Zuckerburg Outlines A Philosophy In Facebook’s IPO Filing

Mark Zuckerburg is 27 years old. Facebook is now 8 years old. It is time for the Facebook IPO.

Zuck offers some insight (via an open IPO letter) into where the company is, where its been, and where it is going. He outlines a “hacker” ethic which emphasizes constant improvement and innovation. We at Tech Planet Journal wholeheartedly agree with this worldview. Move forward. Push on. Develop new ideas. It doesn’t always work – which is clearly evident in Facebook at times- but that’s OK. Move forward. Push on. Develop new ideas.

Below is the letter in its entirety.

LETTER FROM MARK ZUCKERBERG

Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected.

We think it’s important that everyone who invests in Facebook understands what this mission means to us, how we make decisions and why we do the things we do. I will try to outline our approach in this letter.

At Facebook, we’re inspired by technologies that have revolutionized how people spread and consume information. We often talk about inventions like the printing press and the television — by simply making communication more efficient, they led to a complete transformation of many important parts of society. They gave more people a voice. They encouraged progress. They changed the way society was organized. They brought us closer together.

Today, our society has reached another tipping point. We live at a moment when the majority of people in the world have access to the internet or mobile phones — the raw tools necessary to start sharing what they’re thinking, feeling and doing with whomever they want. Facebook aspires to build the services that give people the power to share and help them once again transform many of our core institutions and industries.

There is a huge need and a huge opportunity to get everyone in the world connected, to give everyone a voice and to help transform society for the future. The scale of the technology and infrastructure that must be built is unprecedented, and we believe this is the most important problem we can focus on.

We hope to strengthen how people relate to each other.

Even if our mission sounds big, it starts small — with the relationship between two people.

Personal relationships are the fundamental unit of our society. Relationships are how we discover new ideas, understand our world and ultimately derive long-term happiness.

At Facebook, we build tools to help people connect with the people they want and share what they want, and by doing this we are extending people’s capacity to build and maintain relationships.

People sharing more — even if just with their close friends or families — creates a more open culture and leads to a better understanding of the lives and perspectives of others. We believe that this creates a greater number of stronger relationships between people, and that it helps people get exposed to a greater number of diverse perspectives.

By helping people form these connections, we hope to rewire the way people spread and consume information. We think the world’s information infrastructure should resemble the social graph — a network built from the bottom up or peer-to-peer, rather than the monolithic, top-down structure that has existed to date. We also believe that giving people control over what they share is a fundamental principle of this rewiring.

We have already helped more than 800 million people map out more than 100 billion connections so far, and our goal is to help this rewiring accelerate.

We hope to improve how people connect to businesses and the economy.

We think a more open and connected world will help create a stronger economy with more authentic businesses that build better products and services.

As people share more, they have access to more opinions from the people they trust about the products and services they use. This makes it easier to discover the best products and improve the quality and efficiency of their lives.

One result of making it easier to find better products is that businesses will be rewarded for building better products — ones that are personalized and designed around people. We have found that products that are “social by design” tend to be more engaging than their traditional counterparts, and we look forward to seeing more of the world’s products move in this direction.

Our developer platform has already enabled hundreds of thousands of businesses to build higher-quality and more social products. We have seen disruptive new approaches in industries like games, music and news, and we expect to see similar disruption in more industries by new approaches that are social by design.

In addition to building better products, a more open world will also encourage businesses to engage with their customers directly and authentically. More than four million businesses have Pages on Facebook that they use to have a dialogue with their customers. We expect this trend to grow as well.

We hope to change how people relate to their governments and social institutions.

We believe building tools to help people share can bring a more honest and transparent dialogue around government that could lead to more direct empowerment of people, more accountability for officials and better solutions to some of the biggest problems of our time.

By giving people the power to share, we are starting to see people make their voices heard on a different scale from what has historically been possible. These voices will increase in number and volume. They cannot be ignored. Over time, we expect governments will become more responsive to issues and concerns raised directly by all their people rather than through intermediaries controlled by a select few.

Through this process, we believe that leaders will emerge across all countries who are pro-internet and fight for the rights of their people, including the right to share what they want and the right to access all information that people want to share with them.

Finally, as more of the economy moves towards higher-quality products that are personalized, we also expect to see the emergence of new services that are social by design to address the large worldwide problems we face in job creation, education and health care. We look forward to doing what we can to help this progress.

Our Mission and Our Business

As I said above, Facebook was not originally founded to be a company. We’ve always cared primarily about our social mission, the services we’re building and the people who use them. This is a different approach for a public company to take, so I want to explain why I think it works.

I started off by writing the first version of Facebook myself because it was something I wanted to exist. Since then, most of the ideas and code that have gone into Facebook have come from the great people we’ve attracted to our team.

Most great people care primarily about building and being a part of great things, but they also want to make money. Through the process of building a team — and also building a developer community, advertising market and investor base — I’ve developed a deep appreciation for how building a strong company with a strong economic engine and strong growth can be the best way to align many people to solve important problems.

Simply put: we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services.

And we think this is a good way to build something. These days I think more and more people want to use services from companies that believe in something beyond simply maximizing profits.

By focusing on our mission and building great services, we believe we will create the most value for our shareholders and partners over the long term — and this in turn will enable us to keep attracting the best people and building more great services. We don’t wake up in the morning with the primary goal of making money, but we understand that the best way to achieve our mission is to build a strong and valuable company.

This is how we think about our IPO as well. We’re going public for our employees and our investors. We made a commitment to them when we gave them equity that we’d work hard to make it worth a lot and make it liquid, and this IPO is fulfilling our commitment. As we become a public company, we’re making a similar commitment to our new investors and we will work just as hard to fulfill it.

The Hacker Way

As part of building a strong company, we work hard at making Facebook the best place for great people to have a big impact on the world and learn from other great people. We have cultivated a unique culture and management approach that we call the Hacker Way.

The word “hacker” has an unfairly negative connotation from being portrayed in the media as people who break into computers. In reality, hacking just means building something quickly or testing the boundaries of what can be done. Like most things, it can be used for good or bad, but the vast majority of hackers I’ve met tend to be idealistic people who want to have a positive impact on the world.

The Hacker Way is an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration. Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete. They just have to go fix it — often in the face of people who say it’s impossible or are content with the status quo.

Hackers try to build the best services over the long term by quickly releasing and learning from smaller iterations rather than trying to get everything right all at once. To support this, we have built a testing framework that at any given time can try out thousands of versions of Facebook. We have the words “Done is better than perfect” painted on our walls to remind ourselves to always keep shipping.

Hacking is also an inherently hands-on and active discipline. Instead of debating for days whether a new idea is possible or what the best way to build something is, hackers would rather just prototype something and see what works. There’s a hacker mantra that you’ll hear a lot around Facebook offices: “Code wins arguments.”

Hacker culture is also extremely open and meritocratic. Hackers believe that the best idea and implementation should always win — not the person who is best at lobbying for an idea or the person who manages the most people.

To encourage this approach, every few months we have a hackathon, where everyone builds prototypes for new ideas they have. At the end, the whole team gets together and looks at everything that has been built. Many of our most successful products came out of hackathons, including Timeline, chat, video, our mobile development framework and some of our most important infrastructure like the HipHop compiler.

To make sure all our engineers share this approach, we require all new engineers — even managers whose primary job will not be to write code — to go through a program called Bootcamp where they learn our codebase, our tools and our approach. There are a lot of folks in the industry who manage engineers and don’t want to code themselves, but the type of hands-on people we’re looking for are willing and able to go through Bootcamp.

The examples above all relate to engineering, but we have distilled these principles into five core values for how we run Facebook:

Focus on Impact

If we want to have the biggest impact, the best way to do this is to make sure we always focus on solving the most important problems. It sounds simple, but we think most companies do this poorly and waste a lot of time. We expect everyone at Facebook to be good at finding the biggest problems to work on.

Move Fast

Moving fast enables us to build more things and learn faster. However, as most companies grow, they slow down too much because they’re more afraid of making mistakes than they are of losing opportunities by moving too slowly. We have a saying: “Move fast and break things.” The idea is that if you never break anything, you’re probably not moving fast enough.

Be Bold

Building great things means taking risks. This can be scary and prevents most companies from doing the bold things they should. However, in a world that’s changing so quickly, you’re guaranteed to fail if you don’t take any risks. We have another saying: “The riskiest thing is to take no risks.” We encourage everyone to make bold decisions, even if that means being wrong some of the time.

Be Open

We believe that a more open world is a better world because people with more information can make better decisions and have a greater impact. That goes for running our company as well. We work hard to make sure everyone at Facebook has access to as much information as possible about every part of the company so they can make the best decisions and have the greatest impact.

Build Social Value

Once again, Facebook exists to make the world more open and connected, and not just to build a company. We expect everyone at Facebook to focus every day on how to build real value for the world in everything they do.

Thanks for taking the time to read this letter. We believe that we have an opportunity to have an important impact on the world and build a lasting company in the process. I look forward to building something great together.

California Is Now 5% Wind Powered.

That’s like a whole Vermont!

While the industry is still reliant on tax credits to a large extent, the milestone is a remarkable one. The equivalent of all of San Jose is going about it’s business, running it’s stoplights, illuminating it’s homes, because of wind.

Wind is the “workhorse” of renewable energy and costs are coming down. They are going to have to as the tax credits run out at the end of 2012.

Click here for the story.

LivingSocial lost $558 million in 2011

I like LivingSocial. It’s in my backyard in DC and I have watched it grow quickly. Like Groupon it has issues, primarily that the business model can be replicated fairly easily. I mean I’m not going to do it, but many other folks are trying to. Whether LivingSocial will survive the initial tear down phase is an open question. But it must be said that even with this large loss momentum is with the young company. And it does a heart good to see something, anything, moving forward organically these days. Really the only place this is happening is in tech and tech centered companies.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me. I’m going to go redeem this coupon I just downloaded for a free Georgetown Cupcake.

Click here for the story

AT&T Greening Fleet Initiative – A Good Start

On the heels of a host of greening fleet initiatives by companies from FedEx to Walgreens, AT&T just ordered 1200 new CNG vehicles from GM, the biggest order of compressed natural gas vehicles in General Motors’ history.

CNG technology is important to AT&T because it helps us reduce our fleet-based carbon emissions,” said Jerome Webber, AT&T vice president of Fleet Operations. “It is also cost-effective and readily available in our country right now.

This purchase is part of a $565 million 10-year commitment to natural gas vehilcles. Leveraging procurement to help bring economies of scale to production lines to reduce vehicle costs grows markets for new technologies. But given the pace of automotive technological advances, it’s curious why AT&T as part of its green fleet initiatives is not committing part of its procurement dollars to electric vehicles as companies like FedEx and Walgreens recently did.*

*We stand corrected.

(From ATT.com)

“By January 2012, AT&T had deployed more than 5,000 AFVs, including more than 3,400 CNG vehicles and more than 1,600 hybrid electric vehicles. AT&T has also deployed two all-electric vehicles (AEVs); a Smith Newton cargo truck in St. Louis, Missouri and a Ford Transit Connect Electric van in Dallas, Texas. AT&T expects to make additional AEV deployments in 2011. The Smith Newton truck located in St. Louis is the world’s largest electric battery-powered truck and was the first commercial all-electric truck to achieve new vehicle emissions certification in California.”

Internet Companies, Stakeholders Back Energy Efficiency

When Internet giants such as Facebook, Yahoo!, Twitter and Google leave a large carbon footprint, activist stakeholders like Greenpeace are going to notice. Greenpeace has been campaigning on increased energy efficiency in the sector and in 2011 released its report—How dirty is your data?—on the pollution cloud the IT sector was generating.

Greenpeace has “argued that IT companies, by increasing their electricity consumption while avoiding increasing demand for coal, could become a strong force in helping move countries to low-carbon economies”—a position also supported by a variety of multinationals within the ICT realm like AT&T and stakeholders such as the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Taken from “published figures for data-center power consumption and electricity utilities’ reports of their energy sources,” Greenpeace estimated that “Facebook’s reliance on coal” was at 53.2 percent use in its data centers, just below Apple’s 54.5 percent, but “higher than Google’s 34.7 percent.” Twitter’s coal reliance was at 42.5 percent, while Yahoo!’s reliance was at 18.3 percent, the report stated.

Greenpeace launched a massive campaign two year ago to “Unfriend Facebook,” garnering 700,000 supporters, “to lobby the company to change its energy policies,” especially after the social networking giant announced it would open a new data center in Oregon in February 2010. Though the facility was intended to be energy efficient, PacifiCorp was its source of power, which uses coal as its main source of energy.

In October 2011, Facebook announced that it would build a new data center in Lulea, Sweden, “using hydroelectric power for the servers and relying on the local climate to cool the data center for free.”

Facebook has also announced that it will “develop its platform to work more closely with Greenpeace to ‘promote environmental awareness and action’,” and move away from coal, powering its data centers “with clean and renewable energy.” The two organizations came together to publish a joint statement regarding the effort.

“[Facebook] looks forward to a day when our primary energy sources are clean and renewable, and we are working with Greenpeace and others to help bring that day closer,” said Marcy Scott Lynn, of Facebook’s sustainability program. “As an important step, our data center siting policy now states a preference for access to clean and renewable energy.”

For the company’s existing data centers, it will “engage in a dialogue with our utility providers about increasing the supply of clean energy that power Facebook data centers,” in order to make the company less coal-reliant. Through the Open Compute Project, an organization promoting “low-cost, low-energy computing infrastructure,” Facebook, along with Greenpeace, will distribute and promote the results of its “research into energy efficiency.”

“This move sets an example for the industry to follow,” Tzeporah Berman, co-director of Greenpeace’s international climate and energy program, said. “This shift to clean, safe energy choices will help fight global warming and ensure a stronger economy and healthier communities.”

Using Facebook was “particularly effective” for Greenpeace, added Ms. Lynn. “We are excited to work with them to explore new ways in which people can use Facebook to engage and connect on the range of energy issues that matter most to them—from their own energy efficiency to access to cleaner sources of energy.”

In post on January 19, 2012, Google announced that it “has been working on a project to bring” its facilities to “higher standards for environmental management” and that its data centers had “received ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 certification.” The company claims it is “the first major Internet services company to gain external certification” for its US data centers. Google set some challenging goals for itself and followed through on meeting the key elements required to reach its goals. Some of the improvements Google has implemented are minimizing the “run time and need for maintenance” of its generators, and extending “the lifetime between oil changes” for them. In the process, the company has reduced its oil consumption by 67 percent.

Google has also implemented a system to “handle, package, ship and recycle every single battery” it uses for its servers’ power supply in each data center, ensuring “the safety of the environment” and its workers.

The company states that its decision to be more responsible when it comes to the environment and safety of its workers, it wants “to be the gold standard in environmental and workforce safety, and because we care about the communities where we live and work.”

The Google data centers that have received the dual certification are:
•The Dalles, Oregon
•Council Bluffs, Iowa
•Mayes County, Oklahoma
•Lenoir, North Carolina
•Monck’s Corner, South Carolina
•Douglas County, Georgia

Google intends to pursue certification for its European data centers as well.

As prominent companies within the sector Facebook and Google are setting powerful examples on how technology and sustainability can be paired to move the world toward a less-fossil fuel intense economy.

Internet Privacy and the Power of Mobile Phone Companies

Human Rights and Information Technology, Doing Well and Doing Good

Historically, telephony has been highly regulated while the Internet has not.  With the convergence of mobile telephony and the Internet, a host of regulatory and legal frameworks that manage spectrum and protect individual rights are being challenged for inadequacy.  In the developed world, governments fighting the war on terror want access to individual mobile phone and internet data.  In the developing world, oppressive governments from the Arab world to China, seek to aggressively suppress dissent by monitoring individual mobile phone and internet activity.  Human rights advocates worldwide are vigorously resisting governmental attempts to access individual data and often vilify the companies that comply with governmental requests, calling on companies to increase individual security and anonymity on mobile devices and resist government law enforcement requests.

What are the implications for companies like Google or AT&T?  Google was praised by human rights activists for pulling out of mainland China rather than comply with the government’s censorship requirements.   But Google’s decision was made easier because it was a distant 2nd in search queries behind Baidu and because it could provide uncensored service, albeit more limited, by shifting it from the Chinese mainland to Hong Kong.  Would Google have made a similar decision in countries where it enjoyed more significant market power?  In turn, AT&T has been criticized in the U.S. for compliance with Patriot Act requests, but has experienced more muted criticism overseas.

AT&T operates in over 150 countries via licensing agreements for spectrum access, and has more phones operating internationally than any other U.S. carrier, due primarily to large business customers.  Subsequently, one might assume that AT&T must wield great influence over resisting requests by governments seeking access to information on mobile phone customers.  But I was surprised to learn during the Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference that mobile phone companies like AT&T, when confronted by governmental requests for individual customer data, are limited contractually.

To gain access to a country’s spectrum, mobile telephone companies must operate under the terms of a government’s license, which customarily includes requirements to provide support to government’s law enforcement as needed.  As with law enforcement requests under the U.S. Patriot Act, phone companies providing support to law enforcement is a thorny issue, but at least individual rights enjoy greater legal protections from government intervention in the developed world.  Not so in the developing world, as countries from China, Egypt, and Syria apprehend those they deem dissenters who are identified by monitoring individual telephone and Internet activities via consent of telephone companies.

There is a significant cost for a mobile phone company to secure licenses to operate in multiple countries and they in turn, make commitments to their individual and business customers to ensure access.  So when faced with a request from a law enforcement agency, one that might enable a government to suppress dissent that in the Western world would be commonplace and legal (e.g. Freedom of Expression), what should a mobile phone company do? 

First, a company has an obligation to ensure it’s a legitimate request, that it is issued pursuant to a country’s laws, that it comes from the appropriate government authority, and that the request fits the requirements outlined in the licensing agreement. But is that enough?  Some companies would argue that they are duty bound under a country’s licensing agreement to respond to the law enforcement request or risk losing its license.  And losing that license would have a material impact on operating performance, which may put corporate management in conflict with shareholders. 

But most human rights activists rightly dismiss companies who say they are simply following the laws of the country in which they operate. If lead paint is illegal in the U.S. but legal in a country overseas, should a U.S.-based toy company allow application of lead paint on its toys in that overseas country?   If freedom of expression is legal in the U.S. but illegal in an overseas country, should a U.S.-based mobile phone company like AT&T assist a foreign government in suppressing individual freedom of expression?

These are highly complex issues, uniquely nuanced for each country, and it is too simplistic to argue that a company must always take the moral high ground and refuse government requests, sacrificing their operating license if needed.  But should more companies like Google take stands when faced with what they perceive as law enforcement requests that violate human rights, even if legal by that country’s norms?

Most human rights advocates recognize the complexity of the issues but argue that companies like AT&T have an obligation to wield their power to ensure their customers’ anonymity and security, resisting law enforcement requests that seemingly violate basic human rights, to delay compliance as long as possible.  Some note that with Arab Spring, governments fell so quickly that if mobile phone companies delayed compliance, some human rights activists might still be alive today.

For human rights activists, the stakes can be life or death; for companies, it’s their brand reputation.  But with the advent of social media, this brand reputation damage can be immediate, impacting employee morale, incurring investor ire and increased media scrutiny and consumer backlash via grassroots campaigns.  So it’s incumbent upon companies to be at the table.  At the Silicon Valley Human Right conference, I was pleased that representatives from companies like AT&T, Google, Twitter, and Facebook, were present and engaging in robust dialogue.  For it is only through such dialogue,  between corporate and stakeholder opinion leaders, that we will be able to identify and effect the systemic solutions, protecting individual freedoms and enhancing brand reputation, that we need to see.

Tomato plants stacked 5 high. Potatoes floating in a hydroponic stew of nutrients. The urban farmer.

 

Urban farming on the next level.

 

 

 

Urban farming at least on a small scale is an idea who’s time has come for sure.

From Brooklyn to the Bay Area farming in the city has sprouted (sorry) up all over the place. There are even farmers markets I am told that sell only food grown on urban “farms.”

This can only be a good thing. Eating your food as close to the source as possible is a pretty good idea both for you and for the planet. It really is kind of silly that we eat strawberries grown in Argentina.

But taking urban farming to the commercial level is a different kind of challenge than getting hipster foodies to eat homegrown eggplant.

Click here for the piece in ecomagination.com on urban farming.

 

 

IT for the Bottom of the Pyramid

 “For the first time in history, four billion people are connected,”

 

By Juliette Terzieff

In 2002, C. K. Prahalad and Stuart L. Hart released their book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, a controversial idea on targeting production to impoverished individuals and communities that sparked debates across corporate conference tables in the United States and abroad.

The book’s challenge: produce and distribute products and services that are “culturally sensitive, environmentally sustainable, and economically profitable” to sell to the four billion people at the bottom of the pyramid—those with annual per capita income of less than $1,500. By doing so, some of the world’s wealthiest companies would have to restructure their managerial practices for the new market, and learn to think outside the box in terms of pricing and packaging.

If MNCs invest in “the bottom of the pyramid,” these companies can potentially have a dramatic impact on global poverty, social unrest, political conflict and other issues development experts cite as tied to increasing gaps between wealthy and poor nations. MNCs must recognize that the bottom of the pyramid market offers them a “major new challenge: how to combine low cost, good quality, sustainability, and profitability.”

By creating that buying power and helping to shape aspirations, companies can improve access to education and the world, and tailor “local solutions—the four elements of the commercial infrastructure for the bottom of the pyramid are intertwined.” Innovation in one area creates innovation in other areas. MNCs need to “work with NGOs, local and state governments, and communities” to make progress and create new ecosystems.

In a 2009 interview with Knowledge@Wharton, when asked how he thought The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid ideas were received, Prahalad stated, “there was a fair amount of skepticism—and rightly so. People could not just dismiss the idea; they knew that it was an interesting and a different one.” Skepticism still reigned within most MNCs, but within five years of the book’s release, Prahalad said, “many of the concerns have been put to rest…one industry, which has broken many of the myths and cleared the way for profound rethinking about the opportunities at the bottom of the pyramid: the wireless cellular phone industry,” a prime example. “For the first time in history, four billion people are connected,” he said.

Now with seven billion people populating the planet, four billion seems like a large number. However, Prahalad said that “maybe two and a half billion people are BOP consumers” as the book described.

However, Tier 4—those four billion at the bottom of the pyramid—could grow to more than six billion in the next 40 years, creating even more consumers at the base-level, because that is where the “bulk of the world’s population growth occurs.” Thinking that the bottom of the pyramid isn’t a viable market, MNCs failed to consider the “importance of the informal economy among the poorest of the poor.” In developing countries, that economy “accounts for 40 to 60 percent of all economic activity.”

As far as the cellular phone market, Prahalad stated in his Wharton interview that “this dramatic shift in the use of cellular phones and the dramatic build-up of subscribers…is taking place across the world—sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa, Latin America, India, Southeast Asia, and China.” Companies like Celtel, Safaricom, Airtel, Reliance, Globe, and MTN are all making money in these areas. As of 2009, India alone was adding more than 12 million subscribers per month in the cellular market.

Regardless of literacy, the cell phone industry has shown that people can understand the new technologies and use them to their advantage. Prepaid cards have “become the norm in most parts of the world,” moving the industry “away from average revenue per user…to profitability per minute of cell phone time.”

As the late Prahalad said, “BOP markets can be an extraordinary source of innovation.” One such innovation Prahalad mentioned in the interview was “Netbooks—a $200 computer that is selling like hotcakes in the United States,” with over two million sold in 2008. Prahalad states that the idea was to create a “suitable, reasonably sophisticated laptop for poor people in countries like India. So the idea not only is going to work in countries like India, it is also traveling back to countries like the United States and having a spectacular success.”

Companies have also made great strides—often through working with NGO partners, and occasionally governments—in using text capabilities to overcome infrastructure gaps. Programs that text information on weather patterns and commodity prices are helping small-scale farmers, while others are imparting health reminders and patient information to help reduce maternal mortality rates in rural areas.

For MNCs to effectively participate in developing countries, they “need to change business models in order to create new ecosystems” by establishing partnerships at the local level that maximize the capabilities of both sides to create new opportunities.

Without these ecosystems, companies “seeking to source agricultural products or other goods from the bottom of the pyramid face significant obstacles.” The Coca-Cola Company entered into a partnership, creating an ecosystem that allowed the company to source “its juice-processing operations in Uganda and Kenya,” but not without “millions of dollars in foundation funds that were committed to the training and organizing of farmers there.”

Creating a partnership with NGOs and others that understand the customer base is a good way for MNCs to learn more and extend their reach.

In an interview with Times of India in June 2011, Hart stated that Brazil and China have “sizable emerging markets that make them ideal for entrepreneurs and corporates to monetize on BOP innovations.” Hart also believes that India can have a strong presence in BOP innovations, and that “culturally, India has a democratic and free society that makes it amenable to the emergence of disruptive ideas.”

Companies like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Danone have already begun creating products specific to the Bottom of the Pyramid markets, as well as making those products using either recycled plastics or by creating a new bio-plastic from local sugarcane.

Both Prahalad and Hart have each expanded the original book. Prahalad released The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid in 2004, and Hart released Capitalism at the Crossroads in 2005.

 

Middle America likes market based environmental solutions

What does a green consumer look like?

 

Surely he drives a Prius, lives in a “blue” state, shops at Whole Foods and voted (and will vote for) Obama in the 2012 presidential election. This is the stereotype.

But not everyone who cares about the environment falls into this category. Believe it or not there are lots and lots of folks who don’t fit this profile who would love to see a greener and more sustainable world. Some of them are even Republicans.

And I’m not just talking about the hedge fund greenies in London and New York. There are lots of folks who want a cleaner planet but for whom it is not the number 1 priority. People who drive pick ups and go to youth soccer games and eat fast food and care about the next Disney movie coming often also care about a sustainable future. Though they might not use the term “sustainable.”

Well, the planet should be the number 1 priority of these breeders, say many of my dark green friends, raising an eyebrow right at me.

Perhaps, but most people are busy living their lives. They are only going to do so much to make the planet cleaner, reduce their carbon and water footprints etc. They have work. They have children. They have bills to pay.

This may seem very pedestrian and bourgeois to some, but this is the reality of life for most people in developed economies.

We must then compel these drones to act responsibly, say some of my friends. If the people in the suburbs insist on turning their heads to the destruction they are causing, driving SUVs, leaving the thermostat at 80 in the winter, then we must have government force them to act responsibly.

This is a recipe for disaster in terms of climate and environmental policy.

First, the people in the suburbs are not as dumb as some may think they look. They are business owners, managers, teachers, local thought leaders, and they determine the direction of the country- like it or not.

Some would argue that  the government has an obligation to move “responsible” policy forward even if large swathes of the population, even the majority, disagree with it. This is power politics, and rarely has lasting results.

If the environmental community really wants to make lasting, substantive, and fundamental change beyond what it has already achieved it will have to engage the drivers of the world economy which are the world’s middle classes. They are the consumers.

If the green community (and certainly not all of the community by any means) continues to marginalize these people the resentment felt by middle America will only grow. (And trust me this resentment is profound.) As a result the middle class will continue to support policies that are not the best for the planet. As long as they see a Prius driving Obama supporter in their minds eye every time they look at a recycling bin the great American middle will push back. Trust me, for some NOT recycling is a political statement.

In order for real and deep progress to be made on the environmental front, the kind of change that demands the participation that changes the face of society, more than 40 % of the population needs to buy in. The goal should be 70% at a minimum.

How is this done?

I offer no answers here. But I will say that in the wake of the Cap and Trade debate, Solyndra, and other challenges to the environmental community which have highlighted a heavy handed top down approach from government, perhaps a new approach would work better.

One of the things we believe deeply at Tech Planet Journal is that many environmental problems can be solved through innovation. We must do more with less. This is the way toward a more sustainable world. It is geniuses not necessarily GE who will make the leaps needed. It is energetic entrepreneurs who are most likely to make renewables cost effective, not necessarily the Department of Energy. We believe that the market will allow, indeed reward this innovation. The staff of Tech Planet Journal would say for sure that the “market” is not the only answer, but it is a huge part of the answer.

What is great about emphasizing the market and innovation when it comes to environmental policy is that middle America is OK with it. It wants a greener, less polluted world, but the Washington (or worse Brussels) centered approach makes them uneasy. We must get the guy who throws his plastic in the trash can instead of the recycling bin to see that though it is “good for the environment” recycling is simply frugal and the right thing to do. If that guy knows that the company that picks up the recycling is making a buck and that his taxes are not going to the local recycling authority- that guy is going to recycle. He is at least much more likely to do so.

Some people just won’t it’s true. But embracing a more market centered approach to environmental policy will allow a large marginalized part of the population to embrace sustainable lifestyles in a way that they can’t justify now. For many the “green agenda” is defined by faceless autocrats opposed funadamentally to the American way of life. This is the perception “in the burbs” of many.

I know that for some “markets” are the enemy. I probably can’t (nor would I attempt) to convince you otherwise. But I believe that If one really wants to move the ball down the field embracing market oriented solutions to environmental challenges is vital. Markets are what America has done well, at least historically. Meet middle America on it’s own turf or fail.

 

Nick Sorrentino 11-22-2011

 

Samsung launches solar schools in Africa

 Samsung Africa launched their portable, solar-powered classroom in Johannesburg in late October.

 

As technology advances throughout the modern world, it brings change and growth opportunities for developing countries in the field of education that can unite multinational corporations and their stakeholders in a drive to turn possibilities into reality. By broadening Internet access and boosting computer literacy even at the most basic education level, especially in developing countries, public and private sector stakeholders are contributing to increased future job readiness, self-sufficiency and geographically-tailored technological applications that all contribute to progressing development efforts.

Click here for the story.