Iâ€™ll be celebrating Earth Day in 2008 by chairing a FORTUNE conference on business and the environment called Brainstorm: Green. Weâ€™re expecting about 300 peopleâ€”business execs, NGO leaders, academics, people from government, scientists and many of my FORTUNE colleagues. Itâ€™s a first for the magazine, a spinoff of sorts from the successful and stimulating series of Brainstorm conferences that my friend and colleague David Kirkpatrick has been leading since 2001.
The symbolism of big companies and NGOs coming together on Earth Day will surely irritate some people. But Iâ€™d argue that the only way weâ€™re going to solve our environmental problems will be with the support, whether enthusiastic or reluctant, of corporate America. Weâ€™ll use the occasion to look at ways that business can profitably attack environmental problems, as well as to see what work remains to be done.
Iâ€™m excited about the conference, which Iâ€™ve been working on for a few months with our conference division, and in particular with Anne Moffat. Weâ€™ve got a great list of CEOs who have agreed to speak. They include David Crane of NRG Energy (which wants to build nuclear plants and a clean coal plant), Peter Darbee of PG&E Corp. (a leader in the corporate coalition for carbon regulation), Michael Dell of Dell (which has made great strides around computer recycling and other issues), Bill Gross of Energy Innovations (solar guy and all-around entrepreneur), Gary Hirschberg of Stonyfield Farm (who has built a great brand around sustainability), Chad Holliday of DuPont (longtime environmental leader, developing eco-materials), Fisk Johnson of S.C. Johnson (great, little-known story about sustainability from the makers of Raid, Drano and Zip-Loc bags), Doug McMillon of Samâ€™s Club (huge impact and big ambitions), Jim Rogers of Duke Energy (another progressive utility, although they burn lots of coal) and Dave Steiner of Waste Management (trying to move from landfills to recycling). None of these companies is truly sustainable yet, but each one is wrestling in a serious way with big issues that matter. Weâ€™re hoping to add a few more CEOs to the list before long.
NGOs will be well represented, too. Our programming partners for Brainstorm: Green include Conservation International, Environmental Defense, the Natural Resources Defense Council and World Resources Institute. Glenn Prickett of CI, Fred Krupp of ED and Jonathan Lash of WRI have agreed to speak about their work with business. Kate Krebs of National Recycling Coalition will talk as well. Iâ€™m also expecting other environmental leaders to join us.
Weâ€™re going to present a civilized and, I hope, enlightening debate about nuclear power featuring Alex Flint of the Nuclear Energy Institute and David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Weâ€™ll also hear from some of the leading thinkers around sustainability in the corporate world, including Bob Langert of McDonaldâ€™s, Joel Makower of Greener World Media, Andrew Shapiro of Green Order, Arne Sorenson of Marriott International and Mark Tercek of Goldman Sachs. That list will grow as we add speakers from the Wall Street, the auto industry, consumer goods and media companies. Weâ€™ll also be seeking out speakers from Europe and the developing world.
Iâ€™m thrilled by the response, so far, to Brainstorm: Green. Iâ€™m hoping it will be a great opportunity for learning, networking and moving the ball forward on the greening of business. FORTUNE has just put up a website where thereâ€™s a bit more information about the event, where you can sign up to attend or propose speakers. Iâ€™m eager to hear your ideas and feedback directly–you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.