Great companies have a purpose that goes beyond making money. Google wants to organize the world’s information. Walmart seeks to save people money so they can live better. The Walt Disney Co. tries to make people happy. (Or at least it used to; Disney’s current mission statement is a bunch of gobbledygook.)
Purpose matters. It’s a big reason why people go to work every day.
BYD, the Chinese company that makes electric cars, batteries and solar panels, has a grand purpose: It wants to save us all from climate change, which it calls “slow suicide.”
In a new company video (below), BYD says:
Glaciers are melting. Sea levels are rising. Who can guarantee that the next victims won’t be us?
Where is Noah’s ark to save human beings?
I’ve been fascinated by BYD — the letters are the initials of the company’s Chinese name, but they have come to stand for Build Your Dreams — since writing a FORTUNE cover story about the company in 2009. Two years ago, I visited BYD in Shenzhen, met with its founder and chief executive, Wang Chuan-Fu, and spoke about the company with Warren Buffett, Charles Munger and especially David Sokol of Berkshire Hathaway, who sits on the BYD board. Through its MidAmerican Energy subsidiary, Berkshire Hathaway bought 10% of BYD for $230 million in 2008. Despite some recent stumbles at BYD, the company’s market capitalization has grown to about $33 billion, so Berkshire’s stake is now worth about $3.3 billion. Not too shabby.
Lately, I’ve been in contact with U.S. investors who are bullish about the firm. One of them, Shai Dardashti, a Buffett admirer who runs a small money management firm, pointed me towards this seven-minute company video. It’s worth watching (although it ends abruptly for reasons that I haven’t been able to determine).
This video is fascinating in light of BYD’s remarkable but brief history. Since 1995, it has evolved from a manufacturer of cell-phone batteries into one of China’s largest automobile companies and it is now making a major push into clean energy, both with the manufacturing of solar panels and utility-scale batteries to store energy. (For more on BYD’s energy storage plans and MidAmerican Energy, see Warren Buffett’s Big Battery Play at GreenBiz. Recently, the city of Los Angeles’s Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and BYD said they would work together to develop a grid-scale battery project for renewable energy storage. [click to continue...]