John Doerr, “the über venture capitalist” from Kleiner Perkins has been successfully lobbied to change his “vote” and join efforts to redesign business to be more socially responsible. In a tearful ending to his talk at this year’s TED Conference last month, Doerr challenged business leaders to take on the challenge.
So who was responsible for this epiphany? His 15 year old daughter.
Here is an excerpt from Business Week’s reporter who covered the event:
In recent years, the TED conference has gained a reputation for blissfully big ideas buoyed by unrelenting optimism. So few conference goers were prepared for venture capitalist John Doerr to choke up with emotion as he kicked off the second day of talks on Mar. 9.
“I’m scared,” he told the audience, looking down at his 15-year-old daughter in the front row. “I don’t think we’re going to make it.”
Doerr issued a passionate call to action for everyone to make environmental concerns their “next big thing.” As one of several positive examples, he praised Wal-Mart for making great moves to address what he called the three largest energy drains in business—heating and cooling systems, lighting, and refrigeration. The giant’s initiative forced its 60,000 suppliers to focus on environmental issues as well, he said.
“Going green is the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century,” said Doerr, who through his venture firm’s Greentech initiative is investing in the sector. Although much attention has been focused on fighting global warming, Doerr offered a bleak assessment of these efforts. “I’m afraid it’s not enough,” he said.
Going green is the most prominent of the themes that has emerged at TED this year, and it has taken on a newfound urgency. But if Doerr seemed depressed, the audience was energized.
Fortunately, the world has business leaders who are way down the road on transforming business to redesign free market capitalism so that it measures value not only from a financial perspective but also accounts for the “externality” costs that make today’s business so unproductive and inefficient.
The ultimate issue of global climate change for business is not about the ecological impact we are witnessing. That is an “effect” or an “end” result. The ultimate issue for the greatest and most creative minds in business should be on the “means” and “causes” of inefficiently designed business that in turn forces society to create regulations, protective legislation, and the taxes used by society to clean up after business.
Author Paul Hawken and others say that if business were designed to internalize “external costs” (e.g. waste generated to create it) were properly calculated in the price of their product or service then the market would calculate the true cost of an inefficiently designed product and make it more expensive than a product that is more efficiently designed and does no harm to the environment (e.g. organic foods).
It’s amazing that products and services that are neutral or even regenerative to our society (e.g. no external costs) actually cost more than products or services that create massive social costs in which we all end up paying.
I would cry over that one too.