Before I head to Copenhagen this week for the global climate extravaganza, I want to bring you the latest news about Brainstorm Green, FORTUNE’s conference about business and the environment. I’m delighted by the caliber of leaders and thinkers who have agreed to speak at the event, which will be held April 12-14 in Laguna Beach, CA.
Bill Ford, the executive chairman of Ford Motor, who was a huge hit last year, will be back in 2010. Ford (the company) is one of the few bright spots in the U.S. auto industry, as you know, and while it took a long while coming, the firm seems committed to hybrids, electric cars and other environmentally-friendly technologies, including wheat-straw reinforced plastic and other bio-based materials. Hybrid sales are taking off, as the company recently reported:
- Ford Motor Company’s year-to-date hybrid sales are 73 percent higher than the same period in 2008, fueled by the introduction of hybrid versions of the 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan
- More than 60 percent of the sales of Fusion Hybrid are by non-Ford owners – with more than 52 percent of those customers coming from import brands.
One of the best books that I’ve read in a long time is Whole Earth Discipline: An Eco-Pragmatist Manifesto by Stewart Brand, so I’m thrilled to announce that Stewart will be featured at Brainstorm Green. In the book, he brings a fresh perspective to nuclear power (he’s for it), geo-engineering (he’s intrigued) and megacities (they are both green and engines of economic growth). You can be sure he will challenge conventional wisdom at the conference.
Three powerhouse leaders of the enviromental movement–Frances Beinecke of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Fred Krupp of Environmental Defense and Mark Tercek of the Nature Conservancy–are also planning to attend. Fred and Frances have ben at the event before, and they both plugged into the Washington scene, which will surely be a topic this spring, while Mark, formerly of Goldman Sachs, will be able to offer great insight into the role of markets in solving environmental problems.
New to Brainstorm Green this year will be Sylvia Earle, the well-known American oceanographer. Dr. Earle was chief scientist for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from 1990-1992, and she has been a . National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. We’ll be talking about the health of the world’s oceans, from a business perspective. Other voices on that topic will include Kim Lopdrup, president of the Red Lobster seafood chain.
Since this is a FORTUNE conference, we’ll also be hearing from some of the most thoughtful and influential CEOs and business leaders in the world. I’ve already reported that Lee Scott, the former CEO of Wal-Mart who is now chairman of the company’s executive committee, has agreed to speak. So, once again, has Paul Hawken, the influential author and thinker who, among other things, has advised Wal-Mart. I’m hoping that Paul, who did a fabulous job for us last year, will have news to share about the innovative solar power company he’s been working hard on.
Other chairmen, CEOs or presidents we will be hearing from include Lew Hay of FPL Group, Jeff Smisek of Continental Airlines, Arne Sorenson of Marriott, David Sokol of Mid American Energy (and board member of BYD Automotive), David Crane of NRG Energy, John Replogle of Burt’s Bees, Sally Jewell of REI, Bill Roe of Coskata, Randy Zwirn of Siemens Energy, Kevin Surace of Serious Materials, Kevin Czinger of Coda Automotive and Naomi Porat of Zeta Communities.
We’ll also have investors Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures, Alan Salzman of VantagePoint Venture Partners, Wilber James of Rockport Partners, Anup Jacob of Virgin Green. We’re working on getting Obama administration officials. We’ll showcase some great green ideas you haven’t heard much about.
Meanwhile, we are organizing a series of panels that I think of as news-you-can-use, explaining how how to think about, organize and implement sustainability practices in big companies. Just this week, for instance, Will Sarni, the founder and CEO of consulting firm Domani, agreed to help me organize a conversation about why your company needs a water strategy. (Will is literally writing the book on that topic right now.) And Justin Yuen, the dynamic young president of FMYI, will lead a discussion about how to engage employees around sustainability–how to get them excited, tap into their best ideas and measure progress.
One last treat: Have you ever seen Julie Scardina on The Tonight Show? She has been on the program more than 20 times! Julie is the “animal ambassador” of Sea World and Busch Gardens, as well as an expert conservationist. She will be a Brainstorm Green and, yes, she will be bringing some of her “friends” along.
Brainstorm Green will be held April 12-14, 2010, at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel, CA. You can sign up to attend at the website. As the co-chair of the event, with my FORTUNE colleague Brian Dumaine, I’m also open to hearing proposals for just a few more speakers. (We could use an expert on geoengineering, for example.) No hurry–I don’t expect to be extending any more speaking invitations until after I return from Copenhagen in about 10 days.