One of the arguments against capping our greenhouse gas emissions is the effect it will have on the economy. Renewable resources cost more, hit the bottom line, mean less profit, and lower standards of living, the wrongheaded argument goes.
Then there are the businesspeople who see the incredible opportunities in our crisis. It’s simply a matter of a paradigm shift.
In March, 2007, at bicycle industry conferences in Taipei and Washington, DC, John Burke, CEO of Trek, delivered for the first couple of times a slide show he developed that showed that the environmental crisis provided huge opportunities for his industry (it’s 25 minutes long but you can watch it here).
He talked about four trends:
- Increasing childhood and adult obesity around the world that will never be solved by treatment but can only be solved by prevention
- Traffic congestion that meant people spent 7 billion hours and wasted 5 billion gallons of fuel in traffic jams in 2003
- Limited transportation infrastructure to deal with the daily 180,000 people the United Nations estimates moves into cities every day
- Emission of greenhouse gases and air pollution, 60-70% of which is caused by vehicles.
A partial solution to all of these problems, Burke pointed out, is provided by a single, already-existing technology: the bicycle. Riding bikes burns 500-700 calories and hour, gets people through cities like London faster than cars and public transportation, takes up far less road and parking space than vehicles, and emits no greenhouse gas.
The trick, Burke said, is to convince policymakers of these advantages in order to encourage them to build more bike paths and facilities to make cycling feel safe and convenient. “The best opportunity for the bicycle industry is to create a bicycle friendly world,” Burke said. The point of his talk was to convince bike companies to spend a little less on marketing and product development and a lot more on political bike advocacy.
The pay off?
Americans currently take 0.5% of their trips by bike. If that number increased to 5%–and by the way in the Netherlands it’s over 30%–bike industry revenue would go from $6.2 billion to $31 billion.
There are so many other industries for which there are also incredible opportunities for green profits and jobs:
- Tens of thousands of construction industry jobs would be created in weatherizing the buildings in New York City alone
- An increasing public transportation infrastructure affords huge possibilities for profit and jobs (the New York MTA, for example, already can’t find as many buses as it needs)
- The renewable energy and energy efficiency industries, according to the Environmental and Energy Studies Institute, created 8.5 million jobs in 2006.
What opportunities for green profits and jobs exist in your industry? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.