Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.
~ Ancient American Indian Proverb

 

The Honourable Dr. Steven Chu recently made a 3 day trip to Ireland. His itinerary was packed with a series of engagements, one of which was his keynote address in DCU, entitled “A Random Walk in Science.”

Professor Brian MacCraith, DCU President, introduced Secretary Chu on stage. MacCraith noted the speakers’ impressive accomplishments and the “exquisite excellence of his work.” Dr. Chu, was awarded Nobel Prize (Physics) in 1997, following his work in developing a technique to cool atoms to low temperatures, as a means of trapping them and manipulating them with light. Alfred Nobel wrote in his Will that Nobel prizes will be awarded to those who confer the greatest benefits to mankind. As the US Secretary of Energy, he is at the forefront of Obama’s ambitious drive towards clean energy, away from a global climate crisis, whilst creating jobs and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

As an environmentally conscious member of society, I feel obliged to not only learn about, but actively address the green agenda. Furthermore, a Dara Boland personal development plan would discusses a strive towards becoming a better Science Communicator. I work on various projects which seek to engage the public in Science debates. I thus approached this talk interested to see, not only what the Nobel Laureate would have to say, but how he would say it.

Although not from a core scientific background, I have a keen interest in, and great enthusiasm for, all things science. From this perspective, I was intrigued to witness the address of a Nobel winner. Also, I have had some research experience in the growth areas that are: Green energy and Smart City projects. One thing that struck a chord with me, was the raw passion with which accompanied Dr. Chu’s speech.

It is clear that he strives for positive change, and the best way to achieve this, is through effective policy making. It is for this reason that I admire his swapping of his lab suit for his business suit.

Another thing that impressed me was his stance on Global Warming. I have never bought into the conspiracy theories, made famous by the bestselling “Freakonomics” books. He showed the figures and stated that the theory has not yet been disproved. Another point made was that, even if we were 50% sure of the theory, the assumed threat of Global Warming is such that we would still be forced to take significant action.

Dr. Chu has some much esteemed fans. In announcing Dr. Chu’s selection, President Obama said, “The future of our economy and national security is inextricably linked to one challenge: energy. Steven has blazed new trails as a scientist, teacher, and administrator, and has recently led the Berkeley National Laboratory in pursuit of new alternative and renewable energies. He is uniquely suited to be our next Secretary of Energy as we make this pursuit a guiding purpose of the Department of Energy, as well as a national mission.” Following his speech, he has succeeded in gaining another, admittedly less notable fan; me.

A specific interest of mine lies in the field of science communication. I have worked in various “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) projects, in which I have tried to best communicate their merits, especially to people who are not involved in these areas. For instance, I would try and relate stories of science to children, in a way which intrigues them without oversimplifying the scientific concepts. From this perspective, I was interested to see how Dr. Chu would address a sold out Helix theatre, populated by students of all ages and academic disciplines. He resisted the temptation to dive into a deep scientific discussion, he sought not to alienate his audience.

From a policy perspective, he acknowledged the US responsibility to lead change. He underlined various green initiatives including large scale Public infrastructure such as Wind Energy, but also more simple and practical changes, such as changing to a “greener” refrigerator.

An IPCC (2007) report stated that global warming constitutes the most destructive power for our age. Soytasa and Saria (2007) highlighted how an increase of global carbon dioxide emission is a serious Global and Societal issue, which is becoming worse.

According to Blez and Peattie (2010)” Since 1975 the global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased significantly. The global increased of carbon dioxide is primarily due to fossil fuel use and land-use changes, while those of methane and nitrous oxide can be traced back to agriculture.”

Skove (2003) revealed that today’s total world energy demand is up five-fold from 1950 (nearly 200 million B/D of oil equivalent). Among the energy demand, more than 80% came from fossil fuels (nearly 60% by oil and gas). Many problems arise as a direct result of such Global variables, including; rising oil and gas prices coupled with their incremental depletion, a rising vulnerability of energy supply routes and the drastic inceases in carbon dioxide emissions (Soytasa and Saria 2007).

It is my opinion that Environmentalism constitutes a hugely relevant Global and Societal issue. In terms of awareness, it is true that people (and corporations as well as Governments) are becoming more aware and environmental conscious.

In some instances, societal stakeholders are compelled through e.g. legislation (for instance polluter pays initiatives such as carbon taxes) or Globally; the Kyoto agreement. It is also true that there exists a higher level of environmental consciousness, this can he fuelled by various societal outreach programmes including, for instance, the power of one campaign.

It can also be said that their exists a societal trend towards being “seen to be green”.  Often, individuals and corporations long to be viewed as ethical, environmentally conscious entities. This can also be seen in the rise to prominence of CSR projects. Even our Nootrol client contact stated that, the main reason he wanted to get involved was to “get the badge and put it on the website”.

“Corporate social responsibility is a hard-edged business decision. Not because it is a nice thing to do or because people are forcing us to do it… because it is good for our business”

~ Niall Fitzerald, Former CEO, Unilever

Archie B Carroll presents the CSR Pyramid in the article “The Pyramid of Corporate Social Responsibility: Toward the Moral Management of Organizational Stakeholders.” He discusses four kinds of social responsibilities which constitute total CSR: economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic.

CSR as described by the European Commission as “a concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholder on a voluntary basis, as they are increasingly aware that responsible behavior leads to sustainable business success” (Commissions of the European Communities, 2002 cited in Dahlsrud 2008 p.9). Corporate reputation can be defined in terms of a number of attributes that form a buyer’s perception as to whether a company is well known, good or bad, reliable, trustworthy, reputable and believable (Levitt, 1965.)

This trend can be represented when considering the work of McDonagh and Prothero (1997) where it was said; “marketing magazines have recently pointed out that, of the newspapers and magazines monitored by its database, the term ′environmental friendly′ was used only once in June 1985; by June 1989 this figure however had increased to the use of the term Thirty times a day. The combined mixture of increased concern about environmental problems on a global scale and increase pressure from environmental groups has meant led to an increased attention being paid to “green” issues in the media”.

The above statement clearly notes the increasing Global and Societal awareness of environmental issues. It also suggests that it can constitute a key marketing message of companies, where companies attempt to gain a competitive advantage via its environmental stance. This idea can be complemented by the work of Tracy (2011). Here she talked of a huge opportunities associated with being perceived as a low carbon operation. A particular point she made was with Regards smaller companies. Tracy postulates that Environmentalism can be used to great effect where a small company wants to build a competitive stance against a larger entity.  This can be supported by the work of Porter and Kramer where CSR is viewed as a means to improving a companies “competitive context.”

CSR is an element of sustainability marketing and by engaging voluntarily in Social Responsibility initiatives; companies can gain positive view from the public as well as begin their journey of becoming sustainable (Belz and Peattie 2010). One of the main aims for taking a corporate marketing orientation is a value creation which goes beyond profit maximization and includes long-term business survival alongside the meeting of societal needs (Podnar and Golob, 2007). Corporate social responsibility can be defined as the deliberate inclusion of societal interesting into an organisation which is said to impact on the triple bottom line; people, planet & profit (Berthelot, 2003). So although a CSR campaign may be difficult to align with marketing strategy, it may limit, for example, future government or lobby group intervention and therefore help ensure “long-term business survival.”

A former employee of Allianz Insurance, I worked in what they described as an environmentally smart premises, it is an energy efficient building. This company conducts regular carbon audits and there even exists a leader board upon which Allianz Ireland compete with their Global Allianz counterparts. So this is an example of strategic corporate policy.

However, the “green agenda” was also addressed in their marketing communication. I personally worked on an initiative which gave significant house policy reductions, where that premise achieved a higher BER or Building Energy Rating.

Ireland, like all countries across the Globe, are experiencing climate change, a global warming. Here, agriculture contributes the highest percentage of GHG emissions, attributing 29.2%. Transport and Energy come in at a joint 2nd position comprising 21%.

The US Secretary of Energy; Dr. Stephen Chu, is at the forefront of President Obama’s ambitious drive towards clean energy, away from a global climate crisis, whilst creating jobs and reduce dependence on foreign oil. This can be linked to Ireland also as our Government are of like mind with that of the Americans, in terms of the energy agenda.

Minister (Former) Eamonn Ryan said, “Our overriding aims are to reduce this country’s dependence on fossil fuels taking advantage of our unrivalled renewable resources and to fight the global challenge that is climate change. These twin goals are also the basis for Ireland’s economic recovery.”

As was aforementioned, I have an interest in Green energy and specifically; Smart City projects. Green Energy was described as the “new industrial revolution.” In linking the science of the talk back to my academic background (commerce) Chu says it will be the countries which excel in green innovation that excel economically.

This could also be linked to another talk I had attended; that of the An tSli Ghlais, or The Green Way. Here EU Commisoner Maire Geoghan Quinn officially announced the new site, to be developed adjacent to DCU campus. The An tSli Glas initiative, it was told, emerged following a 2009 report by the Government High-Level Action Group on Green Enterprise. A top priority was/is to encourage and facilitate the link up of the ‘knowledge triangle’; education, innovation and collaborative research. This report highlighted that “Ireland need to develop green zones so as to establish an environment which can support the development of green enterprise and be used to market Ireland overseas.” It is thus intended that the formation of An tSli Glas will assist in positioning us; Ireland, as a leader, particularly in the massive growth sector of Cleantech. The intention then is to not only excel in Cleantech research/innovation and enterprise but crucially, to then bridge a gap between business and investment whilst simultaneously nurturing trade partnerships with other international innovation hubs.

This may also be linked to another interest of mine; Nootrol. Nootrol is a management information system, which is used in assisting companies in their carbon accounting process. I have worked, on a consultancy basis with a construction company, in using Nootrol in a bid to refine their carbon accounting initiatives.

The Irish Government should take heed of America’s Recovery Act. The “ARA” places extensive emphasis on clean technology, renewable energy, advanced vehicle and fuel technologies and a smart electric grid. Minister Eamonn Ryan stated to the media that, “Secretary Chu’s visit to Ireland and his interest in our initiatives proves that Ireland has taken our place as a global centre for the green economy. This transformation of our economy is the perfect countercyclical economic policy and has already yielded thousands of jobs.” According to SEAI Chairman, Brendan Halligan: “We need to have very ambitious plans when we look to a future of sustainable energy and a low carbon society for all.”

Prior to my undertaking of a masters in e-commerce, I had a rather minimalist understanding of social entrepreneurship, I viewed it as an individual’s application of business practices in establishing a non-profit organization. However, as Thompson (2002) suggests, such an assumption is in fact, a misconception.   Upon attending the Business in Society Mini-Conference, I began viewing it as any application of business practices to the operation of non-profit organizations. I then learned about, for example, the DCU in the Community project. Here social enterprise had found a place in a cultural setting, where collective, rather than individualistic, thinking prevailed.

Dr. Chu is, in my opinion, a social entrepreneur. According to Stewart, 1989, entrepreneurship is best thought of as an extended activity which may well be carried out by a team or a group of people. However, after attending the David McKernan Java Coffee seminar, I began to view social entrepreneurship as a completely different approach to the business of societal good. Johnson 2000, describes social entrepreneurship as an innovative approach for dealing with complex social needs. Furthermore, after completing the Nootrol assignment, I began to peruse the relationship between social entrepreneurship and social enterprise. The client was a builder, who, as a company, and a group of individuals, were participating in social enterprise, as a complementary activity.

I left the Helix with a fresh wave of enthusiasm, particularly relating to Global and Societal issue that is; Global Warming. I was inspired to, not only make small changes in my living patterns, but going forward, as a potential new era business leader, to always act as a eco-responsible leader.

Soon after the seminar, I began experimenting with IBM Innov8 system. Specifically, this allowed me to learn about; Smart traffic Solutions, Smart customer service solutions and Smart Supply Chain solutions. Although not solely related to environmentalism, Dr. Chu had centred much of his speech around Smarter City Projects.

The main learning though, really, came as a reminder. Research and Innovation should not be halted, even in light of the economic crises. In fact, the opposite can be said that, now more than ever, Ireland should invest in this growth area of green tech in a bid for heightened green portfolio, increase domestic and foreign trade and job creation.

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