REI’s Sally Jewell at Net Impact

Sally Jewell – 2011 Net Impact Conference from Net Impact on Vimeo.

Sally Jewell, the chief executive of REI,  is the most unpretentious big-company CEO I know. When we first met a couple of years ago for dinner in Washington, she arrived in toting an REI backpack (made from recycled material). She’s plain-spoken, direct and a good interview.Her company, as you might expect,  is committed to minimizing its environmental footprint. (Without  a healthy planet, there’s no business for REI.)

So I was delighted when Sally agreed to a keynote interview at the 2011 Net Impact conference last week in Portland. We talked about how REI has lowered its energy and GHG emissions while adding stores, about the (unfair) competition from Amazon and about how ideas percolate up, down and around the retailer.

Some 2,600 people attended the New Impact confab which, as always, was a great event. I’m only slightly biased, as a board member of Net Impact; the organization’s mission is to inspire and equip young people to use the power of business to make a more just, sustainable world. You can hear more about Net Impact on the video below from Liz Maw, Net Impact’s executive director.. The interview with Sally is nearly an hour long, but I’ve posted it here, figuring that at the least REI employees may want to watch.

And, if you are one of those people who plans ahead, please mark your calendar for the 2012 Net Impact conference on Oct. 26-27, in Baltimore, MD.

Brainstorm Green: What a zoo!

headerThe unexamined life is not worth living, said Socrates.

“Leading an examined life in business is a pain in the ass,” said Yvon Chouinard.

Chouinard, the legendary founder of Patagonia, spoke yesterday at Brainstorm Green, FORTUNE’s conference about business and the environment.

He was talking about the challenge that companies will face as Wal-Mart and its partners in a broad-based sustainability consortium go forward with their sustainability index, a bold  effort to measure the environmental impact of tens of thousands of consumer products. It may not be easy for companies to track–and disclose–the pollution caused by their products, but it’s a vital step in the right direction.

Brainstorm Green is, in part, about the examined life: We try to take an honest look at the environmental impact of business, and see what progress if any we’re making towards a more sustainably economy. For three days this week in beautiful Laguna Niguel, CA., we brought a diverse group of business and environmental leaders together to talk about ways in which corporate America can help solve  environmental problems. We discussed electric cars, renewable energy, nuclear power, the smart grid, energy efficiency, water, sustainable supply chains, oceans, engaging employees around green, food and agriculture, green marketing, geoengineering and what sustainable consumption might look like.

We had a great lineup of speakers, more than 100 in all, including Chouinard, Bill Ford, Lee Scott of Wal-Mart,  Stewart Brand, the explorer Sylvia Earle, Lew Hay of FPL, NRG Energy’s David Crane, Bill Gross, Starbucks’ Cliff Burrows, Scott Griffith of Zipcar, Sally Jewell of REI, the leaders of the Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Nature Conservancy and Sierra Club..

This year, we added a new, er, twist to the event, as you can see here.

For the first time, we featured animals at Brainstorm Green, thanks to the fabulous Julie Scardina of Sea World. She brought a menagerie—hawks, an eagle, a lemur, an adorable baby kangaroo, flamingos, and a 14-foot-long boa constrictor  that took a liking to FORTUNE’s managing editor, Andy Serwer.

Brad Markel_6557

Photo by Brad Markel

That was hilarious–you can see watch it unfold on video here–but not so funny were the reminders from Julie that climate change and habitat destruction are putting the squeeze on numerous species of animals that play valuable role in the earth’s ecological systems, particularly in the tropics. [click to continue…]

Brainstorm Green: The Home Edition

FORTUNE’s third annual Brainstorm Green conference about business and the environment starts today (Monday), and one new twist this year is that you can play along at home.

BstormGreenHorizonta2B4F8FFor the next three days, many of the plenary sessions at the event, which is being held at the Ritz Carlton in Dana Point, Ca., will be shown on the web. People who sign up to attend online will be able to ask questions, I’m told. This is an experiment, an effort to see how a virtual conference will work and, of course, to expand FORTUNE’s business. (Hint: You can tune in for free this year, but that may not be the case in the future.)

As the co-chair and creator of Brainstorm Green, I’m obviously biased but I think we’ve got a great lineup again this year. I’m going to take a break from blogging for a few days to focus on the conference. Here are some  highlights:

Today (Monday) at 3:05 p.m. (all times are listed as Pacific Time, so this is  6:05 in the East), Lee Scott, the former CEO of Wal-Mart who is now chair of the executive committee of the Wal-Mart board, will talk about Wal-Mart’s sustainability efforts with John Huey, the editor in chief of Time Inc. John is a great interviewer who once wrote a book about Sam Walton, so this session should be a treat.

Following that session, at about 3:50 p.m.,  I’ll be asking some of America’s most important environmental leaders: What Do Environmentalists Want? Joining me will be Frances Beinecke of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Mark Tercek of The Nature Conservancy, David Yarnold of the Environmental Defense Fund and Mike Brune, the new head of the Sierra Club. We’ll talk about the outlook for climate legislation in Washington, as well as such hot topics as nuclear power and geoengineering.

Later Monday, I’ll talk to Sally Jewell, the CEO of REI, about “sustainability as a team sport.” [click to continue…]

Brainstorm Green’s all-star team

William Clay Ford Jr.

William Clay Ford Jr.

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.
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Stewart Brand

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 [click to continue…]

Brainstorm Green: the sequel

Brainstorm Green, FORTUNE’s conference on business and the environment, will be back next spring. I’ll be back, too, as co-chair with FORTUNE environmental editor and international editor Brian Dumaine (who edited my very first FORTUNE story back in 1996). We’ll return to the spectacular Ritz Carlton Hotel in Laguna Niguel, California, from April 12 to 14.header-2010

The theme, once again, will be: How can business profitably help solve the world’s biggest environmental problems?

Last year’s Brainstorm Green was a hit, by all accounts. We brought together corporate executives, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, investors, government officials and thinkers. Too many to list here, but they included Bill Clinton, Bill Ford, Paul Hawken, Van Jones, Fisk Johnson, Jim Rogers, David Crane, Mike Morris, Fred Krupp, Peter Darbee, Janine Benyus, Ray Anderson and Bill Gross, as well as  senior execs from Wal-Mart, GE, Microsoft, Dell and HP. Really a diverse group, and a well-informed and lively audience that woke up early and stayed out late to get to know one another and talk about important stuff. The one-and-only Chuck Leavell, keyboardist (with the Rolling Stones!), award-winning tree farmer and entrepreneur, entertained us, and we ate fabulous organic food. [click to continue…]