Thursday, November 30, 2006

Fortune Innovation Forum day 2--Sustainability and Profitability

Panelists were:
Chad Holliday, CEO of DuPont
William McDonough, architect specializing in sustainable design

On a 1-10 scale - the current state of sustainability in today's business (1-completely constructive, 10-completely sustainable):
McDonough - 4, Holliday - 3

Holliday said that it's criticial that business and government agree on the "rules of the road"--legislation--so American business's creativity can respond.

Most pressing issues: Holliday: use of water, greenhouse effect.

DuPont has been working on biological research for 15 years, and now have learned how to use corn and other renewable materials to generate polymers, rather than using petrochemicals.

The rise of oil prices has been a catalyst for manufacturers' adoption of these new materials. The marketing message is value to the consumer--the manufacturer uses the "green" to help market the product, though it can't command a significant price premium.

Cellulosic ethanol is a strategic product, and they are working on a biofuels joint venture with BP.

McDonough worked on the new Ford Rouge plant. World's largest green roof (10.5 acres)--vegetation and a dozen species of birds live there. The roof absorbs greenhouse gas, keeps temperature more stable, reduces the wind load on the building. Business case was as follows: Ford would have to pay $48MM to come into compliance with the Clean Water Act using traditional building methods. The sustainable technologies approach cost $13MM for roof, permeable parking lot, etc.

He also worked with Herman Miller to design a cradle-to-cradle chair. No petrochemicals, easily disassembled and remanufactured. A key value proposition is that Herman Miller will easily retain the customer, since they will come to collect the chair when you're done with it.

(picture: Ford's Rouge Plant)

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