Why globalization is (mostly) green

Shipping millions of containers of stuff around the world might seem to be bad for the planet but in the long run globalization will help us solve our environmental problems.

With apologies to anyone who took Econ101 in college and at the risk of oversimplification, here’s why:

  1. The global economy is not a zero-sum game.
  2.  Trade benefits buyers and sellers
  3. Rising incomes and wealth are good for the environment.

Ergo, globalization is mostly green.

This may seem self-evident to some but as I follow the conversation about business, the economy and sustainability in a number of venues — from the sparring over China in last week’s presidential debate to Mark Bittman’s musings about an ideal food label to the argument from some enviros that what we need is not economic growth, but “degrowth” — I’m surprised by lack of understanding of the benefits of trade, globalization and growth. [click to continue…]

This carpet has moral fiber

If you’re like me, you don’t think much about carpets.

Except maybe when you spill on one.

But like so many everyday things that we take for granted, carpets have a story to tell,  and it’s becoming an intriguing sustainability story.  Shaw Floors, the world’s largest carpet manufacturer, which is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, recycled 121 million pounds of used carpet last year– reclaiming it from homes or offices, breaking it down into caprolactam, a compound which is a building block of nylon, and then redeploying the nylon to make new carpet.

The carpet pictured above is branded as EcoWorx. It’s a PVC-free, fully recyclable alternative to traditional carpet tile, designed from the get-go to be broken down and remanufactured into itself again and again. More than half of the carpet sold by Shaw is now certified as Cradle to Cradle, the protocol developed by McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry.

In Shaw’s sustainability report, Buffett writes:

Companies today have to consider what kind of impact their decisions will have on both their businesses and the planet – ten, twenty, thirty or forty years from now. And when in doubt, it’s wise to err on the side of the planet.

Nice. Recently, I met with Paul Murray, Shaw’s vice president of sustainability, and David Wilkerson, director of sustainability, to talk about Shaw. It’s a big company–revenues topped $4 billion last year and Shaw employs about 25,000 people, most in manufacturing jobs in the southeast, near its headquarters in Dalton, Ga., the world’s carpet capital. Like its peers, Shaw is enduring hard times because its business is closely tied to the real estate industry; its sales have fallen from a peak of $5.8 billion in 2006. [click to continue…]