lists Kimberly-Clark as one of the nation’s great companies. There is a quote in the book from Dick Appert, a former Kimberly-Clark executive. “I never had anyone in Kimberly-Clark in all my forty-one years say anything unkind to me. I thank God the day I was hired because I’ve been associated with wonderful people. Good, good people who respected and admired one another. ”

To me, it seemed SO incongruous. This is the same company that is purchasing virgin pulp from clear-cut Canadian Boreal forests! Is your company truly composed of good, good people? Why are you spending millions of dollars convincing Americans that only super soft paper is good for wiping their bottoms?

If you are truly a “good” company, I hope that you will change your marketing strategy, and change your purchasing ethics as well.

Perhaps it bears mentioning that I am also the CEO of a company. Tech Networks of Boston has 25 people and four restrooms. You would never find a Kimberly-Clark bathroom tissue product, or any other non-recycled bathroom tissues in our facilities.

Sincerely,

Susan Labandibar

President,

Tech Networks of Boston

Satyagraha and Business Values

[opening remarks...]

Has the world of business to learn anything from the philosophy that enabled Ghandi to lead a popular movement that freed India from British rule. What is Satyagraha, and what does it mean for business leaders? As you know, the term Satyagraha was made from two Hindu words: Satya, or Truth, and Graha, which means Firmness.  Satyagraha, therefore is Firmness in Truth. It is a way of using perfect self-knowledge and perfect self-mastery to prevail over others — not by force, but by force of example.

Now, compare the principle of Satyagraha to the description of leadership given by this writer:  “You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” It’s a quote from Jim Collins, in the #1 bestseller business book, Good to Great.

The book Good to Great is an analysis of how good companies become great companies. At least if you define “great” as generating stock returns that beat the general market by a lot, and for a long time. If you listen to Jim Collins, the leaders of these companies achieved spectacular results by blending extreme personal humility with unwavering resolve to achieve their goals. When Collins and his researchers first tried to describe this kind of leadership, they could not find a ready-made term that was appropriate. “Servant leader”  and  “selfless executive” were both considered.  But they did not do justice to the fanatic dedication of these leaders to achieving their business goals.  As Collins said, they would fire their brother, if that’s what it takes to make the company great.

As I said, Collins couldn’t find a term to describe these leaders. So he called them “Level 5 leaders.” Originally,  Ghandi didn’t have a term either to describe his leadership style. He originally called it  passive resistance. But the words “passive resistance” did not work for him just as the words “servant leader”  didn’t work for Collins. Ghandi’s passive resistance wasn’t passive just as Collins’ leaders weren’t servants. So Ghandi actually had a contest to name the movement, and this was the way the term Satyagraha was adopted.

If you are just looking at what it takes to make a great leader, it would seem that both Ghandi and Collins are in agreement: A person who combines clear-sightedness with perfect self-mastery and enormous resolve, can do almost anything. That is the power of Satyagraha. But now I am coming to the crucial point, which makes it crystal clear that Ghandi and Collins have very little in common. And the crucial point is values. Some of the companies that Collins called “great” were NOT great. I don’t care how much money Philip Morris and Kimberly-Clark generated for their shareholders. They are not great companies. Let me read you a quote from the interviews Mr. Collins conducted with executives from Philip Morris and Kimberly-Clark.

In wrapping up my interview with George Weissman of Philip Morris, I commented, “When you talk about your time at the company, it’s as if you are describing a love affair.” He chuckled and said, “Yes. Other than my marriage, it was the passionate love affair of my life.  I don’t think many people would understand what I’m talking about, but I suspect my colleagues would. “ Similarly, Dick Appert of Kimberly-Clark said in his interview, “I never had anyone in Kimberly-Clark in all my forty-one years say anything unkind to me. I thank God the day I was hired because I’ve been associated with wonderful people. Good, good people who respected and admired each other.”

Okay, Kimberly-Clark is the number one driving force behind America’s love affair with soft and squishy bathroom tissue. They are the creators of the Mr. Whipple ad campaign:  “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin.” Do you know why Charmin is squishy?  Because its made with virgin paper pulp. And Kimberly-Clark is–even to this day–proud to advertise on their website that Kleenex contains 100% virgin pulp. Most of this pulp comes from Canada, where they are  clear-cutting  ancient  Boreal forests to keep American rear-ends happy. So the people at Kimberly-Clark respected and admired each other?  I can’t imagine why. And, as for Philip Morris, I won’t even go there.

So this is the problem in the business world. We have great people with tremendous leadership skills who are leading us in exactly the wrong direction. Ghandi and his movement stand as a shining example of non-violent resistance as a spiritual discipline . Jim Collins and his Good-to-Great companies are monuments to the culture of greed. In both of these  examples there is great leadership. But if the leader is going the wrong way, we need to hop off the bus.

So, how do we know if we are–in fact–leading in the right direction? Ghandi devoted his life to the pursuit of Satya, or Truth. He once said that Truth is God. He also  wrote a biography called  My Experiments with Truth. He begins the book by saying that, while it was not his intention to be autobiographical, it was necessary for him to write about almost all of his life, since all his life was devoted to a search for truth. So, Ghandi was a “seeker” in the classic sense of the word. But he was not content with merely seeking the truth. He was also a doer. He wanted to LIVE the truth. And, for him, this meant devoting his life to leading India  back to the simplicity of her ancient civilization, and  out from under, not just British rule, but modern civilization itself.

And this is where Ghandi’s concept of Satyagraha is so relevant to the situation in which we find ourselves today. Maybe under other circumstances, Ghandi would have been content to live his life as a seeker, as many Indian gurus and swamis have. But circumstances compelled him to become a leader of his people.

Today we are facing our own terrible crisis. And it is not the financial crisis, although, yes, I have had to lay off four people, and I am not taking a salary. No, the crisis I am talking about is the worst mankind has ever faced. Our world is warming. Our oceans are rising. And we, for the moment, at least, stand powerless to stop it. This not a matter of opinion. This is documented fact.

Over the last two years, scientists from over 60 countries have participated in a research program called “The International Polar Year.” This $1.2 billion dollar program funded more than 160 multi-disciplinary research projects. The final report was released on February 25th. It says that ice over both poles is melting much faster than scientists had thought possible. And the rate of ice loss in Greenland is increasing as well.

And this is where I feel we can learn from Ghandi. Many of us so urgently feel the need to stop global warming. But it’s easy to feel powerless when we think of the task ahead of us. How do you choose what to do every day when there is no path before you? How did Ghandi, for example, decide that he would choose 79 of his followers, and march 240 miles from his ashram to the sea to defy the British salt tax by making his own salt?

This is the power of Satyagraha. It is the power of the will.

Now I’m going to tell you a personal story of something that did a lot to deepen my will.  Although it had nothing to do with freeing India or stopping global warming, it taught me that everyday people like me and my Dad can summon the strength to fight these forces that are far greater than we are. Now notice I didn’t say “fight these forces and win.” Because we didn’t win.

Eight years ago, my dad was diagnosed with a very rare form of melanoma.  It was growing, not on his skin, but in his sinus. And Dad and I fought that disease. Dad fought his disease in order not to leave my Mom and the rest of his family. And I fought it because he asked for my help. For the next three years, I went to medical libraries, photocopied articles in medical journals, pored through listings of clinical trials, wrote to doctors all over the country, made appointments, sent medical records, fought with insurance companies. I even created a website where I listed clinical trials and tracked my dad’s medical history. And I did this knowing that my Dad was not going to beat this disease.

How did I know this? Because, within three weeks of his diagnosis, I had found a retrospective study on melanoma of the sinus. A retrospective study is when someone goes to multiple hospitals and looks up every documented case of the disease and records the initial diagnosis, the method of treatment, and how long the patient lived. In the case of my dad’s disease, they hadn’t found even one person who had survived for more than a few years.

So I knew he was going to die. And I was almost positive that nothing I could do would prolong his life. Actually, in some ways I made it worse because I’m sure Dad would have been a lot more comfortable, and he would have been in the hospital a lot less if he hadn’t gone through all those clinical trials.

But, for our family, what we did was right. They say that “what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.” But they’re wrong. Because, even though melanoma did kill my father, what he he endured to try to be there for his family was a shining act of bravery that will resonate forever for everyone that knew him.

My father died five years ago. I’m sure you are not surprised to hear that after his death, things changed for me. He died in February, 2003. At the time he died, my computer business was already eight years old. By all accounts, I had a successful business. We were growing every year. And I was making money. But this was no longer enough. I had to figure out what I was going to do with my life.

In fact, I didn’t even know why I had started the business in the first place. One day, I had picked up an old hippie book called Earning Money without a Job by Jay Conrad Levinson. The advice was basically to start several businesses at the same time and see what panned out. That’s how I started selling used computers to college students. It was such a rough and tumble affair, it seemed more like an adventure than a business to me. I bought used equipment from shady people who cleaned out offices and sold them for cash to inner city students. One day I was even held at gunpoint when I tried to repossess a computer.

Not really a credible beginning for a values-driven business. The truth is, I didn’t start Tech Networks with a social purpose. But after my dad died, I started to realize that I had the strength and courage to try to address real problems in this world. And I didn’t need to wait until I was a millionaire to do it. So, over the next few years I worked on morphing the business from the traditional profit-maximizing model to a less traditional change-maximizing model. It’s what Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammad Yunis calls “a social business.” Instead of taking donations, you  generate revenue from sales, like a regular business. But you then channel the profits from those sales to fulfill your social mission.

My company still makes money by helping people use technology. But our new social mission is to reduce the environmental impact of computing. Not just for us, but for every company.  This has proved to be more difficult than I thought. Our first attempts to reduce computer energy use started in 2006 when we announced our new Earth PC.  The Earth PC was one of the first computers with a power supply that was more than 80% efficient. It was endorsed by the EnergyStar program and by utility companies who gave us a $5 rebate for every PC we sold. The media loved us. We even landed a front page article in the Boston Globe.

But how much energy did we save? Actually, very little, even though we were very successful at selling them. By recommending Earth PCs, we failed to take into account all of the other solutions that were actually more efficient. Sure, an Earth PC used less energy than one that was exactly the same except for a less efficient power supply. But what about buying a laptop instead of an EarthPC, or what about a thin-client solution?  Maybe our customers shouldn’t buy anything new at all.  If they just kept their existing computer and installed power management on it, so the computer goes to sleep when they are not using it, that would save more energy than anything else.

In fact, the deeper we dug into the issue, the more confused we became. Some of the data we have found says that 81 percent of the lifetime energy use of a PC is expended during the production cycle. So the very idea of replacing your computer to save energy becomes ridiculous. Not only does it take a lot of energy to make a new desktop computer, but it takes a lot of resources. I have some 2006 data that says it require 528 lbs of fossil fuels, 38 lbs of chemicals and 400 gallons of water to make the average desktop computer. That’s the same resources as it take to build a mid-sized car!  And when you dispose of these computers, you release toxic waste materials such as dioxins, mercury, lithium and lead.

So now we are asking people:

  • What problem are you trying to solve by purchasing new equipment?  Is there any way to reconfigure existing equipment to achieve the same result?
  • Are you buying hardware or software from vendors that promote equipment obsolescence in order to sell more stuff?
  • If you don’t need your equipment anymore, who else can get some use out of it?
  • And, finally, what will happen to your equipment when it dies?

Sometimes, these questions are as counter-intuitive for us as they are for our clients. In the past, we agreed with our customers that it is better to spend $500 on a new computer than to repair your old one. Somehow, we have to change this. When you purchase a computer, most of your money is sent to far-away companies that are polluting our planet by mining the natural materials; fabricating silicon wafers in hugely polluting factories they call “fabs”; assembling them, boxing them, and shipping them overseas. When you pay a technician to fix your computer problem, your money stays right here in the community and provides someone from around here with a good job.

So, how do I know if I am leading my company in the right direction? Obviously, I don’t.  None of us ever do. As Al Gore said at the climate conference in Fiji last year:  “Path walker: There is no path. You must make the path as you walk.” Ghandi was a great path walker. He made a path that led India out of British control towards self-rule. He did it not by telling others to change, but by BEING the change he wanted to see in the world. Making a new path is hard. But it’s the only way that we are going to get out of the blind alley we are in today. Thank you very much.

Good To Great?

Thomas Falk, CEO
Kimberly-Clark
351 Phelps Drive
Irving, Texas 75038, USA
Fax: 972-281-1490
Email: thomas.j.falk@kcc.com

Dear Mr. Falk:

I am currently reading Jim Colin’s classic book:  “Good to Great,” which lists Kimberly-Clark as one of the nation’s great companies.  There is a quote in the book from Dick Appert, a former Kimberly-Clark executive.  “I never had anyone in Kimberly-Clark in all my forty-one years say anything unkind to me.  I thank God the day I was hired because I’ve been associated with wonderful people.  Good, good people who respected and admired one another. ”

To me, it seemed SO incongruous.  This is the same company that is purchasing virgin pulp from clear-cut Canadian Boreal forests!  Is your company truly composed of good, good people?  Why are you spending millions of dollars convincing Americans that only super soft paper is good for wiping their bottoms?

If you are truly a “good” company, I hope that you will change your marketing strategy, and change your purchasing ethics as well.

Perhaps it bears mentioning that I am also the CEO of a company.  Tech Networks of Boston has 25 people and four restrooms.  You would never find a Kimberly-Clark bathroom tissue product, or any other non-recycled bathroom tissues in our facilities.

Sincerely,

Susan Labandibar

President,

Tech Networks of Boston

Greening IT in the Hotel Industry

Last week I gave a presentation on Sustainable IT in the hotel industry. It’s surprising how much IT equipment goes into building the IT infrastructure of a larger hotel. There is the server that handles the reservations, another to handle programming the room keys. There are the restaurant servers, the gift shop servers, and the rooms management servers. There’s even a server to handle the in-room movies!

There are computers in the office, computers in the business center, and–in some hotels–computers in the rooms. There are displays in the hallways guiding guests to their conference rooms, computers at the front desk, and in the kitchens. Not to mention the wireless Internet access that is available throughout the hotel.

Server consolidation, server virtualization, and enabling power management are the three fastest ways to reduce IT-related energy consumption in the hotel industry.