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03.02.2009 Business & Finance

American businesses not green enough - Report

By Mercury News

American businesses are talking the green talk, but they aren't walking the green walk enough, the author of a report said Monday.

In the “State of Green Business 2009,” the executive editor of, part of Oakland-based Greener World Media, said he was “a little disappointed” that more progress wasn't being made.

“Is all of this green activity we read about actually moving the needle?” was the question that Joel Makower's 62-page report tried to answer.

“The answer, in aggregate, is not so much,” he concluded.

Makower does see some positive signs. Venture-capital investment in clean-tech technologies have doubled in the past year. Clean-energy patents also are on the upswing. And we're using less and less paper to produce each dollar of gross domestic product, he said.

Also promising, Makower said, is Barack Obama's arrival in the White House.

“Think how much progress has been made over the past decade despite the lack of national leadership,” he said. “I'm not even just talking about George W. Bush. The greening of business has gone from a movement to a market during that period of time.”

Still, troubling signs are everywhere, according to Makower. Greenhouse gas emissions rose 1.4 percent in 2007 over 2006. Using the carbon-intensity scale, where emissions are measured as a percentage of gross domestic product, there was a decline in emissions, but it was the smallest decline since 2002.

Electronic waste is another major area where little progress has been made. “We're still getting buried under a growing mountain of e-waste,” he said. “And we're losing ground every year.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1,322 tons of computers were disposed of in 2007, yet only 244 tons were collected for recycling.

Also, due to a lack of regulation, much e-waste gets sent overseas, the report noted. Media reports have noted “horrific” conditions in e-waste processing plants in China, India, Ghana and elsewhere.

The “State of Green Business 2009″ is the second in what is planned to be a yearly exercise, Makower said. He and the other editors, writers and researchers at Greener World Media raised their standards this time around.

“We became tougher graders this year,” Makower said. “We graded too easily last year. We were guilty of being a little bit more boosting. This year, we stepped back and looked at what needs to be happening with climate change and resource scarcity. It just isn't happening fast enough.”

Greening of Business
The GreenBiz Index rates the U.S business community on 20 measures of environmental performance, from emissions and telecommuting to e-waste and green jobs. Each category is rated as making progress, standing still or falling behind. Here are some of the findings:

Making progress: Clean-tech investments.
Clean-energy patents. Energy efficiency. Paper use and recycling. Amount of water used per unit of gross domestic product.

Standing still: Building energy efficiency. Number of environmental reports from S&P 500 companies. Employee commuting.

Environmental damage costs as a percent of economic output. Fleet impacts (estimated annual greenhouse gas emissions per vehicle). Green jobs, office space and power use. Toxic emissions per unit of GDP.

Falling behind: Emissions of greenhouse gases per unit of GDP. Employee telecommuting. E-waste.

Source: Mercury News