Category Archives: GoGreen 2011 Portland

GoGreen ’11 Portland Green Line Series: George Northcroft on What Happens When The Federal Government Goes Green

The U.S. Government is the largest landowner in the world—so when they decide to go green, it amounts to huge impact. In this week’s Green Line Series, U.S. General Services Administration’s Northwest/Arctic Regional Administrator, George Northcroft, tells us how greening the government’s supply chain is driving a more sustainable economy in Oregon and beyond.

GoGreen Conference: When the government decides to green its supply chain—what does that encompass? How far is GSA going in terms of implementing sustainable best practices?
George Northcroft: GSA is looking at the big picture of our carbon footprint, and that includes the supply chain. Right now, we are looking at how we can incorporate sustainability requirements into our supply chain contracts. While we’re still working out the details, this would likely mean asking our suppliers to provide a greenhouse gas inventory of their own emissions, for GSA to use in procurement decisions. We are currently doing a pilot program called the GreenGov Supply Chain Partnership to work with industry to learn the best way to do this.

GG: The U.S. Government is naturally a huge consumer of goods, services and raw resources. How do your choices impact the overall supply chain of sustainable goods in this country?
GN: In our region alone – Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska – GSA leases or owns more than 600 office buildings, and procures $10 billion in goods and services each year. We have enormous leverage on the supply chain, and are using our purchasing power to encourage businesses to make more sustainable goods and services available, since there is an tremendous Federal market seeking them.

GG: Do you believe that GSA and other large organizations have a greater weight to pull in shifting the paradigm towards a green economy because your potential for impact is so much greater than most? If so, what kind of role is GSA pursuing and how?
GN: As the world’s biggest landlord and purchaser of goods and services, we have a special obligation to lead the shift to a green economy. In green building, we have established a Green Proving Ground project where innovative green-building technologies are being tested at Federal buildings across the country and the agency is learning more about those technologies to apply them elsewhere. We also manage the Federal vehicle fleet, and have been making steady progress toward greening our vehicles. In the last two years, we’ve moved the Federal fleet to 50% alternative fuel vehicles and that number is still increasing. We are conducting a 100-vehicle pilot of electric vehicles (Chevy Volts and Nissan Leafs, and Thinks) across the country to learn how electric vehicles can work in the government setting. As stewards of taxpayers dollars, the governments needs to be on the cutting edge and I think we are doing a good job of leveraging our purchasing power while making sound financial choices in a lean budget environment.

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GoGreen ’11 Portland Green Line Series: Nike’s Hannah Jones on the Importance of Collaboration

Nike, being a global company, has the advantage of throwing a lot of weight behind its core values. But that same size and reach also pose a challenge when it comes to aligning every single factory, product line and aspect of your supply chain with the company’s “North Star” goal: A 100 percent sustainable, closed loop system. The folks at Nike just use this as fuel to fire their collective drive—going so far as to collaborate with their competition in order to achieve goals necessary to success for all. In this edition of the Green Line Series, Nike Vice-President of Sustainable Business & Innovation, Hannah Jones, tells us why working together is the best and fastest way for us all to win.

GoGreen Conference: Sustainability is a complex undertaking at any size business—especially at one as large as Nike. What are your priorities? How do you ensure you’ve accounted for all known aspects that affect your goals on sustainability?
Hannah Jones
: We have been on a journey to build a more sustainable company ever since Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight started the company. Bowerman was always interested in creating a lighter shoe which translates into less waste.

NIKE, Inc.’s long-term vision is to create products and business models that are decoupled from constrained resources. Nike has made progress, we’ve learned a lot from being in this space and we’ve applied these learnings to address key industry issues around labor, environment and our supply chain. But there’s still more work to be done.

We’ve taken on challenging issues and invested significant resources in new ways to make products and share what we’ve learned. However, in order to accelerate the industry’s progress to a sustainable future, it’s imperative that the industry works together and collaborates in order to create lasting, scalable, systemic change.

We cannot do this work alone, and so collaboration is key.

GG: What has been more difficult to enact—operational change at the corporate level, behavior change at the consumer level, or controlling a global production supply chain? What solutions have you developed to make progress within this biggest challenge/opportunity area?
HJ: Nike’s global supply chain is large and complex. It has taken years to address certain issues, but as our business continues to become more complex, we see the need to create new solutions. In the absence of industry standards, the challenge is working together as an industry to reshape the system and how we all approach supply chain processes.

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GoGreen ’11 Portland Green Line Series: Intel’s Lorie Wigle on Empowering People To Make Sustainable Choices

Intel’s General Manager for Eco-Technology and GoGreen ’11 Portland Keynote Speaker, Lorie Wigle, has her eye fixed on the business opportunities in sustainability. Using Intel technology, she and her team are tackling our biggest environmental problems by increasing efficiency, driving systemic integration and empowering people with the tools to make smarter choices about their energy and resource consumption.

GoGreen Conference: Tell us about the connections between Intel’s penchant for chasing invention, ingenuity and discovery as a technology company, and sustainability. How does a greener mindset fit into that picture?

Lorie Wigle: It’s interesting because that question causes us to ask: What does sustainability mean? There’s a writer and proprietor at, Joel Makower, who has formed a framework to describe it in the context of business. His theory is that companies go through three stages of evolution in sustainability.

The first one is to do no harm. For Intel that’s very germane to the way we run our factories. Our factories use energy and water. If we want to do no harm, we have to figure out how to minimize our impact. Intel has actually been reporting our environmental footprint since 1994. We make goals well in advance of necessity and we look closely at our environmental footprint in order to ensure we’re meeting them across the board.

The second stage, as Joel puts it, is to do well by doing good. A great example of that at Intel is how we look at our microprocessors. Microprocessors are used in servers, data centers and the notebook computers and smartphones we all carry around with us. Energy efficiency has become a prime basis for competition with the microprocessor—so the more energy efficient we make our products, the better we do in the marketplace and by the environment.

We did an analysis for our CEO recently, looking at the overall energy consumption of the first one billion connected PCs. There were approximately one billion connected PCs in 2007 and together they consumed about 320 terawatt hours of energy per year. Now, we’re forecasting there will be two billion connected PCs globally by the end of 2014—but the amazing thing is that those two billion PCs will use half the energy that the first billion used, and they’ll do seventeen times as much work. The reason for that is that we’ve been able to capitalize on Moore’s Law—which is the doubling of transistors every 18 to 24 months—to drive better energy efficiency and form factors. Through things like this, we do well by doing good.

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GoGreen ’11 Portland Green Line Series: Rep. Jules Bailey on Sustainability as a Business—Not a Partisan—Issue

Oregon State House Representative, Jules Bailey (District 42)Oregon State House Representative Jules Bailey is quite certain sustainability is not so much a partisan issue as it is a business one. He’s got proof too. The state legislature he serves on—split evenly down the middle between Democratic and Republican representatives—has continually worked together to pass laws that help Oregon businesses and residents tap into incentives and protect the resources our economy relies on. These are seen as pro-business choices in addition to pro-environment choices. In this Green Line Series interview, Rep. Bailey tells us how Oregon is moving sustainability beyond partisan politics and how businesses in the state stand to benefit.

GoGreen Conference: Oregon is a pretty progressive state when it comes to environmental and social considerations. We’d like to know how you think business can best partner with the state legislature and representatives in government to continue the support for sustainability that we enjoy here?
Jules Bailey: One of the real advantages we have here in Oregon is that sustainability, especially as it relates to clean energy, has become a bi-partisan issue in our state. I think that’s evidence of a legacy of interest we’ve had in sustainability over the course of Oregon’s history and the leadership efforts we’ve made that are now nationally and internationally recognized.

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GoGreen ’11 Portland: Dick Roy on Culture Change and the Sustainability Movement

Dick Roy, Center For Earth Leadership

Dick Roy and his wife, Jeanne (co-founders of Northwest Earth Institute, the Oregon Natural Step Network and the Center for Earth Leadership), have been full-time champions for the environment for nearly two decades. In that time, Dick has amassed a wealth of experience on driving systemic cultural change and made valuable observations on how to use our past and human nature to help shape our future. In today’s post, we talk with Dick about how things have changed since he began “working for the Earth” and what we need to do to achieve much needed results on the sustainability front.

GoGreen Conference: What was the impetus to change career directions after a very successful run as an attorney at Stoel Rives? Did you have an epiphany or did the motivation to work full-time for the environment evolve over time?
Dick Roy: It was something that evolved over time. Jeanne (my wife) and I were influenced by the culture of the 1960s when there was a lot of idealism floating around. That was the time when President Kennedy made his famous statement: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

By the time I graduated from law school in 1970, we were becoming aware that the Earth was in trouble. And when we came back to Oregon from Boston, we had Governor McCall in place. It was a great time because the legislature was doing a lot of interesting things to address these issues. We got involved right away in the “environmental movement”—I was on the board of 1000 Friends of Oregon, Quiet Trails and the Oregon Environmental Council, and Jeanne was involved in some interesting programs on food, waste reduction and recycling.

In 1987, we took three months off and went down to the Oregon Coast. By then, the context had changed. When I worked with Quiet Trails, I was trying to do local things like keep off-road vehicles off of public land. By 1987 it was clear that global warming and broader issues were making impact, and that the ecological systems of the Earth were in great danger. We decided we’d like to work as full-time volunteers and then in 1991 we took another four months off to develop the programs to do that.

It was not a single epiphany of any sort, but rather a progressive understanding of the condition of the earth and coming to the conclusion that our highest purpose would be to try and fix some of the bad things happening.

GG: Have you experienced any daunting challenges that were particularly rewarding to conquer?
DR: If you look at the ultimate challenges we face as people—which permeate everything we do—there is one I call the double disconnect that is pretty daunting. The first disconnect is that on the economic side. We have capital markets and investors of the world driving the system, but there is no connection between their goals and the goal of a sustainable future. Additionally, on the individual level, we haven’t evolved well to respond to threats that are remote in time and space. That’s the second fundamental disconnect we are trying to address. We view those as our fundamental obstacles to overcome.

In a personal sense, I’ve gone through some pretty intense changes. One day I was in a corner office as senior partner at a law firm, and the next day I was in an empty room at the Galleria. The challenges at that level were daunting as well. A big one was losing a technical support system. Another was moving from a situation where what you do is the highest priority of anyone you’re interfacing with to something that is much lower on the priority scale.

In terms of the greatest triumphs, it’s rewarding is to see how the culture in Portland is so vastly different than it was in 1993. It’s exciting to see change occur. Some of it is very visible—for instance with all the bikes you see on the road today, it’s practically dangerous to drive a car around now. But we also work towards ideas that will spread like wildfire. If you can start the process of a culture change, then all sorts of innovative things will start to bubble up. And that’s occurring as well. There seems to be no end to the interesting programs and initiatives going on here.

GG: Portland lives in a bit of a early adopter bubble when it comes to sustainability. How would you say the mainstream environmental movement has changed since you started working in this field full-time?
DR: There are two big things that have happened. In the beginning of the movement, in the 1960s, things were principally about advocacy. The major activities were filing lawsuits, holding protests and legislative lobbying. Those things peaked in the mid-1970s and then Reagan went into office in the 1980s. That, coupled with the economic downturn, created a bit of a dark time. But parallel to that in the late 1980s and early 1990s were all sorts of interesting ideas perking up. The Natural Step process was one. With that burst of energy in 1990, what came to pass was the birth of the sustainability movement.

The sustainability movement is about voluntary efforts, as opposed to advocacy. You can still see the two threads working in conjunction, but independently of one another. Columbia Riverkeeper is a straight up environmental group. They protect the river through advocacy. Then you have a number of groups working in the sustainability movement, like Northwest Earth Institute, Sustainable Northwest and Ecotrust.

Of course anything that hits the mainstream and becomes popular becomes co-opted at some point, so there is a lot of greenwashing going on—people trying to find and exploit business opportunities in this authentic interest that the public has developed in a different way of living.

GG: After disappointments over the results of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009, people’s optimism seemed to fall from the earlier spike leading up to the event. Would you say you are more or less optimistic about meeting sustainability goals than when you began this work in 1993?
DR: We promote the practice of hope. We remain hopeful, despite feeling optimism and pessimism at any given time. We treat them both as distractions. If you talk about probabilities—which we don’t spend all that much time on—looking at the science now, the data is certainly far more negative than it was 20 years ago and we’ve lost a lot of time.

Paul Hawken summed up the situation in his recent talk at the University of Portland very nicely—if you look at the science and aren’t pessimistic, then you’re probably looking at the wrong data. But if you meet the kind of people who are working to restore the Earth and you aren’t optimistic, then you haven’t got a pulse. That’s how he described it and that’s how we see it too. We don’t focus on probabilities. We focus on having a vision of the highest possible achievements possible and then aligning our conduct to that reach that standard.

The other part of the answer is that we clearly have not gotten ourselves ahead of the curve. You can see in the current economic and political climate that in terms of priorities, jobs are first, social needs are second and the environment doesn’t even come into the equation until much further down the list. And as long as that’s the case, the natural systems of the world will continue to decline. That being said, we still prefer to think in terms of hope instead of optimism and pessimism.

GG: Does that hope come from meeting and working with the people rather than viewing the solution as a technical one? Is that why your organizations have focused on education?
DR: When we decided we wanted to work on changing culture, we figured we could work in public policy, advocacy, motivation or public education. And although the work we’ve done is educational, its primary focus is on motivation. The reason for that is because when you are highly motivated, you can generally get all the information you need to make decisions that align with your values.

On the other hand, many highly educated people are not motivated. We believe that’s because of this disconnect we have with issues that happen over time. It’s difficult to feel a sense of urgency when tomorrow life will still be good in Oregon. In the immediate sense, life is great, but in an ultimate sense, there is an incredible urgency not being addressed. That’s why we focus on motivation. We always work with small groups of people and we always work with groups of people who share their ideas, because we believe that people own things with more intensity through self-discovery as opposed to a traditional teacher-student model. That’s why everything, including materials for the Center for Earth Leadership, is organized around motivation.

GG: Making excuses seems to be a part of human nature. In working with groups and people, have you observed any common “crutch” excuses people use to avoid adopting a more sustainable life practice?
DR: We all have crutches as individuals and in organizations, but our goal is to get people to understand more deeply within a context where they are motivated to do something about it. We attempt to pull people together and create a sense of purpose. For instance, in our Agent of Change course, we get people to consider the possibilities they have in affecting change themselves and then help them get motivated to get the information they need to take action.

GG: What do you see as the private sector’s role in helping to drive culture change?
DR: If you look at business organizations, there is kind of a line in their situation—is the company privately held or publically traded? Once a company becomes publically traded, then at one level it is really beholden to financial analysts, because it has to increase sales and profits, so that its value of stock goes up. But whether a company is privately held—which creates an environment where you have a lot more latitude—or publically traded, there are still so many things that can be done.

In Portland, we’ve had some very progressive business leaders in our history and a lot of those folks formed a progressive business association, the Oregon Business Association. Now there are many associations that have been formed around similar issues. And there are also many companies that have staked their interests in a issue by joining alliances for various aspects of conservation, like trees/forests and renewable energy.

You have others that have simply set a very high bar—InterfaceFlor for example—and are creating models for how companies should operate with these ideals in mind. They sponsor and support non-profit initiatives, and some have engaged in what I call authentic certifications. These are the companies that were the first to have organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council certify a forest.

Another big thing that many of these companies are doing is educating their employees, not only about internal practices, but also about lifestyle choices. My wife, Jeanne, has done over 40 presentations for businesses about moving to Zero Waste. And she focuses on your lifestyle in addition to ways management can encourage innovation and support progressive legislation.

Here in Oregon, if we go all the back to the original bottle bill, Fred Meyer was a champion of that legislation when the other major grocery chains were opposed to it. His support helped enact that legislation. So you can see that it’s very helpful for businesses to support progressive legislation. There is a vast array of things that can be done so long as the internal climate of the business is conducive to it.

GG: How can we, as individuals, help create internal climates that are supportive of green initiatives at our companies?
DR: “Earth leadership” is what we can do to promote sustainability. There are four quadrants of that concept. The first is what we do in our paid work. The second is how we shape our lifestyle—including our buying habits. The third is advocacy and the fourth is creating change in a circle of influence.

If you take those four areas and look at what it means to drive systemic change, one obvious problem is that as buyers—I don’t like to call us consumers—you can’t go out and regiment people en masse. Most of us can’t tell everyone to buy these products as opposed to those products. There is too much independence built into our culture. But when working with individuals, we can talk to people about the fact that every time we spend a dollar, we are voting for a particular culture. And if enough people start using their dollars to vote differently, then that activity will drive systemic change.

One rule of thumb for your home life or business life could be to shop local. Another is to simply realize that our dollars are very powerful cultural drivers. Understanding that helps us bridge the disconnect between ideals and action. Someone might say they really don’t like big box store, but on the other hand, things are often less expensive there so they shop at them anyway.

To give you an example of a cultural disconnect, back in the 1990s, Coke and Pepsi were systematically going into schools and developing exclusive contracts. The school or school district could only sell Coke or Pepsi—depending on which provider they chose. And they would get a bonus, depending on how much product they sold to the children at their schools. So there was an actual financial incentive to get kids to drink more sugar water, which we already knew was unhealthy for them.

We weren’t paying attention, so we couldn’t solve the issue. It’s important to be alert throughout your day, so that if you see something that’s not right, you can protest in some way. If you go into a store and have to get this hard, plastic shell around a few screws, you can complain or go somewhere you can buy screws without packaging. Stepping it up a level, you could join an advocacy group. It’s difficult to regiment individuals, and yet it’s incredible how much we can do when we align forces. When we act collectively, we can drive very broad cultural change.

Dick Roy is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at the Center for Earth Leadership. He is also a speaker at GoGreen ’11 Portland. You can see Dick and over 50 additional leaders in green business live in Portland, Tuesday, October 4, 2011. Register at:

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