Researchers at China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University studied butterfly wings to discover ways to increase the amount of useful light gathered by solar collectors.

Hydrogen, as a renewable energy source, is produced from water and sun, but they key to cracking the development of this technology…

Exxon Tops Forbes Global 2000 Ranking… Big Companies Still Pretty Big

As I wrote about in MediaPost, a few weeks ago I had the tremendous pleasure of attending the NYT Energy for Tomorrow conference. Awesome event (GORGEOUS setting in the Times Center) that sparked some lively conversations about the very exciting (ahem, potential) future of renewable resources (hellloooo wind farms). 

Then, this past week I made the shocking discovery that the majority of my (incredibly smart and well-informed) millennial undergraduate students had never heard of the Exxon Valdez oil spill! Which rather disturbingly validates the power of PR and the vagaries of memory. (And I say that as a very happy, not-completely-jaded, PR professional).

So, I find it apropos that yesterday’s ninth annual Forbes Global 2000 ranking published with Exxon Mobile at the top of the heap. 

For background, the Forbes Global 2000 is a ranking of the most profitable public companies. However, instead of just using a single metric such as sales, the team at Forbes evaluates companies on the basis of a combination of factors, such as sales, profit, assets and market value. 

Interesting list, though not completely unsurprising, especially as it demonstrates China’s very steady financial progress. The ranking includes companies from 66 countries with the US and Japan still headquartering the majority of the list, although Forbes does note that they have a combined 14 fewer entries this year. China has the third largest number of companies with 15 more members this year than last year. 

Speaking of oil spills we may forget in 15 years, most surprising to me was BP’s staggering return to the top 25 — up from THREE HUNDRED AND NINETY last year. They’re back to being profitable in 2011, going from having a $3.3 billion net loss to making over $26 billion in net income. Suddenly that $13 billion that the company has said it spent on the spill doesn’t seem quite so large. Maybe they can spend some to help the mutant, eyeless shrimp and one-armed crabs that are currently horrifying fishermen in the Gulf?

Your top ten: 

1. Exxon Mobile

2. JP Morgan Chase

3. General Electric

4. Royal Dutch Shell



7. Petro China

8. Berkshire Hathaway

9. Wells Fargo

10. Petrobras-Petroleo Brasil

Going Beyond The ‘End of the Road’

Reposting my article which ran on MediaPost: 

Last week, I attended the New York Times-hosted Energy for Tomorrow conference. Held in New York City, it was a day of discussions and debate about the future of energy – weighing the pros and cons of wind, natural gas, ethanol, solar cells, nuclear or some heretofore undiscovered source of power. A recurrent theme was that restricted resources – or in some cases, restricted access to resources – is a key catalyst for innovative solutions. 

Leading energy specialist Daniel Yergin addresses this concept in his recent book, The Quest. It’s a lengthy tome on the search for sustainable sources of energy that is a must-read, whether you’re in business, marketing or sustainability. One quote in particular stands out: 

So often, over the history of the oil industry, it is said that technology has gone about as far as it can and that the ‘end of the road’ for the oil industry is in sight. And then, new innovations dramatically expand capabilities.

How many other industries and companies have thought that they reached the “end of the road” from a sustainability perspective? As one energy executive at the conference bemoaned, his company will have to change its core business in order to meet sustainability goals. He likened it to asking a candy company to make healthier products. 

Not only does it require innovation to get past the end of the road, but it also may require a shift in corporate priorities, or even a shift in your core product.

This kind of thinking is by no means limited only to the energy industry. In 2003, McDonald’s began selling salads, and in that time claims to have sold more than 1 billion salads in the U.S. Burger King, which is making a move to be more casual dining and less “fast food,” is reinventing itself by selling salads and smoothies. Will Burger King be able to convince consumers to look past its name and trust them to prepare healthier options?

In lieu of a reinvention, companies whose products may be considered a threat to environmentalism are trying to develop innovative alternatives that do not require a complete overhaul. For example, this week, 3M – the company behind Scotch tape and Post-it notes – announced the launch of a “greener” masking tape that provides the same level of effectiveness while using fewer resources, in particular, paper products. Perhaps we’ll eventually live in a world where we don’t need masking tape, but, until then, 3M has the right strategy – make its products as green as possible.

As one executive described it to me, innovation is like getting to a brick wall and realizing while you can’t go through it, you can find a way to climb over it. 

How have you gone beyond the end of the road? Let me know, here or at @Measure4What.

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