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WindMade: Two from Davos

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In a recent press conference at Davos, Georg Kell, Executive Director of UN Global Compact, responded to a question similar to the one I posed here on Earth & Science in a previous post:

Is there a risk that WindMade can get into a battle with solar?

Kell answers by calling WindMade a “pathbreaker,” an initial label and initiative that may clear the way for a more general label in the future. He suggests the name, NatureMade.

Below is the clip:

Referring to sustainable energy as NatureMade may sound good but it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Coal and oil are also very natural — they are just releasing a lot of CO2 that was (naturally) stored in them in the past.

So I still think CleanMade would be a better, more accurate general term. It also sounds nicer: “Clean,” don’t you just smell the country air?

Recently, I also wrote an e-mail to GermanSolar asking them what they thought of the label name, WindMade. Christoffer Ovesen, Sales Manager at GermanSolar’s Danish Branch has promised me an answer but was vacationing until today.  I’ll post his answer here when I receive it.

Below is a second clip from the conference where Ditlev Engel, CEO and President of Vestas, goes over his hopes for the new label. Nothing new under the sun there.

Sorry, I meant blowing in the wind.

But the clip is still worth watching. Please note Engel’s distinction between poor countries — defined by heads of states.  And poor people — defined by people. I thought that was a good way of looking at the potentials of a bottom-up approach such as WindMade.

Written by Earth & Science

February 7, 2011 at 9:32 am

Interview with Ditlev Engel, CEO and President of Vestas

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At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Vestas, Lego and others have now formally introduced their new consumer label, WindMade (See previous post). According to WindMade.org, the new label will tell consumers when products have been manufactured with the use of wind energy.

Here is a short interview by Reuters with CEO and President of Vestas, Ditlev Engel.

The interview is worth watching because it marks the efforts by Vestas to change its business model  — or at least to expand on it.

The fact that Engel as much as opens his mouth to speak about the new label is a clear signal that it’s more than just a well-meant green initiative — it is business strategy. Engel does, after all, receive about $2.000.000 annually in wages.

In a Vestas press release, the windmill company said the new label is hoped to circumvent a political process that has come to a standstill.

“The purpose of the new initiative is to create a shortcut that can prevent a situation where a political process that many feel is without prospects ends up blocking necessary initiatives,” the press release said (Danish.)

By allowing consumers to support “green” products and industries, Vestas seeks to raise demands for wind energy from bottom-up. The company, in other words, wishes to cater to consumers rather than depend on governments.

Time will tell whether the label can endure. First and foremost, I believe, WindMade will provide an interesting litmus test for the ability of markets to drive changes toward clean energy.

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January 31, 2011 at 2:17 pm

NGO Introduces Wind Energy Consumer Label

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Made By Wind. Politics and consumption have long been part of the same realm. Labels such as ‘Recycled,’ ‘Organic’ and ‘Fair Trade’ witness this. And now there’s another label in town.

WIND. New label promises to tell consumers if products have been manufactured using wind energy. Photo, WindMade.org

With the launch of WindMade — an NGO funded by Lego, the UN, Vestas and others — a new label promises to tell consumers if products have been manufactured using wind energy. What that means exactly is still unclear, but terms of use as well as specific requirements are said to be revealed at the official WindMade label launch at the World Economic Forum in Davos on 28 January.

Edit: 01/25/2011. The standard used to qualify manufacturers for using the label will not be completed before June 15, 1011, according to WindMade.

You can read up on the new label at the HuffPo, in a Vestas press release (Danish) or at the official WindMade website.

In the meantime, maybe we could think about this:

What does solar power manufacturers such as GermanSolar think about a move implying that clean energy is wind energy?

So far the German manufacturer has been silent (German), but I can’t imagine solar business to be thrilled.

Don’t they want in?

The launch of WindMade, funded and marketed by Danish windmill giant Vestas among others, seems to me to be the first shot fired in what could be a burgeoning war over symbols.

Such a war would be a benign one. We are, after all, talking about boosting growth in renewable energies here.

But if Vestas is successful in branding clean energy as primarily wind-based energy, there is a big chance that solar, tidal or geothermal energy manufacturers will suddenly find themselves standing in the shade of one of those big whooping windmills for a long time.

Striving to dominate mainstream clean energy discourses is a bold and clever move by Vestas (who could use a bit of tailwind after the massive layoffs and catastrophic second quarter financial report which filled Danish media with bad press for most of 2010.)  And it may also prove to be a great way of funding the climate from bottom-up instead of COP-down.

But why did Lego, the UN and WWF accept this wind-bias? And what does Siemens say? Are they simply too involved with manufacturing generators for coal plants to be political about this?

I wouldn’t prefer a label called ‘ChickenOrganic’ to the more inclusive one, ‘Organic.’ Neither do I think it would be very realistic to rely on wind technologies alone to provide the clean energy we’ll all need in the future.

But WindMade — that does sound pretty cool. And I’m stoked to see someone taking action like this.

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January 22, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Mac Funds Snow Leopard from Bottom Up

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Two months ago, I wrote a post on Earth & Science about the peculiar and serendipitous nature of the web. In the post I argued that that the internet facilitates a kind of randomness that is not very random at all. And that this could prove to be a good thing for the snow leopard — an animal species of which only about 6000 exemplars remain, according to the WWF.

Here’s a brief recap of the blog post.

Until this Wednesday, New York Times-blogger, Andy Revkin, may not have known he was teaming up with Leonardo DiCaprio to help conserve the threatened wild tiger. But then he noticed, as Revkin writes in a post on his blog, that he had received a burst of new followers on Twitter. Revkin discovered that DiCaprio had picked up on a suggestion he made that Apple — which has long named its Macintosh operating system software after the tiger, the snow leopard and other wild felines — could use some of its (heaps of) money to help preserve the wild cat. DiCaprio had re-tweeted Revkin’s suggestion giving it an extra boost of attention.

In the time after Revkin’s writing, nothing really happened. But then a few days ago I visited the Mac store in Copenhagen on Vesterbrogade. I needed a new mouse but much to my surprise, I also found a leopard. It was crouching on the sales desk.

Humac on Vesterbrogade, Photo: Google Maps

On the right side of the sales desk, a donation box was sitting with its interior stuffed with bills and coins of the Danish currency, Kroner. The money was dedicated to preserving the threatened snow leopard.

Why was it there? Coincidence? Or were the store’s employees reading the same tweets and blogs as I was?

Here’s how the Mac store’s marketing manager, Vibeke Bjerker, explains what had happened:

“It’s an idea we had together with the German retailer chain, Restore… You know, we have an operating system for Mac called System OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, and because of that we thought it would be funny to link it up with the good cause. We thought that made a lot of sense.”

I was thrilled to see that the (relatively) small store on Vesterbrogade had gone with its own initiative and acted on a great idea. The Macintosh Corporation doesn’t officially sponsor the snow leopard. But it seems it doesn’t stop individual retailers from making their own choices either.

Humac on Vesterbrogade, Photo: Google Maps

The box on the desk is not really an example of “serendipity at the world’s largest cocktail party” (a horrible expression, I know.) But it is at least a reminder that sometimes the exact same ideas can form independently from each other.

And now those two ideas are connected via this blog.

Whether the symbolic link between a threatened animal and a corporate computer behemoth will grow on from initiatives such as this to also become a symbiotic one, time will tell. Maybe it needs to grow from bottom-up before it will be implemented as a marketing strategy Jobs-down.

I hope other stores around the world will show the same willingness to act on their own great ideas, whatever they may be, in the same way as the store on Vesterbrogade have done.

It’s ironic that the Macintosh Corporation still doesn’t pay back just a little to the threatened animal whose image it uses. But maybe this is how preconditions for that kind of voluntary and original CSR can build.

Let me know if you see any new donation boxes sprouting up in Mac stores out there, folks.

Written by Earth & Science

January 21, 2011 at 10:44 am

Serendipity at World’s Greatest Coctail Party May Help Conserve Wild Tigers

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Until this Wednesday, New York Times-blogger Andy Revkin may not have known he was teaming up with Leonardo DiCaprio to help conserve the threatened wild tiger. But then he noticed, as Revkin writes in a post on his blog, that he had received a burst of new followers on Twitter. Revkin discovered that DiCaprio had picked up on a suggestion he made that Apple — which has long named its Macintosh operating system software after the tiger, the snow leopard and other wild felines — could use some of its (heaps of) money to help preserve the wild cat. DiCaprio had re-tweeted Revkin’s suggestion giving it an extra boost of attention.

The Snow Leopard -- Endangered Species and Namesake to Mac's Famous Operating System. Foto: Macopedia, Flickr.

What is at stake here? To me, the example is a case of self-induced serendipity facilitated by the web — by social media. It shows the capability of the internet to bring together the like minds of the world who may not have known they were alike in the first place — or rather, who may not have known in what ways exactly they were alike.

DiCaprio is obviously following Revkin on Twitter for a reason. But the question here is whether that reason has now shown to hold new potentials?

The internet, I think, is like the better version of a gigantic cocktail party. On the web we are relieved of sifting through all those boring people we don’t really want to talk to. We can go straight to our peers. Cass Sunstein, the law man currently administrating President Obama’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, has argued that this is a bad thing because it prevents us from meeting with people we don’t already agree with — it creates echo chambers. But sometimes, though, and hopefully for the wild tigers in this case,  it can also produce some interesting encounters that spur new and constructive thoughts.

In this case, all of that depend on Steve Jobs and whether he sees this as a branding opportunity for Apple. As Revkin says, Apple is free to choose the parsimonious path if the company wishes to do so. But now, if they do choose that path, it will be known as a conscious choice. There is no chance Steve Jobs hasn’t seen the suggestion laid forth by Revkin and DiCaprio.

The wonders of the self-induced serendipity at the world’s greatest cocktail party are at play. I wonder what they’ll do.

This post is written on a Mac.

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November 22, 2010 at 6:30 am